Your Car is Just a Zip Away: New Car Rental Service Stations Throughout the City


If your meager college funds can’t afford a brand new Mini Cooper, at least this baby can be yours for a day. (Courtesy of

Published: October 11, 2007

You’ve memorized the address. You’re walking down the street, looking for the tree or apartment building near which it might be waiting. Then, there it is—a few yards away sits the car of your dreams, and it’s all yours. You swipe a card over its windshield, the doors unlock, you jump inside, and you start to drive.

No, this isn’t the climactic chase scene of an action movie. This is a service called Zipcar, and it allows anyone who is 21 and over, and car-less, to pick up and drive a car whenever they need to. The cars are strategically placed all over NYC (and many other cities as well). After reserving online at, the hapless soul formerly getting trampled in the subway will gain access to any of these cars and be driving where ever they want to go.

Response to the service has been “very, very positive- it’s exceeded all of our expectations,” confirmed Zipcar representative Diane Hapcher. Public response has been plentiful enough to call for new regional services beginning in Chicago, Vancouver and London.

The Zipcard is available as soon as you register for the service, which is inspired by a similar one in Europe; the card can either be mailed to you or be picked up at the local Zipcar office (New York’s is 127 West 24th Street).

And the cars really are all over: the user-friendly Zipcar Web site has a drop-down menu of all the neighborhoods in the city, all of which have cars. A number of them are even parked right around Columbus Circle.

The variety of pricing is pretty wide, but the simplest way to figure it out is to look at the hourly rate for driving one of these cars. This usually falls somewhere between $10 and $14 (could be $16 on the weekend), but if a driver decides to become a Zipcar member—or, as it is deemed on the site, a “Zipster”—the rate lowers to $8.50/hour. All of these rates include gas, reserved parking, and XM Radio. Models up for grabs include Honda Civic, Ford Mustang, Toyota Prius, and Mini Cooper.

The assigned car will recognize the user’s Zipcard, containing a unique number for each car, and unlock its doors for them.

Is Fordham buying? Beatty Stires, a GSE grad student now living at Lincoln Center, is a fan, but with reservations. “I would definitely recommend it. It helps cut down on congestion, and it helps with families that are visiting the city for the weekend,” he said. In most cases, however, “you don’t really need a car in the city because there’s so much public transportation.”

Steph Salileng, FCLC ’08, also weighed both sides. “It’s sort of bizarre to me. It just looks like a glorified rental system. I suppose if you’re really on the go and have no time to deal with service personnel, it could be good,” she said. “But at the same time, it could be a hassle.”

Beyond convenience, the company also seems to have environmental goals in mind. The Zipcar Web site lays out the ways in which the service is beneficial to the globe, which includes taking up less room for parking spaces and reducing fuel consumption.

“It’s probably a good idea,” says GSAS grad student and commuter Amanda Pizzuti, “because so many people in the city don’t have a car because they don’t want to have to pay for parking. But sometimes you do really need one.”

The cars parked around metropolitan areas will continue to wait patiently for their next driver—or rather, owner for a day. And if climbing into a car after swiping a card doesn’t feel as thrilling as an action movie, being able to drive, after being unable to for a long time, just might.