Hourly Rentals: Not Just at Zipcar Anymore

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Car Rental by the Hour

Many budget travelers get into situations in which they need a car rental for a short time. They might rent the car for three days because circumstances make returning it difficult on the day it's needed. Thus, they pay for three days when in reality they only used the car for a few hours.

You now can make an online reservation for a two hour rental. It's called car sharing and it's gaining popularity all over the world.

Here's how it works at Hertz, which just initiated a new car sharing program called Hertz On Demand: Cars are parked at a specified location. Members of the program have a card they swipe to open a car they've reserved online.

Travelers and residents literally share cars in London, Paris and New York under the program. Typical rates in New York are about $9-10 USD/hr. and about £3.95 ($6 USD) in London. You give Hertz permission to charge your credit card or debit card for each rental, and the company issues a financial statement periodically.

Hertz offers three membership options, but only the Connect option is likely to interest budget travelers. You pay a $50 annual membership fee and $25 application fee, then a flat rate of $10/hour.

These fees include insurance, gas, roadside assistance, maintenance, 180 daily miles and the universal key card. You simply return the car to the lot where you found it. There are fees for improper parking, lost cards and other problems. If you join, be sure you understand the expectations.

Car Sharing a Growing Trend?

The forecasts call for this to become more available and more popular. One reason is the environmental benefit of car sharing. The company estimates every Connect by Hertz car on the road eliminates up to 14 personal vehicles, reducing the overall number of cars on the roads. The resulting reduction in CO2 emissions, gasoline usage and clogged streets is pleasing to the green crowd.

Speaking of green, image your savings as a budget traveler if you don't have to fill up a car rental with gasoline and buy expensive overnight parking.

If car sharing is going to flourish, it will be in large cities. Hertz announced in a news release it expects to add more Connect car sharing cities and university locations in days ahead.

Companies exploring Car Sharing

Hertz is not the only company offering this service.

WeCar car sharing participants pay an annual membership fee of $35 USD and $10/hour for the car.

U-Haul's U-Car Share program is available in Berkeley, Calif., Portland, Ore., Portland, Me., and Madison, Wisc. You pay a $25 application fee and a $50 annual fee, plus $10/hour for 125 free daily miles.

Budget Travelers Who Benefit Most from Car Sharing

If you make a one-time trip to some big city, car sharing won't help you very much. But if you're a frequent visitor to large cities such as New York, Chicago, London or Paris, this option could save you a great deal in car rental fees.

Business travelers could also see reductions in their expenses. Need to pick up a client across town for lunch? Here's a way to get that done without the expense and complication of a multi-day car rental.

As with any other relatively new idea, it will be interesting to see how quickly this catches on (or does not catch on) with university students, urbanites and budget travelers. But it is another potential tool for all of us interested in saving money on travel costs.
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