Echo Booming – Baby You Can Drive My Zipcar

by Dan Shermanzipcar-logo

I have friends in Atlanta, New York City, Los Angeles, and even Durham, NC who are Zipcar members.  Despite having an eager 2006 Mazdaspeed6 hibernating in my driveway back home on Long Island, my parents insist that I instead use Zipcar at school.  Why is ZipCar so popular?  And is its strategy of infiltrating colleges around the country creating brand loyalists for life?  My network of 20-somethings provided insight.

My Emory friends are Zipcar members because Atlanta stinks.  Let me clarify—Atlanta stinks without a car.  Students who can afford a car and all the associated costs (driving/shipping it to Atlanta, insurance, gas, maintenance, and astronomical $654 on campus parking) do so in a heartbeat.  However, car sharing best serves the needs of the stereotypical car-less, cash-strapped college student who wonders, “How am I supposed to get food and alcohol?” With a $50/year charge for membership and around $10/hour car pricing, Zipcar has a low initial cost which entices students who drive sporadically or can’t afford having a car full-time.

So why doesn’t everyone have a Zipcar? For one, car sharing completely destroys the element of spontaneity associated with owning a vehicle.  Daily dialogues between my roommates and me go something like this: “Yo, I’m starving, let’s get some Chipotle for lunch. OH WAIT, the Zipcar’s booked until 8 o’clock.  Guess we’re not eating ‘til dinner!”

Zipcar advertises itself as “green” to no end.  I asked a cadre of Gen Yers whether the environmental aspect makes them more positively inclined toward car sharing.  Their response was that the only “green” factor that moved them had dead Presidents on it.


The appeal of Zipcar will most likely continue after my peers graduate and move to cities like New York City, Chicago and Boston.  Even those that anticipate being able to afford a car of their own will likely stick with Zipcar to reduce the expense and hassle of owning a car in the city.  As an added bonus for those from outside the country, a US state license is not required for Zipcar membership.

So it is cool, convenient, and inexpensive but how will they grow?  Will the Echo Boomers continue to use Zipcar even after they leave the cities and move into suburbia?  Probably not, but as long as it continues to communicate a hip image in college towns and large cities, it should maintain its position as the leader in automotive timeshare.

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2 thoughts on “Echo Booming – Baby You Can Drive My Zipcar

  1. Amanda says:

    Friends in Durham who are Zipcar members…I wonder who that is. I do like Zipcar and it is an amazing option for those of us without cars. Plus, I think that you’re right as long as they stay hip and maintain their cars well they will continue to be popular.

  2. Alan says:

    Zipcars are good options for those with no cars but that is because there are few to no well advertised alternatives. I feel as though it is basically a monopoly over the market right now.

    When I think car rental I think orbitz, enterprise, budget, etc. All of these companies have a strict age requirement well above the average age of incoming freshman. Given, some companies do have age requirements as low as over 18 but the majority of them are either >21 with an extra fee if your are under 25 or >25. Regardless of the age problem these companies are rarely accessible to college students since most are not located within a short distance of a college campus. Another problem is the fee most companies charge per 24hrs or similar plans.

    There are other car rentals by hour which are as good as or better than zipcars. Granted I have not tried any personally but I did a quick search and found that geniusride, mint, and connect by hertz all do a similar thing to zipcar(in a selfrun study by some person he thought a they were equal if not better in some aspects i honestly dont trust shit like that but its an idea). However, of all of these companies I have heard only of zipcar. Geniusride and mint I think only provide cars in New York City, pretty useless for most everyone in the U.S. Connect by hertz has many more locations which, are near colleges.

    Basically to make a shit load of rambling tie together zipcars are good options for college students and people who live in cities. The idea is good and will definitely last. But zipcars seem to be leading the industry because of its publicity and locations.

    The major car rental companies want nothing to really do with college campuses(unless zipcar is owned by one of them…). The other short term rentals (i.e. mint or connect by hertz) are very local or not very well known. These new companies are just up and rising so maybe in the future they will get to more locations and college campuses. In the future these other companies may take over the position as leader as they move into zipcar’s territories(if they ever do they may just make a deal with zipcar to avoid negative competition) but for now you’re right it will probably lead the industry. And of course I believe as you do that they will stay in cities and not stray out to the suburbs.

    GAH I should never respond to shit it always becomes a wall of text… hope this wasn’t too confusing or stupid/ill-informed but yeah nice articles keep up the good work


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