Cars work best for society when there’s more than one person using them, which is why we like when organizations such as Carma and Ridescout find ways to get people excited about carpooling and carsharing.
I mean, who wouldn’t love cat cafes and origami owls?
But seriously, aside from all the people you could be meeting and the road rage you could be eliminating, carpooling and carsharing also has a high return on non-investment. Everyone knows that a brand new car depreciates severely as soon as you drive it off the lot and buying a car is actually one of the worst investments you can make, yielding no ROI and a heavy dose of stress.
[quote_right][feature_box title=”TDM TAKEAWAY” title_color=”fff” header_color=”369″]More people are exploring ways to trim their car use, so transportation agencies have an opportunity to attract potential carpoolers or carsharers.[/feature_box][/quote_right]Nevertheless, many of us still buy cars. (Full disclosure: I do own a car, but I only drive it maybe three times a month. I often think about when I’m going to sell it.) Even with a car, I still find ways to use carsharing services.
With carsharing, you have access to a car but you don’t have to pay for gas, insurance, or maintenance. You simply reserve a car for a set timeframe and drive it.
Three of the best carsharing services in the region are ZipCar, Enterprise, and Car2Go. I say that based on experience as well as recommendations from friends and colleagues.
With a tagline of “wheels when you want them,” Zipcar has been in North America for 15 years with an office in Washington D.C. since 2001. In 2004, Arlington, Virginia launched an on-street pilot program in collaboration with WMATA, which operates the subway and buses, to put Zipcar near Metro stations.
The best part about carsharing – and particularly Zipcar – can be summed up in their impressive list of facts, including:.
- Zipcar members save 15 million gallons of gas every year
- Without Zipcar, one in four members would have bought a car, and
- Each Zipcar takes the place of about 15 personally owned cars.
Traditionally known for its car-rental service, Enterprise first started in Missouri in 1957. In 2005, Enterprise took its hourly rent-a-car concept and started moving towards Enterprise CarShare. By September 2013, Enterprise CarShare had launched its services throughout the Washington D.C. region.
Much like Zipcar, Enterprise CarShare allows you to reserve a car by the hour for a set price, which includes fuel and insurance. Prices are based on the city where you’re driving, but once you’re a member, you can drive in any city that has Enterprise CarShare.
One of the biggest differences to note about Enterprise CarShare is that, unlike traditional car-rental services, with which you must be at least 25-years-old to drive, Enterprise CarShare drivers only have to be 21-years-old. Talk about an advantage for Millennial graduates moving to big cities to start their careers.
Car2Go first launched in Washington D.C. in early 2012, allowing residents living in an already transit-friendly area to completely forgo the hassle of owning a car.
Unlike Zipcar and Enterprise, where you must return your car to the original pick-up location, Car2Go supports the concept of a one-way trip. In fact, Car2Go touts the fact that it is the only “free-floating on-demand carsharing program in North America.”
Basically, that means you can park it anywhere inside the District and you’re done. There are some tips and tricks you should be aware of, like not parking in rush-hour zones or making sure the street isn’t scheduled to be cleaned within 24 hours, but for the most part, you drive it, park it, and leave it.
Like Zipcar and Enterprise, you do have to be a Car2Go member, but pricing modules are based on the city. You can pay by the minute, by the hour, or by the day after you join and pay your one-time sign-up fee of $35. Also like other carsharing services, Car2Go provides insurance and gas for each driver.
Car2Go hasn’t crossed the river to Arlington or other jurisdictions just yet, but based on the success of the D.C. program, expansion likely isn’t too far off.
So now that you know a little more, why exactly would a car owner like myself use a carsharing service? A few reasons actually, but here are my top two:
- I can use my carsharing membership across the U.S. In fact, I picked up a Zipcar when I visited Austin, Texas earlier this year.
- I take the bus to work to avoid driving during rush hours, but sometimes I have meetings located in less transit-friendly areas. I use carsharing to save on parking fees during those meetings.
As I think more about selling my car and taking Arlington up on its Car-Free Diet, I know that carsharing will be even more invaluable. But you don’t have to go car-free to appreciate the benefits of carsharing.