The sharing economy is proud to present vehicles on demand, ready to be rented in cities worldwide. While traditional rental services get the job done, we’ve found that newer services are often more accommodating and usually more affordable.
Not sure which service is right for your trip? In the second installment of our new Travel App Showdown series, we’ve done side-by-side comparisons of two popular car-sharing services so you can find your ideal ride.
Before We Take Off: What’s Car Sharing?
Here are some things to know about both car-sharing services. First off, they’re membership based—this means they’ll check out your driving record prior to admitting you, and that you’ll receive a fancy membership card once approved. Both services include gas and insurance in their fees, as well as general maintenance.
Also, both companies really do offer cars on demand instantaneously, without the buzzkills of recurring paperwork or key pickup/drop-off. Your membership includes a smart key-card that will unlock whichever car you’ve rented.
Here’s How They Stack Up
Car2go is known for its fleet of white Smart Cars, and that’s their only offering—with the exception of two pricier Mercedes models recently added to the lineup. Zipcar has way more model options, meaning you can reserve a Subaru Outback for your trip into the Rockies or a Prius for your jaunt around town.
While car2go’s cars may be on every corner, the fleet is still growing; it’s in just 30 cities so far. Zipcars are virtually everywhere, zooming around 600 (and counting!) cities and college campuses. However, since Zipcar emphasizes the ability to choose your dream car, that also means—for the most part—that each car must be returned to its designated home.
On the other hand, car2go’s eco-friendly fleet can be returned anywhere, anytime—enabling one-way trips. This flexibility is awesome, and can also save you money since you can explore a city all day while only paying to rent a car for a few minutes or hours.
Car2go is known for its minute-by-minute ($.32–$.41 per minute) pricing, recently introducing hour-by-hour and daily pricing as well ($15 per hour). Zipcar charges by the half hour, with a minimum one-hour rental ($8–$10 per hour). So if you’re planning on driving more than 30 minutes, Zipcar will probably be the cheaper rental. But if you’re doing quick jaunts around town—say driving 10 minutes and then spending hours at a museum—then car2go could be your new BFF.
The hourly rates are in addition to the services’ other fees—you can often find coupons to waive the sign-up fee, which is $35 for car2go or $25 for Zipcar. However, Zipcar charges a $7/month membership fee whereas car2go does not.
Winner: TIE! Use car2go for super-short trips and Zipcar for longer drives.
Car2go favors the spontaneous, only allowing reservations up to 30 minutes in advance. Zipcars can be reserved months in advance, which makes it a safe bet when you’re planning a trip. That being said, Zipcar has a large fleet so there’s a good chance you can find a car the day of your trip.
Both services receive five stars from our team of experienced trail testers. Car2go’s futuristic vehicles are amazing for non-car-owners needing to run errands or show visiting friends around town. But for the traveler, Zipcar is the clear winner. Book in advance and save on a longer-term rental—and drive the car of your choice, too.
Annie’s based in Los Angeles but hails from Portland, Oregon. Sort of. She moved to six states by the time she reached middle school, and continues to move around the US and abroad – call her a nomad, but she prefers “Location ADHD.” After studying abroad in New Zealand, Annie circled the globe, graduated from USC, and circled the world once again. For one year she lived out of a backpack everywhere from The Philippines to Nepal to Slovenia to Norway. She’s a curry connoisseur and passionate explorer, taking the road less traveled, the “trail” covered in vines and swarmed in exotic bugs. Foreign lands feel like home, and Annie loves encouraging more and more people to utilize their passports and experience a new culture.