Sunday, December 26, 2010

I am a zipster now

I lost all the motivation to buy a car, when I moved to the city with a reliable and well connected public transit. I was not able in any shape or form justify the cost of a car and car insurance especially when my residence is close to subway station, one connecting me to North and South of the city and the other connecting me to the East of the city. But still there were days, winter, windy, rainy, shopping days, that I wished I could have the convenience of the car without the "inconvenience" of the monthly cost.

I learned about the rental companies in my neighborhood and started using them on an on demand basis. Around the same time, I learned about zipcar. I decided to prefer renting to car sharing, because I was convinced that the North American mind set will never give a chance to car sharing to grow and flourish.

I stand corrected! Car renting is becoming a thing of a past.

I became a zipster and have been enjoying the ease of use, the efficiency of service and the low cost --all at the same time.

zipcars are readily available in the neighborhood*. They can be booked any time, even minutes before the time of pick-up (upon availability)**. The price includes gas and insurance***. They can be booked for one hour or for one day; the booking can be extended****. The entire process is green; everything from booking to billing is done on-line (e-mail and/or text); which means no more receipts to carry around.

Companies have rules; if broken there are fines and penalties! Those who read the rules will never get burnt, for the rest there is learn by experience (a.k.a the hard way!)

Zipcar is no exception. Consider the following as an introduction to the Zipcar rules:

*Although they are all over, (50+ cities in US, Canada and UK and 100+ university campuses in North America), but coverage may be sparse in the neighborhood you work, play or live. The locations are decided based on the demand. They are good about showing you the zipcars in your city.

**You can change or cancel your reservation with no penalty:
-for reservations less than 8 hours long, you've got until 3 hours before the start of your reservation.
-for reservations 8 hours or longer, you've got to do it at least 24 hours in advance.
Since you can book minutes before your planned departure this should not be a problem, unless you like advance booking but change your plan haphazardly.

***Yes, the price does include insurance, but they charge you $750 damage fee, unless you sign up for a waiver which costs $5 per month.
I don't quite understand the logic behind this rule; if insurance is included in the price then what's the $750 damage fee? Let me know if you have this figured out, will you?

****Half an hour before the end of the reservation they send a text to remind you that time is almost up and you've got to return the car or extend your reservation. They value punctuality, so much that they charge you a late fee if you run late. And don't you think that they will not find out --after all there is no one there to check you in or out you may think. The smart technology built in your zipcard will let them know. Intriguing, eh?
Well, if you are good in managing your time then this is not something you need to worry about. And for the rest of us, this is a great way to develop and practice the essential time management skill. Value your time, dude!

You've got questions and/or concerns that are available 24/7 year round to answer and/or address them. Call them up. The prompts quickly connects you to the right person or panel (if you choose to DIY). The agent, I spoke with, Sunday morning 8:17 AM, was able to give an answer to my question very quickly.

So, what's the cost to become a zipster in T.O.?
-a one-time non-refundable application processing fee, $35 + HST
-a non-refundable annual fee, $65 + HST (refundable within the first 30 days of signing for the service)
-pay per use of ~$8/hour the week and ~$11.75/hour the weekend, plus good deals M-Th after 6PM

Whereas with rental cars, I paid for the whole day and used it for maybe 3 hours, with zipcars, I pay for 3 hours and use it for 3 hours.

Live long car sharing!!