Tuesday, September 30, 2008

New Carshare Hits the Streets in Manhattan

It looked like Zipcar finally has competition in Manhattan. It's a new brand kid on the block Mint Cars On Demand.

Mint rates are competitive: the service offers three classes of vehicles: Economy $8.10, Classic $9.90 and Premium $11.70 per hour; daily rates are $58, $71 and $85 per day. Billing is per trip. Charges for the EZ Pass automatic toll payment system, included in every vehicle, come later.

While Mint has chosen to use the Smart car as its signature vehicle, the web site says they also have Toyota Yaris, Honda FIT, Smart cars, Honda Accord, Toyota Tacoma, Scion xB, Nissan Versa & Mercedes C300. They're wired with the French Eileo system - the first application in the US.

According to the map, they're starting out with 7 locations, each with several vehicles to start out. Parking for carsharing in NYC is notoriously difficult to find and for many of Zipcar's existing vehicles it is suggested that members call ahead to the parking garage attendant to have them "dig out" the vehicle ahead of the reservation time. And if you wonder what parking is like in NYC, here's their location at 86 Warren St.

Unfortunately, Mint is only offering "state minimum" insurance coverage, so members will want to have their own insurance or a very good umbrella policy. But like any rental car company they would be glad to sell you Supplemental Liability and Collision Damage Waiver coverage. This is really too bad.

The web site says the new carshare is from a "leading parking operator" in New York City. This is not the first time a carshare has partnered with a parking operator - Flexcar did it in Atlanta, Avis partnered with Vinci for their Okigo operation in Paris and, of course, City Carshare in San Francisco partnered with the city parking agency from the start.

As a side note, Mint has added a couple of interesting variations on the "others fees and charges":
- Making, changing, or cancelling a reservation by phone is $4.50.
- Cancelling or shortening an hourly reservation within 2 hours of start time is $4.50 + 100% of the reservation cost.
Cancelling or shortening a daily reservation within 24 hours of start time is $4.50 + 100% of the reservation cost. (That ought to deter people reserving a vehicle for the weekend and canceling at the last minute!)

While ut certainly hasn't hurt in other cities, we'll be watching to see whether 2 brands are better than one.