Tuesday, February 28, 2006

I-GO / Flexcar

After my jeep was stolen last year in DC (a moment of silence, please), I joined Flexcar, a car sharing program that exists in a few major cities (Chicago's version is I-GO, a partner of Flexcar). I only used it once when I lived in DC, and I think it was to run to the Soviet Safeway* for groceries.

*ASIDE: In DC, the supermarkets have nicknames so the population can distinguish one from another. There is the Soviet Safeway on 17th (named so because its always crowded and the shelves are emptied quickly), the Social Safeway in Georgetown (because alot of singles, both gay and straight shop there - I actually got a date from it once), the Secret Safeway (tucked away in the bottom of a building that you could miss if you blinked while walking by), the Unsafe Safeway on Capitol Hill (so named because of its location in the dicey southeast section of the Hill), and the Ghetto Giant (because of its location near the convention center in Shaw). There may be other nicknames, but these were the 4 grocery stores I shopped at most often.
So back to Flexcar. I kept the account with the company after moving to Chicago because of its association with I-GO here. I received an email from Flexcar about two weeks ago giving me a one-day free pass since I had not used the service in awhile. So I decided to use it again when I visited DC last week, instead of renting a car from an agency. Truth is, I may never go back to renting from agencies again. Yeah, Flexcar and I-Go are that cool.

First off, you are given a card as a member which doubles as your key to unlock any car you have reserved. No going to the agencies, no pre-authorizations, no lines, no waiting! The car might not have been cleaned before you got it, but I have apparently followed some respectful drivers who neither smoked or ate in the car. It was pretty clean.

A gas card is in the car so you don't have to pay for gas either - it's included in the rental fee. That saved me an additional $50 right there. And the car I chose (a 2005 Honda Civic) was iPod-ready, so I could listen to my tunes the entire trip. The cars are on par with any the rental agencies will provide, and you can pretty much find one, if not several, located in your neighborhood without too much of a search.

They rent on a 24-hour cycle. So by renting it for a Saturday morning drive, I was actually able to pick the car up at 12:01AM Saturday morning, so I could still use it to go out with friends Friday night. Dropping it back off was as easy as parking it on the street, cleaning out my stuff, locking the doors and leaving it behind.

My car rented for $50 a day (Flexcar price) and I had it for three days. With one day given to me free from Flexcar, and saving the $50 in gas, I ended up spending $50 for a three-day rental - better than anything most agencies offered.

I suggest trying it out. It's easy, cost effective, and right around the corner.