When we talk about cars here at Arlington Transportation Partners (ATP), we like to talk about the positives. You know, stuff like CARpools and CARsharing. We don’t hate cars, we just feel a little sad inside when there’s only one person using that car.
Photo Credit: Sam Kittner/Kittner.com
Aside from all the new people you could be meeting and controlling that road rage while carpooling, the return on non-investment is high when you choose to carpool or share a car. Everyone knows that a brand new car depreciates severely as soon as you drive it off the lot and it’s often noted that buying a car is actually one of the worst investments, yielding no ROI and a heavy dose of stress.
However, with that said, we all do it. At some point in our lives, we’ve probably bought a new car, lusted after a shiny fast car or even wished we currently owned a better car.
Full disclosure, I used to own a car but sold it in May 2015. Before selling my car, I would often think about what life would be like without a personal vehicle. Ownership and car usage didn’t make me better or different, it was just my current situation and lifestyle. Even when I did own a car, I found that carsharing services were still a bonus, not only for the region but also for me.
I know you’re thinking, why would someone pay to use a shared car when they had her own? Excellent question, but let’s rewind for a hot minute.
In Arlington and in the Metro DC region, three of the best carsharing services are Zipcar, Enterprise and car2go. I say that based on experience as well as recommendations from friends and colleagues. There are other carsharing services out there, with similar benefits, but these are the three I plan to share with you.
With a tagline of Wheels when you want them, Zipcar has been in North America for 15 years with an office in Washington, DC since 2001. Zipcar came to Arlington, VA that same year, but only with off-street parking spaces available. In 2004, Arlington launched an on-street pilot program in collaboration with WMATA to put Zipcar near Metro Stations throughout the region and it has since grown.
So how does Zipcar and other carsharing services work?
It’s pretty simple in that what you’re doing is in the name carsharing. You’re sharing a car. You don’t own it. You don’t have to pay for gas, insurance or maintenance. You simply reserve a car for a set timeframe and drive it.
Photo Credit: Zipcar
If you’re really zooming around town or on a long road trip and need to refuel, there is a gas card available for your use. Zipcar offers multiple membership options based on your need, including a discounted business membership.
Friends and colleagues who don’t own cars have memberships that best suit their needs, ranging from occasional driving plans to options that offer frequent use discounts.
The best part about carsharing and particularly Zipcar, is some of their impressive facts, especially when it comes to putting a few extra bucks back in your wallet.
- Zipcar members save 15 million GALLONS of gas every year
- Without Zipcar, 1 in 4 members would have bought a car
- Each Zipcar takes the place of about 15 personally owned cars
Traditionally known for their car rental services, Enterprise first started in Missouri in 1957. However, in 2005, Enterprise took their hourly rent-a-car concept and started moving towards Enterprise Carshare. By September 2013, Enterprise Carshare had launched its services in Washington, DC and the Metro region (Arlington, included).
Photo Credit: Enterprise CarShare
Some differences when using Enterprise Carshare
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 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, where 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, DC 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 single trip. In fact, car2go touts the fact that they are the only “free-floating on-demand carsharing program in North America.”
Basically, that means you can park it anywhere inside your home area and you’re done. There are some tips and tricks, 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.
How car2go works
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. If you're looking for a special deal for car2go, email us.
Following the success of the DC program, car2go is available in Arlington and as of May 2016, drivers can start and end their trips in either jurisdiction.
Why carshare when you have a car?
So now that you know more about Enterprise Carshare, car2go and Zipcar, 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 US. In fact, I picked up a Zipcar when I visited Austin.
- I take the bus to work, but sometimes I have meetings located in less transit-friendly areas. I use carsharing to avoid driving during rush hour and to save on parking fees outside of the meeting time.
Now that I have sold my car and have been car-free for over a year, carsharing has been invaluable. But you don’t have to go car-free to appreciate the benefits of carsharing. If anything, now you’re in the know and you can be thankful that carshare members continue to take cars off the road to help ease traffic congestion in Arlington and surrounding regions.
Editor's Note: This blog was first published in May 2015 and has been republished with updated information written by Maggie Awad.