Promo Photo from Car2Go

I’ve been a ZipCar member for 8 years, beginning in Boston in the pre-smartphone era in which I would (gasp!) call in to find available cars.  I’ve used Zipcars in Seattle, Washington DC, Vancouver BC, Boston, and Pasadena, even sleeping overnight in one (a long story involving a Delta Airlines fail and fully booked hotels near National Airport). ZipCar allowed me not to own a car from 2005-2012, and has provided me with a level of urban mobility of which I couldn’t have otherwise dreamed.  When I lived in the U.K., ZipCar was only available in London, so I used WhizzGo instead for my trips to places outside the rail network (such as Malham Cove).

Enter Car2Go. It made quite the splash on the Seattle carsharing scene in December, going from obscurity to near ubiquity in a matter of weeks (see our posts here and here).   Alongside Zipcar (née Flexcar), carsharing is now big business in Seattle.  After 8 weeks of using Car2Go, I thought I’d write this post both as a comparative analysis of Zipcar and Car2Go and as a chance to give readers the chance to comment on the new carsharing landscape.

Much more after the jump…


Car2Go has a much more aggressive rate structure than Zipcar, but its per-minute pricing  (38¢/min) gives it a small window (trips of less than 25 minutes) in which it is considerably cheaper than Zipcar.   Zipcar’s 1-hour minimum and round-trip requirement punish short trips, but Zipcar’s 30-minute increment pricing and flatter rate structure optimize it for trips of 1.5-6 hours.  My own experience backs this up, my average Zipcar rental (2 hours) being 10 times longer than my average Car2Go rental (12 minutes). Zipcar’s round-trip requirement, however, can act as a de facto time penalty that can skew the financial calculation in Car2Go’s favor for longer than the 25-minute window.


Availability and Parking

No Cars Downtown?
No Cars Downtown?

ZipCar and Car2Go have radically different but exceptionally complementary approaches to fleet management.

 ZipCar’s guaranteed, reserved parking and round-trip requirement ensures reliable car availability and the ability to make reservations months in advance.  Car2Go, by contrast, depends upon a natural equilibrium  that provides free (but not guaranteed) parking at any legal street space that is timed for more than 2 hours and lacks peak-hour restrictions).

The limitations and benefits of each approach are clear.  If you know in advance when you need a car, Zipcar is usually better. If you need a car for a one-way trip right now, Car2Go is unmatched.

With Car2Go this liberating spontaneity is paired with increased risk; the incentive to take one-way trips means there is no guarantee that a car will be available when you need one. In my experience thus far, Car2Go’s fleet exhibits suprisingly traditional peak flows during the day, toward the CBD in the daytime and out toward urban villages at night. Recently at 10:45pm on a weeknight, I wanted to drive from Pioneer Square to Wallingford but no cars were available between Jackson and Battery west of I-5.

Car2Go complements a transit-first lifestyle in ways ZipCar doesn’t. I can commute from the C.D. to downtown by transit, take a peak-hour bus to Ballard for dinner, then take Car2Go home, saving 30 minutes compared to a 2-seat bus ride. I can choose in real-time what is best for each situation.

Car2Go’s lack of presence in South and West Seattle has been a prominent criticism, and one that I hope market demand will rectify. At a minimum we need Mt Baker Station within the home area, and in my opinion ideally as far south as Othello.

Vehicle Performance
There is no question that Zipcar has a more attractive, versatile fleet. The driving experience in a Mazda 3 or an Audi A3 is light years ahead of the Smart ForTwo, with its uneven acceleration and temperamental transmission. Zipcar has trucks and vans for hauling, SUVs for ski trips or hikes with large groups, and Subarus with bike and ski racks. If you’re going to leave the Seattle city limits for any reason, Zipcar is usually a better choice.

Customer Service
I’ve found customer service at both Zipcar and Car2Go to be exceptional. Car2Go refunded a $113 mistake I made last week by erroneously thinking my reservation had successfully ended (passenger door wasn’t closed all the way). They erased an hour of drive time plus a $100 Unsecured Vehicle Fee but with a stern warning to ensure it didn’t happen again. With Zipcar I’ve never had a bad customer service experience, from dead battery replacements to compensating me with free drive time when other drivers had been late returning vehicles I had reserved.

User Interface
Zipcar’s website is generally superior to Car2Go’s. Car2Go often doesn’t recognize the proper cookies, and frequently has defaulted me to the Austin, TX home area. The signup process with Car2Go was buggy and poorly adapted for the U.S. market, asking me for my passport number and my province of residence.

As far as mobile apps, Zipcar wins here too. Zipcar has a single, simple, free app that does everything you need it to. Car2Go has multiple apps, some free and some paid, with varying levels of functionality being unlocked as you buy the nicer apps. The free Car2Go app works well for most purposes, however.

Anecdotal reports from STB readers on Twitter have shown that users have had other Beta-esque software issues, such as being unable to suspend their time while trying to refuel. These  types of problems will likely resolve with subsequent updates.

And yes, the radio presets leave much to be desired (Country music plays every time you start the car), but Car2Go recently polled their Facebook users to fix this.

Along with VeloBusDriver, I’ve long been concerned with the financial exposure of carsharing. As carsharing enables members to live without a personal vehicle, many members carry no separate vehicle insurance. Both Zipcar and Car2Go provide the legal minimum in liability insurance (up to $300K per incident), but $300K can go pretty quickly if multiple vehicles, public infrastructure, or human injuries are involved.

Policies also vary widely regarding vehicle damage fees. Zipcar’s basic deductible is $750 per incident, while Car2Go’s is $1000. Zipcar offers cheap waivers ($9/mo waives the deductible) that every frequent user should purchase, but Car2Go offers no such protection.  Car2Go has told me that they may offer waivers in the future but currently have no plans to do so.

Hidden Fees

Both Zipcar and Car2Go have extensive fees for improper use, fees for which I’m grateful because they minimize tragedy-of-the-commons incentives not to take care of the vehicles. Nevertheless, users should educate themselves thoroughly to avoid unpleasant surprises.  Zipcar’s fees are considerably less punitive than Car2Go’s, but both are high.

There is also a major difference in how tolling is handled.  Zipcar bills you the actual (Good to Go!) toll amount, whereas Car2Go charges the Pay By Mail rate plus a $5 fee.





$25 Application Fee

$35 Lifetime Membership

$60 Annual Fee

(waived with $50 minimum monthly spending)




By the Minute










Included. 20 free minutes added if tank is less than 25% full when fueling.


180 Miles Included Per Day

45¢-55¢ Per Extra Mile

150 Miles Included Per Trip

45¢ Per Extra Mile




Zipcars have guaranteed reserved spaces.  Cars must be returned to their designated space.

Car2Go cars are free-floating. They may be parked in any publicly available space that is designated for 2 hours or greater within the Seattle Home Area. Parking availability not guaranteed.


Included ($300K Per Incident)

Included ($300K per incident)


No Waiver

$750 Deductible

$1000 Deductible

Partial Waiver ($5/mo)

$375 Deductible

Full Waiver ($9/mo)

$0 Deductible





Over 20 Models

Smart ForTwo Only


Seattle, Bellevue, Redmond, Tacoma

Seattle Home Area Only

(130th St to S Lander St,

West Seattle Excluded)


Over 50 U.S. Cities

Austin, Miami, Portland,

San Diego, Washington DC


Canada, U.K., Spain

Canada, Netherlands, Germany, Austria

126 Replies to “Zipcar vs. Car2Go”

  1. Great post. Something else worth mentioning is the barrier to entry. I always wanted to try out Zipcar, but the $85 to start out always detered me. Sure, compared to the cost of owning a car that’s really insignificant, but I wasn’t prepared to give up my car – I just wanted to try it out. Car2Go’s free trial had me signed up on day 1, and I convinced several friends to sign up as well.

    I think Zipcar would have a brighter future if they dropped most/all of the monthly and application fees and focused on time based fees instead.

    1. Alternatively, I would happily continue to pay my annual ZipCar fee if they’d employ people to return cars.

      1. But that’s one of the advantages of having both services. I think for the carless it’s useful to have a 2-way car model with reservable, guaranteed availability.

    2. Yeah, I probably wouldn’t have signed up even for Car2Go if the $35 sign-up wasn’t free on trial. $85? No way.

    3. The fact that I’ve used Zipcar about 15 times in my 4 years of membership, and have used car2go 6 times in the last month, tells me all I need to know about which service is appropriate for my needs.

      I would hardly even call Zipcar “guaranteed availability” the way Matt does. There are so few cars in Ballard that often none is available for half a day at time. At the same time, they keep rotating the vehicles such that $8 vehicles disappear for months and the average available car is now a luxury model. $8/hour versus $11.75/hour (plus tax) completely changes the cost-benefit algorithm.

      I mostly keep Zipcar in my life for the “unknown unknown” possibilities, but it’s getting harder and harder to justify. Unless Zipcar gets very competitive very fast, it seems unlikely that I will bother to renew come July.

      1. My experience with ZipCar versus car2go has been about the same. All of my post-C2G ZipCar rentals have been trucks or vans for haulage. In fact, on two occasions, I drove a car2go to a ZipCar/ZipVan as there was no appropriate model close to me, and it was a Sunday, so getting across town on Metro was unreasonably hard.

      2. I just sent a letter to Zipcar via their online feedback form:

        My Zipcar account expires at the end of April. Considering I’ve only reserved a car once in the past 90 days, and I now have a car2go membership with no monthly or annual fee, I’m seriously considering not renewing my membership.

        To remain competitive, I highly suggest that Zipcar institute a program for one-way trips. I would gladly pay a premium over car2go for the ability to drive in a reasonably-sized car.

        I would stick with Zipcar if you offered a program with the same annual fee and a higher per-minute cost than car2go, but with walk-up (no-reservation) car availability, 15-minute-interval trip durations, and incentives for making “return” trips and/or for refueling vehicles.

    4. I had the same reservation… but tweeted at @zipcarseattle, and they gave me coupon for a $25 registration, and $35 in driving credit.

  2. Car2Go has multiple apps

    Car2Go has one app, but thanks to an open API some third party developers have built their own apps.

    1. I tried to get access to their API to figure out how the cars move about the city in a 24 hour window but they wrote me back saying this was against their terms.

      “unfortunately we do not allow the use of our API to track cars or driving patterns.

      1. I reread the terms and it doesn’t seem like a violation to me, but maybe section 1 b iv. I asked them for clarification so we’ll see if they respond.

      2. Here, use this API key: car2gowebsite

        It’s not a strict 24 hour rule… cars can sit for more than 24 hours before being driven by somebody.

    2. As far as I know, Zipcar doesn’t have any apps for the Windows phone, but Car2Go does. So, as a Windows Phone user, Car2Go beats Zipcar in the mobile app department.

  3. Have you compared these with a traditional car service like Enterprise at least for the “know in advance” use? They will pick you up at your doorstep and daily rates even with insurance can be quite low. You can get a car for a day or over a weekend for the price of a few hours of one of these services.

    1. If I’m getting a car for longer than 24 hours or I’m traveling more than 200 miles, I generally use Enterprise. Their periodic $10/day weekend special ($27 with damage waiver) is tough to beat. But that 30 minutes of haggling with an agent and signing forms is a huge hassle.

      1. Yes, agree. A regular user should only have to flash his Enterprise card and have the defaults (yes, I have insurance, yes, I want a compact, etc, etc) all rung up in advance.

      2. I have all those preferences set up with Hertz. No extra insurance, I’ll buy my own gas, I want the sub-economy compact, etc.

      3. Just for grins, I went to and selected the Wallinford zip code of 98105.

        It says they will pick you up from the offices in the University District. I picked a Friday to Monday schedule. They offered a base of $14.16 a day for a total of $52.44 for a Chevy Spark or similar.

      4. I once had an experience where I needed a car from 5:30 AM to 7:30 PM on a Sunday. I considered Zipcar, but saw an Enterprise special for $15 a day and decided to take it. Here was the total cost breakdown:

        Base rate: $30 ($15 per day * 2 days, limited office hours forced me to rent the car for 2 days, even though I only needed it for one)

        Liability insurance: $30 ($15 per day * 2 days) (expensive, but only choice to avoid illegally driving without insurance)

        Taxes and fees: $5
        Gas: $21

        Grand total: $86

        A 24-hour Zipcar rental would have cost almost exactly the same but, convenience-wise, Zipcar wins hands down, as I can pick up and return the car whenever I feel like, with no waiting in line.

      5. Good analysis. I’m insulated from the insurance costs because I only use a rental car when travelling and I have Allstate which covers me for rentals, but yes, it looks like for that situation Zipcar would be preferred.

        It does point out the extreme impact that insurance rental covers. I wonder if we can do even better (like have an Allstate offer a “rental only” plan that lets you get Zipcar rates across all major carriers). Perhaps even government can step in and subsidize insurance so that people are encouraged to rent rather than buy in dense urban environments.

      6. @JB: Government doesn’t need to step in to fix the insurance issue — ZipCar already did it. If traditional rental agencies want to undercut ZipCar on price for all-day or all-weekend rentals, they even have a “second-mover advantage”: ZipCar has already proven that this market can be served conveniently and profitably.

    2. Hard to compare. I use Hertz, so I’ll speak from my experience there.

      Car rental companies have fees for people being under 25 (unless you can find a coupon. Zipcar and Car2Go will enroll members 21-25, and under 21 if enrolled in school. Or something like that.

      Zipcar and Car2Go are 24/7. Only major airport locations are like that for the biggies. And for that convenience you end up paying for part of the airport’s infrastructure. The airport locations are also barred from picking people up.

      Many of the biggie’s locations are closed on Sundays. So what would be a 24 hour rental beginning on Saturday ends up becoming a 48 hour rental until the office opens on Monday morning.
      Hertz has a location next to the Convention Center that is open on Sundays, but their daily rates tend to be higher.

      1. “Zipcar and Car2Go are 24/7. Only major airport locations are like that for the biggies.”

        That has been incredibly annoying when visiting cities by train (probably also true when travelling by bus). It really is unreasonable that car rental places don’t have 24-hour locations for the downtown train stations in large cities.

    3. Will the Canadian car rental scandal spread to the U.S.?

      Current and former car rental employees are only too aware that their business model is fragile. Take away the expensive insurance, fuel purchase options, navigation systems and aggressive pursuit of all damage to the vehicles, and your location could start hemorrhaging money.

      I knew the insurance was pretty much pure profit. Most peoples personal auto insurance covers renetal cars and certain credit cards also provide additional insurance. But if this article is accurate the base rate is a loss leader. How does Car2Go handle damage claims when nobody inspects the car between users?

  4. Visited Portland this weekend with the Artist Known as VeloBusDriver, we took a spin in an EV Car2Go. They’re a nicer ride than the gas SmartCar (no lurch-y shifting), and of course very quiet. Their range isn’t great though, the dashboard predicted a range of 33 miles at about 65% charge; and while it’s probably possible to get one up to freeway speeds, I wouldn’t want to merge onto the viaduct with one. Also, the stock app did not make it easy to find them from the top-level map (had to tap each label), which was a pain.

    Some C2G users have reported problems with the car failing to de-immobilize when unlocking after a stopover. This hasn’t happened to me, but I’ve only done one stopover. Anyone else experience this?

    1. I had a problem with the car not terminating my trip. It’s a multi-stage process; you touch “end trip” inside the car, and then you have to scan your card on the reader outside it. The reader lights up bright orange so you can read the message. But the reader didn’t light up, and it was pitch dark, so I couldn’t see the reader at all. I scanned it several times, got no reaction, and (since it was my very first trip) I wasn’t sure what if anything I was doing wrong. I got a very pleasant email the next day saying they had removed the excess charges from my 18-hour “trip”, which was actually only 8 minutes long.

      1. In my experience, touching the “End Trip” inside seems to be option. Just pop the key in the dash, get out, close the door, tap the glass and you’re done.

        Pro tip: use your phone as a flashlight to read the display in the dark.

      2. Good tip, but not great for people like me (are there people like me?) who forget our phones around 50% of the time!

      3. Didn’t realize the “end trip” touch screen is optional! I have had 3 experiences where the car won’t end my trip due to not being able to make a secure connection, and ask me to repark somewhere else. After several parking attempts and a long call to customer service, I have been credited minutes back each time. But from now on, I’ll just try the card reader and call it good.

      4. When you put the key back in the dash it seems to just assume you wanted to pick “End Trip.” You still have to do the other checkout activities (e.g. No new damage to report), for which it would phone home. This wouldn’t let you skip the “no connection” issue, which would probably still happen when you tried to badge out.

      5. Didn’t realize the “end trip” touch screen is optional! I have had 3 experiences where the car won’t end my trip due to not being able to make a secure connection, and ask me to repark somewhere else. After several parking attempts and a long call to customer service, I have been credited minutes back each time. But from now on, I’ll just try the card reader and call it good.

        I had that happen too. It’s a problem with the car’s computer, not anything you did or didn’t do.

  5. I’ve been a Car2Go customer for about a week, and I love it to death. Short one-way trips is exactly what I want; I have no interest at all in the Zipcar model. And I’m always within a few blocks of an available car (I rarely go south of the Ship Canal). Several times I’ve found one directly in front of my house, on a nondescript non-dense street not near anything.

    The reason I’m trying out Car2Go is to see if it’s adequate to replace my car with. I put less than a thousand miles a year on my car, and since I started cycling most days six months ago, I’m unlikely to break 500 miles this year. But I have infrequent but fairly regular emergency work needs, where I have to go someplace on short notice, so I’m reluctant to give it up entirely. Transit is not an option, because none of these trips are to or from downtown (I do ride transit when I want to go downtown most of the time).

    Car2Go may yet turn out to be the ticket. I’m not convinced yet, but I’m lovin’ it so far. Driving the SmartCars is kind of fun — like driving a Jeep across boulders or something. One thing it’s absolutely persuaded me of, though — if I ever BUY a new car, it’s not going to be a Smart!

    1. My vehicle use pattern is fairly similar, and I do an occasional thought experiment of an owned car-less existence, but I can’t get past the ‘spur of the moment’ hiking/skiing/climbing opportunities that would be lost without a personal vehicle. However, these short term rent options are certainly making the ability to not own a vehicle easier.

    2. if I ever BUY a new car, it’s not going to be a Smart!

      The Ford Think was sold in this country for only a couple of years. Like Studebaker it was ahead of it’s time. Supposedly a group is going to bring it back this year or next as an improved version called the Think City. If they can keep the price point down to that of the cheapest available sub-compact cars I think it’s got a chance to catch on.

      1. That sounds like something I’d look at. But my heart is set on a Scion IQ — 34 MPG city, none of the other micros can touch it (I have no interest in highway driving). That figure is still fairly pathetic by international standards but it’s a lot better than a Smart, or a Fiat 500, or a Mini.

      2. The problem with the current round of electric cars, or NEVs is cost. To break the 50mpg barrier you have to buy a hybrid which is $5-10k more than a base gasser. The Smart EV is $25k. That’s a pimped out Prius which is mid-size sedan. The MSRP on the “standard” Smart is only $12,500 – $18,000. A Yaris can seat four and starts at under $15k. The Think City would have to come in at around $15k to have a chance. You’ll never pay back a $5k delta on a small vehicle you buy specifically for short trips. FWIW a diesel Polo in the UK is pulling down 70mpg and diesel engines are easily modified to run on natural gas.

      3. Bernie, those gaudy UK MPG figures are 1) using Imperial gallons, and 2) calculated on the wildly optimistic European fuel economy cycle. If that same Polo were tested by the EPA it would likely get 45-50 mpg.

      4. And beware of diesel mpg comparisons even in the US. Diesel has 11% more energy per gallon, which generally translates into an 11% increase in price (currently $4.09/gal at the Ballard Shell compared to $3.68 for unleaded).

      5. Here’s the converted stats. City is better than even the hybrids available in the US and you’re not paying the $5k premium for the extra equipment and batteries. A diesel hybrid would combine the best of both city and highway mpg but again it’s tough to justify the expense unless it’s a commercial vehicle racking up a ton of miles. Diesel particulate emissions have been reduced to the point it’s no longer an issue and produces less CO2 than a petrol engine. Natural gas would be cleaner yet.

      6. A few things drive the price of diesel to usually be higher than gasoline. First, the State charges a higher “gas tax” on diesel. Second, demand is seasonal. Traditionally higher in winter when there is competing demand for heating oil. This is tied to refinery capacity. Traditionally the US has been set-up to produce way more gasoline than diesel. It’s the opposite in Europe. Changing that infrastructure is difficult but depending on the crude it’s generally going to be more efficient to favor diesel. Another factor is that “gasoline” is watered down with 10% ethanol because the government pays oil companies ~50 cents/gallon to do. Originally added to oxygenate the fuel in carbureted cars it serves no function in today’s EFI vehicles other than to enrich “big corn”.

      7. A Smart Fortwo’s powertrain can charitably be called primitive. If they’d offer it with a conventional manual things would be improved. You should probably be looking at manuals first anyway. Small-car automatics are almost universally terrible.

        There’s some more modern city cars coming on the market that should provide some competition, like that Daewoo that’s being imported as the Chevy Spark.

      8. Diesel comparisons are interesting. The fuel is both more energy dense and more expensive, but the engines are also just plain more efficient, largely because being lean-burn and high compression are defining characteristics of diesel engines.

        Now that lean burn/GDI engines are becoming more common (mostly thanks to the new CAFE standards), the efficiency gap is closing up. Ford’s Ecoboost, Hyundai’s Gamma II, GM’s LLT, VW/Audi’s FFI etc. are all getting competitive with the handful of US-available light-duty diesels on efficiency.

        Ford is supposed to be bringing over one or two of their European diesels in the next couple of years, tweaked to meet US emissions standards. It will be interesting to see how they do through the EPA tests.

        Gasoline is “watered down” with 10% ethanol, but diesel gets a state mandated dose of biodiesel, too, ramping up to 5%. The ethanol mandate, while no longer helping local air quality concerns as it did in the age before oxygen sensors, does help to cut down the overall carbon footprint – ethanol has a much higher hydrogen content than gasoline. Corn ethanol is almost as energy intensive to get as oil drilling and refinement, though, so it isn’t really a compelling argument.

        Both gasoline and diesel engine designs can be easily adapted to CNG, however the ones based on diesels are significantly more efficient. Also more expensive, which is why popular CNG passenger cars (like the Chevy and Ford ones often used as taxicabs or in other fleets) use modified gasoline engines.

      9. I believe Think is the one which went bankrupt *three* times and still won’t die? Or was it only twice?

        A lot of electric car companies have been having a lot of trouble due to targeting the low end of the market — and therefore being unable to get large enough margins to pay off R&D and setup costs.

        Although selling small-battery cars into the city car market sounds on the surface like a viable business model, it requires a huge investment in charging stations, and therefore has the same problems. Nissan is doing it anyway and may succeed since Nissan has deep pockets.

        I don’t have anywhere near enough money to set up a local electric rail system (my preferred method of travel ;-) ). But I do have the money to buy a Tesla Model S, so I did. Tesla’s “target the top, grab the high margins” business model is much more functional than the model of most electric car companies.

        Anyway, that’s my riff on the economics of electric cars.

      10. Think was always facing an uphill struggle to sell its plastic-bodied Think City EVs in the U.S., especially when Think’s sticker price before incentives was as much as $41,000.

        Well, there’s the problem. Who’s going to drop $33,500 (after gov. tax credit) for a golf cart when they can buy a Tesla Model S for $49,900. Or a loaded Prius for $25k. The Think or any other NEV needs to be in the $15k range. Used 2002 models with new battery packs are going for ~$6k. Note, Tesla has yet to make a profit and although it might generate positive cash flow in the fourth quarter of 2013 it’s only because the government is comping $7,500 per car. How much is the tax credit on a transit pass?

  6. I find the closest analog to the Car2Go is the taxi. I haven’t run the exact numbers, but it seems like about half the cost of a taxi. And taxis are a huge benefit to living in a city – if your bus is late and you need to get somewhere fast it’s usually as easy as walking out to the street and waving one down. My new standard (when I don’t have a car or bike) is:
    1. Walk, if timely enough
    2. Bus, if timely enough
    3. Check for a Car2Go
    4. Hail a cab

    Since I’ve had my Car2Go card I have yet to make it to #4.

    1. You can’t even hail a cab in Seattle. It’s not technically illegal, though with the restrictions placed on boarding locations and the ingrained preference for (very slow) dispatchers over street fares, it might as well be.

      Taxis in Seattle are awful enough to have decidedly not saved me in a pinch on multiple occasions.

      Bus was f*cked. Called cab. Waited 2 minutes to talk to anyone. Said I was in a hurry. Told them my location. Was refused, because I needed to provide “a street address” (I was standing in front of the manure pile at 15th and Leary). Guessed the address of the building across the street. Was told it would be 5 minutes. 10 minutes passed. The bus finally came. I called and cancelled the stupid cab.

      I was super late.

      This has happened more than once. Not at closing time, but at low-demand times like 7pm on a Sunday.

      I’d rather overpay for Uber than deal with the cabs in this town ever again.

      Of course, thanks to car2go, I probably won’t need Uber either.

      1. Not sure where this misconception about hailing cabs in Seattle comes from. Yes, the dispatch-heavy system does mean that you’re liable to get passed by sometimes, since many empty cabs are not free but on their way to a dispatched location. But most cabbies are good about turning off their light if they’re not actually for hire, and I’ve never failed to hail a cab in this city, regardless of neighborhood or time of day. If there are any restrictions on “boarding locations”, I’ve yet to see a cabbie heed them. Sure you’re not thinking of taxi stands? Cabs aren’t allowed to loiter at the curb and solicit fares except in a few locations (usually by hotels). But they can pick up passengers who solicit them pretty much anywhere.

        That said, I agree that cabs here suck and aren’t generally worth bothering with if you can help it.

      2. You know, it used to be illegal to hail a cab off the street in Seattle. They changed the law something like 20 years ago. It was unenforceable, of course (I did it and got away with it), but what I could never figure out was why. This city has always been attracted to “no” as an answer to everything….

      3. A. Taxicabs.

        1. A for-hire driver may solicit passengers only from the driver’s seat or standing immediately adjacent to the taxicab (within twelve (12) feet), and only when the vehicle is safely and legally parked (Class A).

        The cab can still get a ticket for letting passengers in or out without finding a legal parking space or loading zone in which to do it (even pulling out of traffic at a curb cut is not permissible).

        The text above also suggests that hailing a moving cab may technically still be outlawed.

        I’ve really never had a good experience with a traditional (i.e. non-black car) Seattle taxi. They’re a pain to procure, they’re crazily expensive, and they don’t even drive particularly well.

        Cabbies back East are amazingly skilled. Even in cities like Chicago that are full of lethargic midwestern drivers, cabbies are invariably the most adept drivers on the road. But Seattle cabbies drive the way every other Seattle driver does: slowly and obliviously.

        Why would I pay a premium for that?

      4. @Fnarf: I think it’s closer to 40 years ago: in February ’73 the Times reported that the city council had repealed the ban on “cruising” for fares.

      5. @d.p. – Note that while SMC 6.310.470 specifically bans for-hire vehicles from cruising for passengers (i.e. driving around and waiting to be hailed), no such ban is enumerated for taxicabs. I believe the key is who’s doing the soliciting. A driver can only solicit fares at a taxi stand, but a passenger can solicit (hail) a cruising cab anywhere s/he likes.

        Anyway, regardless of the legality, we all agree that it’s really not worth it.

      6. Yes, cabs are not for-hire vehicles. SMC 6.310.110:

        J. “For-hire driver” means any person in physical control of a taxicab or for-hire vehicle, who is required to be licensed under this chapter. The term includes a lease driver, owner/operator, or employee who drives taxicabs or for-hire vehicles.

        K. “For-hire vehicle” means any motor vehicle used for the transportation of passengers for compensation, except:

        1. Taxicabs as defined in this chapter;

        But Eastside for Hire’s rates are much cheaper than a taxicab’s, so I use them a lot for my trips around North Seattle.

      7. Cabbies back east are amazingly skilled

        There’s that selective memory again…

        In New York, you’re absolutely right.

        In Boston, they’re not terrible drivers, but they are cheats who will try to scam you. Almost every last one. I don’t think I ever took a ride from the airport to my apartment in East Cambridge without having to yell at the cabbie for using the (not remotely direct) Ted Williams Tunnel and demand a discount on the resulting inflated fare.

        In DC, they’re the worst drivers imaginable. I only used a cab every couple weeks in my five years in DC. Despite that, I was in two cab accidents, tens of unsafe situations, and missed hundreds of eminently make-able green lights.

        Cabs in Seattle suck, but they’re no worse than anywhere else except New York.

      8. “Cabs in Seattle suck, but they’re no worse than anywhere else except New York.”

        In no other city have I observed so many cabbies that need turn-by-turn directions to their own ass.

      9. Cabs do have two big advantages over Car2Go.

        1) You can take them to the middle of downtown and not have to worry about parking. Particularly useful on Sunday afternoons when the free-for-all makes Car2Go parking downtown all but impossible to find.

        2) Cabs can pick you up and drop you off outside the Car2Go service area.

        I have used cabs several times and have never had a bad experience. However, instead of hailing them spontaneously, I call and request the ride anywhere from 15 minutes in advance to the night before. With sufficient advance notice, I have found cabs to be extremely reliable and have used them for several time-critical trips when I wasn’t willing to trust anything else. For example, I have gone on several hiking trips where I have to be at Issaquah Transit Center at 7 AM on a Sunday morning to carpool to the trailhead. The first 554 convieniently arrives in Issaquah right at 7 AM, but getting downtown to catch it is a major pain. So I developed a routine of taking a cab to downtown, then riding the 554 bus from there. Total cost is $13, but considering that it gets me door-to-door from the U-district to Issaquah in only 45 minutes (about half the time that taking the bus the entire way would take), while costing less than 1/4 of what an all-day Zipcar would cost, I consider this a very good deal.

      10. @Matt L: No kidding! I once got into a cab at King Street to ride down to my home in Des Moines. The driver got lost trying to find the freeway!

      1. There is already an app to book taxi rides. Search for “Taxi Magic” in the Android app store. Unfortunately, the Windows phone doesn’t have any such app. I guess the number of people that use Windows phones and use taxis with any kind of regularity is too small for the app developer to feel it’s worth bothering.

    2. As a taxi driver in Seattle, I have been wondering if we are losing some trips to Car2Go. Of course, I’ll never really know……

      1. Though it seems like a possibility, I bet it isn’t a simple question of replaced trips. For instance, if you take a Car2Go somewhere you would have normally driven and someone takes your C2G, I’ll bet this often ends in a new taxi ride.

      2. Last time I rented a Car2Go, every taxi driver I encountered honked their horn at me, so I’m guessing a lot of them resent the service pretty heavily.

  7. Question for the regular users of both services that I cannot find on the FAQ’s. How long is a “day” rental? 24 hours? 12? 8?

    Thanks in advance.

    1. The chart above hopefully makes this clear. Both services have a daily cap, which with Car2Go you hit at roughly 5.25 hours. Anything from 5.25-24 hours would be a flat $72.99. With ZipCar, you hit the daily cap at different points depending on which model you’re driving, but it’s generally at about 7 hours.

      1. It is not at all clear, and that is my problem. At some point the charges for the second “day” begin to accumulate again. It seems logical that a “day” is a 24 hour period beginning from the minute the rental starts, but this is not necessarily the case. According to the chart above a “day” is 10 hours. Should one assume that at the end of the 10 hour “day” the charges begin accumulating again? Nowhere on either site is the word “day” defined.

  8. If you’re renting a ZipCar for six hours, you might as well get a traditional rental for the entire day. The cost is almost exactly the same and is sometimes even less. You also don’t have to worry about late fees if your trip takes longer than expected.

    That’s a huge reason why I gave up on ZipCar (FlexCar at the time). If I wanted to take the car on short trips, I had to reserve twice the amount of time I thought I needed so I wouldn’t risk going over and paying three times as much, and reserving a car for several hours was more expensive than renting from Enterprise.

  9. Car@Go has changed my life. I live in Wallingford and often need to take short trips. I prefer the one-way model where I can park the car and end my trip, grocery shop, visit with friends, etc. and then shake the dice and hope there’s a car to take back home without paying all of the downtime in-between when the car is not in use.
    I have also had the problem with zipcar lack of time availability, and the fact that I can only ever find a $12 zipcar when I need one.
    One problem with the Car2Go (and zipcar, but to a lesser degree) is the built-in incentive to drive as fast as possible.

    1. If you put the Car2Go screen on the “Eco Drive” app and try to push your numbers up, that should counteract any tendency towards speeding (which is a doomed enterprise in a Smart, anyways).

      1. That’s a great game! There were presents under the tree around Christmas time. Cute touch, even for a non-believer/celebrator, like me.

      2. I find mostly it’s best to treat the accelerator like an on/off switch, in a Smart. Reminds me a bit of the “drive it like you’re mad at it” style that worked well in my VW Bus.

    2. If you see someone in a Zipcar and it’s near the hour or 1/2 hour mark of a clock, stay out of their way!!

      I think if Zipcar allowed 15 min increments after the initial 1/2 hour, there would be much less of this. I either end up getting it for too short and rushing, or getting it for too long and paying too much.

      I would be good if Zipcar allowed you to return early and not pay for the time you didn’t use.

      1. A full refund for the unused would cut into their profits as it would be unlikely that someone would book the car for that time with such short notice.

        But suppose they offered only a partial refund, say $2 for each hour early you return the car. This would be enough to give you an incentive to go ahead and return the car if you are really and truly done with it, while giving Zipcar the chance to make bigger profits if someone else comes along and books the car for the full $8 per hour rate. This way, Zipcar is making $14 off a car-hour, instead of the usual $8.

  10. We have so much demand for Car2GO in our neighborhood, we can’t seem to get cars when we need them anymore. Every time we bring one home, it’s gone before the next day. It would be super nice, if we could find a way to have more availability in areas of higher use.

    I had a number of calls with Car2GO when I left my phone in a car a few weeks ago. They were extremely helpful and professional. I feel like they are more empowered or maybe more able to problem solve than the Zipcar staff. We’ve had a bad experience with Zipcar in the CD. There have been very few cars, and when they finally added more cars, they were inaccessible on weekends for months, despite multiple phone calls.

    I don’t want Zipcar to go away, but I sure wish it was better/cheaper.

    Does anyone know if the tax rate on Car2GO is the same as Zipcar? Unfortunately, Zipcar is overly expensive by the really high (for tourists) rental ray taxes and not regular sales tax.

    1. The Car2Go tax rate is about 17.2%. Effectively, you pay a little less than 45 cents per minute in total.

      1. I think it’s unreasonable to expect that the car you park near your home be there the next day or even in the next hour. It’s not your personal automobile and it’s definitely not in Car2Go’s best interests to have so many cars that they sit idle for hours at a time. Both of the times I’ve driven a car to my parents house on top of Queen Anne, the car has been gone within an hour.

  11. Also, there is an inherent problem with the pricing graph in this blog post. While Car2Go actually represents drive time, the zipcar graph represents total trip time. this is not an apples-to-apples comparison.

      1. Are you trying to say that time spent inside the vehicle but not driving (fumlbing for keys or messing with center console) is not charged against your usage?

      2. The difference is that if you take a C2G vehicle when you go shopping you can keep the timer running while you shop, but you can also stop completely and assume that either that vehicle will be there when you return or that some other vehicle will be available within a short walk. With ZipCar you have to keep the timer running as you shop.

        This matters, of course, only for trips within the C2G home area where street parking is the norm. You can’t stop the timer within some store’s parking lot.

  12. Since joining car2go in January, I’ve used Zipcar just once, for an IKEA run where a Smart Fortwo would have been impractically small. I find the one-way, spontaneous rentals hugely liberating, and I like the driving experience (visibility, maneuverability, ergonomics, seat comfort, etc.) of the Smart so much that I sometimes use car2go for slightly longer trips where a Zipcar would make more financial sense. The only trouble for me is that the University District frequently has a dearth of vehicles available, especially afternoons and evenings, and I end up taking a bus to Wallingford or Eastlake to find a cluster of vehicles available. And the lack of a damage waiver leaves me worried; the $1000 deductible is kinda scary.

    I do find car2go a nice complement to public transport. If I want to drive to a pub, I can take the bus home, and there are other instances where car2go solves the “last mile” problem, getting me the last 15 or 20 blocks from a frequent (or not so frequent) transit corridor to my destination.

  13. Like Zach, we’ve been ZipCar users for nearly a decade. First in Chicago, then in Chapel Hill, then here (and have used them on vacation all over the place). Will always love ZipCar for longer trips, for hauling stuff to the dump or from Lowe’s, and for daytrips to the mountains. But Car2Go has been a mobility game-changer, especially given our topography and transit.

    For just one example, we live on top of Queen Anne, a few blocks east of Queen Anne Ave. and McGraw. Fremont was a so-close-but-so-far-away neighborhood before Car2Go. We’ve always been happy to walk there, but coming back up is not for the faint of heart, and the only transit option coming home is hoofing it all the way from the Fremont Bridge to SPU to catch the 13 (or you can catch a Dexter bus, walk up 6th Ave N, then use the pedestrian underpass by Canlis).

    Now we walk down to PCC once a week, do our shopping, and grab a Car2Go on the way back. It converts a 30+ minute slog home into a five-minute jaunt, lets us park in front of our house, and is actually cheaper than taking the bus. Heck, we’ve literally used one as a 40-cent lift just from Nickerson to McGraw. A ZipCar would require a 10-minute walk each way (in the wrong direction) to the nearest spots, finding parking in downtown Fremont, and end up costing at least $8 to $12 dollars.

    Couldn’t be happier.

  14. Re: skilled New York cabbies

    The last time I took a cab in New York, the driver was some kid hopped up on goofballs who probably stole the car. Not only did he not know where “Broadway” was (we were in the East Village), but he didn’t know how to drive, period. He took off at a zillion MPH, and drove on the sidewalk for a good part of the journey. The meter wasn’t running. When he admitted he didn’t know where he was going, we just said “this is great here, thanks” and threw a ten at him and ran. So, not ALL New York cabbies.

    The best cab drivers in the universe are in London. No contest. They have the entire city, not just the streets but every landmark, every route, and most current events, memorized (“the Knowledge”). Tested on it too, rigorously.

    1. Having also ridden with every taxi driver in every city in the world, I still can’t decide which collection of thousands of people has an average collection of skills that is above those in other cities. But feel free to keep up the debate without me.

      While you’re at it, does anyone here have an opinion about the number of angels that can fit on the head of a pin?

      (not to pick on Fnarf in particular, but he stepped out of thread)

      1. I bet Matt also denies that Seattle drivers in general fail to pay attention to their surroundings, dangerously slam on the breaks if someone so much as looks at the curb, and can’t pull out into the intersection when turning (to let others go around) if their lives depended on it.

        Seattle cabbies, unfortunately, drive like this is the only place they’ve ever driven. Which means that they objectively drive poorly.

      2. Having lived in a lot of places where pedestrians in a crosswalk are treated like an obstacle course, I much prefer Seattle drivers’ overly-deferential treatment.

    2. The testing that London cab drivers have to undergo is a big part of it. They have to have memorized the geography of the city.

      When I need a cab and I don’t want to have to give the driver directions, I call Orange, because from what I can tell they’re the only cab company serving Seattle that has GPS nav in all their cars.

      1. Yup. Neuroscientists have studied the brains of London cabbies to find out just how they store so much information. To get a license you have to be able to recite, from memory, the shortest route from any two given points in the city.

  15. Very interesting and informative piece, which will be very helpful when I finally ditch the car I brought from Silicon Valley. I do suspect you’re understating Car2Go’s technical and customer service issues. Here in Portland, bloggers and yelpers complain a lot about cars that won’t unlock and phone calls that go unanswered. And the web site design is simply incompetent.

  16. Car2Go has filled a particular niche in my transportation solutions, (which is not to say that I wouldn’t mind cars that shifted without dislocating my neck or making me worry someone behind me will ram into me. And the radio stations need to change!) Mostly that’s about the weakness of the transit solutions between Fremont and upper Queen Anne. For much of the day, a nearby Car2Go means a 15 minute trip instead of a half-hour or much longer one, involving a change of bus. When I’ve worked late, or am feeling sick and it’s raining, I can get home quickly with very little hassle for the cost of a couple lattes. There has been once or twice I would have liked to use it, but none were close by, though.

    1. No kidding about the shifting. I don’t understand how Mercedes managed to sell so many Smarts to private owners. Did they buy them without ever test-driving them?

      What I most wish for is a way to turn the radio *off* without also silencing the GPS nav voice.

  17. My primary role for Car2Go is that it provides the security of knowing, wherever I am, that I can hop in a car at a moment’s notice and drive away. So far, I have never actually had to use it, but I came very close once. I had walked to I-5 and 45th St. on a Sunday morning to catch the 510 or 511 into downtown, only to suddenly realize when I got there that it was Sunday and, while I had timed my arrival to match the 510/511 schedule, I had no idea what the 512 schedule was.

    Of course, the sign at the bus stop didn’t help, so I pulled out my smartphone and, sure enough, I was lucky in that the 512 was scheduled in 5 minutes. However, I had a bus to catch once I got downtown, so if the 512 was late, I could not afford to wait. So I pulled out Car2Go and observed that a car was available one block away. I went ahead and waited for the bus. As it happened, the bus came on time, so I hopped on. However, had the bus been just 5 minutes late, I very likely would have taken the car to ensure my connection downtown went smoothly.

  18. On my first Car2Go drive in Seattle I thought there was something horribly wrong with the engine until I realized it was shifting. I suppose I’m spoiled by the single gear in my EV or the lugubrious shifting of my Jetta. Driving a vehicle without much available torque is an unsettling experience.

    Is Car2Go be able to take the $7500 tax rebate if they buy electric cars? That would drop the break-even point for fuel vs. up-front battery costs from 120k to 50k miles (assuming gasoline prices are steady at $3.60). It would be much nicer to have electric vehicles scattered about the city, both for the more pleasant driving experience and also for the air quality. Having the easy opportunity to test drive electric vehicles is sure to win some converts, too.

    1. It’s not just you. The first one I drove, I thought the transmission was broken. It’s the worst automatic trans I’ve ever experienced. They shift like a 16-year-old who’s just learned how to drive stick.

    1. You can use it in other US cities “out of the box”, as I did in Portland last weekend.

      I’m told you can request international access, although I haven’t done it.

      1. I had a Vancouver BC membership and wanted one in Seattle when the pilot started. They don’t have a fully-supported way to do it, so you have to call them and jump through various hoops like using different phone numbers for each country/account. You end up with a different card for each country. It works.

    2. Can you pay the hourly or daily rate to drive a Car2Go one-way from Seattle to Portland and return it in Portland? Or does a car have to be returned in the same city it was picked up in?

      (Never mind that even if it is allowed, I think it would be more expensive than either BoltBus or Amtrak Cascades).

  19. Don’t you mean 30k insurance instead of 300 k? If they really provide 300k, that is pretty good.

  20. The utility of a Car2Go is brought into question when a malfunctioning computer in the car keeps you from signing out, and it takes you longer on the phone with customer service than you spent driving, trying different routines and then finally having the phone agent shut it down for you, promising to “apply” for a credit for the 20 minutes spent on the phone monkeying with the car.

    If I don’tbget that “approved” by whatever weird bureaucracy runs Car2Go, I’ll be even more unhappy than I am already.

  21. I’ve used it a couple times now — once for a planned errand, another time for an “oh shit I missed the last bus” situation — and while I have some quibbles, I’m a fan. For me the biggest selling point is the pay-as-you-go nature of it — if I happen to not need it for a couple months, I’m not out any money.

    The in-car GPS really, really needs some upgrades, though. It shouldn’t default to California when I’m in Seattle, and it shouldn’t take two seconds to respond to touch input.

  22. The thing is, zipcar is going to cost $80 for a day long escapade. Car2go is going to be 8 bucks one way.. And in a worst case the taxi will be $15 back. $23 vs $80… Hmmm. Tough choice. The one way and no more charge has won everytime for me. Also, you can deserve c2g for free.. But only for 30 minutes.

    also, you can hold a c2g indefinitely… But it’ll be 15 per hour max it 75 a day. With that flexibility they win again.

  23. Thanks for a very informative post and discussion.

    But, as with all things insurance-related, I’m confused.

    What if I’m an innocent victim of a not-my-fault car accident–say someone crashes into me, causing injuries to me and a passenger.

    What happens? My passenger and I have medical bills, I get sued by another driver, I must hire a lawyer to defend myself, whatever. Am I covered for all this?

    I don’t understand how to apply the info under the “Insurance” heading above, to actual circumstances.


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