The Motley Fool Previous Page

I Was Wrong About Zipcar

Molly McCluskey
September 25, 2012

Every time I write about Zipcar (Nasdaq: ZIP  ) , my detractors tell me that I'm crazy, that the rental car giants getting into the hourly game will be the death of Zipcar, that the car sharing company isn't the innovator that I think it is, and that it will be dead within a few years.

Possible? Let's take a look.

Hourly? Sometimes.
There's no doubt that Enterprise Avis Budget (Nasdaq: CAR  ) and Hertz (Nasdaq: HTZ  ) are attempting to get in the game. But how effective those attempts are remains seriously in question.

While traveling this month, I popped into several Enterprise, Avis, and Budget storefronts in both urban and suburban areas. I asked salespeople at all three locations the same question: Do you offer hourly rentals?

In Providence, R.I., the employee at the Budget location told me they only offer daily rentals. And then, to clarify, that they only rent by the day. (Helpful, thanks.) Employees at both Enterprise and Avis suggested that I go to Zipcar. The Enterprise employee told me how to create a Zipcar account; the Avis staffer pointed out Zipcar locations nearby.

In Union Station, D.C., I waited 40 minutes at a Budget counter, only to be told they were out of cars despite my reservation. I went to the next location across town