Teal background with cartoon cars driving across Teal background with cartoon cars driving across

Becoming a Zipcar member

1. Pick a plan

Select the membership plan that’s best for you to get started.

2. Verification

We verify your driver’s license and identity. Most members are approved and can book a car within minutes, but in some cases may take a bit longer.

3. Book a trip

Once approved, you can book cars instantly with the Zipcar app. We’ll also send you a Zipcard as a backup way to access cars.

Am I eligible to be a Zipcar member?

You can apply for Zipcar membership if you have a valid driver’s license and are at least 21 years old, or 18 years old if you are either a student at a university affiliated with Zipcar or if you live in New York, Michigan, or Maryland. For non-US based licenses, or residents of Michigan, learn more.

How do I use my Zipcard?

Once you receive your Zipcard, keep it with you on all trips in case you’re in a low signal area or your phone runs out of battery. To unlock and lock the car with your Zipcard, tap the Zipcard to the reader on the driver’s side of the windshield. Note: It takes up to 5-7 business days for the Zipcard to arrive. Until your Zipcard arrives, make sure to only book cars and trips where your cell phone will be in range.

How long is the application process?

Apply online with a valid driver’s license. Most people are approved instantly and can book a trip within minutes, but if there’s a reason for delay, we’ll email you. As soon as you’re approved, you can book Zipcars by the hour or day and use our app to unlock and lock during your trip. We’ll also mail you a Zipcard, which is an access card to any Zipcar vehicle you reserve. Learn how to check the status of your application.

What you will need:

drivers license and credit card icons

Valid driver’s license
Credit or debit card

Book a round trip car

A cell phone with a list of Zipcars on the screen A hand holding a cell phone with a map of Zipcars on the screen

Download our app

How do I book a trip?

Log into our iPhone® or Android™ app or our website to search for and book your preferred car, timeframe, and location.

How do I cancel or modify an existing trip?

You can cancel or change your upcoming hourly trip up to 3 hours before its start time at no charge minutes after booking at no charge through the app or online under Trips. For trips longer than 8 hours in length, you must cancel at least 24 hours in advance to avoid cancellation fees. For rules on cancelling or modifying your trips, learn more here.

Where do I return my Zipcar when my trip has ended?

Zipcar is a round trip service, so your Zipcar must be returned to the same location where you picked it up originally. If your location has multiple Zipcar parking spots, you can park in any available Zipcar spot. Make sure to lock up with your app or your Zipcard to end your trip.

Starting your trip

mobile unlock

How do I find my Zipcar?

Access the car’s location details in the My Trips section of the app. We’ll also send details about your upcoming trip in a confirmation email.

How do I get into my Zipcar?

To lock and unlock your car, use the app or tap your Zipcard to the reader on the driver’s side windshield of the car. The car keys will be located inside the Zipcar, typically in the console or attached to the ignition.

What if I get into an accident or need roadside assistance?

Your Zipcar membership includes insurance options* (learn more about insurance coverage here) and roadside assistance 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. If you need help while on the road, call 1-866-4ZIPCAR and we will take it from there.

Where is the gas card located?

You can find the free gas card in the visor over the driver’s seat of every Zipcar. To use, insert the card at the gas station as you would a credit card. Remember to always return cars with at least ¼ tank of gas to avoid fees. Learn more about how to fuel up here.

Who can drive my Zipcar?

Other active Zipcar members can drive your Zipcar, but you must be in the car if you booked the trip. Non-members are strictly forbidden from driving your Zipcar. Learn more.

Our community rules

Keep the car clean

No smoking and clean up after yourself, or you’ll be charged a $50+ fee.

Fuel up

If the gas is below 1/4 tank, use the gas card in the visor to fill up, or you’ll be charged a $30 fee.

Return on time

Return to the car’s home location on time, or you’ll be charged for the extra time you used the car plus a $50+ fee.

What do I if my Zipcar is damaged?

Before you start driving, inspect your Zipcar inside and out and report any issues in the app. While we expect the previous member to leave the Zipcar in good standing for you, it is important to report any issues before you drive. Learn more.

How do I extend my reservation?

Provided that another member does not have a reservation immediately after yours, you can extend your trip using the mobile app or by text. If you see that the car isn’t available, you’ll need to return on time to avoid a late fee.

What happens if I’m late in returning my Zipcar?

We know lateness can be part of everyday life. However, as part of the Zipcar community, it’s imperative that you return on time – if you don’t, you could impact the next member’s trip. Then they’ll be late, and the next person will be late… you get the idea. To avoid being part of this domino effect, here are some tips to be on time:

  1. Book your trip well in advance
  1. Book enough time to take traffic, refueling and cleaning the car into consideration.
  1. If the car is available, extend your trip from the “drive” screen in the app

If you do return late, you’ll be charged for the extra time you used the car, plus a $50+ late fee.

Watch how Zipcar works

Booking a trip and the basics

Why Zipcar?

Save money

Zipcar covers gas, insurance options,* parking, and maintenance for a potential savings of $600/month over car ownership.

Cars near you

Zipcars live in your local neighborhood, and in cities, campuses and airports across the globe.

Drive on-demand

No waiting in line at the counter. (No need to even search for your keys!) Just book and go.

Go beyond public transit

Zipcar is the perfect complement to the bus and train—whether it’s local errands or weekend adventures.

Download our app

*Some membership plans may limit insurance options.

Personal Membership Requirements

Age 21 and older

  • Have a valid driver’s license and have been licensed for at least one year
  • Have had no more than two incidents (moving violations PLUS accidents) in the past three years and no more than one incident in the past 18 months
  • Have had no major violations in the past three years
  • Have had no alcohol violations in the past seven years

Age 18 to 20

  • Have a valid driver’s license for at least one year
  • Have no incidents on their driving record


Step 1 – Join

Apply online through Cal Poly Zipcar. Once you are approved, you will receive your very own Zipcard by mail within three days to a week. Once you are approved, your Zipcard will be activated and ready to use. *See information above for department memberships.

  • Zipcar checks your driving record.
  • Zipcar emails you about the status of your application.
  • Zipcar sends your Zipcard to your billing address or activates your existing Zipcard.

Already a Zipcar member? Contact Zipcar to transfer to a Cal Poly membership. Do you have a driver’s license outside of the U.S. or Canada? You can apply. Visit Zipcar Foreign Licenses for instructions on how to provide them with your driving record.

Step 2 – Reserve

Once you have your activated Zipcard, reserve one of the Zipcars at Cal Poly or at any other Zipcar location for an hour or an entire day – you decide how long. Reservations can be made online at Zipcar or by phone at 866-4ZIPCAR.

Step 3 – Unlock

Walk to the car; hold your Zipcard to the windshield. The doors will unlock, and it’s all yours! Your Zipcard will only open the car you’ve reserved during the time you reserved it, which means no one else can open your Zipcar during that time. (You will be instructed where to find the keys in the car.)

Step 4 – Drive

Drive away – and return the Zipcar to the same reserved parking spot at the end of your reservation. It’s that simple. And remember, gas and insurance are included in the hourly rate. You just need to fill the tank using the Zipcar fuel card inside the car when it gets to 1/4 full.


As part of the application process, you will need to enter a personal credit card number. Zipcar accepts all major credit cards: American Express, Visa, MasterCard, Discover and Diners Club. Your personal credit card will initially be charged your annual fee and applicable taxes. Once you become a member, your driving charges will be charged to your personal credit card when you have completed a reservation.


You will be charged penalties if you do not adhere to the basic membership guidelines. All penalty fees are assessed by Zipcar. Penalty fees result from actions including returning the car late, returning the car with less than 1/4 tank of fuel, leaving the car excessively dirty, smoking in the car, and allowing pets outside of a car carrier while in the car. Please note that someone who is not a Zipcar member cannot drive the Zipcar that a member has reserved. Anyone behind the wheel must be a Zipcar member for liability and insurance reasons. Membership can be revoked for unauthorized use. Zipcar charges late penalty fees of $50 per hour with a minimum charge of $50 plus regular hourly charges. So, when you’re making your reservation, book the car for an extra half-hour or hour if you have any doubt about being able to make it back on time. You can also extend your reservation with Zipcar’s automated telephone system (866-4ZIPCAR), but keep in mind that it’s not always possible to extend your reservation once you have the car – another member may have already reserved it! This is not a complete list of penalties. Please see Zipcar Fee Policy for full details. Zipcar is a car-sharing company that offers on-demand car reservation and driving services. Zipcars are available in over 500 dedicated locations in cities and universities around the US and Canada. Zipcar members may unlock the car with a personal card called Zipcard or through Zipcar’s mobile app. After Your Membership Is Approved, You’ll Receive A Zipcard. Let’s Look At The Zipcar Card And How To Use Zipcar Without It:

  1. Get Your Zipcard
  2. Activate And Use Your Zipcard
  3. Download And Use Zipcar’s Mobile App
  4. Report A Lost Or Stolen Zipcard
  5. Use Zipcar’s Mobile App To Unlock Your Zipcar

1. Get Your Zipcard

Your Zipcard smart card is sent to the address you provided on the application within seven business days. When renting a Zipcar, you do not receive a key but use your Zipcard or the company’s mobile app to unlock the car you have booked, which starts your rental period. After it is activated, your Zipcard works for every rental you make. Your Zipcard works just like any hotel keycard; it enables you to access the car you have rented by unlocking the doors of your Zipcard. Inside the car, you will find the actual car keys and the car’s gas card. Your Zipcard links your details, including your driver’s license, residential address, booking details, and rental history, to the vehicle’s usage profile, like mileage, location, and gas consumption. Each on-demand Zipcar automatically has features linked to each member’s account once they unlock and access the vehicle using a Zipcard or mobile app. Features include free gas for all the trips and 180 miles per 24 hours (additional mileage is charged separately.) Zipcar provides members with basic insurance coverage, including free parking and vehicle maintenance.

2. Activate And Use Your Zipcard

Once you have received your Zipcard, you must activate it online before using it. You do this by signing into your Zipcar account, using the email address you provided when you applied for a Zipcar membership, and your selected password. If you cannot remember your password, select “Forgot password?” on the login page, enter your email address and receive instructions on resetting your password. Once you have logged in, find and click on the My Account link and select account Setting, followed by your Plan, and opt to Activate your membership. You can pick a car and reserve it online, via a desktop browser, the company’s mobile app, or even telephonically at 1-866-4ZIPCAR. Note that the agent fee applies for telephonic reservations. Once booked, your reservation will be confirmed, and the address of the parking lot where your Zipcar is parked will be mailed to you. Get to your car sometime before your allotted rental start time. Ensure that the Zipcar’s number is the same as your reservation’s. Next, find the card reader in the corner of the vehicle’s windshield. To unlock the Zipcar, hold your Zipcard against the card reader for a few seconds. You will hear the car unlocking. If your car remains locked, contact the Zipcar hotline. Next, do a thorough damage check around and inside the car. If you find any damage or dirt, take a photo of each case, and contact the Zipcar hotline immediately. Your report will remain accessible online.

3. Download and Use Zipcar’s Mobile App

Zipcar has a free mobile on-demand app that allows members to book a round trip anytime and everywhere. Once booked, the app offers a picture of the vehicle’s location and allows you to access and change your reservation. As you go through the initial car check, you can use the app to report dirt and damages and ensure your report is saved and available for scrutiny later, if necessary. Your first step is finding a Zipcar nearby. Use the app to locate a parking lot and pick a car in one of four categories: compacts, cargo vans, luxury cars, and hybrids, for those who seek an environmentally friendly vehicle. The app enables you to access available cars and choose the car that suits your needs, budget, and specific requirement, such as whether the car is available during the period you wish to have it. The app may also extend your rental if it isn’t booked to another member. If the car is available, you can rent it without returning it to the location first. If it has been booked already, use the app to book another car and return the one you now have to the location to avoid late fees. Zipcar’s “End trip” facility on the app is another useful feature: you are expected to return the car to the same spot where you got it. If you are unsure where the exact spot is, tap the “End trip” tab to be guided to the correct spot. The app is useful when wrapping up your rental. Use it to confirm that your trip has ended. The app will remind you of things you need to do, such as leaving at least a quarter tank of gas.

4. Report A Lost Or Stolen Zipcard

After having carried your Zipcard in your wallet, together with the other cards you use, you discover that the card is gone. Did you drop or leave it somewhere by mistake, or was it stolen from your wallet? Your worries are justified, but you can take a few quick actions to reduce and even eliminate the damage emanating from your lost card. Firstly, contact the Zipcar hotline and repost the card stolen. This will enable the company to block the card from being used again while tracking potential uses of the card on Zipcars anywhere. Having the card blocked immediately prevents someone from renting a Zipcar with your card, and the second benefit is protecting your data from being used fraudulently. Once you have notified Zipcar that your card is lost, damaged, or stolen, and the company put a block on the card, you can ask them to send you a replacement card, which is done through USPS First Class mail. As a part of your membership, you may apply for one free Zipcard replacement annually. Any subsequent replacement costs $15.

5. Use Zipcar’s Mobile App To Unlock Your Zipcar

In addition to using your Zipcar application to find a car, manage reservations, report damage to the vehicle, or neglectful usage of it, you may also use the app to unlock the car, just like a Zipcard does. This means that if you cannot use your Zipcard after it has been activated for whatever reason, Zipcar’s mobile app will do that for you easily. To unlock your car with Zipcar mobile app, log into your account, find your reservation, and click on “Unlock.” The car doors will click open like they did when you used your Zipcard, just as they do when you use your Zipcard. Is it pointless to seek a replacement card instead of the lost one? It is better to keep both Zipcard and app ready if your phone experiences a bad signal or a flat battery.

Message to our Zipcar Members:

In response to COVID-19, Zipcar, in collaboration with Transportation and Parking Services — with guidance from public health experts, the Center for Disease Control (CDC), World Health Organization (WHO), and local authorities — to address member concerns, has provided the following sanitation procedures to assure your safety while driving a reserved vehicle:

  • Enhanced cleaning protocols and products: We upgraded our car-cleaning with antiviral and antimicrobial solutions and have deployed incremental sanitizing procedures. We’ve also promoted additional healthy hygiene and safety practices within the team that works behind the scenes to care for our vehicles.
  • Employee safety education: We have educated our employees on basic health and hygiene to protect for their safety and the safety of our members. This includes basics of hand washing and proper cleaning of work surfaces. We have ordered additional supplies, including cleaning solutions and protective equipment, should they be required. We have also created protocols for managing employee health, including processes for implementing quarantines and social distancing should they be required.
  • Waiving cancellation fees: We are waiving our cancellation fees through April 30, 2020 should our members feel it necessary to change their driving plans, particularly in markets that have issued recommendations for social distancing. To learn more, visit our Help Center.»
  • We also have provisions in place to ensure continuity of business operations and do not expect service disruptions as a result of the virus at this time.

For on-going external updates, visit the Zipcar newsroom (https://www.zipcar.com/press/newsroom/covid19).
As always, we strive to create a safe and enjoyable driving experience for our Zipcar members. Need a car? Reserve a Zipcar! UC Merced has partnered with Zipcar to bring self-service, on-demand car sharing to the area. To use Zipcars, simply register as a member, reserve a car online or on your phone, use your Zipcard to scan into the car, and drive away. When you’re done, return the car to the same location where you picked it up.

How to use Zipcar?

  • step 1: Apply for the membership online.
  • step 2: Reserve zipcar for couple hours or whole day. Reserve online or on your phone through the mobile app.
  • step 3: Walk to the vehicle and hold zipcar to the windshield. Doors will then unlock and key will be located inside.
  • step 4: When time is almost done, return vehicle to same reserved spot. Be sure to follow instructions on zipcar website to avoid extra charges.

What is included?

  • Gas
  • Insurance
  • Miles (up to 180 miles/day)
  • Your own Zipcard
  • The mobile app (free download for iOS or Android)

As a member you get:

  • Access to Zipcar vehicles 24/7.
  • 4 vehicle locations on our campus.
  • Discounted hourly rates for faculty, staff and students age 18 and older. Rates start at just $5.50/hour or $55/day.
  • Gas, insurance and maintenance are included for free!
  • Join for only $15 a year

To learn more and get started today, visit Zipcar website here

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