Car sharing is short-term use of a car that’s shared among a group of people. This is commonly coordinated by a company that cares for the car and manages issues like insurance and parking.

You reserve wheels when you want them, by the hour or day (i.e online or in the Zipcar app) and only pay for the time you use them. And unlike a car rental, there’s no waiting in line at the counter.


First, a member decides to reserve a car. Depending on the company, you might be able to do this online, by phone or by text message. The reservation will usually include prompts for you to answer like:
• What time do you want to use the car?
• How long will you need the car?
• Where would you like to pick up the car?
• What type of car do you prefer?
Reservations can be made on the spot or far in advance, and the minimum time for car use is generally one hour. The earlier you book your reservation, the more likely you’ll get the car you want. Last-minute reservations are not as reliable as early reservations. Maximum time for car use varies, as does the cost to become a member. Keep in mind that if you cancel a reservation at the last minute, you still may be charged.

When you arrive at the designated parking spot where the reserved vehicle is waiting, all you need to do is wave your member card near a special card reader that’s generally located inside the car, near the windshield. The card reader works like the credit card machines that use blink technology instead of swiping. The cards usually won’t work at any given time; they will only unlock the proper car within the reservation slot.

When using a card reader, the keys are waiting for you somewhere inside the car, like in a glove compartment or storage console. Some companies use other methods for entry. For example, they might provide keys that work on lockboxes, which store the ignition key for each particular car.
It’s important to give the car a thorough check before you drive off to make sure there’s no prior damage — after all, you don’t want to be charged for someone else’s fender bender. If there is damage, you should report it to the company before setting out.

Insurance is generally included in the price, as is gas. The policy on gas differs between companies as well. Some stash a gas card in the car for drivers to use; others reimburse the expense.

Once you are finished using the car, just return it to the same spot where you picked it up. Companies usually clean and maintain their cars on a regular basis, but if you make a big mess, you’d better clean it up. This policy goes for pet-related messes too.

Some companies also fine customers if they return cars late, so you should make sure to give yourself plenty of time when booking reservations


Car sharing saves you hundreds over car ownership. Plus, you never have to worry about finding the time to get routine maintenance performed. Cars are cleaned and taken care of all year round. Further, they are parked in cities, airports, and on campuses around the world


Car sharing is the perfect complement to the bus and train. So when you need to carry home a ton of groceries, move a bureau across town, or feel like getting away for the weekend, get behind the wheel.


Cars come in all shapes and sizes – compact sedans, luxury SUVs, spacious vans – and the vehicle you choose is the vehicle you get. Switch it up whenever you feel like it.

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