Hello everyone! I recently made my first use of the ZipCar UK service as I needed to escape London to get to a venue which was some distance from a train station. I thought I’d therefore share my experiences and a provide a review on if ZipCar was a service worth using.
And this post is affiliate: This post was written based on personal experiences using ZipCar as a customer. If you signup to ZipCar from this post we will receive a small referral fee which in no way affects the service you receive. Per our editoral policy, we always write honestly about our experiences of products – we know how important your trust is to the website.
I’m also aware that ZipCar is a service that operates in a number of countries, so for avoidance of doubt this review covers the use of ZipCar within the UK. Whilst the core mechanics of the service are similar worldwide, you may need to check for differences in inclusions or terms and conditions within your country.
Why I used Zipcar
I know how to drive, but in London I find I rarely need to – most places are a tube stop, bus journey or an Uber away if needed. In this case I needed to go outside London to go and look at a venue out in the countryside – and even if I took a train to the rough area, buses and local transport just wasn’t going to cut it.
I therefore started researching car hire places and day car hire places. Most places required me to hire the car for the day which wasn’t needed – so I looked at options to take a car for a few hours which ultimately led me to ZipCar.
How does ZipCar work?
There are two models you can use for ZipCar depending on where you’re looking to travel to. In the case of both models you can use either a physical ZipCard to access the car, or use the Zipcar mobile app to lock and unlock the car. The keys are found inside.
A ZipCar Roundtrip inside or outside of London
Under the more traditional ZipCar model, you book in advance to hire a specific car collected from a specified location where the Zipcar lives. I booked a roundtrip myself and conveniently the car was just around the corner.
You need to specify the time you’re looking to take it out and return it when booking – and you’ll return it to the same spot you got it from. You can extend the booking when you’re out but if you’re late, a fee will apply.
When booking you know what car you’ll have in advance – so if you have specific requirements on car size or if it’s a manual or automatic you can find an option that fits your needs (although you might have to walk a little further).
A ZipCar Flexible Trip when within the ZipZone
ZipCar also now have the option to make a flexible trip with a fleet of largely electric cars which you can hire on a “then and there” basis and are charged by the minute.
You’re much more flexible with where you can leave these as well (it excludes some restricted parking zones, but these are clearly marked on the map).
The disadvantage of this option is that you can only drive in the specified “ZipZone” area of London rather than outside it – although this does helpfully cover most of London and ZipCar are working on expanding it.
You can also use a ZipCar Flexible trip to do a Heathrow Terminal 5 run and drop off at the short stay car park which is handy, although you’ll pay a slight supplement charge to do this.
How much does ZipCar cost to use?
ZipCar’s pricing model is both simple and complex at the same time. You can find details of ZipCar’s pricing plans on their website here.
What does a ZipCar hire fee include?
Your ZipCar hire fee includes:
- The cost of hiring the car
- All fuel use is included
- Driving 60 miles for free per day (an additional per mile charge exists beyond this).
- Insurance is included, however you are still subject to a £750 excess (you can pay an optional small fee to reduce this to zero).
Using ZipCar flexible I found that the cost around my area was 31p per minute of hire.
The ZipCar Basic plan
Despite being called a plan, the Zipcar basic option is just a standard signup where you pay for you use as you go and that’s it.
(Update: Since I wrote the original article, Zipcar now require £10 as a non-refundable application fee for the basic plan to cover the costs of the basic checks you go through – such as checking your driving license).
The specific charges depend on the car you go for and under what model:
- For a round trip around here (London) I was finding most ZipCar’s came in at a cost of £9.50 per hour or if hiring longer term £89 a day.
- Slightly more premium cars were £10.50 an hour and £99 a day.
- Please note ZipCar prices will vary if you’re elsewhere in the country.
The ZipCar Smart and ZipCar Plus plan
ZipCar has two other options which are essentially based around automatic top-ups – you fund your account automatically each month to the tune of £6 (Zipcar Smart) or £15 (Zipcar Plus) and that money is applied to your account as driving credit.
In exchange for this, the hire cost reduces on roundtrip prices only.
ZipCar Smart reduced a £9.50 an hour hire charge to £7.50 an hour, whereas ZipCar Plus reduced it to £7.
Is the ZipCar Smart plan worth it?
It depends on your usage – for one off or semi-regular use the savings from ZipCar Smart are quite substantial, so long as you cancel the recurring payment when you stop using it.
ZipCar are basically hoping you make using their cars a habit, and giving you a good deal in exchange.
Is the ZipCar Plus plan worth it?
ZipCar Plus is harder to recommend – the recurring monthly payment jumps quite a bit and the ongoing savings become much more marginal. If you’re using Zipcar on something like a weekly basis it might be worth it, but you also might want to explore more permanent options if you’re using a car that much!
Overall Review of ZipCar UK
What I liked about ZipCar
- My ZipCar experience was generally very smooth and positive – it got me where I need to be at a reasonable price and I found the process smooth and easy.
- Booking a car was very easy, and I was able to rent something within 5 minutes walk of my house without issue.
- Getting access to the car through the app was absolutely seamless.
- I liked the fact they had small vans as well as cars – where I’d definitely use the service again is as part of moving heavier stuff which I might otherwise have used a delivery service for.
- The flexible service is well-priced and very convenient where there’s a need to get around slightly less-accessible bits of London.
- If I had a similar situation again, I would fully intend to use ZipCar again.
What I didn’t like about ZipCar
- As you have to specify times for a roundtrip booking, you can end up paying for time you need to reserve as a safety margin in case you get stuck in traffic or otherwise delayed, but don’t end up using the car for.
- The pricing structure could be clearer – you need to think about if a plan is going to be good value to you or not.
- I’d have found specific instructions helpful with regard to anything specific to the hired car – I had a Ford Puma which needed a specific gearstick motion to allow you to engage reverse and I didn’t know. Finding that out mid-drive wasn’t the most helpful thing!
- The 60 miles limit is actually reasonably tight – driving outside London and back I was beginning to get close to this in my 3 hour hire. If you’re driving further the extra per-mile cost may not make ZipCar the cheapest option.
- I note some online reviews mention negative experiences with customer services. I had no cause to deal with ZipCar customer service and cannot comment either way.
Overall Review of ZipCar
I would recommend using ZipCar for short trips where you need a car for a single day or less and have a relatively short journey, or need a van for a few hours to cart something about.
If you are doing more extensive driving of a longer distance or over multiple days, looking into traditional car hire may be a better option for you.
Overall however, I’d definitely use ZipCar for a similar trip or one of their vans to transport stuff around London!
Other FAQS on ZipCar
How does refuelling work with a ZipCar?
The car contains a fuelcard which you can use to stop off as a petrol station and fill up the car. You’re asked to make sure you return the car with at least a quarter of a tank of fuel.
Can I drive outside London in a Zipcar?
Yes, but you’ll need to use the roundtrip option – and specify when you’ll be returning to leave the car in the same place.
If you’re driving within London, Zipcar Flex is likely to be a better option.
What do I need to sign up to ZipCar?
You’ll need to fill out some basic information about yourself including details and a photo of your driving license and a picture of yourself with it, to authenticate that’s it’s really you!
Can I use ZipCar immediately after signing up?
You’ll need to be approved by ZipCar based on your driving license authentication – mine only took 24 hours but it can take longer so make sure you factor this in if you’re looking to use the service quickly.
If you have any questions on using the ZipCar service then please do let us know in the comments! We’d love to hear from you about what your experiences have been.
And that’s it!
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