A Zipcar drives past a cyclist in London, England.
A Zipcar drives past a cyclist in London, England. - 
Listen To The Story

The car-sharing service Zipcar is getting a new owner. Avis Budget Group, one of the largest car-rental companies, is agreeing to buy Zipcar for approximately $500 million.  

Zipcar and other car-sharing services are different from conventional car rental. You don’t go to the counter. Instead, you get a membership, then look online for the nearest parked Zipcar near you.  Car-sharing is pitched at drivers who might want an alternative to owning a car. 

“Whether it’s to go visit a friend, or go on a shopping trip, or throw your golf clubs in a car and go play golf somewhere, those are the types of transactions being utilized with car-sharing,” says John Healy, who follows the industry at Northcoast Research. 

Healy says the car-sharing companies like Zipcar are growing faster than the conventional brands -- that’s why Avis wants in. While the rental business is down to just three major companies, Zipcar is one of a few upstarts using technology to change the business. 

“The standard model of getting off a plane, going to a rental counter, will be challenged over the next several years,” says Neil Abrams, an industry consultant with Abrams Consulting Group.  

Companies like Avis clearly would rather have a part of that change instead of losing out. 

“I think the best compliment I can give is not to say how much your programs have taught me (a ton), but how much Marketplace has motivated me to go out and teach myself.” – Michael in Arlington, VA

As a nonprofit news organization, what matters to us is the same thing that matters to you: being a source for trustworthy, independent news that makes people smarter about business and the economy. So if Marketplace has helped you understand the economy better, make more informed financial decisions or just encouraged you to think differently, we’re asking you to give a little something back.

Become a Marketplace Investor today – in whatever amount is right for you – and keep public service journalism strong. We’re grateful for your support.