About two years ago I sold my car. I am not a greenie weenie, concerned about my carbon footprint, or worried about the disastrous effects of the religion of Al Gore. I really could care less about any of that stuff. I do not ride around town in a bicycle dressed in multi-hued sprayed on spandex or the latest hipster fashion either.
One day, I got in the car and there were cobwebs on the dashboard. I realized I had not driven the car for over two weeks. I did the simple arithmetic. I realized I did not need the expense of owning a car. I can run most of my errands on foot and only need a car for heavy duty shopping, which I only do about once or twice a month. I figured I drove my car at the most once a week and at the least every other week.
The deal was sealed when Zipcar put vehicles one block from my home. Actually, there are Zipcars within easy walking distance of my house no matter how inclement the weather is. I also live around the corner from the Brown Line. WalMart Express is at the Chicago Avenue Brown line stop. If I need some quick shopping it is just an El ride away.
I chose Zipcar because their plan fit my needs, they have more vehicle locations, and a larger selection of cars. So far, I am a very happy camper. I do not waste money on insurance, gas, maintenance, repairs, cleaning, washing, waxing, or any of the other costs associated with car ownership. I can chose from a variety of vehicles, even luxury sport models or convertibles, if I feel like paying more. They also offer vans and pick-up trucks for times when you need to haul things. I can rent for one hour, several hours, and up to two days. The free 180 miles per day is also nice.
So far I figured I save about 500-600 dollars a month by not owning a car. That is change I can believe in. I basically use the CTA and occasionally cabs, if I am out later at night. The ability to have a car when I need it, at a reasonable cost, with none of the headaches of ownership is a real plus.
It also allows for flexibility. Over the past 35 years, I rarely, if ever drove downtown. I refuse to pay those outlandish parking rates. Now, with the black box bandits on the street it is worse. If I need to go downtown and then run errands in another part of the city, I can take the El. Then I can pick up a Zipcar downtown, or where ever, drive to my other errands, return the car, and take the El home. I can plan and use my time more efficiently.
There is a little homework you have to do in order to make car sharing work for you. Each company has different plans. You need to determine your driving needs and whether most of them are business or personal. You also should check the availability of vehicles. Zipcar has the largest numbers of vehicles spread out all over the city. They are also a national company, so if you travel and need wheels you can get them.
The other companies have their advantages, but again, it all depends on your usage. Even some of the major rental car agencies have carsharing plans. If you live near good public transportation, do not drive very often, and are spending too much money on car ownership, carsharing may be the route to go. Just do your homework first.
I know eventually I will probably buy a car again. But, I will still keep my carsharing membership active. I may want to drive a nifty luxury sports car or convertible for a day or two, or I may just need that van to move things around.
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