DRIVE TIME: I started using Zipcars, which can be rented by the hour or day, when I moved to D.C. in March 2004. I was coming from Berkeley, Calif., where I went to college, and it was a major decision whether I should bring my car out because I was so dependent on it there. But to bring it across the country, to park in Adams Morgan, where I live, and all the other costs associated with the car -- insurance, gas, maintenance -- it would have been a lot of money.
UP TO SPEED: If I want to use a Zipcar, I just go to the Web site (www.zipcar.com) and see if the car I want is available. When you reserve online, your Zipcar card, which you get when you first sign up, is activated for that car. The car is always parked in the same place and the keys are locked inside. You just use your card to open the door. The first time I used a Zipcar, I couldn't figure out how to open it -- the place you swipe is so inconspicuous. I had to call Zipcar and they talked me through it.
WHAT A GAS: One of my biggest reasons for using Zipcar is that it pays for gas -- a big deal because gas prices are constantly increasing. My friends ask if I can pay for their gas too, but the Zipcar gas card has a security code so that won't work. I also walk and use the bus a lot, saving Zipcar for trips to the suburbs to hit places like Ikea, Costco and Home Depot.
HIT AND RUN: At first, I was worried that if I got a car and somebody else had scratched it or gotten it dirty, I would be liable, but there is a log in the car so you can note such things. You're sharing the car, so you know it's not going to be perfect -- plus it's a fellow Zipcar buddy, so it's fine if there is a little mess or something.
ROADZIP: I took a trip in a Zipcar to Hoboken, N.J., for the birthday party of a friend. We fit five people in the Toyota Scion xA, and one of them was a guy -- we were kind of like a clown car. We got a lot of looks on the freeway -- both because of the Zipcar logo and because we were so crammed in. When we got to the party, everyone was giving us nicknames like "the Zippies" and "the Zip squad." We were able to decide to book the car at the last minute too, which was great.
TROUBLE WITH THE LAW: I haven't gotten a ticket yet, shockingly. But, on the honor system, you are supposed to pay it yourself. And if you don't, Zipcar can track you down. I got two red light tickets in six months in California, so that was my key to be careful here.
As told to Caitlin Carroll
Zipcar was all about
being practical and saving money. Yasmin Zand knows the convertible says so much more.