Is Car Ownership Threatening the Future of Cities? New Zipcar Impact Report Sounds the Alarm

Second annual report looks at COVID-19 impacts on mobility and the critical role car-sharing services play in driving a more sustainable and equitable future for urban living

BOSTON, Oct. 07, 2020 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Cities are facing tremendous changes amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, and the mobility choices of today’s urban dwellers are no exception. Zipcar, the world’s leading car-sharing network, today released the findings of its second annual Impact Report, “Improving City Living through Social & Environmental Change.” The report evaluates the impact of car sharing on communities and the current mobility landscape, with data based on a nationally representative city dweller survey, third party academic research, as well as a massive study of Zipcar members. The ultimate conclusion? Now, more than ever, car sharing is critical to protect the future of the cities we live in by fighting against the threats of pollution and congestion brought on by personal car ownership, while also making mobility more accessible and equitable for today’s urban dwellers. 

An overwhelming 4 out of 5 American city residents say it’s now essential to have access to a car, with 41% having either purchased a vehicle in the last six months or considering it in part due to the pandemic.1 These newly released findings are from a nationally representative survey of urban dwellers from Zipcar and independent research firm Engine Insights. If nearly half of the driving-aged population in U.S. cities purchases a vehicle, the environmental impact will be catastrophic: that would be nearly 136 million new vehicles on our city streets.2 Furthermore, a societal emphasis on car ownership ultimately creates more inequities within our communities. 

“As we are navigating the pandemic alongside our neighbors, city leaders and policy makers, it’s become clear that we must continue to address the mobility challenges facing cities and their residents, to ensure that the progress inspired by Zipcar over the past 20 years is continued,” said Tracey Zhen, Zipcar president. “Building a city of tomorrow around equitable access to transportation, instead of a reliance on individual car ownership, is critical. This particularly rings true amidst the economic climate our nation faces, with over 13.6 million Americans struggling to find work.3 Owning a car should not be a prerequisite for having access to work, nor should access to a car be cost prohibitive.”

The impacts of car sharing on the environment and our communities is also clear. As shared in the latest Zipcar Impact Report, personally owned cars sit idle on city streets and in parking garages 95% of the time,4 taking up valuable land that could be used for green space, public parks and more. Thirteen personally owned cars are taken off the road for each Zipcar.5 In New York City alone, 85% of Zipcar members do not own or lease a car after joining Zipcar.6 In the city, one shared car serves up to 80 members – proof that car ownership is not required to access one.6 

“Our vision is a future where the number of people who share a car outnumber the people who personally own one. Car sharing is proven to enable affordable access, maximize the use of shared space for all, and make streets safer, less crowded, and less polluted,” said Zhen. 

The report explores several areas of social and environmental impact that car sharing has had to-date on cities and urban dwellers, including: 

Car Sharing Encourages a Multi-Modal Lifestyle 

  • Most Zipcar trips start with a walk to the vehicle pick up location (85%), or a train ride (35%), or a bike/scooter (10%).6
  • 60% of Zipcar members take transit at least twice a week and 55% at least five times a week.6
  • Members turn to Zipcar for longer, purpose-driven trips, with an average trip length of 52 miles and nearly 9 hours.6
  • Most common trips for Zipcar members are out of town trips, visits with family and friends, grocery shopping and errands. 6

Car Sharing Increases Access Without the Cost, Hassle of Car Ownership 

  • 40% of Zipcar members say they can affordably reach essential destinations like school and work with Zipcar.6
  • 60% of Zipcar members feel empowered to be themselves and move independently.6
  • Zipcar members save about $633 a month compared to car owners by avoiding traditional out-of-pocket expenses associated with car ownership like parking, insurance, and maintenance.7
  • Annually, Zipcar members save a total of $7.6 billion over the cost of owning a car.7

Car Sharing Provides a Socially Responsible, Sustainable Mobility Solution 

  • Each Zipcar serves 50-80 members, which results in fewer cars, less parking, and more land for people, housing, and open space.6
  • Roundtrip car-sharing members drive 40% fewer miles than they did before joining Zipcar.5
  • Car-sharing members reduce their carbon footprint by up to 1,600 pounds per year.8
  • If car sharing weren’t available, members would drive 26% more than they currently do.9

Despite the pandemic, requests for new Zipcar memberships have risen consistently week over week. A recent internal survey of Zipcar members showed that after biking and walking, members considered Zipcar to be the transportation option they were most comfortable using. For the safety of the community and employees, Zipcar has implemented enhanced cleaning protocols and products and encourages all members to take the right personal steps to ensure they remain safe. 

The Zipcar community is made up of more than one million members worldwide, including 4,000 business partners, nearly 30 non-profit partners and 500 university campus communities. Members enjoy all the benefits of having a car without the cost and hassle of owning one.  

To download the full Zipcar Impact Report, visit  

Report Methodology
Zipcar-specific data was collected as part of Zipcar’s 2019 North American Transportation Survey, an annual email survey conducted in December 2019 with a sample size of nearly 18,000 respondents across North America. Industry-specific data was made possible by Zipcar’s partners at the Transportation Sustainability Research Center at the University of California and credible industry parties. In addition, the city dweller survey referenced was fielded from August 26-30, 2020, by Engine Insights via an online survey from a nationally representative sample of 610 U.S. adults 18 years of age and older who live in urban communities. 

All sources include:

1 Engine Insights Survey of U.S. adults from urban communities, Aug. 26-30, 2020.
2 U.S. Census Bureau population numbers, 2019.
3 Bureau of Labor Statistics unemployment numbers, 2020.
4 Shoup, Donald. The High Cost of Free Parking. Routledge; 1 edition (June 21, 2011).
5 Martin, Elliot, Susan Shaheen and Jeffrey Lidicker. “Impact of Carsharing on Household Vehicle Holdings” (March 2010).
6 Zipcar’s 2019 North American Transportation Survey (NATS).
7 2019 NATS and AAA, Your Driving Costs, How Much Are You Really Paying to Drive?, 2019.
8 Martin, Elliot and Susan Shaheen. “Greenhouse Gas Emission Impacts of Car Sharing in North America” (July 2010).
9 Martin, Elliot and Susan Shaheen. “Impact of Car sharing on Public Transit and Non-Motorized Travel” (December 2011).

About Zipcar 
Zipcar is the world’s leading car-sharing network, driven by a mission to enable simple and responsible urban living. With its wide variety of self-service vehicles available by the hour, day or week, Zipcar operates in urban areas and university campuses in nearly 500 cities and towns. Zipcar offers the most comprehensive, most convenient and most flexible car-sharing options available. Zipcar is a subsidiary of Avis Budget Group, Inc. (Nasdaq: CAR), a leading global provider of mobility solutions. More information is available at   


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