The Rowan University Facebook account recently posted some not-so-clear messages announcing the arrival of Zipcar on campus. I was thrilled to hear the news! Having a cheap rental car nearby has prompted me to reconsider owning two vehicles. I live just over a mile from Rowan and often ride my bike or walk to work. Why should I pay for a car I don’t use?
So what is Zipcar? It’s a car sharing service that allows you to reserve a car for a period of time, typically for just a few hours. You only pay for the time you use the vehicle; gas and insurance are included in your annual fee and hourly rate. Visit their site to see how it works. I have been interested in Zipcar for a while now; as a planner, we love companies like Zipcar and programs like PhillyCarShare as they provide mobility for urban residents and reduce demands for parking. Out here in the suburbs, we don’t have a huge parking or traffic problem, but Zipcar is still welcome, as it can provide access to a car for students and faculty alike.
We have two cars, a Toyota Yaris (high 30MPG) and an old Ford Ranger (mid teens MPG). Kate and I bought the Yaris back in 2007 because we needed a new car. We chose the Yaris because it was relatively cheap and it is a fuel efficient vehicle. The Ford was
given to me sold to me for $1 by my grandfather when he and my grandmom moved out to Nevada. I was happy to have a second vehicle, but was concerned about the cost; most days it would not move from my driveway. In the 14 months that I have owned the truck, I have put only 1,200 miles on it. Considering the average mileage driven annually is over 13,000, you can see that the truck really was not heavily used. I have decided to go back to one car and have listed the Ford for sale. I was really only using the truck for trips to Home Depot (can’t fit a maple tree or door trim in a small car) and occasional drives north for meetings in Trenton and elsewhere. Zipcar is not going to cut it when I need to purchase bulky items like lumber, but it will be able to satisfy my other vehicular needs.
I plan to reduce my costs by about $1,000 by selling my truck and using Zipcar. Insuring my truck cost me $686.60 a year, registration adds another $75. So I’m already at $750 annually without any operating costs. And when you factor in a $500 maintenance bill, the convenience of having a second car in the driveway becomes less and less attractive. Zipcar costs $50 a year, with a $25 application fee. I signed up through Rowan’s Zipcar page, which reduced the yearly fee to $25 and waived the application fee. How can you beat that? Well, I will still have a mile walk to the car if Kate can’t drop me off, so I guess there’s that.
I have already registered and have been approved, so I now wait for my Zipcard to arrive in the mail and I can begin using the cars on campus. I’m looking forward to using the service and promoting it to others. The car-is-required mentality is something that is so ingrained in the minds of most Americans, which is especially sad when you think of the people without access to transit and those preyed upon by predatory lenders. You don’t need to own the car, easy access to a pay-as-you-go car service is good enough for some people.