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Carsharing in the Bay Area

“If you live in a city, you don’t need to own a car.” William Clay Ford Jr.

The Bay Area is a breeding ground for innovation in technology and environmentalism. One of the best examples of this is carsharing. Faced with a city filled with traffic congestion and imperfect public transit, more and more people in San Francisco are signing up for memberships to carsharing companies.

Carsharing provides flexible wheels for an urban lifestyle by replacing car ownership. It’s a service that provides 24/7 self-serve access to a network of vehicles parked around your city, which can be reserved by the hour or day by phone, smart phone or online.

Carsharing is not for everyone. As a rule-of-thumb, if you drive fewer than 7,500 miles a year and you don’t need a car to commute to work every day, then you’re a good candidate for carsharing. Not only can you save money, but by removing the hassles of ownership, you will also never have to worry about auto repair, insurance or monthly parking again. In addition, by giving up car ownership, you can make a huge impact on the environment – fewer cars on the road means less traffic congestion and less pollution.


Carsharing pilot projects began in the late 1960’s, but it wasn’t until the late 1980’s that carsharing programs were launched in Europe first and then North America. According to a study conducted by the University of California, Berkeley, as of January 1st, 2010, 27 carsharing programs claimed 388,089 members sharing 7,588 vehicles in the United States.

If carsharing seems to fit your lifestyle, here is a rundown of the top car sharing companies in the Bay Area:

City CarShare – The Bay Area’s only non-profit carsharing organization serves San Francisco, Oakland, and Berkeley. By 2020, they hope to reduce traffic by removing 20,000 cars off Bay Area roads.

Zipcar – Recently acquired by Avis for about $500 million, it is the largest carshare company in the world with 11,000 vehicles in over 50 cities across America, Canada, Spain and the United Kingdom.

DriveNow – Newly launched in San Francisco, all of their cars are BMW electric vehicles. No need to return the car from where you picked it up, one-way trips are always welcome.

RelayRides – This organization facilitates peer-to-peer car renting. Owners list their cars on the website and name their own hourly price. All drivers are pre-screened and must be approved by the vehicle owner before renting. Both renters and owners can leave reviews on specific users to ensure respectful participation.

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