I’ll soon have my first out-of-town guests since becoming car-free. Of course, I’ll need a car to collect the guests (and their luggage) from Union Station. And what will I do when I’m ready to show them the sights?
First, I looked into where the sights are. A lot of LA hotspots are far from where I live, but there’s a surprising amount of attractions in my neighborhood. With a little googling, I got an impressive list of museums and tours, along with a few haunts for locals. Some of my favorite spots, though (The Getty, Huntington Library, Griffith Observatory), would take quite a long while to reach by bus.
So… I looked into renting a car for the entire visit (6 days). The price wasn’t nearly as expensive as car ownership, but it was still a whopping $150 — before the $11/day fee for car insurance was tacked on. So I looked into renting a car just for the weekend — to get us to and from Union Station and maybe do a little downtown sightseeing. Unfortunately, most neighborhood car rental places are closed on Sundays and open for only a few hours on Saturdays, so I would have to keep the car longer than I wanted — still not what I was hoping for. What I needed was a car that I could borrow for a couple of hours for the Union Station trips — and maybe a day or two when my guests wanted to see parts of LA that are hard to get to by bus. More flexibility. That’s what I needed.
Finally, I checked out car-sharing. Car-sharing is designed for folks who are car-free. Insurance and gas are included in the price of the rental, and members can rent a car for a few hours or a few days — checking the car in and out any time of the day, on Sundays, in the middle of the night, or early in the morning. Sounds perfect, right? Well, not exactly. Los Angeles used to be served by the car-sharing company Flexcar. Flexcar had cars throughout the city — one just down the street from my house. Last year, though, the industry leader, Zipcar, bought Flexcar — and Zipcar took away all their vehicles in Los Angeles except those at UCLA and USC. I’ve been pretty bummed to lose Flexcar’s great fleet, but after checking out car rental places, I figured I might give Zipcar a look. Even if I have to take two buses to get to the car, it might be worth the cost to have the flexibility of renting a car any time of the day, without an early reservation.
It turns out that, with insurance fees and gas for car rentals, I could save a little money by using Zipcar — and I could gain a lot of flexibility. So I did it. I signed up and should get my little member card any day now. We’ll see how it goes.