If you use Zipcar something to be aware of (perhaps only Chicago but maybe elsewhere too)

I am not sure this is the case everywhere but it is in Chicago where I live (and probably true other places too so worth checking on).

I went to rent a Zipcar for a day (24 hours). The website told me the rate for 24 hours was $107 for this particular car.

I plugged in a 24h time (6a to 6a the following day) and the total was $131 and change.

So I plugged in 6a to 5:30a the following day and the rate was $98.

That is a substantial difference. So much so I repeated the test numerous times with other cars and got similar results.

Still thinking something was amiss I called Zipcar and described what was happening. At first the agent was dubious but she plugged in the same times I had as described above and got the same result. She was so puzzled at that she put me on hold to talk to a supervisor.

The answer is it is a Chicago city tax which, apparently, kicks in for a 24 hour rental but but not for a 23.5 hour rental.

So, if you rent Zipcars be aware of this. Don’t take my word for it, try it out for yourself.

The difference in price is substantial and in most cases if you are renting for 24 hours returning the car 30 minutes early is likely not a problem.

At least Chicago exempts under-24h carsharing. In some cities, the carsharing concept is almost unworkable due to taxes aimed at tourists. Here’s a recent academic paper on the subject (PDF).

Yet another example of government idiocy.

The benefits of car sharing are apparent but they screw it up by gouging.

It isn’t even really tourists (which Chicago definitely gouges in a variety of ways). Car sharing is used mostly by locals.

Guess I should be happy Chicago is oddly good about this (relatively speaking) but then Chicago is one of the most heavily taxed cities in the US in general so I am only wondering how long it will take them to screw this up too.

Maybe it’s different in the States, but I use Zipcar in London but only for very short rentals - say, 4 hours. 24 hours is always way more than renting a car via a normal rental company.

There may be different systems now, but when I was in Philadelphia (back in 2003), I looked into the carsharing schemes available and I couldn’t use them: they required personal driver’s insurance, which in turn required a US driver’s license from PA, which I couldn’t get (apparently PA’s DoT reckons foreigners can’t drive, even those who already have US driver’s licenses, except for Germans and Frenchpeople; these can drive). So, “regular” rentals it was, even though I usually only needed the car for a few hours. In Spain, driver’s insurance is linked to the car, not to the individual driver… tourists from places with similar schemes can’t carshare wherever that requirement for personal insurance is in place (the regular rentals come with insurance).

Well, it seems more but you have to factor in that the Zipcar includes insurance and gas (and tolls here in Chicago).

By the time I am done with a normal rental company they are pretty competitive when it is all added up.

Not to mention the Zipcar is also significantly simpler to use. No rental company is within miles of me. Zipcars are every few blocks around here. Walk up, hop in and go.