What's the best car share in Philadelphia?
August 23, 2011 2:28 PM   Subscribe

Want to get rid of my car in Philadelphia, but foresee occasional car needs. What's better, PhillyCarShare or Zipcar?

Details: I live in center city, work in the burbs, and have a reasonable commute via regional rail. My car needs will basically be for

- backup when I miss a train or the rail service is not running
- occasional (every couple of months) day or weekend trips
- trips to Target, etc. to do bulk purchasing (e.g. 40 lb. box of cat litter)

Yelp reviews for PhillyCarShare are not so hot, but a lot of the angst there seems targeted at a pricing change that upset some previous customers. Zipcar seems to fare better.

Also wondering: for each of these services, can you generally expect to be able to get a car at a moment's notice, or am I SOL if I need to be at work in an hour?

What was your Philadelphia Zipcar / PhillyCarShare experience like? Would you recommend it?
posted by ubermuffin to Travel & Transportation around Philadelphia, PA (8 answers total)
With PhillyCarShare's recent sale to Enterprise, I think it's safe to say that we can't confidently predict how it'll change over even the next few months - maybe it'll be the same; maybe it'll start sucking; maybe it'll turn great. But the uncertainty level is high.

I will say that you should take a look at your local availability - especially toward the edges, there are areas that have tons of PhillyCarShare spots and relatively few ZipCar options, though fewer than there used to be.
posted by Tomorrowful at 2:31 PM on August 23, 2011

You have to return Zipcars to their original parking spot, so if your trip to work is one-way, Zipcar will not meet your needs. I also find that it can be hard to find a Zipcar in your preferred location at peak times (e.g., weekend afternoons) unless you book in advance.

That said, I love Zipcar. It's really great. My lady needs a car to commute--but before her commuting days, we just used the Zipcar, and it was cheap, convenient, and easy.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 2:33 PM on August 23, 2011

On Phillycarshare: I've had decent luck being able to grab a Philly Carshare car from a spot that's within a short walk on 15 to 30 minute notice. The only wrinkle is that if I book last minute, I can't always get the cheapest cars and am sometimes stuck with fancier ones.

By the way, my experience has been that if I rent a Philly Carshare car, I have to return it to the same pod, but I haven't actually sat down with the rules for ages.
posted by joyceanmachine at 3:04 PM on August 23, 2011

I believe the rules for both are that you are renting it for X period of time, and must return it to that spot... which means you're "missed the train" problem might turn into a pretty expensive commute.

I'd also figure out which one has cars closer to you. Depending on where you live, this could potentially be a pretty big issue.
posted by DoubleLune at 4:27 PM on August 23, 2011

I haven't used PhillyCarShare (PCS) in three months (I moved), but I used it for three years before that. Every once in a while (once every three to four months) there'd be a little hiccup--car wouldn't be there or I couldn't find a parking space when I got back (for the cars that are parked on the street). And I had to do a little bit of snow clearing myself. But the "emergency line" is super friendly and they'll do everything they can to help you.

I used it for planned chores and random trips. For a last minute trip, sometimes you'll get the car that's a five-minute walk away and sometimes you'll have to walk a mile. But there will always be something.

It would be pretty expensive to use it for an entire day if you missed your train.

Anyway, it saved me thousands and I would never think of getting a car in Philly. Can't speak to zipcar.

I did use quite a bit of public transportation, too. And a cab every six months or so for one way trips.
posted by zeek321 at 5:01 PM on August 23, 2011

I am a long-time PhillyCarShare member and a month ago I would have told you to pick them simply because they're local and nonprofit - which, due to the recent sale to Enterprise, is no longer true. That said, I have only had good experiences with PhillyCarShare and I'm always able to get a car near my house - even on short notice. There is no long-term commitment and it's easy to sign up, so it would be worth trying it out for a short while. You can always switch to ZipCar down the road if you're dissatisfied for any reason.
posted by jrichards at 11:03 AM on August 24, 2011

Nthing the past good experiences with Philly CarShare. Their staff has been exceptionally helpful, the cars were in good repair, and I found the pod locations convenient for my needs. I'm disappointed to hear that they were sold to Enterprise.
posted by brackish.line at 11:47 AM on August 24, 2011

I'll keep an eye on how PhillyCarShare does under its new owners. Plan is to sell the car at the end of the month-ish, and hopefully there will be more data by then.

Thanks for the feedback, everyone!
posted by ubermuffin at 6:36 PM on September 11, 2011

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