Zipcar Inc., the Boston-based car-sharing network, unveiled a new plan Monday that gives members more flexibility in how they pay their membership fees and that may entice more people to give Zipcar a try.
The new option gives members the option to pay membership fees on a monthly basis rather than once a year. In the past, members have paid a one-time application fee of $25 and an annual membership of $60. Members can still choose to pay that way, but now they also have another option. With the monthly plan, a new member would pay $6 a month along with the $25 application fee.
Because the monthly plan can be cancelled at any time, new customers can now try Zipcar for a few weeks to see whether the service makes sense for them without making a full year commitment. (Customers, of course, still have to pay the company’s standard rental rates for a vehicle of $8.25 per hour or $74 per day on top of the membership fees. All Zipcar hourly and daily rates include gas, insurance, and up to 180 miles of driving per day, as well as parking in a reserved spot.)
The new plan may also appeal to people who prefer to pay their bills on a monthly basis, the company said. Existing Zipcar members will be able to switch to the new monthly plan on their yearly renewal date if they choose to do so, the company said.
After testing the monthly membership model in Seattle and Washington, D.C., Zipcar said it is now rolling out the plan to nearly all its North American markets.
“A hallmark of our experience has always been flexibility – from the variety of our vehicles to multiple usage plans designed to fit our members’ needs,’’ Zipcar chief marketing officer Brian Harrington said in a statement. “The new monthly membership plan is an extension of this commitment, and a great fit for our members’ who are accustomed to paying monthly for other services from mobile phones to gyms. This also lowers the up-front cost to join, making it even easier for new members to get behind the wheel and experience what Zipcar is all about.’’
With more than 850,000 members and 10,000 vehicles in its fleet, Zipcar currently operates in 26 markets in North America and Europe.
In March, Avis Budget Group completed its $500 million acquisition of Zipcar, which now operates as an Avis subsidiary.