Impulse sharing, with cars

My car gave out Tuesday afternoon, clutch expired, right in the driveway. After getting it towed, I faced the problem of how I was going to drive my kid to camp in the suburbs until it was repaired.

“Oh, no problem,” I thought to myself. “I walk by Zipcar spaces every day. I’ll just get a Zipcar.” And back to work I went.

After 5:30, I went to rent my Zipcar. It turns out that you cannot impulse rent a Zipcar, at least not the first time. You have to apply, and it takes one to three days for the application to be approved, and then you have to either pick up your zipcard in person, or have it mailed to you.  This is car sharing for organized people.

“Oh well,” I thought. “I’ll just rent from Enterprise. I like them well enough, and they’ll pick me up. My rental would be too long to qualify for hourly rates, but at least I’ll get my kid to camp and back.”

It turns out that after 6 p.m. the Enterprise in Cambridge is closed, and it doesn’t open until 8 the next morning. I needed the car by 7:30 a.m. I could go to the airport, but that’s inconvenient.


I remember the stories I’ve been reading about the sharing phenomenon, driven by things like RelayRides.There are now a slew of car sharing options, like Lift (or is it Lyft?) and the one that has the mustache (or maybe those are the same). I had time for one – the kids wanted to go out for ice cream.  I started with RelayRides because I knew how to spell it.

RelayRides approved me as a renter almost instantly. There were a number of cars available the next morning, the closest about a ten-minute walk from my apartment. I don’t need a card to unlock the car: it opens via text message (well, a remote control triggered by a text message). Plus, I got a premium vehicle (hybrid Ford Escape SUV) for cheaper than an economy rental would’ve cost me. The kids got their ice cream, and everybody’s happy.

When I got to the car the next morning, I had a few nervous moments when I couldn’t figure out where the key was.  But then I found out (and a Help line was texted to me when the door opened).
I wonder if a guy in Cambridge with random needs for a car (I’ve driven my Saturn less than 10,000 miles a year for the last 12 years) might give up his car and just use ride sharing? I have a slew of options here. Maybe it’s time to become a one-car family.

Leave a Reply