Wheeling and Dealing by the Hour

By Candice Jones
Kiplinger's Personal Finance
Sunday, June 8, 2008

Car-sharing is a hot trend in a growing number of cities.

For an hourly rate plus an annual membership fee, you get access to a car to run errands, go on a date or take a quick trip to the 'burbs. Zipcar -- the largest car-sharing company -- emphasizes the environmental benefits, as well as the cost savings.

With Zipcar, you pay $9 or more an hour, depending on the car, plus an application fee of $25 and an annual membership fee of $50. In each of the 35 cities where Zipcar operates, its cars are parked in designated spots around town. Members, who must be at least 21, reserve a car online, use a card to unlock it and locate the keys inside. Gas and insurance are included.

The savings are real: Drive a Zipcar Honda Civic 10 hours a month for one year and the fees total $1,155, compared with $4,500 in annual ownership costs for a new Civic that you drive 5,000 miles a year.

A 24-hour reservation can cost less than $70, for up to 180 miles. Renting an economy car for one day typically costs about $80. And gas is extra.

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