Car sharing is a way to enjoy the benefits of a car, but not have to deal with the cost and responsibilities that comes with ownership. Rather than paying to have a car all the time, you only pay for when you actually use a car—often by the hour or by the day. Car sharing is gaining ground in cities across America—and Seattle is no exception. Zipcar already has a strong presence in Seattle and other car sharing companies and peer-to-peer sharing networks are gaining a foothold as well. More options are sure to come!
1. Benefits of Car Sharing
- As long as you don’t need a car every day, car sharing can be much cheaper than owning a car. Rates are in the neighborhood of $6-$12/hour and $30-$90/day.
- You don’t have to worry about monthly car insurance fees or gas.
- You also don’t have to worry about car maintenance, oil changes or surprise car issues.
- In places like Western Washington where most people care about the environment, car sharing is ideal as it helps reduce emissions. Generally, if you don’t have 24-7 access to a car, you will choose to walk or ride the bus at least some of the time.
- Unlike traditional rental cars, with most car sharing programs, you don’t have to pay extra for gas or insurance.
- Pick-up locations are designed to be convenient.
Zipcar is currently your primary car sharing choice in the Seattle area, and fortunately it offers many options. Rather than have one location for car pick-up, as do traditional car rental outfits, Zipcar locations are spread out and located in neighborhoods. In the Puget Sound area, cars are largely located in downtown Seattle, but also West Seattle, the University District, Ballard, Green Lake, Beacon Hill, Bellevue, and Redmond. Zipcars can also be found in downtown Tacoma and around the universities there, including Pacific Lutheran, University of Puget Sound, and UW-Tacoma.
You must sign up with Zipcar to use its cars. You can view cars, rates and locations online before you join. Each car available is listed online with a photo of the vehicle, its daily and/or hourly rate, its location, and a few details about the specific car. Zipcar rates include gas, insurance and 180 miles each day. Each car has its own rates. Most hourly rates are between $9 and $12. Most daily rates are around $70 with some higher, some lower. It’s also important to note that not all cars are available for a daily rental.
You reserve a car online or with an app on your phone. Once you have a reservation, go to the location you choose and use your Zipcard to unlock your car by holding the card over the card reader located on the windshield of the car. To return a car, you must take the Zipcar back to its home location and park in one of the Zipcar spots.
Seattle’s newest car sharing company is Car2Go with a fleet of more than 300 cars. Like Zipcar, Car2Go members receive a membership card that is used to unlock cars. Members can book cars by using the website, the Car2Go app, calling the company or even booking an available car parked on the street. If you come across an available car, you can book those cars on the spot. Online and app bookings are done at least 30 minutes in advance. Car2Go cars can be found at locations all over Seattle, as long as they are within Seattle's home area. You can use the car wherever you want, but it must be returned to somewhere within the home area when you’re done.
A difference between Zipcar and Car2Go is the type of car. Where Zipcar has cars of all shapes and sizes, Car2Go has a fleet of two-seater smart fortwo cars. Another major difference is that Car2Go cars can be returned anywhere in the home area, not just to a home lot. Depending on what you need to use a car for, this could be high on the convenience factor!
Car2Go has the same rates for all of its cars. There’s a one-time $35 joining fee. After that, cars are $0.38 per minute, $13.99 per hour, $72.99 per day, and $0.45 per mile if you go over 150 miles. You never have to worry about gas, insurance or other incidentals. Bonus—if you do come across a car that needs refueling, you will get 20 free minutes for refueling the car.
RelayRides is a peer-to-peer car sharing program, meaning that car owners allow their cars to be rented for an agreed-upon length of time. Because RelayRides operates with individual owners rather than maintaining a fleet of cars, there are more cars available in more places with this company than the others—cars are available from Everett to Olympia and everywhere in between.
Renters will find a wide variety of cars with a wide variety of prices, since car owners set the price. Rates can be as low as $6 per hour and $35 a day, or as high as $10 per hour and $70 per day. You can choose the best car for your needs at the price you can afford. You’ll pick up the car from the owner or from a specified location. You are responsible for replacing the gas you used either by paying the owner or refueling. Insurance is included with the rental.
Alternately, if you’re interested in making extra money and helping others out, you can rent your car out via RelayRides. You can approve who takes your car and for how long. You also set the price renters must pay. The company handles billing and insurance coverage for you. Members can make as much as $7,000 a year renting their car out when they’re not using it, according to RelayRides’ website.