Finally acting on New Year’s resolution to spend more freely

The last post ended with my mulling over whether to join Facebook to be able to rent a car from Getaround. Before I came to a decision, my thoughts had gone in a different direction.

But first, in case you’re curious: it is possible to be a “lurker” on Facebook — a member who doesn’t participate actively. The articles “Sick of Facebook? Set Your Account to Read-Only Mode” and “Is there a way to use Facebook without giving up my privacy?” explain how.

Despite what I suggested last week, however, Facebook isn’t going to be the subject of this post.

Before going to the Facebook registration page, I recalled a post from back in January that I titled “Advice for the frugal: find an appealing spending option. Mine is car rental.”

Quoting from that post: “Frugality is common among retirees, financial advisers report. For some retirees, meager social security checks require it. But others, myself included, could afford to spend more and don’t. . . . I like the advice for retirees in a Kiplinger article: Don’t try to splurge across the board; pick and choose where you want to spend more. ‘You may have no interest in fancy restaurants or luxury cruises,’ the author wrote. ‘Find appealing spending options.’”

My choice of an appealing spending option was renting a car. I made that my 2020 New Year’s resolution and soon forgot about it. Now, more than eight months later, I need to drive to visit my mother because the limited public transportation possibilities during the coronavirus don’t work for me. Rather than being freer about spending, however, I was frittering away hours comparing the costs of car-sharing companies based on estimated usage. My usual penny-pinching self was leaning toward Getaround, a peer-to-peer service that requires Facebook for screening, simply because it looked to be the most economical.

The chance to finally act on my 2020 resolution and indulge myself was staring me in the face, and I almost missed it. Fortunately, I paused and thought about considerations other than cost.

As much as I like the idea of peer-to-peer sharing, there are drawbacks when it comes to cars. Each Getaround transaction would be susceptible to the car owner’s conduct. I wouldn’t know how conscientious the owner is about maintaining the vehicle, how honest the owner is about admitting there were preexisting dings and problems, or how reliable the owner is about honoring the reservation (a car owner on Turo, another car-sharing company, once canceled on me at the last minute).

Zipcar is a commercial company with late-model cars that it owns and maintains. Although Zipcar would be more expensive than Getaround, the chances that it would be more reliable seem better. It’s also convenient: Zipcars are accessed and returned to designated parking spots near me, not to the street, where many Getaround car owners leave their vehicles.

As I was patting myself on the back for finally making a decision for reasons other than cost, I learned that as an AARP member, I will get 40 percent off the Zipcar membership fee and a $40 driving credit. My frugal side feels gratified.

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UPDATING INFORMATION ABOUT INSURANCE FOR CAR RENTALS

In my 4½ years of blogging, 249 posts now, “Insuring a rental when you don’t own a car” has gotten the most hits.

I looked back at that post while thinking about car sharing. I hope that anyone who finds it notes that it was written in 2016. Here are some updates.

Before a trip starts, car renters have to decide whether to accept or waive the company’s collision damage insurance. When I rent a car from a traditional company like Budget or Enterprise and pay with my Visa card, I waive collision damage coverage because Visa provides it. Visa may not cover a Zipcar rental, however, because it considers Zipcar a car-sharing company rather than a car-rental company. Visa was sued over its policy and agreed to a class-action settlement, but you still can’t get a yes-or-no answer from Visa about coverage for a Zipcar rental.

“If you submit a claim, you would have to prove that the car you were driving is owned by Zipcar,” a Visa representative told me. “We have Zipcar listed as a car-sharing service. Visa doesn’t cover cars that are owned by private individuals.” Zipcar owns its cars but describes itself as a car-sharing service. 

Zipcar’s collision damage insurance has a $1,000 deductible, while Visa coverage would pay for up to $50,000 of damage without a deductible. Still, I think I’ll go with Zipcar’s insurance to ensure coverage. I’d hate to be told by Visa that I wasn’t covered after totaling a car.

Here is an additional reminder of why a car renter should doublecheck insurance: If you pay for a rental with a Discover card, you no long have collision damage coverage. Discover dropped it two years ago. I had been thinking of giving up my little-used Visa card, but I’ll keep it for the next time I rent from Budget or Enterprise.

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ANTI-TRUMP COMMENTS: 126TH IN AN ONGOING SERIES

“It seems like only a matter of time before Trump starts marketing ‘Make America Great Again’ electronic ankle monitors.”

— Rex Huppke, Chicago Tribune

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