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What You Should Know About Car Sharing Programs

Need a car for a quick road trip, or even an afternoon? Here’s why car sharing services are an increasingly popular alternative to conventional car rentals.

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What are the advantages of car sharing?

If you need a car for daily commuting, owning your own vehicle makes sense. But what if you only need a car once in a while? If you live in an area with great public transportation and rarely pull your car out of the parking garage, you might want to give up your personal vehicle and use a car sharing service on those odd occasions that you do need a set of wheels. Before you cash in on your unused car in favour of a car sharing service, keep these six things in mind.  

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1. Car sharing services are expanding.

ZipCar got its start in Cambridge, Massachusetts, helping college students, who can’t afford to buy a car, get around town for a reasonable price. Since then, the popular car sharing service has expanded rapidly-as have the many rivals that sprang up in its wake. Nowadays, car sharing services can be found in big cities, small towns and even some rural areas, so chances are good there’s one located conveniently nearby.  

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2. Car sharing is a great option for vacationers.

If you are vacationing in a big city with limited parking-think New York City or San Francisco-a rental car can actually be a hindrance. By the time you find a place to park you could forget where you were going in the first place, and the cost of parking could bust your vacation budget

With a car sharing service, however, travellers can pick up and drop off the cars in convenient locations and use them only as needed. If you’re headed to a tourist attraction with no public transportation, for instance, you can simply book with a car sharing service and drop the vehicle off at the end of the day.

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3. Car sharing is a great alternative to car ownership-especially for city dwellers.

If you live in a city with great public transportation, you likely don’t need a car for your daily commute. Even so, there are times when a car would come in handy-when you need to lug a new piece of furniture home, for instance, or a weekend road trip. Car sharing services are great for bridging that gap and providing the convenience and flexibility city dwellers need. That may be why ZipCar is thriving in big cities and quickly gaining a foothold across the country. If you need a car only occasionally, getting rid of your old clunker and using car sharing could make good financial sense. 

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4. Car insurance is included with most car sharing programs.

If you’re renting a vehicle from a car sharing service, car insurance is generally included, which means one less thing for you to worry about. ZipCar includes $300,000 worth of liability coverage with its hourly rentals, and most car sharing services offer comparable coverage. 

Always check the insurance coverage before using a car sharing service. If insurance is not included by default, you can check with your insurance agent to see if you are covered while driving a car from a car sharing service. 

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5. Car sharing services charge an hourly rate.

The clock starts ticking as soon as you pick up your car from a car sharing service, and the amount you pay will be based on how long you remain in possession of the vehicle. With that in mind, it’s a good idea to plan the routes you’ll be taking in advance so that you don’t squander time (and money) driving around aimlessly. Do what you need to do and return the car as soon as possible in order to keep the charge at a bare minimum. Be sure to read the terms carefully so you know exactly what you’ll be charged for and how those costs will be calculated. 

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6. The cars available in car sharing programs are mostly late models.

The last thing you want is to rent a car and have it break down or deal with maintenance. You’ll be glad to know, then, that the vast majority of car sharing vehicles are low mileage models with all the modern amenities and latest safety features.  

Check out our car buying guide!