Renting cars by the hour—car sharing—is no longer just a city phenomenon where gas and parking cost make owning a vehicle burdensome. Now that Zipcar has vehicles available in 50 airports worldwide, air travelers can take a spin during a layover or delay.
Zach Ellard, head of Zipcar’s airports division, spoke with RewardExpert.com about the benefits of short-term car rentals and rewards for air travelers.
Zipcar’s founding and rapid growth
Friends Robin Chase and Antje Danielson hatched a plan in a Boston café to bring car sharing, already popular in Europe, to the United States. That’s how Zipcar was born.
In the early days, Zipcar only had a few vehicles in their fleet. The company used a low-tech method of distributing car keys—by hiding them under a rock.
“Zipcar was a pioneer,” Ellard says, by “making cars accessible, reducing the need for parking, and making it easier to get around.”
The fleet has ballooned to more than 12,000 cars in eight countries, including the United Kingdom, Germany and France. Avis Budget Group acquired Zipcar in 2013 to take advantage of the growing demand for low hassle, short-term car rentals.
Zipcar is the only company of its type that operates nationally and in select cities around the world. It has cars available in many airports. “We have Zipcar in 50 airports globally and in the top 10 airports in the U.S.,” Ellard said.
How many members have signed up for Zipcar? “More than a million,” Ellard says.
Benefits for air travelers
Cars rented “on the fly” and without advance reservations are convenient for air travelers because long layovers, overbooked flights and cancellations are among the unpredictable situations travelers face.
Zipcar can also make travel more enjoyable en route. Rather than being stuck at the airport during a delay or layover, why not check out the sights of hub cities such as Atlanta, Dallas or Toronto? Here is a full list of airports with available Zipcar rentals.
Short-term car rental is also useful to help travelers navigate their destination. On a recent business trip to Austin, Ellard’s wife came along to enjoy the city. While he was working, his wife took the Zipcar to sightsee and visit friends living on the outskirts of the city.
A variety of car models are available based on demand. For example, sport utility vehicles are abundant for mountainous Colorado. A larger fleet of convertibles are available for visitors to sunny Los Angeles.
Zipcar, which is known for short-term reservations that last a few hours or less, caters to both business and leisure travelers, according to Ellard. Travelers can rent a Zipcar through an app or online, rather than waiting in a line.
When it’s time to pick up the vehicle, renters can even unlock the car with a phone or a card. Spur of the moment rental is encouraged. Changes in weather or a connecting flight cancelled? A Zipcar can get travelers to their destination.
“A lot of people depend solely on their smartphone,” Ellard says. “Zipcar has been focused on using the phone for just about everything.”
Members can not only rent a car with the app, but they can even honk the horn if they forgot where they parked in a lot. The app can work as a key, except in cases where cars are in a garage and phone signals are weak. Then, a card will unlock the car door, Ellard explains.
Deals for travelers
Zipcar also offers deals to help travelers save money in their destination city. Discounts for Zipcar members include museums, coffee shops, concerts, and even dry cleaning. Discounts vary by city, so check Zipcar’s deals page for details.
Zipcar has an ongoing partnership with Jet Blue. Fly on Jet Blue and get $50 of free driving with Zipcar. Members of Jet Blue’s loyalty program TrueBlue get an additional 500 points for signing up and using Zipcar. More details on the Zipcar/Jet Blue bonus points deal can be found here.
Zipcar’s rates for round-trip airport vehicles start at $9 an hour or $69 per day. That compares to the $7.50 per hour for vehicles elsewhere.
Here are some fun Zipcar rental options in tourist markets:
- Red minivan at the Orlando airport appropriately named “Minnie” for $12.25 per hour or $84 per day.
- Jeep Wrangler at the Denver airport named “Julian” for $10 per hour or $79 per day.
- Mini Cooper convertible named “Gerald” in San Diego (not at the airport) for $11.50 an hour or $89 per day.
Renting to get to your final destination due to a flight cancellation? Rates for one-way vehicles start at $6 per half hour and are available at LAX, DEN, BOS and SEA for a Honda Civics. All prices include gas, insurance and 180 miles per day.