Photo courtesy of Zipcar.com

If you are like me, you knew about car sharing, but only in a very generic way. Turns out, car sharing under the Zipcar banner is far from generic, and offers dozens of options to keep you moving while saving cash and that other kind of green – the environment.

As Zipcar media describes it, carsharing is about “practicable and actionable” sustainability that reduces the negative effects of transportation on the planet. This synopsis is shared by Greencar.com, which also suggests that car pooling (using Zipcar as a rideshare tool) where possible reduces overall spending – a definite planet- and pocket-plus during this recession.

And Carsforgirls.com, which offers advice and driving tips for women, notes that – as far back as 2008 – the Zipcar organization had over 200,000 members and more than 5,000 vehicle options on 27 U.S. campuses, offering a plethora of car rides for all types and tastes.

How, you might ask, is car sharing “green”? Well, to start, each shared Zipcar takes 15 to 20 privately owned vehicles off America’s roads, saving 219 gallons of oil per customer per year. This also means a reduction in greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide (CO2), carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides, and sulfur dioxide – the fumes that drive climate change – as well as the particulates that exacerbate inner-city asthma, bronchitis, heart disease, and even neurological defects.

Zipcar is good for individuals who occasionally need a vehicle, but don’t want the responsibility or expense of owning one. Since Zipcars come with their own insurance, and a full tank of gas courtesy the last user, Zipcar offers pick-up and go driving with nothing more than a $25 online signup.

Is Zipcar popular? Well, users can take advantage of an iPhone application for car-sharing (introduced at the 2009 World Wide Developers Conference), according to Jalopnik. And an Autoblog.com entry from June indicates that the company is already seeking a $75-million IPO to expand its all-inclusive fleet of vehicles.

So how is Zipcar, and other car-sharing programs, different than car rental? The first and most obvious advantage, according to Zipcar, is getting wheels when you want them, on a single hour’s notice, or up to two months in advance. The second is a pay-as-you-go plan that beats the socks off rentals, which can cost $50 per day plus mileage and insurance (not to mention all those other ticky-tacky little fees that swell the balance into stroke and heart-attack range).

Another feature unique to car sharing is the personal card, or key, that unlocks any car. Which means you don’t have to hassle with a short-tempered customer service representative to get on the road. But don’t let the name fool you; Zipcar also rents trucks, if you’re planning a move. And for those whose bottom line is always dollar savings – another very green approach to life – a cost comparison shows users can save up to $700 a month versus owning. For individual savings, take advantage of Zipcar’s online calculator.

Savings are equally as delightful for those who normally rent. Our study focused on Chicago, where we saved $9 over a large rental company, but savings in Philadelphia were $24, in Washington, D.C., $33, and in Seattle, we saved $36, which will buy a round dozen of Starbucks’ Grande Lattes.

3 Responses to “Vehicle Sharing, a Simple Way to Drive Green”

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