One of our smartest choices in moving to the city was to sell our cars. We don’t have to worry about automotive fines, taxes, payments, repairs, or insurance, and we can mostly rely on the T to get us where we want to go. But occasionally there are places remote enough to make the T impractical, when a car would be really helpful.

Unlocking the Zipcar

That’s where Zipcar comes in. I’d known about the company for a while, but today was the first time we’d actually used one. Zipcar lends cars by the hour. When you pay a nominal registration fee, they send you an access card in the mail (I got mine only a day after I registered).

After making a reservation, you show up at the car, hold your card next to a little box behind the windshield (as I’m doing in the picture), and it unlocks the doors. The key’s hanging by the ignition, but it doesn’t work if the car has been locked (though I wonder how many would-be car thieves have made that discovery only after breaking in).

Zipcar ignition

It’s pretty rare for a product or service to give me a warm and fuzzy feeling. If something works well, I usually feel the pain in my wallet, and if it’s inexpensive, then I can expect spotty performance or bad customer service. For me, Zipcar is one of those rare services that makes my life better in an intuitive, inexpensive manner. Their cars are parked all over the city, meaning in my case to pick one up I have to walk only across the street. They pay for gas(!) and cover insurance. Their web interface is easy to use, automatically showing when and where the nearest cars are, with a Google Maps pinprick to make it really obvious. I keep thinking, “what’s the catch?”


  1. Glad to hear that it works well. That does sound perfect for your situation. When I first heard of the concept I would have never guessed it would survive this long.

  2. Thanks for the tip. I’d seen mailers but didn’t know how well it worked. I’ll probably do this in DC next year.

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