Flexcar: Cars for Those Who Can't Be Bothered

Sunset Boulevard on Saturday

In car-obsessed L.A., public transportation isn’t really popular or convenient. We Angelenos need our cars to navigate the sprawl, run from West L.A. to Silver Lake to Long Beach at the drop of a hat. Something you definitely can’t do if you have to rely on the bus. However because we live in a city, car insurance, gas, car maintenance and parking tend to cost a not-so-pretty penny. Sure, no one is really complaining about having to pay for all that, after all in L.A. we are our cars. And yet what if you could save about $500 a month, help the environment and still have a nice car to drive? All you would have to do is learn to share.

Flexcar.com is a car-sharing service that started in 2000 and currently exists in eight major cities — Atlanta, Chicago, Portland, San Diego, San Francisco, Seattle, Washington DC — including Los Angeles. And how it works for Flexcar members is you reserve a car via phone or online, walk to the designated parking spot which in most cases is within a five-minute walk of your location and borrow the car for how ever long you need it. One hourly rate (about $10) covers gas, insurance and unlimited miles, but you can really borrow the car for as long as you want (just notify the company if you need it for longer than 72 hours). And when you’re done, just return the car to where you picked it up.

If you want to see just how much you would be saving compared to what you’re paying now for all your car costs, play with Flexcar’s online comparison tool which tells you the cost difference between owning/renting a car versus car sharing.

Cars available range from the practical Toyota Prius to the Honda Element to the Toyota Tacoma to the Mini Cooper (yay!).

There is of course an annual membership fee ($25) and an application fee, but that seems miniscule compared to how much you’d be saving in the long run. Plus Flexcar members get additional benefits like Flexcar Member Appreciation Night at professional sporting events, urban hikes, movie nights, and happy hours and promotional discounts from local businesses, including coffee shops, day spas & salons, and organic supermarkets.

This would be especially perfect for those of you who don’t solely rely on cars for transportation but also use bikes and your own two feet to get around. Maybe you live in a cool neighborhood where most things are within walking distance and you’d only need your car to run errands on the weekend or party hop from the Valley to Hollywood on occasion.

11 Responses to Flexcar: Cars for Those Who Can't Be Bothered
  1. andy
    December 9, 2006 | 4:11 pm

    Thanks for posting this — I was wondering about car-sharing services here in LA, especially after noticing a bunch of ZipCars while in Chicago over Thanksgiving.

    Looks like Zipcar has slightly better prices and more cars — I’m comparing their SF deals to Flexcar’s SF deals — no monthly fees! (check out the cool where da cars at map.

    No idea why they aren’t in LA yet, but will find out.

    What I really want to hear about though, Caroline, is this Home James service, where they’ll drive you home from the club in your car after tossing a scooter in your trunk (for about $50, but as they say, “The average DUI costs 200 times that.”) Might be the way to go on NYE.

  2. Caroline
    December 9, 2006 | 7:03 pm

    Actually, I have written about Home James. Awesome-sounding service. I wonder if they’ll be all booked up for NYE.

  3. David
    December 9, 2006 | 10:41 pm

    Dear Caroline,
    I’m a Flexcar member, and I checked their car list. To the best of my knowledge (which isn’t much), they have new Scion tc’s, but no mini’s. Boo. And I don’t think the Priusi are here in Los Angeles (mostly Civic Hybrids). Do you know something I don’t? I’d like the mini. Woohoo.

    Dear Andy,
    You have to check the different plans and what’s covered. I think both have annual fees. Plus, the plans vary city to city, even within the same company.

  4. Caroline
    December 10, 2006 | 1:15 am

    David, thanks for the info. Now I’m reconsidering whether to use them. 😉 Do you like them? Is it worth it to you?

  5. David
    December 10, 2006 | 5:43 pm

    I love them. But I’m a special case (nut case?). Being a recovering automotive enthusiast, it’s allowed by to drive a number of different cars. I’ve driven their Miata on PCH (alas, the Miata was then stationed in San Diego). I helped someone move with their Tacoma pickup. Their Civic Hybrids have stickers on them that allow you to drive in the HOV lanes and get you past those metered onramps. Gas is taken care of. Insurance is taken care of. They have a Subaru Forester that can get you to the slopes, I think (do you need chains?).
    Their goal is for you to get rid of your car and rely on them, thus saving the universe. I still have my jalopy, and when Pasha the White Steed breaks down (like today), I can rely on them to provide me with a set of wheels for work, without going through a car rental service. I can get a car at 5 in the morning.
    You have to remember though, to bring it back clean, which means nothing to a recovering automotive enthusiast. I give it a 2 hour detail job, time permiting. You have to weigh the costs versus the convenience to you.
    Oh, and no smoking in their cars. Oh, and no pets in their cars. Strangely enough, I think you’re allowed Christmas trees (you know, those big green things that have sticky sap and a zillion needles that embed themselves in the carpet).

  6. hollywood
    December 10, 2006 | 9:33 pm

    Do they have a Ferrari?

  7. gerard
    December 11, 2006 | 11:44 pm

    Hmm, I DO live in a cool neighborhood where everything IS walking distance! WooT!

    But how do we know we can TRUST what other nasty Angelenos are doing in these cars? Like…we should bring in a blacklight in the cars and see if we see any glowing stains. Or I dunno what they use on TV…

    I dont trust people in this city!

  8. Caroline
    December 12, 2006 | 8:17 am

    Gerard, it could be perfect for your situation. You should check out the site.

  9. Lia
    December 15, 2006 | 9:29 am

    David, I’m writing a story about Flexcar and I’m looking to talk to members about their experiences. Can you send me an e-mail at lsteakley@stanfordalumni.org to talk about your Flexcar experiences?

  10. Caroline
    December 16, 2006 | 2:47 pm

    Stanford alum reading this site? Cool!

  11. David
    December 19, 2006 | 12:49 am

    hollywood, you must be thinking of classiccars.co.uk, which will have a Los Angeles branch in 2007, maybe. gerard, the great thing about civilization is that when everyone cooperates, you get … gifts! Surprise! May I suggest a chat with councilpersons Eric Garcetti or Tom LaBonge for a peptalk? Lia, here’s a funny story:
    Flexcar asked if I’d like to be interviewed by the Los Angeles Times, and after agreeing they told me someone named ‘Danielle’ will give me a call. Days pass, then I get a call at 8:15 in the morning before rushing out to work from a guy who said he was from the L A Times, and I interrupt him and say that I used to get the paper, but they bullied me with sales pitches too many times (the last one leaving me tearfully pleading at the top of my voice to stop calling me), and that I no longer want to get the paper goodbye click. It sunk in later that this was Dan Neil the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist who I hung up on. Lia, give me some time to think about it. I have to see if my dogma can withstand being run over by your karma.

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