Zipcar's Impact On How People Use Cars Is Enormous

After a year of Zipcar availability in Baltimore, a survey finds that Zipcar membership means less driving, more public transportation, more exercise, and better quality of life for everyone.


Zipcar debuted in Baltimore a year ago. The company has since gathered feedback from the new Zipcar drivers there to determine exactly what happens once car sharing is introduced in a city. As it turns out, the effects are rather drastic, seriously curtailing both car ownership and car use, while pumping up how often people take public transportation.

After asking Charm City Zipcar users about their driving habits, they found that only 12% had taken more than five trips by car in the last month, down from 38% before joining Zipcar. But that doesn't mean people aren't going anywhere. Zipcar members are walking more (up 21%), biking more (up 14%), and using public transit more (up 11%).

Even more meaningfully, 72% of Zipcar members said being able to share cars makes it less likely that they purchase or lease a car in the future, and nearly a fifth of the Zipcar members had actually sold their vehicles since joining. Almost half of the members said that they avoided buying a car because of their Zipcar services.

These aren't just good stats for the recently public company to show that people love their service. It shows that car sharing—by Zipcar or others—can have a strong effect on a city's car ownership rates and public-transit use. That means less traffic, easier parking, and a generally more pleasant living experience for all citizens. As the benefits of taking cars off the roads start to become more clear, expect more and more municipalities to start working with car-sharing programs, or even launching their own.

[Hat tip: Clean Technica]

[Image: Flickr user 3n]

Morgan Clendaniel can be reached by email or on Twitter.

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  • Andrew Berriz

    People tend to respond more optimistically in these types of surveys than how they would actually act.  The only result that is meaningful: "Eighteen percent of respondents have sold their vehicles since joining Zipcar."  The other results seem overly speculative. 

  • Michael Brown

    I would imagine this being huge in highly congested markets such as New York City.  It's a great model, but certainly not for everyone. 

  • Nicholas Barnard

     Its actually just the opposite.  Car manufacturers are actually looking at ways to work more closely with Zipcar to provide Zipcar specific feature packages.  They realize that Zipcar works in urban areas where walking and public transit work well, unlike in surburban areas.

  • TylerG

    Couldn't agree more, I joined Zipcar last year and was able to sell my car / use more public transportation and do alot more walking. Availability of the cars in DC is good and the $200 or so a month that used to go to car taxes, insurance, repair and gas now goes into my IRA! 

  • Julia Dow

    Yes! I love Zipcar.  My father wanted to give me his old Lexus but when I looked at the cost of insurance, as a new driver, upwards of $150/month, and how much I was actually driving...I would rarely drive 15 hours/ month plus I don't have to pay for gas, registration, street parking, etc., etc.   So Zipcar saves me money & hassle.  

  • David Kaiser, PhD

    Very cool. This is a huge game-changer. Now what happens when the auto manufacturers find out about this and freak out? ZipCar should be prepared for all sorts of legislative and marketing counterattacks.

    David Kaiser, PhD
    Sacred Productivity Coach to Creative Leader