A deal on wheels

You don’t need to own a car to keep zipping along. Car-sharing companies provide instant, affordable mobility.

As most urban dwellers know, owning a car is not only expensive, but it can be a real hassle. Dealing with traffic congestion, parking and road rage on a daily basis can leave you feeling, well, enraged.

For some owning a car is an absolute necessity – but what about those who need use of a car only occasionally for say, the big run to Costco or to visit friends who live out of town? In the past, these people could rent a car for a week or a day – but now there’s another option, and as its fans claim, a more convenient and affordable one.

Car-sharing companies, where members reserve a car online and then pick it up at a designated lot near or in their neighbourhood, are growing in popularity. Zipcar, (www.zipcar.com) the world’s largest car sharing service, operates in London, England and thirteen North American states and provinces, including metropolitan New York, Boston, Chicago, San Francisco, Minneapolis, Toronto, Washington, DC and Vancouver. According to its website, the company has over 90,000 members and operates 2,500 vehicles.

Scott Griffith, the company’s CEO and President, recently attended the ideaCity conference in Toronto to talk about the emergence of car sharing as a viable and attractive transportation option for urban dwellers. ideaCity, also known as ‘Canada’s Premiere Meeting of the Minds’, is an annual event that brings together innovators from a diversity of fields ranging from art, adventure and science to music, magic and technology.

50Plus.com had the opportunity to ask Michael Lende, Vice President for Zipcar Toronto a few questions about its car-sharing service.

Q. I’ve read that Zipcar members drive less and are more likely to walk, bike and use public transportation. How frequently on a weekly or monthly basis does an average member reserve and use one of your cars?

A. I always say that if you had to pay for a pizza by the slice you would be more careful how many slices you eat! This applies to Zipcar members because they must pay each time they use the service. This makes our members better consumers and more environmentally friendly. They might decide to bike or walk or take public transit. The average member uses our cars for errands, shopping and other short trips.

Q. In the past, people who had occasional use of a car went to a rental agency such as Hertz or Budget. What are the benefits of Zipcar over car rentals?

A. Car sharing is an entirely different category from conventional car rental. Zipcar allows you to reserve a car 24/7 online without standing in line, paying for gas or purchasing insurance. Once you are a Zipcar member your insurance and gas are included. With Zipcar you can reserve by the hour and do not have to commit a full day if you do not require the car for that length of time