For every good reason to own a car in New York City (spontaneous weekend getaways!) there are at least a dozen reasons why it would be terrible (alternate side parking, traffic, parking lots that cost nearly a month’s rent). Thankfully, the abundance of car-share programs means we can have the best of both worlds. Whether it’s a quick errand or a weekend getaway, there’s a car that’s right for the occasion. Here, we break down four popular car shares—and compare their prices for three scenarios you may find yourself in.
The earliest adopter in the car-share industry (it’s a subsidiary of the Avis Budget Group). Members pay a monthly fee to have access to an assortment of rental cars, and the rides are billable by the minute, hour or day. To get started, you have to fill out an online application and wait for approval, which can take over a week. Once approved, you’ll receive a card in the mail (think of this as your key), and you’ll be able to book cars as needed. There are plenty of Zipcar lots located throughout the city, so there’s definitely one near you, but the car must be returned to the same location.
Ikea run (3 hours): $40.50; Honda Civic
Beach day (8 hours): $128; Honda Civic
Weekend getaway (2 nights): $256; Honda Civic
This Audi-owned car rental service is the sleekest of the bunch. The app-based reservation system mixes the ease of Uber or Lyft with the comforts of having a rental car. Download the app, and after filling in a few questions and uploading a picture of your license, you’ll have Audis at your fingertips—no registration or membership fee required. When you pick up your car, you won’t need to wait in line, and there’s no tedious paperwork to deal with. While you can pay extra to have the car delivered to you, there are pickup locations throughout the city, although not nearly as many as some of the other services. A great perk is that you can add any extras (ski or surf racks, child seats, WiFi, Sirius radio) without annoying extra fees.
Ikea run: $80; Audi A4
Beach day: $179; Audi A4
Weekend getaway: $360; Audi A4
The logo-wrapped smart cars are easy to spot—for good reason. Instead of being restricted to specific parking lots, these cars can be parked in any legal spot (outside of Manhattan), so the distinct white and blue branding is helpful when you’re locating your car. Depending on the length of your trip, Car2Go charges by the minute, half-day, full-day or weekend, and there are no additional costs for fuel, insurance or parking, making this option one of the most affordable of the group.
Ikea run: $35; Smart Car
Beach day: $150; Smart Car
Weekend getaway: $349; Smart Car
4. Real Car
If you think of driving as an excuse to feel #fancy, this one’s for you. Real Car offers its users access to luxury vehicles only—and you pay a premium for that privilege. The online registration is easy, and there is no waiting period, so you can get on the road immediately. The minimum rental period is one day, and most weekends require a two-day commitment, so this is really more suited for your weekend getaway than a quick errand.
Ikea run: $169; BMW X5
Beach day: $214; BMW X5 (Note there’s a two-day minimum on weekend; a midweek one-day rental is $169.)
Weekend getaway: $398.00; BMW X5