Why choose a carsharing service over a traditional car rental company? Here's how Zipcar, Turo, and Car2Go stack up.
Travelers today have no shortage of options when it comes to renting a car. In particular, the rise of carsharing services has revolutionized the way people get around.
As of May 2019, carsharing was available in 59 countries, according to an industry analysis by movmi and the Carsharing Association (CSA), with 236 carshare operators in 3,128 cities.
But why choose a carsharing service over a traditional car rental company like Enterprise or Hertz? Pam Cooley, executive director at CSA, says it often boils down to cost: ‘Carsharing is usually cheaper than car rental companies,’ she says. Indeed, by some estimates carsharing prices are about 30 percent lower than car-rental rates.
Still, ‘if you’re a traveler, you have to research what businesses operate at your destination,’ Cooley adds.
To help you narrow down your carsharing options, we’ll look at three of the biggest players in the industry: Zipcar, Turo, and Car2Go. Here’s how these services stack up:
How it works: Zipcar customers pay a monthly membership fee in exchange for a Zipcard, which they scan on a device under. the windshield of their chosen rental vehicle to unlock and lock the car at the start and end of each reservation. Each vehicle has a reserved parking space (called a ‘home location’), where it must be returned with at least one-quarter tank of gas. Members book reservations through Zipcar’s website or mobile app, which they use to locate the rental car.
What it includes: Zipcar covers the cost of gas, insurance, and maintenance. It also offers dedicated parking spots in many areas. All reservations include up to 180 miles of driving per day.
How much it costs: Membership fees start at $7 a month or $70 a year. In return, Zipcar members can rent cars from $7.75 an hour or $69 a day. (Rates vary depending on the type of vehicle.) Each car rental includes a complimentary gas card, so customers pay nothing at the pump to refill their ride.
Where it’s available: Launched in 2000, Zipcar is the largest carsharing service in the world. The company operates in more than 500 cities and towns and on more than 600 college campuses around the world.
Fleet: Zipcar offers members vehicles from more than 60 different makes and models, including Audis, BMWs, Mini Coopers, Prius hybrids, minivans, pickup trucks, and cargo vans.
How it works: Unlike Zipcar, where customers rent vehicles from the company, Turo users rent cars directly from local car owners. The owners have the option to set their own rates, or they can have Turo set their car’s price based on local market data. Customers make reservations through Turo’s website or mobile app, and they set their pickup dates and times to suit their plans. To exchange keys, owners will deliver the car to custom locations around town or nearby airports, or allow travelers to pick up the vehicle at the owner’s chosen location.
What it includes: Depending on the vehicle, insurance is provided to the driver from Turo or the car owner. Car owners choose how many miles or kilometers they want to include per trip; this can be a daily, weekly, or monthly limit. Turo provides 24/7 roadside assistance.
How much it costs: In addition to the car owner’s rental rate, each rental charges a trip fee (that varies depending on the location), a security deposit, and taxes. (Some car owners also charge a delivery fee.) The car owner may also ask the renter to pay for additional post-trip costs, such as cleaning and tolls. Typically, renters pay for their own gas. There is no membership fee for car renters.
Where it’s available: Though Turo operates in a number of cities around the world, its primary marketplaces are in the United States, the Canadian provinces of Alberta, Nova Scotia, Ontario, and Quebec, Germany, and the United Kingdom.
Fleet: Looking for an exotic or luxury vehicle? Although car offerings vary depending on location and availability, Turo makes and models often include Teslas, Lamborghinis, Ferraris, Maseratis, and more. Economy cars, SUVs, mini-vans, and pickup trucks are also offered.
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How it works: A German rental car company, car2go’s business model is simple: customers use the service’s mobile app to search for available cars in their area. The vehicles are located on the street or in designated parking lots. Customers access the car using the app (with no reservations required), drive it for however long they want to, and then park it in any approved legal parking spot in the vehicle’s designated home area, such as within a city’s limits—meaning there’s no need to return the car to its original location. (That’s a nice convenience.)
What it includes: Car insurance is provided by car2go. The company also provides roadside assistance around the clock and free parking spaces in certain areas.
How much it costs: There are no annual or monthly fees or membership costs. Cars can be rented by the minute, hour, or day. Rates vary depending on the vehicle model, city, and time. To give you a benchmark, though: a one-hour car2go rental in Washington, D.C. starts at $16. Some pickup locations, such as airports, may charge an additional fee. Also, customers are subject to a cleaning fee of $50 for stains, smoke, and pet hair.
Where it’s available: The company operates in major cities in the U.S. and Europe, including New York City, Seattle, London, Rome, and Paris. One big caveat: in October 2019 car2go announced it is pulling out of five North American cities: Austin, TX; Calgary, Alberta; Portland, OR; Denver; and Chicago.
Fleet: The company offers three types of vehicles: a smartcar (a tiny two-seater that’s ideal for squeezing into tight parking spaces), the Mercedes-Benz GLA (a hatchback that offers extra cargo space), and the Mercedes-Benz CLA (a stylish four-seat sedan).
The best carsharing service truly depends on your needs. If you do a lot of traveling and rent cars frequently, paying to be a Zipcar member might make financial sense, since the company offers relatively low rental prices. If you only need a vehicle to get you from point A to point B, car2go is a great option, since you can leave the car wherever you choose. Turo, meanwhile, offers a number of sports cars you can’t find from the other carsharing providers.