How to Rent a Car by the Hour

How to Rent a Car by the Hour
  • Opening Intro -

    If you want to rent a car by the day or by the week, no problem.

    If you want to rent a car for a few hours, you’ll still pay the daily rate.

    At least that is how it used to be.


These days, you can rent a car by the hour and pick it up on the street or in a parking lot. Zipcar has popularized this option, what has brought ultra-short-term car rental options to the masses. Here is what you need to know about renting a car by the hour.

1. Explore your options. Zipcar is the largest provider of hourly rental car solutions, but it isn’t the only business that offers this service. Also known as car-sharing services, Car2Go, Enterprise CarShare and Uber are also in the business. Zipcar is the largest by far, so consider what is available in your area and contact these businesses to get pricing information.

2. Join a car-sharing service. You can’t simply rent a car for an hour and not belong to the service. In the case of Zipcar, you apply online and within minutes you learn if you have been approved or not. If you are approved, you will get a Zipcard, a credit card-sized “key” that can unlock any unreserved car in the Zipcar network.

3. Reserve your car. You can reserve a car online or through a related app. Choose anywhere from a few hours to the entire day — that’s up to you.

4. Find your car. Your car rental will be at a specified location. It may be on your block, in a parking garage, in a nearby neighborhood or a train or bus stop or two away from your home. Find its location and unlock the vehicle with your Zipcard.

5. Take to the road. Once you are behind the wheel of the car, you can take to the road. Keep track of your time or let the app do that for you. The advantage of car-sharing is that you don’t pay for gas or insurance — those costs are included with your rental.

Car-Sharing Considerations

Each company sets its own rules for drivers. In the case of Zipcar, you must be at least 21 years old. However, if the car is with one of Zipcar’s affiliated universities, then that driving age is reduced to 18. Also, you cannot have had any major violations within the past three year and no more than two incidents within the past three years. You should also know that if your driving history is sketchy or you have credit issues, your application can be declined.

You can apply online for membership. To get a Zipcard, you will need to wait 3 to 7 days. That card will be mailed to you. If you need to rent a car sooner, then stop by a Zipcar office to collect your card.

Zipcar allows renters 180 free miles for each 24-hour period. Go over that amount and you’ll be charged 45 cents per mile for most vehicles or 55 cents per mile for cargo vans and premium vehicles. There are no one way rentals — you must return the car to the original rental space.

See Also5 Summer Car Rental Savings Tips


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Categories: Consumer Tips

About Author

Matthew C. Keegan

Matt Keegan is a freelance writer and editor as well as publisher of "Matt's Musings", his personal blog. Matt covers campus, consumer, business and financial topics on various websites and blogs, and has been published in the "Houston Chronicle", "Sam's Club Magazine" and "Wisconsin Golfer".