The competition among the big car rental companies just went for another round. This week, Avis made public its intention to join in the emerging car sharing craze by announcing its interest in purchasing Zipcar. Instead of creating its own car-sharing service as Hertz did with its HertzOnDemand, Avis thought it best just to buy an existing car sharing company. Enterprise did a combination of the two by starting its own car share service in 2007; WeCar, but later purchased Mint Cars On-Demand and combined the two. The battle for the car sharing market will not be easy as there are multiple independent companies and services playing in the same sandpit. Several, including one in the San Francisco Bay Area (City CarShare), is a nonprofit organization. The car sharing business is expected to more than double by 2016, to over 4 million members in North America alone. This predicted growth is what has attracted the attention of Enterprise, Hertz and now Avis.
The catch with the car-sharing services is that you need to pre-register and become a member, and in some cases pay a fee to join the club. Prices vary from daily rates to mileage rates, to hourly rates. The membership fees vary too. City CarShare charges $10 or $20/month after the initial application fee (per driver). Hertz’s OnDemand has no membership fee, no enrollment fee, a low deductible, and a GPS in every car. Zipcar starts with a yearly fee of $60 (or more depending on your plan choice) with a $25 application or enrollment fee. Enterprises’ WeCar (which are mostly located on college and university campus’, has a $50 annual fee and an application or enrollment fee of $20. Currently, at some locations, they have a promotion and are waiving these fees. WeCar too has a lower damage deductible similar to Hertz’s OnDemand. The daily rates vary which can be high as $100/day include fuel and insurance, something that is an option when renting a car in the traditional sense. You may want to weigh this out when renting a car share car versus renting a car from your local Budget, Enterprise, Avis or Hertz. However, with the car-sharing service, you can rent the car for just a couple hours (approx. $9/hour) to make a quick trip or business run, and no worries about parking. However, often at your car rental retail store, you can rent a car for the whole day for approximately $10 – $20, which is about what you’d pay for a couple hours in your car share car. If you are considering joining one of the car-sharing services, you may want to shop around a little first and check out the hourly or daily rates on the websites to see how competitive they are on a consistent basis.
With added focus on car sharing, your options as a consumer are only to get better. The car rental fleets have never been more diversified, and the rental option never more so–even with the consolidation in the market place.
Have you rented from a car share service? Let us know your feedback and observations.
Drive safely, I’ll see you on the road
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