Rented a ZipCar (159/366)

“My boyfriend keeps telling me I’ve got to own things. So, first I bought this car. And then he told me I oughta get a house. ‘Why a house?’ ‘Well, you gotta have a place to park the car.'”
~ Julia Roberts

There is a new edition to the family, and Nick and I really wanted to see the little one, but our car’s been having issues lately, so we didn’t want to chance driving too far with it (the little potato is about an hour and a half drive away). In preparation for this occasion, I signed up for a ZipCar account the other day. Today our cards came, and I rented a ZipCar for the very first time. Yay!

ZipCar is a service that’s available all over the place, where you can rent a car for as little as an hour, which makes it great for city dwellers that normally don’t need a car, but would like access to wheels on the occasional trip to IKEA or to take friends from out of town for a spin. Or for people who don’t know if their car will make it to a far off locale. Since the selection of cars is pretty varied, it’s also a good way to test drive a car you might want to buy or just think is cool (for example, Nick can’t wait to rent a Mini).

I went online and looked for cars near us during the time frame that we’d need one. ZipCar stations are located all over San Francisco – they’re usually just a few rented spots at various gas stations, parking lots, and garages – and there’s no counter to deal with, you handle everything online (but there’s also a number to call if you need assistance with anything).

There was a relatively new Prius nearby, so I wanted to try that (I’d never driven one of the newer models before, but I know I like the Prius since my dad has one).  And bonus, for some reason I got quoted the same price whether I chose to have the car for 5 hours or – get this – 14 hours!  And it was CHEAP!  This was perfect.  I chose to rent the car for the longest amount of time before the price went up – that way we wouldn’t have to rush to get home tonight to return the car – we could return it as late as tomorrow morning!  Since I had already set up my account, I basically just had to click a few different confirmation buttons, and my car was reserved!  Sweet.

I really like the setup of the rental process with ZipCar. After you’ve reserved your car, you get a page that shows a map of the place you pick your car up from, which is great.  Remember ZipCars aren’t in places that are like other “normal” rental car lots – no counter, no huge signs, and no employees – a lot of times the cars are either in a few spare spots in a parking lot, and sometimes they’re in a garage – that was the case with my rental.  The garage my car was parked in also is only open to the public during certain hours, so special instructions were included in the case that I needed to return the car during the hours the garage wasn’t open.  Kind of a weird setup, but totally cool that they give you all the necessary information so you’re not caught by surprise.

So again, there are some funny things about ZipCars since they don’t have lots like traditional rental car companies do.  ZipCar users picking a car up from this garage had to go through a side entrance, since the regular spaces for the lot are actually just for the building above, so there’s no real pedestrian entrance.  When I got to the garage, I could see my car down the ramp, but I also saw a big ol’ “NO PEDESTRIANS” sign on the wall that I felt a little weird walking right past.  Ha ha ha!

Cool.  My new Prius (for the evening, at least).  I felt like James Bond picking up a spy mission car.

We drove down to visit our new family member, hung out into the wee hours of the night, and had a great time.  It was so nice not worrying about breaking down on the freeway, and to still be in a somewhat familiar car (not just having the Prius, but also most rental cars are American cars, and our family has all Toyotas).

Again, it was great that we didn’t have to return the car until the next morning, but as we got closer to home, I figured we might as well drop the car off since we still had the energy and wouldn’t need to go anywhere else tonight.  Plus, I’d get to see how it worked when you had to drop a car off when the garage was closed.

When we got to the garage, the gate to the side entrance (which yes, actually is an exit) was locked.  The site had let me know that, and that I needed to get the key to the padlock on the gate from a lockbox on the wall (they gave me the code to the lockbox as well).  Ha ha ha again, weird, but cool.

I opened the lockbox, got the key, unlocked the padlock, and opened the gate.  Dropping off the package!

After I parked the car, I had to walk back up the ramp, re-lock the gate, and put the key back in the lockbox.  It was so funny – I was nervous I’d forget a step and mess something up – but I got it all done, and now I’m totally comfortable with the process (at least at this garage).  Mission accomplished!

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