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Photo via Zipcar.
Photo via Zipcar.

There are now even more ways to get around Seattle.

Zipcar today announced that its car-sharing service in the Emerald City now includes one-way trips, offering drivers the ability to rent a vehicle in one location and drop it off in another.

Zipcar traditionally forces people to return their rental car to the original pick-up spot — if you start a trip in Belltown you must end your trip in Belltown, for example — but began testing a more flexible one-way option in Boston two years ago. Now customers in cities like Boston, Washington D.C., Los Angeles, Denver, and starting today, Seattle, can begin a trip from one Zipcar parking spot and end their ride at one of 200 designated locations across the region. They also now have the ability to change their destination mid-trip, and extend their reservation indefinitely.

Zipcar, a Avis Budget Group subsidiary that operates in 500 cities worldwide, actually tested something similar in Seattle with Seattle Children’s Hospital last year as part of a corporate pilot program that let employees use Zipcar vehicles to get to and from the hospital’s three campuses.

But now the general public can take advantage of this new one-way feature. At launch, there will be 100 Honda vehicles, including the Honda Fit and Honda Civic, designated for one-way trips. More vehicles will be added over time, Zipcar said.

(Kurt Schlosser / GeekWire)

The 100 new vehicles — Zipcar has a total of 500 vehicles in Seattle — can be found in neighborhoods like Capitol Hill, Southeast Seattle, Downtown, Belltown, South Lake Union, U-District, West Seattle, and more. We’ve followed up with Zipcar to get a coverage map.

Zipcar will also let customers drop off and pick up the Honda vehicles at new parking spots at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. That means you can rent a vehicle in Seattle and drop it off at the airport, or vice versa. The airport lot opened three weeks ago; Zipcar has similar lots at 60 other airports worldwide.

The one-way airport drop-off and pick-up lot idea is something BMW plans to launch soon with its new “free-floating” car-sharing service, ReachNow. BMW’s service is a bit different than Zipcar’s one-way program, given that you can park the BMW rental vehicles in any legal city parking spot — hence the “free floating” description.

Zipcar, on the other hand, lets customers return vehicles in dedicated and labeled parking spots that are a “mix of both public and private,” a Zipcar spokesperson told GeekWire. This includes lots near gas stations, for example, in addition to on-street spaces.

ReachNow vs. Car2go.
ReachNow vs. Car2go.

“We can and will continue to use the on-street spaces within our agreement with the city for both flexible and traditional roundtrip vehicles,” the spokesperson added. “There were no regulations we needed to overcome to expand.”

If BMW’s early success with ReachNow in Seattle is any indication of demand, Zipcar’s new one-way service should prove to be at popular. ReachNow signed up more than 13,000 people in one month after its launch this past April. BMW has 370 ReachNow vehicles in Seattle, with plans to add more.

There is also Car2go, another free-floating car-sharing service that arrived in Seattle three years ago and has made a big mark in Seattle, now its top market in North America with more than 77,000 members and 750 vehicles.

Last year, the Seattle City Council passed an ordinance that allowed for three more “free-floating car sharing pilot programs,” in addition to Car2go. That paved the way for BMW to pick Seattle as its first ReachNow city. However, since Zipcar’s one-way model has reserved parking included the destination, free-floating permits are not needed.

As far as pricing, ReachNow and Car2go are similar. Both currently charge $0.41 per minute, have one-time registration fees around $40, and have hourly and daily price caps.

Zipcar’s rates, which include insurance and gas — as do ReachNow and Car2go — “start at $5 per half hour, but vary by city and day of the week,” according to the company’s website. That comes out to about $0.16 per minute.

Zipcar’s traditional service charges different prices depending on how often you plan to use the vehicles. First-timers pay $8 per hour and $74 per day — it goes up to $8.50 per hour and $77 per day on Friday through Sunday — along with a $35 annual membership fee.

There is also a “monthly driving plan.” If you pay $7 per month, you can drive for $7.75 per hour and $73 per day. It’s a minimal discount; however, you don’t have to pay the $35 annual membership fee.

Finally, there is the $50 per month membership, which brings the hourly rates to $6.98 per hour and $65.70 a day (goes up to $7.65 per hour and $69.30 per day on Friday through Sunday). There is also no annual membership fee.

All Zipcar customers in Seattle must pay a $25 application fee when they sign up.

With Zipcar’s one-way expansion, along with ReachNow, Car2go, and ride-hailing services like Uber and Lyft, private companies are utilizing new technology to help Seattleites get around town more easier than ever.

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