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For many drivers, car ownership isn’t feasible. Not only do great vehicles cost thousands of dollars, but buying one also comes with the cost of car insurance, maintenance, and even parking spots in urban areas. Even if you can afford a car, it can be hard to justify the cost. Car share availability is a rising trend and makes it easy for you to affordably reach your daily destinations.
Whether you have limited car usage needs or you’re traveling in a different city, car sharing can be a cost-effective way to get around. It’s a great alternative to traditional car rentals and rideshare apps that still allows you to complete your commutes and short trips comfortably and safely.
In this article, you’ll learn about modern car shares and six of the best car sharing programs in the United States.
What Is a Car Share?
Car shares connect you to convenient, short-term rental vehicles. They differ from car rental companies, including rental alternatives like Turo, in that they charge by the hour — sometimes even by the minute or mile — so you never pay for a full day you don’t use.
Car sharing is more convenient now than ever. They are often app-based with self-serve technology, allowing you to check in and out with ease. No longer do you need to deal with pushy salespeople or long rental car lines. You can often start your car share trip with just a few taps.
6 Best Car Sharing Services
Car shares can come in many different forms, but they all transform the rental experience and make it easier for people to live car-free. Below, we’ll list six of the top car sharing services in the United States.
Zipcar is perhaps the best-known car share service. Available in cities and universities across the United States and around the world, the company allows users to book nearby cars 24/7 straight from its website or mobile app. You only need a reservation and a “Zipcard” that allows you to unlock your selected car.
On the Zipcar platform, you can find all sorts of cars to fit your needs, including standard sedans and luxury SUVs. Rental rates for these vehicles vary by city (they usually start at about $9-$10 per hour) but always include gas, insurance, and roadside assistance at all hours. You’ll get 180 miles included in your reservation each day and only pay 45 cents per additional mile.
Before you use Zipcar’s services, you need to subscribe to the service for $7 per month or $70 per year (students at partnered universities may get cheaper rates). However, this gives you the flexibility to book any time and from anywhere Zipcars are available — which includes over 400 cities in the U.S. alone.
If you’re looking for competitive rates or a wider variety of cars, Getaround may be the service for you. As a peer-to-peer car share, this mobile app can connect you to privately owned cars in your area, which means you’ll have far more choices when it comes to rates and vehicle models. For example, you may find anything from sedans and convertibles to pick-up trucks and cargo vans.
With Getaround, you don’t need a membership card. You can use your smartphone to locate and unlock any Getaround vehicle in your area and start a trip. Your hourly rental rates will vary widely based on the exact listing you select, and you can always expect to pay a booking fee (at least $2 and usually under 10% of your trip cost). An “under-25” fee will apply to each trip younger drivers book.
Twenty miles per hour (or 200 miles per day) are included in the initial booking cost, after which you’ll be charged 50 cents per mile or $5 per mile for specialty cars. You need to fill up on gas at the end of your trip, but insurance and roadside maintenance are included.
Getaround allows users to book on-demand in seven countries with no annual fees. The company offers car share services in 12 U.S. states and Washington, D.C.
Owned by General Motors, Maven is a safe and secure car sharing service that allows you to rent gas, hybrid, and electric vehicles. Much like Getaround, it enables you to find and unlock privately-owned vehicles with just your smartphone. Additionally, every sedan or SUV you drive goes through a proper safety inspection before it’s listed.
Maven has scaled back its operations quite a bit in the past year, so it’s only available in parts of Michigan (Ann Arbor and Detroit) and California (Los Angeles and San Francisco). Drivers in these states can access vehicles on-demand with rates starting at $8 per hour with no monthly or annual membership fee.
4. Enterprise CarShare
Enterprise is best known as a traditional car rental company but recently joined the car share space as well. Enterprise CarShare connects drivers to its trusted fleet of newer, well-maintained cars, which range from electric sedans and fuel-efficient SUVs to cargo vans and luxury cars. Much like Zipcar members, Enterprise CarShare users both unlock their vehicles and end trips by scanning their membership cards.
Enterprise CarShare rates vary extremely widely by location. Monthly membership fees in the United States range from $5-$50, and hourly rates can start at $5-$10. Mileage rates can be 25-45 cents per mile, and you may get 200 miles free. Generally speaking, these fees are fairly economical compared to other apps, especially considering they include gas, 24/7 customer service, and even physical damage protection.
This car share brand is most prominent in the United Kingdom, but it is available in nine cities across eight U.S. states as well as at plenty of universities and businesses in these markets and beyond. It’s also available in select Canadian locations.
5. SHARE NOW
The result of a large merger between Daimler AG’s Car2Go and BMW Group’s DriveNow, SHARE NOW is a car sharing network that spans eight European countries and select U.S. cities. SHARE NOW functions much like a scooter-share service with free-floating vehicles that can be dropped off at legal on-street parking spots in the operating area.
They list slightly different parking rules for each country (such as when parking is and isn’t at your own cost), so check for the restrictions in the country you’d like to use SHARE NOW. Dropping the car off at streetside parking or parking garages makes it perfect for both one-way and roundtrip commutes.
Another unique feature of SHARE NOW is its assortment of cars. You can access models from reliable and highly coveted brands like Mercedes-Benz, BMW, MINI, and Smart at any time of the day. Some European cities currently have all-electric fleets.
With SHARE NOW, you can even rent by the minute. Rates start at 24 cents per minute and $15.99 per hour, though you can book by the day at a $69.99 flat rate. Mileage does affect your price, but you will receive free parking, gas, and insurance with your purchase.
SHARE NOW is completely free to join and currently offers a $10 credit for signing up. In the United States, SHARE NOW is located in New York, Seattle, and Washington, D.C.
6. GIG Car Share
The final transportation option we’ll mention is GIG Car Share, an environmentally friendly car sharing service powered by the American Automobile Association (AAA). Currently located in Sacramento and soon expanding to Seattle, the company tries to help you reduce your carbon footprint by connecting you to hybrid and electric vehicles as well as making a largely car-free lifestyle possible.
GIG Car Share works a lot like SHARE NOW, with free-floating vehicles that can be picked up and dropped off just about anywhere in your market. Cars are unlocked via smartphone, but you can also request a membership card if you want back-up. That way, you won’t be stuck if you have spotty service).
Gas, insurance, and parking are all included in the company’s rates, which are currently set at 15 cents per minute (up to $15) and $15 per hour for both hybrids and electrics. AAA members can get discounts on rides.
Frequently Asked Questions
As car sharing grows even more widely available, purchasing a vehicle will become optional for more and more people in the United States and beyond. Read our answers to the FAQs below to learn more about car shares and how they work.
1. Can car shares be used to drive for Uber or Lyft?
Most car shares are designated for personal or non-commercial use only, which means they’re usually not a fit for rideshare drivers. Plus, some car sharing companies add their own logos to their fleet, which is against Uber and Lyft cosmetic guidelines for vehicles.
However, there are two great car share options for on-demand drivers. For one, Maven’s Maven Gig service specifically allows drivers to rent rideshare-approved vehicles. Getaround also partners with Uber to offer easy, reliable hourly (and weekly) rentals through its Drive with Uber program.
2. How old do I need to be to use car share services?
Every car share service has its own minimum age requirements. For example, Zipcar requires users to be at least 21 years old (18 years old for students at affiliated universities). Read the terms and conditions before signing up for any car share service to ensure you don’t waste time or accidentally break the rules.
3. Is car sharing always the cheapest option?
It depends on your car usage. While car shares are extremely cost-effective for people with limited need for a car, long-term car rentals and car ownership can be significantly cheaper for people who are on the road more frequently and for long distances or long periods of time.
Take Control Behind the Wheel
When you don’t have access to your own car, it may seem like taxis, rideshare apps, and public transportation are your only options. However, car shares continue to expand, providing an alternative to daily car rentals and letting you control when you stop and go — no need to wait for a driver. With car sharing, you’ll only pay for the time you really need without taking on major recurring costs like auto insurance and car payments.
If you do find the need or budget for a car, take a look at our guide to the nine best car-buying apps so you can shop wisely for your permanent ride.
Brett Helling is the owner of Ridester.com. He has been a rideshare driver since early 2012, having completed hundreds of trips for companies including Uber, Lyft, and Postmates. In 2014 he acquired Ridester.com to share his experiences with other drivers. His insights are regularly quoted by publications such as Forbes, Vice, CNBC, and more. He is currently working on a book about working in the Gig Economy, expanding his skill set beyond the rideshare niche. Read more about Brett here.