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.