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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DC Area: Today, Get a Little More for Donating Your Clunker

If you are in or close to Washington, DC, today might be the perfect day to donate your clunker and get a little bit more for that.  In general, donating your car can be a good deal, as it should ideally lower your gas and maintenance cost and offer a hefty tax deduction through itemizing.  But today, Zipcar is offering a little more to boost the incentive.  From 6 to 8:30pm tonight, Zipcar will be hosting an event in DC to collect car donations for WAMU 88.5 – the American University Radio that airs NPR every weekday morning, – and will be giving a free membership for one year and $75 in driving credit in exchange.  Also, if you refer a friend to donate a car, you get $50 in driving credit as well. 

The event will be held at WestEnd 25 (1255 25th St, NW) tonight, April 8, 2010, and the email address to get more information or RSVP is rsvpdc (at) zipcar (dot) com.  If you do not live in the DC area or can’t donate your car today, it might still be worth asking about other events or visiting Charitable Auto Resources, who will be coordinating the donation processing in this event and works to help charities nation-wide receive cars.

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.

Traveling Green Rewards More than Just the Environment

Amtrak also has its own frequent traveler program – Amtrak Guest Rewards.  It works just like airline frequent flier programs, allowing you to earn points for Amtrak rides (2 points per dollar spent on Amtrak travel) and through hotel, car rental, and other partners.  If you travel by Amtrak for work or pleasure, even if not frequently, you should consider opening an account.  The Guest Rewards points don’t expire as long as you take an Amtrak trip every 3 years.  And if you are a Zipcar member, you should definitely look into this program.  You can get an Amtrak point for every dollar you spend on Zipcar – just make sure to add your Amtrak Guest Rewards number to your Zipcar account (“my stuff” > “me” > “thank me”).

You’ll need 3,000 points for a ticket on the Northeast Line, but if you’re going out of town and are looking for a fun alternative to the typical road trip, Amtrak has some special routes with unreserved coach tickets for just 1,000 points, like the Pacific Surfliner (includes Santa Barbara-LA-San Diego) and the Downeaster (Boston-Maine).