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Enterprise Rent-A-Car vs. Zipcar (marco.org)
25 points by anderzole 2946 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 28 comments

Zipcar is really a great concept, I've used it many times. That said, the author forgot to compare on one key segment: price. And that's where the companies differ in their model. Zipcar is about $75/day, where most rental cars are significantly less than that. But you cant rent them by the hour. And Zipcar wont come pick you up. And Zipcar charges a membership fee.

There is a place for both of these companies in the market, so a comparison like this is kind of like comparing chartered flights to Southwest. That's not to say the big nationals couldnt learn lessons from zipcar, like the audio jacks, reasonable insurance plans, etc.

When you factor in gas, Zipcar can easily be cheaper. If you live in SF, for instance, Zipcar is most likely the cheapest way to rent a car to go to Tahoe. On a trip last year my (Zip)car beat the other car by about $20 after all was said and done. So the $75/day can be misleading at times.

Also, unrelated, Zipcar allows members who are under 25, which makes it much more expensive to rent a car from a traditional place like Enterprise. Being currently under 25, this is a massive benefit.

Interesting. I'm based in Chicago.

That said, I literally just drove the San Fran to Tahoe drive after visiting VC firms in the bay area 2 weeks ago. We did it in a National rented vehicle (granted it was carrying 7 people..) and our gas bill was only $90. And that was in a Toyota Sequoia, so I've got to assume a compact car would be something like $40-$50 (feel free to correct me). If you rented the car for $30/day (normal rental, not a Sequoia), then it would be way cheaper.

  Rental  $30*4 + $40 = $160
  Zipcar  $75*4 = $300
I'm not trying to argue unnecessarily, I just see Zipcar as smart for trips < 2 days only. I think that's the customer they are targeting, too. Also, its great to know that as gas prices go up, Zipcar becomes a better option.

On ZipCar I can get a Subaru Impreza for $66/day. For a three day Tahoe trip, that's a great deal. Renting a 4wd drive vehicle from a rental agency is way more than $30 a day.

It works out better for a two day trip, since that's a much higher gas/day ratio. Also, as someone else mentioned, there is a huge benefit to having a 4wd vehicle in this case, and the premium for that at traditional rental car companies is significant.

I mostly agree re: the 2 day statement.

Not that I have much love for Enterprise, but I think this is a pretty biased review.

* Claiming Enterprise locations are in bad parts of town may be true where you live. There's one a block from me, in a very nice part of town.

* Leaving out the fact that Zipcar requires an application to join (which takes days to process).

* Zipcar requires a $50 annual membership + $25 per family member

* A spotless driving record and that you've had your license for over 1 year.

* Enterprise is cheaper in many cases (always if you have your own insurance that covers a rental).

Zipcar seems like a cool little company, and I hope they destroy Enterprise. Right now they're a bit lame in a few areas.

"Claiming Enterprise locations are in bad parts of town may be true where you live."

I think it's a near-universal occurrence. Traditional car rentals are based on warehousing cars at airports and on low-cost land elsewhere. Car sharing is based on cars parked within walking distance.

Zipcar isn't really structured for trip rentals. It's for regular but infrequent secondary transportation. The membership, application, and cost make sense for that use case.

I live in SOMA (San Francisco) on Folsom between 3rd Street & 2nd street. There is an Enterprise on Folsom between 3rd Street & Folsom, right next to Twitter. Draw your own conclusions.

I missed a third place where they often show up: downtowns.

On a sunny weekend:

Enterprise - you call, make a reservation, get a car.

Zipcar - you've get a choice of 0 (zero) available cars within walking distance from your apartment.

That's how two first weekends of being a Zipcar member went for me. I cancelled my membership without ever seeing a Zipcar.

It really depends where you are. I've been a Zipcar member for around 5 years now. I always have that experience in New York, so I have to plan a week in advance. However, when I visit San Francisco I can usually find a car on the same block as me, even at the beginning or in the middle of the weekend.

> Enterprise - you call, make a reservation, get a car.

Not necessarily. It's possible for Enterprise to also run out of vehicles.

Usually, they'll get another car for you from another enterprise dealer or give you a free upgrade. I have made multiple reservations with enterprise till now and haven't hit the same problem. I am sure its possible but I haven't heard people talking about it,

Also, some of the points in the article are plain wrong. I have rented from enterprise in AZ (Tucson) and CA (Mountain View) and both times the location was convenient plus they picked me up!

Regarding the Saturday/Sunday, Enterprise dealers closed on sunday run a 3 day promo in which you get a 50% off, In grad school I used to plan many trips during the weekend so I can save some bucks on the rental.

Also, the insurance rates are available on the site and if you cough up about $10/day you are off the hook for damage to the car.

They probably use dynamic pricing to make that very rare. (And if they don't, one of the other rental companies surely does, so you can always get a car if you're willing to pay the spot rate.)

Midway - Crazy bear commercials -- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q7CsuKvo72Y

Enterprise is actually moving into the hourly space, with a separate brand called WeCar. Works exactly like Zipcar (reserve online, pay for gas with a fleet card, hourly rentals, every car is a hybrid). A coworker of mine uses it and loves it.

I don't think Zipcar will kill Enterprise, though, because they really seem to compete for different groups of customers. Enterprise's bread and butter is replacement vehicles for people who are having their current cars repaired (probably for a couple days or a week), and they pretty much seem to have a lock on that market. Nearly every time I've needed a loaner from a garage or body shop, they've sent me to Enterprise.

> every car is a hybrid

While this may be true of WeCar, not all ZipCars are hyrids. At least not in my experience.

I probably used ZipCar 100+ times this year, and I am not sure that I ever used a hybrid. I know I never used a Prius (none are ever available in the 8 lots within 2 blocks of my apartment)

I've had nothing but great experiences with Enterprise. Then again it sounds like the author is very picky about his vehicles.

this post is pretty lop-sided and in some aspects makes no sense to me.

>> Enterprise: Despite the nice Japanese cars advertised on the website, most real-world cars stocked are cheap, lifeless Chevy Random Numbers

Does it really matter what make the rental is ? As long as it meets your space and other requirements, i dont give a shit if its japanese or korean or american.

>> Enterprise: You can only pick up and return cars during limited business hours, and they’re closed on Sundays.It’s therefore impossible to rent a car for only Saturday and Sunday, and if you’re arriving home from a trip later in the evening than the branch’s closing time (usually around 6 PM), you need to book the rental to include the entire following day.

That is so not true. Yes, their office is closed on sundays, so you cant pickup a rental. but you can drop off the rental (they have drop off box for keys).

>> Enterprise: Cars are kept in front of a sketchy office in a bad part of town. Probably true for his city - but cant be generalized.

besides all these, the author never bothers to make any mention of the fact that Enterprise folks will come pick you up for your rental. at times, that is so much convenient.

I suppose it depends on your use patterns, but I've usually taken advantage of Enterprise's 50%-off Friday-thru-Monday special, which works well when I need a nicer/larger car for a weekend. They've also fudged it for me a few times, so I've picked up a car Saturday and kept it at the weekend rate until Tuesday.

Also, between most major credit cards and most car insurance covering rental damage, many people don't need to pay for the damage waiver.

I could see how Zipcar would be great if you live in an area where a car is optional, but Enterprise has been fine for my limited rental needs.

When I lived in San Francisco, I used to use ZipCar when I needed to pick someone up at the airport late at night, even though I had my own car. The $8 was worth it to me to be able to park 300ft from my apartment.

I think highly of both companies, although my use of each has varied dramatically depending on my circumstances.

When I owned a car, and lived in the suburbs, Enterprise was great because I already had insurance coverage. When I needed to rent from them because my car was being repaired, they would come and pick me, which was great. In every location I've been too, the staff has been very friendly and helpful--it was no surprise to read that management practices at Enterprise had informed work on Net Promotor Scores.

Now that I live in a city, and do not own a car, ZipCar is fantastic. The annual insurance fee is less than a day's insurance cost at a traditional car rental company. I can get chores done in just a couple of hours, so renting by the hour is incredibly attractive, especially given the abundance available in my neighborhood. I would likely pass by over 20 different Zipcars on the 10 minute walk to the nearest Enterprise outlet. Zipcar employees are also incredibly friendly and proactively helpful on the phone.

Sometimes when companies have different policies and products, it's because they are targeting different segments of the market, not because one is better than the other.

I love ZipCar, but the author doesn't mention the difference in price between the two services. Zipcar costs $8-10 per hour and $66-101 per day depending on the car and your plan. You can often rent cars from normal car rental agencies for $20 a day (though with fees it ends up being 40).

One thing he didn't mention is that ZipCar is great for allowing multiple drivers. Any ZipCar member can drive any car, no matter who rented it.

> You can often rent cars from normal car rental agencies for $20 a day (though with fees it ends up being 40)

That doesn't take into account whether or not you have your own insurance (e.g. if you already have a car). It also doesn't take into account taxes. IIRC, Multinomah County (the county where Portland, Oregon is) has a 15% tax on rental vehicles. This is on top of the Enterprise quoted price. I don't know if ZipCar works this into their costs, but I don't remember ever seeing this tax on an invoice from ZipCar.

I've had good experience from a customer service perspective with Enterprise, but from a cost perspective, not so much. I once rented a car for a day from them which was supposed to be ~$60. The final cost with insurance, taxes, etc was over $100. On the other hand -- as a ZipCar member -- I can rent a ZipCar for ~$69/day and that includes gas.

I was able to sign up for $25 (+ $10 for my wife) by signing up at the Portland Gay Pride 'celebration' (I would say 'Gay Pride Parade,' but it was at the tents after the parade). We've also been able to get free credits when we see their booths at other events (e.g. VegFest '09). I've also gotten free credits for calling them to tell them that I saw the lights were left on on one of their cars (I was at a bus stop that was near a ZipCar spot).

While I have no complaints about Enterprise customer service, I would say that ZipCar is the Zappos of car rental (though I may be wrong since I've never interacted with Zappos; I'm only guessing based on all the stories I hear).

Re: rental car tax, interesting article about the rental tax on Zipcars; http://online.wsj.com/article/SB121383390638486797.html

Bottom line, the rental car tax was intended to tax tourists and Zipcar has been fighting against it because most Zipcar members are locals without a car. In some states the tax laws are such that Zipcar is forced to collect a fee every time you reserve a car.

While we're talking about car sharing, I'm a huge fan of the car2go model. Basically, it's Zipcar except you can park in any public parking space instead of having to return it to the spot where you picked it up. It looks like they're trying to make most of their money from corporate contracts, such as the City of Austin, which is the only customer during the pilot phase. They're probably also writing some of it off as advertising. It's run by Daimler and all the cars are Smart Fortwos, which I see pretty much every day now. It's not open to the public yet in Austin, but between that, the bus and a folding bike to make half car2go, half bike trips more feasible, I wouldn't need my rarely used car at all.


I used to be a happy Zipcar member. I spent somewhere in the neighborhood of $600 that year on reservations and whatnot. Then I unfortunately backed up into a tree. I paid the $500 fine. Then they closed my account. Back to my bike.

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