Since its first partnership with the University, Zipcar — an international car sharing service — has increased in popularity.
Unlike the ride-hailing services Uber and Lyft, Zipcar users rent the vehicles located on and around campus and pay hourly or daily rates for their use. UT’s current contract with Zipcar is set to last through 2024.
In 2010, Zipcar partnered with the University to offer its services to students and faculty. When their four-year contract expired in 2014, UT issued a request for proposal — a process that allows different companies to bid on a proposed project — and eventually accepted Zipcar’s bid. The partnership includes increased Zipcar vehicles on campus and rental services that are exclusive to UT student and faculty members, such as discounted hourly and overnight rates.
On May 28 — just a few weeks after Uber and Lyft left Austin —Zipcar began offering a discounted overnight rate for the campus community. The new overnight plan is available Sunday through Thursday from 11 p.m. – 8 a.m. for $9, according to Blanca Gamez, assistant director of Parking and Transportation Services.
“This service is great for UT because it provides the community with convenient options for transportation without owning a vehicle,” Gamez said. “With the Zipcar, you have a selection of vehicles to choose from depending on what you need. From trucks to SUVs, they have it all.”
UT affiliates pay $35 a year for membership, but before renting a Zipcar students and faculty must apply online at zipcar.com. Applicants must be at least 18 years old with no more than one moving violation or breach of state traffic rules in the 24 months prior to applying. Students can apply for $15, while faculty members pay a slightly increased rate. In addition, faculty members have access to Zipcar accounts specific to their departments.
Once approved, members receive their Zipcard in the mail, which allows members to unlock Zipcar vehicles by waving their card over the sensor on the vehicle's windshield. On weekdays, members can rent Zipcars for an hourly rate of $8.50 and a daily rate of $69. On weekends, Zipcars can be rented for $9.50 an hour or for a daily rate of $77.
Civil engineering sophomore Yousef Dashti has been using Zipcar since the fall of 2015 after hearing about the service through his friends and said that while prices may be fair, there are some disadvantages to the service.
“Zipcar has really cheap options for renting cars per hour,” Dashti said. “But it can be inconvenient because you don’t get to make one-way trips [like you can with Uber and Lyft]. With Zipcar, you have to eventually park your car back in the same place.”
Members can rent a Zipcar in various ways, including online through the Zipcar app and by telephone. All vehicles include a gas card, are insured and are equipped with an FDP permit, which is valid in A, C, F and UT Vehicle spaces, 30-minute loading zones and Longhorn Lots on campus.
Chemical engineering sophomore Audrey McNay said that Zipcar is especially advantageous for students and faculty who do not have access to their own vehicle.
“If you ... have to rely on either Zipcar, rideshare companies or public transportation, I think Zipcar is really convenient,” McNay said. “It’s really convenient since the cars are located near all the major dorms on campus … and it’s very easy to rent whatever type of car you want, where you want it, and when you want it.”