More on the Zipcar Deals

Yesterday I wrote a post on three current Zipcar offers: a deal from LivingSocial, an $80 referral bonus from Zipcar, and a reimbursement for residents of the City of Alexandria.

It looks like LivingSocial has extended its Daily Deal for another day, so you now have until tonight at midnight to get a Zipcar membership for a year and $30 in driving credit for $29.

an updated version of LivingSocial's DC Zipcar deal

I also heard back from LivingSocial and Alexandria’s Office of Transit Services, and have some updated information:

  1. It is not clearly stated on the terms and conditions, but the LivingSocial deal does include the Zipcar application fee. So considering that the application fee is usually $25, and the annual fee can be as high as $60, this deal really offers a savings of as much as $86! So if you are still not a Zipcar member and need a nudge to join, this is it.
  2. The LivingSocial deal for DC has been updated to include residents of “the greater D.C. metro area.” Yesterday’s offer was only available to DC residents, but now those of you in Virginia and Maryland can take advantage of it too.
  3. If you’re a resident of the City of Alexandria, it is unclear whether you can stack up the LivingSocial deal with the reimbursement (though you can still combine a referral bonus with the reimbursement). From an email I received from the Office of Transit Services:

“As long as you send us your proof of payment we can reimburse your costs. However, this [LivingSocial offer] is an exception to our program and we will probably not allow this when and if other deals like this pop up for Zipcar.”

This is a non-committal response, though completely reasonable on their part. On one hand, they could argue that LivingSocial deal is already effectively waiving your application and first year annual fee, since the $29 you pay gets converted into $30 in driving credit, so there’s nothing to be reimbursed for. On the other hand, it doesn’t hurt to try. If you get today’s Zipcar deal and live in Alexandria, send in the “Reimbursement Request” and “Initial Survey” forms and see what happens. Best case scenario, you get the reimbursement, and the whole bundle comes out free for you. Worst case scenario, you still saved $86.

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Three Zipcar Deals to Go Around

It took me a while to join Zipcar. The problem was that I would look into signing up whenever I needed a car right then and there, but Zipcar membership doesn’t go through immediately since they have to verify your driver’s license information for insurance purposes and get the Zipcar card (which unlocks the car doors) to you. So ultimately the key was to join when I didn’t actually need a car, and then have the option of using a car right then and there the next time I did need one. And now, even though I have a car of my own, I still keep my Zipcar membership for when I travel, since members have access to cars in any Zipcar city.

If you, like I was, don’t need to join Zipcar today but should at some point, there are several deals going on to help you make it happen now.

First, LivingSocial is running a Daily Deal today for individuals who join Zipcar: a one-year membership plus $30 in driving credit for $29. Since the annual membership fee is technically $60, this deal can save you quite a bit of money. I write “technically,” though, since you are very likely to qualify for a discount through one of your connections, including your university (as a student or alumni), employer, or even your building. Today’s LivingSocial deal is available in several cities, including Boston, DC, New York, and San Francisco. Just make sure to get the deal for your city since the fine print on the bottom of each offer limits the coupon to residents of that area. After you buy your coupon, you have until October 26, 2011 to sign up for Zipcar and use the $30 driving credit.

But here’s a potentially better deal. Or one worth considering if you miss today’s LivingSocial offer. Until the end of August 2011, Zipcar is offering an $80 referral bonus which can be split between the referer and referee, or can be given away entirely to the referee. So, if you have a good friend who is a Zipcar member, ask him/her to send you an invite, and make sure to sign up by August 31st. If you qualify for an annual fee discount (mine for example is just $25) and your friend lets you keep the bonus, this referral could turn out to be an even better deal than the LivingSocial one.

today's LivingSocial DC deal

Keep in mind that the referral bonus is always available, though the driving credit outside the promotion period is usually $50, which can still be split or given to the referee. This bonus is also much less restrictive than the LivingSocial deal since the latter for the DC area, for example, is limited to “Washington D.C. residents only”. If you live in the Beltway but have an address in Virginia or Maryland, you may have to go with the referral bonus anyway since you may not be eligible for today’s LivingSocial DC offer.

If you live in the city of Alexandria in Virginia, there’s also a third Zipcar deal worth taking into account. The City of Alexandria’s Office of Transit Services and Programs is currently reimbursing the Zipcar application and first year membership fees for Alexandria residents. Since the Zipcar application fee is currently $25 and the annual fee can come up to $60 without a discount, this can translate into some huge savings! There’s no official end-date for this offer, but it’s probably best to apply for it sooner than later. All you need to do is fill out the “Reimbursement Request” and “Initial Survey” forms and mail it to the Office of Transit Services in Alexandria after you sign up for Zipcar. And there’s no reason you can’t stack up the referral bonus and the fee reimbursement, since one is a driving credit and the other takes care of your fees.

Whichever discount(s) you choose to use, if you’ve been meaning to get a Zipcar membership, it seems like now’s time to do it. Don’t wait until you actually need it, since membership doesn’t come through immediately, and, even worse, there probably won’t be as many great deals available then.

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Car Buying 101

One of the most important rites of passage in America is getting a driver’s license.  And while you might have been licensed to drive someone else’s car since you were 15 1/2 or 16, the other part of this rite of passage is actually owning your first vehicle.  So without further ado:

Leasing – Car leasing is actually the opposite of car buying.  Like the lease on your aparment, car leasing is essentially renting a car.  But I would like to talk about it, because leasing a car certainly feels like you are buying a car.  Your monthly payments are lower than if you were to finance it, though your car insurance might be higher.  This option allows you to continually drive around a nice brand-new car.  The caveat is that at the end of the lease (usually 3 years), you have to return the car and it has to be in relatively good condition.  So despite diligently paying your monthly payments for the past 3 years, sadly the car will not be yours, although you do have the option to buy the car at the residual amount stated on your lease contract.

Financing – Continuing with our real estate analogy, car financing means you take out a loan to buy a car and you have about 3-6 years to pay off the loan, much like a mortgage.  The financing terms, such as the interest rate and length of time to pay off the loan, will depend on your credit score (which we will talk more about in a later post) and how much you can afford each month.  If you want to finance your car for 5 versus 3 years, for example, your monthly payments will be lower, but you will be paying more in interest in the long run. 

Financing limits the kinds of cars you can have since you should only buy cars you can afford.  The silver lining, however, is that you will actually own the car at the end of the financing period.  And financing is available for both new and used cars.  I don’t believe there is an absolute best choice between new and used cars, just a better choice depending on each person.  If the used car you are buying is only 1-2 years old though, you might want to shell out the extra few thousand for the new version.  The cash of clunkers act and the vehicle sales tax deduction also make for good incentives to buy new, at least during this year (click here to read more).

For more information, such as car reviews and pricing, check out Edmunds.