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How Zipcar For Students Works [& Why It’s A Great Option]

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Key Takeaways

  • Zipcar offers discounted memberships for students 18+ with valid driver’s licenses.
  • Membership costs vary by university, with additional fees for certain violations.
  • Student plans offer lower fees and age requirements than regular plans.
  • Available at many U.S. campuses; eligibility and sign-up can be checked online.

Going through college without a car can be difficult for many students. Fortunately, we live in an age where car rentals have never been easier, thanks to platforms like Turo, Car2Go, and, as we’re about to see here, Zipcar.

The latter stands out as one of the most student-friendly car rental platforms available right now, and it even has a special membership plan with discounted prices for students.

If you want to get started with using car rentals during your campus life, read on to learn more about how to use Zipcar as a student.

Zipcar Membership for Students

First, let’s look at how to join Zipcar, including data on its regional availability and advice on getting started and signing up for the service.

1. Requirements

In most US states and Canadian provinces, regular applicants must be at least 21 years old to start using Zipcar. But as a student, this requirement is reduced to a minimum of 18 years.

Next, you’ll need a valid driver’s license issued by your local government, meaning that an international license will be rejected. Learner’s permits, probationary licenses, Canadian G1 and G2 licenses, and other temporary or probational permits are also not accepted.

Note that Zipcar can reject your application if you have a sketchy traffic history, such as frequent violations.

2. Availability and Eligible Universities

As of 2024, Zipcar is only available in half of all US states (including Washington DC), with California, New York, and Massachusetts as the states with the greatest Zipcar coverage. You can check the availability for specific cities on its website.

You’ll also need to check if your university is eligible by searching for it in the search bar.

3. Signing Up

Once you find your uni in the search bar, click on it to be redirected to Zipcar’s plans page, where you can choose the green “Join” button under the Student plan. This button should also show the specific membership fee for your city and university.

From there, enter your details and follow through with the application process, where you’ll be asked to submit the required documents as well. It doesn’t take a long time to get your application results — typically only a few business days.

How Much Does Zipcar Cost for Students?

Before your membership is accepted, you must pay a $25 application fee to cover costs related to the record-keeping process. This is a non-refundable fee, even if your application gets rejected.

After that, the exact cost of your subscription plan depends on your area and university. For instance, Stanford students pay $35 per year, while UCLA students pay only $20.

Once you’re subscribed and start renting, you’ll be paying rental costs, which greatly vary based on your location.

To follow up on our previous examples, Stanford students can find cars starting from $10.50 per hour or $91.25 per day, while UCLA students only pay $8.50 per hour or $70 per day (as starting prices). The price also depends on the car brand.

There are some additional fees that you might face if you’re not careful, including:

  • Young Driver Fee: A non-student-specific fee that applies to anyone under 25, similar to Turo’s fee.
  • Mileage Fee: Most cars will have a free 180-mile leeway. Once you hit it, you’ll pay an extra 58 cents per mile (or $0.50 Canadian per km).
  • Late Return Fee: $50 per hour, up to a total of $150, for returning the car late.
  • Low Fuel Fee: $30 fee for returning the car with a gas tank that’s less than a quarter full.
  • Key Replacement Fee: You pay for a replacement key if you lose yours.
  • Retrieval Fee: $139 if you don’t return the car to its designated place.

How is Zipcar Student Different From the Regular Zipcar Plans?

The primary distinction between Zipcar’s student plans and regular plans lies in the membership fee and age requirements.

Students accessing Zipcar through their university benefit from a reduced membership fee. Moreover, the minimum age requirement for students is 18 years, compared to the standard 21 years for regular plans.

Tip: If you like Zipcar, you’ll like peer to peer car rental companies like Turo, Car2Go, and Hyrecar. They’re like Zipcar, but instead of renting a car from a company, you’ll rent one from a private person.

Where Is Zipcar for Students Available?

Zipcar for students is available on numerous university campuses across the United States.

zipcar student map

Some of the cities where universities have partnered with Zipcar include Baltimore, Boston, Dallas, Denver, Detroit, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, Milwaukee, Minneapolis, New York City, Philadelphia, Phoenix, Pittsburgh, Portland, San Diego, the San Francisco Bay Area, and Seattle.

To determine if Zipcar is available at a specific university, students can either check their university website or visit the official Zipcar for Universities page and search for their school.

How to See If Your University Has Zipcar

To start, search for your university at Zipcar.com.

Zipcar Student: The Complete Guide

Select your university from the list. You’ll then be redirected to the Zipcar sign-up page for your university.

Zipcar Student: The Complete Guide - Select school

Here’s an example for Johns Hopkins University:

Zipcar Student: The Complete Guide - Your school

How To Sign Up For Zipcar Student Services

This process starts with a visit to Zipcar’s university page online. There, you’ll type the name of your school/university into a search bar.

If your school/university has a partnership with Zipcar, you should see its name as you type it in. Once you click on it, the available plans will show on your screen, including the student membership.

To sign up for the program, scroll down and click “Join student plan.”

Zipcar Student: The Complete Guide - Join student plan

This will take you to a page with more information about the rates for your university.

Generally, these rates are the same as the city your university is in (unless your university is in a very remote place, in which case it may have its own rates).

Once you’re on that page, click “Join for $X/year” (the precise cost will vary based on your university).

Zipcar Student: The Complete Guide - Rates

When you click on the student plan, a redirection will take you to a page where you’ll fill in some key information.

These include your name, university email address, mobile number, and account password. You’ll also upload a selfie driver’s license photo for identity verification.

Zipcar Student: The Complete Guide - Account

From there, Zipcar will ask you a few questions to ensure that you’re eligible.

You’ll need to upload a copy of your driver’s license, which helps Zipcar verify that you’re at least 18, as well as allowing them to check your driving record. Then, you’ll pay the yearly membership fee.

Assuming all is well with your driving record, Zipcar will confirm your application and send you your Zipcard (the card you use to unlock Zipcars) in the mail.

Reserving and Picking Up Your Car

Once you’re inside the app, select the car you want, the planned rental duration (such as the hourly range, the number of days, or the duration of a round trip), and then book the car.

Afterward, you’ll get precise instructions and pictures of the car and its location, along with instructions on how to reach the pickup spot.

When you reach it, unlock the car through the app and you’ll be good to go. Before you do so, we recommend you check the car thoroughly and take pictures just in case the previous driver left some issues with the car so you can prove that it wasn’t you.

At the end of your trip, you must return the car to its pickup spot and clean it well before marking the trip as over on the app.

Final Words

Applications like Zipcar make car rentals as straightforward as possible for many people, including students who may need them to run errands around campus during a busy week or for a fun day out.

Before you sign up, we recommend that you check your eligibility and driving records, as you can get rejected if they’re not sound enough. In that case, your $25 application fee won’t be refunded.

If Zipcar doesn’t suit your needs, check out some of the best alternatives here.

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