Car2Go vs ReachNow vs Zipcar: Which car share is right for you?
In the very near future, we are going to see the first decline in car ownership in the US. In fact, in some large cities (like Seattle), car ownership has already peaked. The trend is thanks to, who else, Millenials. There are now a ton of options for forgoing a car for those living the urban life. Ride shares like Uber and Lyft. Improving public transit. Active commuting. And car share, where you don’t own a car but instead are a member of a fleet of shared vehicles. In this post I put the three big companies in the US in a head to head to head battle: Car2Go vs ReachNow vs Zipcar.
Overview of Car Sharing
There are some basic things to know about car sharing that is similar across all three companies.
- Membership based. For all programs, you must sign up for a membership. They will do a drivers background check on you before approving you to drive.
- App based. It is pretty important if not essential that you have a smart phone.
- Insurance included. Unlike driving your own car, you do not need to purchase insurance.
- Gas included.
- Limited miles. If you go over the number of miles allotted for each rental/day, you pay an additional fee.
- Worry free. You don’t pay for maintenance on the car.
- But make sure you note damage. All companies require that you report any damage to the car prior to your trip. If there is damage during your trip, you will be charged.
Let’s look at the two services that are the most similar.
Car2Go and ReachNow Similarities
Car2Go and ReachNow are built on nearly identical business models.
- Owned by luxury car companies (Mercedes-Benz and BMW).
- One time fee. Once you are a member, you just pay for use.
- Point A to Point B. You pick them up at one spot and leave them off at your destination.
- Free floating cars. Meaning you can park in any legal street spot. There is no “home” space for the cars.
- Luxury vehicle options.
- 30 minute reservation time. You can’t reserve days or even hours in advance. If there is a car nearby that is parked and unreserved, you can take it.
- Pay by the minute. You do get a discount for longer (hour, day) trips. Currently the prices are virtually the same.
- You can park and come back to the car. But the meter will be running and you pay for the waiting time.
- Use it as long as you like.
Car2Go and ReachNow Differences
Location: Currently ReachNow is only available in 3 cities: Seattle, Portland and Brooklyn, NY. Car2Go, on the other hand, is available in 25+ cities in North America, Europe and China.
Rental Length: Car2Go limits rentals to 3 days. ReachNow limits rentals to 5 days, but if you want to keep it longer you can contact customer service to set it up.
Driving vs Parking Rates: Car2Go charges the same rate whether you are on the road driving or parking in the Costco lot while you go shopping. ReachNow charges a discounted rate for when the car is parked. Presumably because you are not using gas and adding miles to the car.
Vehicles: Car2Go primarily offers two-seat SmartCars that are under powered but good for parking in the city as they are very small. In most cities Car2Go does not offer an electric car option. UPDATE: Car2Go is retiring the SmartCars from a number of cities, including Seattle. The smallest cars ReachNow offers are Mini Coopers and the all electric BMW 3i.
ReachNow has been piloting a program in Seattle that competes with ride share companies like Uber and Lyft. Basically members can sign up to be drivers of the ReachNow vehicles and get paid for chauffeuring members around. It will be interesting to see if this catches on.
The main differences between Zipcar (owned by Avis) and the Car2Go/ReachNow models of car sharing:
Return vs One Way Trips: Zipcar, for the most part, must be returned to it’s home parking spot. Zipcar rents specific parking spots in parking lots, garages, and designated on-street spots. Example: a trip to Costco. You drive it to Costco, park in the lot, go in and go shopping, load up the car, drive it back home.
Zipcar has been piloting one-way rentals where you start at one parking space and end the trip at another, pre-determined Zipcar rented space. It is only available on some vehicles and areas.
Car2Go/ReachNow can be used for round trips, but typically you would just drop it off at your destination and then find a new vehicle if you need one to get back to your starting location. Example: a trip to go out for drinks across town. Drive to the bar, ditch the car, drink, then take an Uber home.
Measure of Rental Length: Zipcars are rented by the half hour with a 1 hour minimum. Car2Go/ReachNow are rented by the minute. For trips under 20 minutes, you are better off paying by the minute. Once you go over 20 minutes, Zipcar will probably be cheaper. Example: I walk to work. I am at work and needed to go to another location across town to drop off some materials and then come back to my office, I get a Zipcar. But sometimes I need to bring some heavy materials the mile to my home so I grab a Car2Go or ReachNow at the end of the day.
Advance Reservations: Zipcars can be reserved in advance or on the spot if available. You can reserve a car so you know one is available for the time you need it. Car2Go/ReachNow can only be reserved for 30 minutes before your drive. Example: I have a Zipcar reserved months in advance of the solar eclipse so I can drive some place out of town to view it. If I only had Car2Go or ReachNow, I wouldn’t be able to ensure I had a vehicle for the event.
Vehicle Options: Zipcar has a lot of choices of vehicle types for whatever you need. Examples: Need an all wheel drive vehicle with a park pass? Try a Subaru Crosstrek. Need helping moving? Zipcar has moving vans. Need a vehicle with a bike rack? Those are available.
Membership Fees: All three services have a sign up fee (often waived, see below), but Zipcar has an additional monthly membership fee of $7 (or $70 for the year discounted). Car2Go and ReachNow do not charge you a monthly fee.
I know that is a lot of info, so I tried to boil it down into a handy chart for you.
I have memberships to all three car share services available in Seattle. I find that they each have their own pros and cons and I would say that my driving is pretty equally spread across all three. So it really doesn’t need to be Car2Go vs ReachNow vs Zipcar; I would argue that they compliment each other for those with out a car or want options for a second car.