How ZipCar Became a Staple in Cities Across America

City by city, ZipCar has offered car-sharing services that reduce emissions, parking demand and save students and city dwellers money.

Many who live in a city don’t need a car every day and don’t want the challenge of parking, driving, and paying for the convenience of owning a car in the city. This is where this service comes in. Instead of paying for the vehicle, insurance, and the associated fees that many cities require, a car can be ready to be shared right where you need it so that you can drive where you need to around the city when public transportation just won’t do.

The First Car for this Company

What was the first car that was offered by ZipCar? The car was a Volkswagen Bug named Bilbo, and it was available to those who needed it for a short time. At a time before smartphones, accessing Bilbo was done with a key that was hidden under a rock. While that seems a prehistoric as you can get, today, this company offers technology-advanced methods for car-sharing today. You can now use an app and reserve one of the cars that you want to drive that is part of this sharing program.

This Company is Impacting Cities

The impact is a positive one, making it much easier for people to use cars when they need them and forgo owning a vehicle that might only be driven around on the roads in a city. Instead of congesting the city with cars that are driven sporadically, ZipCar has impacted cities in this way.

  • Every Zipcar eliminates the need for up to 15 privately owned vehicles
  • One car can support the driving needs of nearly 40 members
  • Members have reduced the collective emissions by more than 1.4 billion pounds each year
  • More of these cars are becoming hybrid or electric models
  • Members are saving up to $600 per month compared to owning a car

By saving money and only using cars when needed, city dwellers have money to put back into the local economy by supporting local businesses, restaurants, and entertainment. The air quality has improved in cities supported by this company, and parking is more plentiful with many people only use this service to drive where they need to instead of having a car that’s parked, taking up space and money that isn’t driven often.

Starting Small with an Explosion of Expansion

Surprisingly, ZipCar is more than two decades old, and it was originally founded by a pair of well-educated women in the Cambridge, Massachusetts area. This area might not sound like the place to start such a business, but the founders raised the launch investment needed and quickly had more than 600 customers to service and provide vehicles for. This company provided a need for city dwellers that wasn’t part of the market at the time, which might explain why it was a huge success right out of the gate.

Where has this Company Expanded to?

After Cambridge, the next places that ZipCar serviced were New York City and Washington, DC. After securing more funding for the company, this car-sharing service expanded to San Francisco and Toronto. The Toronto brand became the fastest growing market in the company and the cornerstone of how this company would be capable of growing farther over the next several years. Eventually, London and Vancouver were also serviced by this company, and by 2007, the number of members had grown to over 225,000 after a merger with Flexcar. This was more than double the previous number of members.

Affordable Membership for Convenience

Those interested in having a ride-sharing service they can access whenever they need to can easily subscribe to the ZipCar app and pay either a monthly or annual fee to use the cars that are available in the various areas serviced by this company. The fee is affordable when compared to paying for a car and everything that goes along with it. With a membership, cars are made available, and members have the flexibility needed to drive themselves around town or take public transportation as needed.

What Can You Rent From ZipCar?

There are more than 50 car models that can be used when you want to drive around town. Each city offers different vehicles to members. You’re not stuck with simply hybrid or electric models with this service. If you want to drive a luxury car from Audi or BMW, these cars are available to you. With the variety of cars available, it’s easy to find a model that will give you the drive and capability needed when you’re ready to get behind the wheel and head out on the road for the day in the car that comes from this service.

The Company Growth

You might not have ZipCar in your area, but it might be coming in the future. So far, this company has grown to more than 500 employees, with the headquarters remaining in Boston. The sustainability of this company comes from the fact they were one of the first companies to offer ride-sharing services and the investment made in technology to offer members more of what they desire in the vehicle they want to drive. It seems amazing that a simple business idea has grown to what ZipCaris has over the past twenty years.

How Can You Find Your Car?

When you’re a member of ZipCar, and you want to locate the car you’re going to use, it’s easy to do so. With the use of your smartphone, you have automated access to the car you want to drive by using the app. If you don’t want to use a smartphone, an access card can be provided. The keys are already inside the vehicle to make it simple for you to get in and go. If you do use the app on your phone, the car can be located by initiating a honking sequence and unlocking the doors when you get nearby.

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