The Alternative to Car Ownership

If you are an urban dweller, Zipcar offers you an alternative option to buying a car – sharing a car with everybody else in the city.  You can join the Cambridge-based company, which started with the vision of lowering pollution and the number of cars on the road, on either an Occasional Driving or Extra Value Plan.  The cost of reserving a vehicle is $9.25-14.50 per hour, depending on the model of the car and whether it is a weekday or weekend.  With the Occasional Driving Plan, you have to pay a $25 application and a $50 annual fee, but there is no monthly commitment.  Zipcar also offers four Extra Value Plans, differing on the the level of monthly commitment ($50-250), but the annual fee is waived and you get an additional 10-15% driving discount.  There are also daily rates under both plans (you are automatically given the lowest cost between the hourly and daily rate when you make a reservation), and there are no extra charges for gas or insurance regardless of the plan you choose.

Further, depending on your school, work, or even residential building affiliation, Zipcar may lower or waive the annual and application fees and even give you a lower hourly rate (in the application page you can search for affiliations which might get you the discount).  And if you know someone who is already a Zipcar member, you can also ask him/her to refer you, and Zipcar will give $50 in driving credit, which can be split between the two of you whichever way you want.  And if you sign up today or next Friday, you can get another $10 in driving credit – just use promo code DCFRIENDS.*

If you only need a car a few times each month, being a zipster would be a huge cost savings measure.  Instead of paying $200-300 in financing or leasing payment, and another $100-200 for car insurance, parking, gas and routine maintenance each month, you will only be paying for the hours you are using the Zipcar (plus the application and annual fee, if any).  And as a bonus, Zipcar has a variety of vehicles to choose from, so you could be driving a Volvo one week and a Mini Cooper the next.

Look chic, save money and save the planet?  Sounds like a smart idea to me.

* This is from an email I got from Zipcar: “On any Friday in July, if you refer your friend to Zipcar and they sign up that same Friday, you both receive $60 in driving credit instead of $50. In order to get $60 in credit for referring a friend, he or she needs to use the promo code DCFRIENDS when filling out our online application. After that, email our marketing coordinator, Lauren  (lsherman@zipcar.com), with your full name, your friend’s full name, and your Zipcard number. Just let Lauren know that your friend is applying, and she’ll make sure that everything is in order.  This cannot be combined with our standard referral offer, and it cannot be applied retroactively.
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Gas It Up, At Least for this Quarter

For those who carry the Discover More credit card in their wallet, remember to sign up for this quarter’s 5% cashback bonus award (if you haven’t yet).  From now until September 30, 2009, you can earn 5% from purchases at stand-alone gas stations, hotels (booked directly by you via the phone or the hotel’s website, not through other online travel websites), zoos, theme parks, and bookstores.  These are the perfect categories for your summer activities.  Just remember that Discover is capping the cash back bonus at $300 in purchases (or $15 in cash back).  After that, any more purchases made within these categories will only earn you 1% cash back.

Tip: Per our post yesterday, one way to triple dip, for example, is to use your Discover credit card with your Borders card and a Borders weekly coupon when you make purchases at Borders.  This week, Borders is offering a coupon for 25% off your entire store purchase.  Thus, you will be able to earn a discount off your purchase, Borders Bucks for future purchases, and 5%  cashback on whatever amount you pay.