Most New York City car owners have a love/hate relationship with their cars (especially if they don’t have a secured spot for their vehicle). When it’s good to have a car in New York City (moving, Costco runs, quick getaways) it’s really good, and when it’s bad (circling the block, gridlock, paying parking tickets and insurance) it really sucks.
Which is why car sharing is such a boon to New York City residents. Zipcar was the first to enter the market, and it's been followed by other companies both new and old, foreign and domestic. (One has already come and gone. DriveNow, from BMW, gave it a go in Brooklyn but ceased operations in May of this year due to operational costs.)
Even the city of New York is getting in on the car-sharing action. It’s launched a two-year pilot program offering designated car-sharing parking spots in numerous neighborhoods in Upper Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Queens, as will select municipal parking lots, in partnership with Zipcar and Enterprise CarShare, which will provide the vehicles.
Which car-sharing service is for you? It depends on your needs, and more crucially, where you live. Here’s a look at the New York City car-sharing companies hoping you’ll take them for a ride.
Likely the most well-known car-sharing service, Zipcar, founded in Cambridge, MA., in 2000, operates under the “station-based” or “round-trip” model, with users picking up and dropping off cars from a fixed location such as a garage or parking lot.
The fleet: Cars range from Honda Civics ($12/hour-$89/day) to Jeep Renegades ($14/hour-$96/day) to Mercedes-Benz C300s ($15/hour-$105/day). Moving? You can also get a Ford Transit 150 Cargo Van for $19/hour-$144/day.
Where they are: There are Zipcars in every borough, with the greatest concentrations in Manhattan and Brooklyn
What’s included: Gas, insurance, and 180 miles per day. A gas card is in the car if you need to fill up.
Cost: Users can choose an occasional driving plan for $70/year, or a monthly plan at $7/month. In New York and New Jersey, standard hourly rates start at $9.94 Zipcar also offers a commuter rate, which gives you dedicated weekday access to your very own Zipcar and a parking spot; rates vary by commute distance.
How to join: Prospective users sign up online and pay a one-time $25 application fee. (You need to have a valid driver’s license, a credit or debit card, and be 21 or older (18 if a student). Following approval (the verification of your license) your personalized credit card-sized Zipcard is mailed to you in about three to seven days. That card becomes your key to unlock Zipcar—the actual keys are in the car.
How to book: Cars can be booked online at Zipcar.com or through the Zipcar app.
Good to know: If you return your car late you’re charged $50 (but you can text or use the app to extend your time if you know you’re running behind.) Pets must be in carriers at all times and no smoking in cars is allowed; if you’re busted you’ll pay a cleaning fee.
Launched in 2016 and backed by General Motors, Maven registered 15,000 members in its first year. (The service is currently in 11 cities, including Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Boston.) Like Zipcar, Maven keeps its cars in garages and lots, where drivers pick them up and return them. The company touts its premium cars as a difference between them and the competition.
Maven is all about the app: You reserve the car with it, you open the car with it, you start the car with it. All cars are equipped with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, Access OnStar Advisors, and 4G LTE Wifi.
The fleet: All cars are from 2015 or later. Users can choose from compacts like the Chevrolet Spark ($7/hour and up), electric cars such as the Chevy Volt ($9/hour and up), SUVs including the Cadillac XT5 ($9 and up).
Where they are: Primarily in Manhattan, mostly Midtown and all neighborhoods south of it. There's one location in Greenpoint, one in Williamsburg, one if the Gowanus area. They’re also in Jersey City.
What’s included: Gas, insurance, and 180 miles per day, with additional miles costing 42 cents each. (Maven also provides a gas card for fill-ups.) Damage caused may be subject to a $750 damage fee.
Cost: The hourly rate plus tax. Maven charges no membership fee and no application fee.
How to join: Download the app and provide a valid driver’s license. Drivers must be 18 years or older. Users are often approved in a few hours.
How to book: Find and reserve cars with the app.
Good to know: If you’re late returning a car, you’ll be charged $50 for every hour you are late. (You can use the app to extend your time.) No smoking or pets must be in carriers, except for service dogs.
The largest car-sharing service in the world in terms of both members and cars, Car2Go started in Germany and now operates in cities in North America, Europe, and Asia. The service arrived in New York City in 2014, and unlike Zipcar and Maven, operates with a “free-floating” model—users locate a car near them, use it, and drop it off anywhere in the “home area”.
The fleet: Car2Go is also different from other car sharing businesses in that its fleet is almost entirely made up of Smart fortwo cars—those tiny (eight-feet, eight inches) European cars that don’t even have a back seat. (They do have a trunk though, which apparently holds three carry-on size suitcases.) Car2Go recently added Mercedes-Benz GLAs and CLAs to the mix (which seat as many as five people), but those are a small fraction of the fleet that numbers 570 cars. The Smart cars are basic, and yes, do not have the heft of bigger cars, but some do have extra features like heated seats, rear window wipers, and Bluetooth capabilities.
Where they are: Only in Brooklyn and Queens. Obviously, they move around from neighborhood to neighborhood as people use them.
What’s included: Insurance, gas, and 150 miles.
Cost: Car2Go does not charge and membership fees. Drivers can book by the hour ($15/hour; $35/three hours), the day ($89), or choose to be billed by the minute, at a rate of 41 cents for each one. (The Mercedes are $19/hour or 47 cents a minute.)
How to join: Sign up online or using the app. Drivers must have a valid license. Users are charged a one-time $5 sign up fee and receive a $10 driving credit at that time.
How to book: Cars must be booked using the Car2Go app. Users check the app to find cars nearest them, and can reserve up to 30 minutes in advance, although no reservation is required. The app is also how you get into the car, using a code that is sent to you. (If there isn’t a car close to you, you can have the app alert you when one is.)
Good to know: It’s important to park a Car2Go in the “home area,” but that doesn’t mean you can’t travel outside of it. (For example, you can travel into Manhattan from Brooklyn, you just can’t leave the car there.) Members can choose to have a “stopover”—during which they park the car but keep it—but are charged for the time it is parked. Also: don’t end your trip while you are still inside your car—loud honking will occur. Finally, if you take one to IKEA in Red Hook, you’ll have to park on a street nearby—the parking lot is not the “home area.”
The fleet: Options abound at Enterprise CarShare. Users can select economy cars ($8/hour, $69/day), sedans ($9/hour, $74/day), minivans ($13/hour, $89/day), luxury models ($21/hour, $144/day), and more. (The site notes that rates may fluctuate according to model, time, location, and day.)
Where they are: Likely due to its already established rental business, Enterprise CarShare is in more areas of the city than its competitors. (All boroughs, more neighborhoods in those boroughs, and also Jersey City.)
What’s included: Gas, insurance, 200 miles per day, and 24/7 roadside assistance and member services.
Cost: There’s a $40 annual membership fee and a one-time, $25 application fee (although you can use a coupon code to forgo the latter). Rates start at $8/hour. Additional miles are 45 cents.
How to join: Sign up at the Enterprise CarShare site. Users must be 18 or over and have a valid driver’s license and a major credit card in their name. Once approved, an Enterprise Carshare membership card (which like Zipcar’s, unlocks the vehicles) is mailed out to you; allow up to 10 days to receive it.
How to book: Reserve online or via the Enterprise Carshare app.
Good to know: Members under 24 year of age may be charged a young driver surcharge.
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