First there was Zipcar*, offering a membership-based car sharing service with cars distributed throughout the city.  Then came Car2Go, as a one-way, park-most-anywhere complement to Zipcar’s service.  Add in bicycles, regular taxis, all of the taxi alternatives (Uber, Lyft, Sidecar), our extensive bus system, streetcars, a monorail, and our light rail system, and there are real alternatives to car ownership in Seattle.  Rental cars have always been an option as well, but with their typically slow checkout systems it’s been hard to justify renting one for less than a 24 hours.

Enter Hertz 24/7.  The newest car-sharing strategy has started small** and without fanfare in April of this year in Seattle, though they’ve had some version of the service since 2008 in some cities and college campuses.  There are currently only seven cars in the Seattle area, spread among five Hertz locations, and one car at the Auburn airport.  Like Zipcar, they’re round-trip rentals, they charge by the hour or day, there’s an app to find and reserve a car, and you use a key fob to rent your car without any paperwork.  Unlike Zipcar there’s no membership fee, but they aren’t parked in neighborhoods – you have to visit a Hertz location.

The five available cars currently run between $9.59 and $12.78 per hour on a weekday depending on the car.  Daily rentals currently start at $71.89 – a price that actually beats the cheapest traditional daily rental from the same lot ($84.37 after tax).

One interesting aspect of Hertz 24/7 is that in New York City they have one-way rentals to airports.  Hertz tells me they will offer this in Seattle in the future.  Considering the cars start at around $9 an hour this can be a very convenient choice for frequent flyers that don’t live near Link.

One odd piece of their marketing strategy is that “Hertz is taking the lead in installing ‘on demand’ technology in its entire fleet with its Hertz 24/7 service, thus bringing the car sharing/hourly rental option out of urban environments and into the suburbs.”  First, I’d think suburban car sharing might be limited in usefulness based on the difficulty of accessing a car without good transit.  Second, there aren’t any cars available outside of Seattle or airport locations in the Seattle area.

* originally Flexcar in Seattle

** And by “small” I mean very small – out of the  35,000 vehicles they equipped for this service, the Seattle ended up with 7, plus one at the Auburn airport.  Hertz tells me this will increase and maybe we’ll get a larger share of the 500,000 vehicles they plan to have available by 2016.

45 Replies to “Hertz joins the Car-Sharing mix in Seattle”

  1. Like Zipcar, they’re one-way rentals

    Zipcar doesn’t do one-way rentals. And unless they start soon, I think it’s going to be the death of the company.

    1. That confused me too. I think he meant to say “Like Zipcar, they’re round trip rentals”, since later, he mentions how they have one-way rentals in New York and hope to have it soon in Seattle.

    2. Or maybe he meant “Like car2go…”, which means they do offer one-way rentals, as long as it’s between two authorized Hertz locations.

    3. Fixed. Sorry about that – they are round-trip rentals only. No one-way trips available currently.

  2. “Daily rentals currently start at $71.89 ”

    This actually sounds worse than Zipcar? You have to get to a Hertz location (whereas Zipcars are in your neighborhood), then you have to pay for gas and insurance (which are already included in the Zipcar price). I guess it helps if they are one-way rentals and they are easy to access, but I don’t see the price advantage?

    1. Fuel and insurance are included, and as noted above they aren’t one-way. Zipcar is $73 a day, so this service is likely trying to compete with that price point. I agree they’re far from competitive with regard to convenience or number of cars.

    2. The one benefit of this is that Seattlites who poo-poo personal transit, who finally get to use and enjoy a car figure out that they can get a KIA at Enterprise car sales for a $190 monthly payment (or two days of “car sharing”) and convert to normal civilized American life. With a car!!

      1. $190 per month for the payment…

        … plus $100 or so for insurance, $100 (average) for maintenance, $20 (average) for licensing, as much as $200 for parking if they are in the densest neighborhoods, and however much gas they use.

        We own two cars and they are the second largest line item in the household budget after the rent, even though we don’t drive them that much.

      2. For now, yes. But one of them is really an indulgence, and if financial circumstances required it would be the first thing to go.

      3. You must be a “transit believer” if you read SBT. So what’s holding you back? Go carless. If you have that much money, you can always buy some more cars if you can’t stand being transit only.

      4. Honestly, Seattle is not yet a place where I would want to be carless unless I had no other financial option (although one car for my family would be perfectly doable). I’m here because I’d like to see that change.

        Many trips work well with transit. I save a ton of money and hassle by using transit rather than driving. But many trips also don’t work well at all with transit. I think most people on STB would like to make more of those trips work without a car.

      5. Once you already own a car, even if you never drive it, getting rid of it involves a fair amount of time. Especially if you don’t want to take a significant hit in the money you receive for it by selling to a dealer. Lots of people will not be willing to take the one-time time/money hit of getting rid of a car unless financial constraints or parking constraints force it – even if they don’t need the car anymore because they just bought a new car to replace it. (This, combined with oversized residential parking requirements is how a lot of families end up with 3 cars for 2 drivers).

      6. Once you already own a car, even if you never drive it, but if you might drive it, it will cost you a fair amount of money. You will still need to register it and insure it. You’ll have to worry about the effects of letting it just sit around on future maintenance costs. If you don’t use it regularly, the tires and battery will still deteriorate.

        When I bought my second car, I thought I wanted to keep the first one as a backup, and becase it could fill a different role than the first car. But it turned out that I mostly just drove the new car and neglected the other. Maintenance problems on the older car made me trust it even less. In the end, I decided it would have been wiser to get rid of the older car when I got the new one. It might cost a bit to trade in the old car when you get a new car off the lot, but it’s an easy way to dispose of that car. And I don’t have any heartburn about selling a car with issues to a dealer as I would selling it to an individual.

  3. “There are currently only five cars in the Seattle area, spread among four Hertz locations”

    Sea-Tac is in the Seattle area while Totem Lake and Redmond are not???

    1. Using the app on my phone, I don’t see 24/7 cars available at either of those locations.

      (edit) I did just find two in Bellevue that I either missed or just started this week.

      1. Bellevue? The locations are at:

        11709 124th Ave NE, Kirkland
        14712 NE 91st St, Suite 200, Redmond

        Those were on their locator map when I looked previously.

      2. There’s a Volkswagen Jetta and a Ford Focus available at the Red Lion Hotel Hertz on 11211 Main St. in Bellevue.

      3. Oh, I see, you were looking for cars, not locations. I haven’t signed up, so I don’t know that I can do that.

  4. I don’t really get the use of renting/sharing a car in NYC with its 24/7 public transportation system. Having grown up and lived there, I could only imagine using it if I were going to be traveling extensively in New Jersey since much of it is not covered by convenient public transportation .

    1. I don’t get people taking taxis or driving in New York, but somehow they do. Some people find the convenience of taxis worth the cost, and some rich people don’t care how much they spend driving and parking. I also see people driving in from Jersey City and Bronxville in evenings or weekends when traffic is lighter.

      1. I just spent a weekend in New York. Taxis are quite convenient in many circumstances, such as when you need to get from Gramercy Park to the West Village in 10 minutes. The cab gets you there with time to spare.

      2. Taxis in New York are enormously convenient for trips that are awkward on the subway, and when I’m there I use them often. They aren’t cheap, but then again nothing else is in New York either. If I were ridiculously wealthy, I’d love to live there, but it’s hard on a tourist budget and harder on a normal salary, even a professional one.

      3. They aren’t cheap

        Really? I was shocked at how cheap they were. Then again, I spent my entire time in Manhattan, where everything is reasonably close together, unlike Seattle.

  5. Like I mentioned in a previous post, is that Hertz is more flexible with rental pricing. Zipcar and Car2go are pretty much the same price for their established service periods. There are a lot more deals and promotions available with Hertz. Since they are an old established company they often have discount rates based upon member organizations like AAA. They even had a discount for AAG, the American Association of Geographers. The limited cars will be a barrier here for awhile.. Also, I usually don’t mind advertising, but do the new 24/7 cars have decals? Last time I rented one they did not, which is great when you want to be a closet carless person in the suburbs.

    1. From email correspondence with Hertz: “Rates are generally stable and are based on the car rented.” The deals for rental cars will likely not apply to their 24/7 program.

      I don’t know about decals – I may try out the service next week and report back.

      1. When I rented in Burbank, Hertz’s website proudly proclaimed that there was a 24/7 vehicle available. I humored them and compared the pricing. A traditional 24 hour rental was half the cost.

        Upon arrival at the lot, I couldn’t remember which car was the 24/7 car, but I didn’t see anything on the lot with any markings whatsoever. They don’t even put license plate frames. The only telltale signs are the barcodes on the windshield and rear side window(s).

  6. the cheapest traditional daily rental from the same lot ($84.37 after tax)

    Holy crap. I’ve never managed to get a per-day rental charge above $40 per day (before taxes).

    1. I was surprised as well. After running a comparison on Orbitz, that’s a typical price for an in-Seattle day rate. Renting at the airport can be half the cost if you shop around (Fox rentals was 1/2 the price for the day I searched).

      1. I never compare airport locations. Once you add on airport taxes, fees and surcharges the total cost always exceeds that of an off-airport location.

        Plus, the off-airport locations will pick you up.

  7. I think Enterprise also does hourly rentals. This makes sense. There is nothing too revolutionary about hourly versus daily rentals (although it probably takes an old big company like this a while to change their systems). One way rental is a different matter. Generally speaking, rental car companies charge a lot for one way rentals. It is a big hassle for them since it isn’t their primary business. This is why Car2Go is such a different model; they were designed to focus on one way rentals. My guess is that they will survive and thrive for that reason.

    The same thing is true for ride-sharing companies. If they really are ride-sharing, then they offer something different (essentially, instant car pooling). But if they are simply unregulated taxis, then eventually they will be regulated and have trouble competing.

    1. The only location in this area for Enterprise hourly rentals is at Bellevue College. Their college model seems a bit odd to me, as you need to be 21 to sign up – that has to severely limit the amount of potential customers.

      1. Interesting. I never explored it, but just noticed it while at the Enterprise Lake City rental location (“ask about hourly rates”). I guess if I asked, they would have said “only in Bellevue”.

        Hey, great ad, by the way. I didn’t read it initially, but it makes a great point, and suggests something that might be coming around again. Most rental agencies sell to travelers. They figure that is where they will get the most money. This ad suggested that most people are one car families, but might want to rent a car now and then. I think there are a lot of folks who are one car, or no car families, but feel the need to rent a car for special purposes (e. g. to buy a potted plant or go golfing). That is exactly what the model is for Zipcar.

  8. So, it’s going to cost the same as Zipcar, but with gas and insurance extra – which is a really big deal for anyone who doesn’t already have insurance – and, on top of that, you have to go downtown to pick up and return the car, rather than use a Zipcar right in your neighborhood.

    At present, I say thanks, but no thanks. However, maybe things will get better in the future.

    1. As I mentioned above, fuel and insurance are included in the price. The benefit over Zipcar is no membership fee (low barrier to entry). The very large negative is inconvenience.

  9. In DC, Zipcar placed their locations near subway stops. Folks who were carless could take the subway to a Zipcar if they had to make a suburban run, or to a place in the city that was not served by subway and do not want to rely on the bus– run their errands or visit friends, then return the car back to the subway and go home. I could see this working at certain Link stops (especially with the new stops opening up in a few years).

    1. The difference between D.C. and here is that in D.C., bad traffic can make it it actually faster to take the Metro out of the city and pick up the car on the other end, compared to picking up the car in the city and driving it all the way.

      In Seattle, this is not really true. If you are going to be renting a car anyway, driving the rental car out of the city is usually faster than taking transit out of the city to pick up the car. This leaves only suburban residents left, which leaves not enough revenue for the car to justify it.

      When Link gets more built-out and I-5 traffic worsens, I can see this eventually start to change. However, there is one place out of town where I think Zipcar could potentially generate enough revenue to justify putting a car there, and that’s the Bainbridge Island ferry terminal. The extra cost and hassle of taking a car on the ferry should be sufficient to get some city dwellers (at least those without much to carry) to choose walking on the ferry, then renting the car, over renting the car in-town and driving on the ferry.

      Of course, expect residents of Bainbridge Island to complain loudly against any proposal to do this because it would be re-purposing a space of what is supposed to be “their” parking lot for a use that would primarily benefit people who live in Seattle.

  10. Flexcar > Zipcar. Zipcar is crap, jacked the rates, has worse terms and conditions. I miss Flexcar. Zipcar can GTH and I hope Car2Go eats their lunch.

  11. Looks like the 24/7 model isn’t very well thought out. The weekend rates and a Sunday key drop work just fine if you can get off work on Friday before the office closes. Maybe once the 24/7 cars aren’t utilized then Hertz will look at discounts.

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