Why Zipcar Rules

On my other blog, which is about the advent of fatherhood, I once posted an argument in favor of my wife and I spending $750 for a baby’s stroller, on the grounds that it provided an alternative to spending more than $180,000 in car and parking-related expenses here in parking-deprived Boston.

So we bought the stroller and justified it by continuing to use short-term car-rental company, Zipcar, rather than buying a car. We love Zipcar.

Today, Consumer Reports published new data that calculates car ownership costs for every model they track. So I looked-up the little Subaru Outback model Mary and I have been eying, and did some math*. I learned that for what it would cost us to own and park a Subaru Outback, we could:

  • Use hourly Zipcars for 20 hours per week (using the hourly rate)
  • Reserve Zipcars for 11.5 full days per month (using the daily rate)

For us, this isn’t even close. In all of 2007 we spent just $788 on Zipcar. In 2006, we spent a lavish $1267, which included unlimited use of a small SUV for the week of our wedding. On average over those two years, we spent a bit more than $1000, which was less than 10% of the projected cost to actually own and park a car. Sorry, but the extra convenience of never having to return the car on a deadline just isn’t worth 10 times as much money.

We continue to love Zipcar.

*To find my annual cost to own an Outback, I took the total 5 year cost of ownership published by consumer reports, added a conservative $325 per month for parking, and a modest 10% increase for living in Boston (insurance, fuel, repairs all cost more here in Mass, especially in town). To find my annual cost for Zipcar, I took their annual fee ($50 here in Boston), and prorated their membership application fee ($25). For hourly-rate Zipcars I used $11/hour (we usually use $10/hour cars, but sometimes we go for the $12/hour models). For daily-rate Zipcars I also split the difference between $78/day and $85/day cars, and used $81.50


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