If you’re a college student, you know how difficult it is to get a ride. This is especially true if you don’t have access to a car on campus. While you don’t need a car every day, there are times when it would be nice to have. For instance, if you want to escape your college town for the weekend, or just if you need to get a big load of groceries back to your dorm.
In the past, the only option for getting access to a car for a short-term basis was through a car rental company. If you’ve ever tried to rent a car as a student, you know that rental car companies can be less than friendly to students. In fact, if you’re under 21, these companies may not allow you to rent a car at all. And even if you’re over 21, you’ll still have to pay a hefty fee if you are under 25.
Luckily, however, there’s a service called Zipcar. Zipcar aims to change all of this. Their goal is to make car rental more accessible to everyone, and this includes students. In this guide, we’re going to tell you everything you need to know about Zipcar for students. We’ll cover how the program works, how to sign up for it, and where the program is available.
- What Is Zipcar for Students?
- How Zipcar Works for Students
- Zipcar Student Requirements
- Where Is Zipcar for Students Available?
- Zipcar Student Prices
- Zipcar Student FAQ
Let’s start with an explanation of what Zipcar is. Zipcar is a modern alternative to traditional car rental. With traditional car rentals, you have to deal with paying lots of fees and other extra charges. In addition to the rental cost, you also have to pay for gas as well as additional protections such as insurance.
Traditional rentals are also not very flexible. For instance, if you only need to rent a car for a couple hours, you still have to pay for an entire day. Wouldn’t it be great if there were a way to rent a car for just a couple of hours? And wouldn’t it be even better if you didn’t have to pay all the fees? This is what Zipcar offers.
With Zipcar, your rental is far more flexible. You can book the rental using an app on your phone or through the Zipcar website, and you can book by the hour or day.
The cost of renting a Zipcar includes gas, insurance, and all other charges. As long as you return the car in the same condition as when you picked it up, all you have to pay is a flat hourly rate.
Even if you’ve heard of Zipcar, you may not know that Zipcar also offers a plan for students. This plan is almost identical to the regular Zipcar plans. The main difference is that Zipcar has partnered with universities to offer the plan to students who are at least 18 years old. This contrasts with the regular Zipcar service, which normally only rents to people who are at least 21.
Assuming your university has Zipcar, renting one is simple. To start, search for your university at Zipcar.com.
Select your university from the list.
You’ll then be redirected to the Zipcar sign-up page for your university. Here’s an example for Johns Hopkins University:
To sign up for the program, scroll down and click “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).
You’ll then be directed to a page that will prompt you to create an account using your school email address, a password, and a phone number.
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.
Once you have your Zipcard, it’s easy to get a car. Just open the Zipcar app, find a car near you, and choose the day and time you want to reserve it. Then book your reservation with just a couple taps.
When it’s time for you to use the car, find the parking spot where it’s located, walk over to it, and tap your Zipcard to the card reader located in the windshield to unlock the vehicle. Get in, check that everything is in order, and note that the included gas card is under the driver’s side visor.
You’re now ready to take your adventure. Drive the car for the time you’ve reserved, and return it to the parking lot where you picked it up. Be sure to leave at least a quarter of a tank of gas for the next driver (though, since Zipcar pays for all the fuel, you might as well just fill it all the way up unless you’re in a big hurry). That’s all there is to it. For a more in-depth look at this process, check out our guide to how Zipcar works.
In order to rent a Zipcar, you need to meet a few basic eligibility requirements. To start, you have to be at least 18. This is one of the special benefits of using Zipcar through your university. Normally, you have to be at least 21 to use Zipcar, but the age requirement is lower if you go through your university.
In addition to the age requirement, you have to have a clean driving record. Zipcar is a bit vague about what this means, but they just want to be sure that you’re a safe driver. Having one speeding ticket on your record isn’t going to make you ineligible, but having several over the past couple years will. And of course, if you have any serious moving violations (reckless driving, hit and run, etc.), Zipcar isn’t going to let you use their platform.
Finally, you have to be a current student enrolled at the university with a valid .edu email address. While some universities offer their Zipcar discounts to alumni, the special pricing is generally only available to current students.
To view the specific requirements for your university, visit your school’s website.
Zipcar offers on-demand car sharing on university campuses across the United States. Here are just a few of the Zipcar cities where universities have partnered with the company:
- Los Angeles
- New York City
- San Diego
- San Francisco Bay Area
Ultimately, the best way to find out if your university has Zipcar is to either visit your university website or visit the official Zipcar for Universities page and search for your school.
Are you curious to learn how much Zipcar cost for students? When you create a Zipcar account through your university, you’ll get a discount on the regular plan. You’ll get a discount compared to what you would normally pay for Zipcar. Specifically, you’ll get a reduced membership fee. Normally, it would cost $70 per year for Zipcar. However, as a student, you only pay $15 per year.
The membership fee covers your access to the Zipcar service. This includes your Zipcard, your gas card, and services such as insurance and roadside assistance. This fee also allows Zipcar to maintain their platform and continue making improvements.
Of course, you’ll still have to pay an hourly rate for each individual car rental. This rate depends on your city. As a student, you’ll pay the same rate as any other Zipcar member. If you’re renting a car for more than one day, then you’ll pay the daily rate. As with the hourly rate, the daily rate depends on your city.
Normally, Zipcar offers a variety of membership plans. These plans include the occasional driving plan and the Extra Value plan. As a student, however, you only have one type of plan available to you. You also don’t have to worry about choosing a monthly membership plan versus a yearly membership. Because the rate for the student plan is already so low, you only pay one annual fee instead of a monthly fee.
It also appears that Zipcar waives the one-time application fee for students. Your Zipcar membership fee is charged to the credit card you have on file. You can also use a debit card. Zipcar does not accept payments via cash or check.
So how much does it cost to rent a Zipcar? This depends on the vehicle you choose, as well as your city. Different cities have different driving rates. And, naturally, larger cars cost more per hour to rent than smaller cars. The average cost per hour to rent a small economy car is less than $10. You will be able to see the rates for your city when you sign up for Zipcar. You can also check them on the Zipcar page for your university.
To conclude this article, we’d like to answer a few common questions that students have about using Zipcar.
1. How is Zipcar student different from the regular Zipcar plans?
The main difference is the cost of the membership fee. The fee is lower for students going through their university. In addition to that, students using Zipcar through their university also only have to be 18 years old as opposed to 21 years old.
2. Does Zipcar offer promo codes for students?
There are a variety of Zipcar promo codes available. However, Zipcar does not offer a special promo code for students. This is likely because students already receive a discount on Zipcar when joining through their university. While it can be frustrating not to receive the extra driving credit, the discount that you receive on your membership more than makes up for it.
3. How does Zipcar handle insurance for students?
Zipcar handles insurance for students in the same way that they handle insurance for other drivers. Here’s their official statement about drivers under the age of 21: “Members under 21 receive liability coverage up to the minimum financial responsibility limits required in the state/jurisdiction in which the accident occurs.”
Basically, what this means is that if you are at fault in an accident, Zipcar provides insurance that will pay for the medical bills, damaged property, and lost wages of the person with whom you had the collision. This is the standard type of insurance coverage required in all states.
4. How can I bring Zipcar to my college or university?
Do you want to join Zipcar, but you don’t see it available at your school? The best option is to bring it up with whoever is in charge of transportation or student life at your university. Point them to this page, which explains the many benefits of Zipcar to universities:
- Reduces the need for parking
- Decreases traffic
- Lower CO2 footprint than other transportation methods
- Plans available for students, faculty, and staff
5. Can my friend drive a Zipcar that I reserve?
No, Zipcar does not allow this. You are eligible to drive a Zipcar based on your personal driving record and your agreement with Zipcar. Even if your friend is a Zipcar member, they are not allowed to drive a car that you have reserved. If they would like to drive, they should make their own separate Zipcar reservation.
6. Can my student organization use Zipcar?
Zipcar can be a very useful tool for student groups, especially those that need to make trips in town as part of their needs. Zipcar does not offer plans specifically for student organizations, but leaders of student organizations are welcome to use Zipcar through their university’s plan.
Do note that Zipcars are not commercial vehicles, and you are not allowed to use them to make deliveries or conduct other commercial activities.
7. When are Zipcars available?
With Zipcar, you can book a car online 24/7. It’s a self-service platform, which means that you don’t need to deal with any other people in order to make it work. You can book a car at your convenience using the Zipcar app for any time you like, day or night.
8. Can university employees use Zipcar?
In many cases, yes. You should check your specific university’s plan to see who is eligible.
Zipcar Helps Students Get Around
We hope this guide has helped you understand how to use Zipcar as a student. Remember, Zipcar is just one of many ways to get around as a student if you don’t have a car. Another option to consider is using a rideshare service such as Uber or Lyft. You can use either of these platforms if you are at least 18 years old, which also makes them an appealing alternative to traditional car rental.
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.