What’s up with Flexcar?

A couple months ago, I was walking down Walnut Street when a huge bunch of balloons floated in front of me from one of the parking garages. As I got closer I noticed the shiny fleet of new silver hybrid cars, and I was immediately approached by people handing out flyers and coupons for Flexcar. Now, at the time I was on my way to the PhillyCarShare pod at 13th and Locust to pick up my car for the day, and was completely not interested in anything to do with Flexcar.

Since then, I’ve been bombarded with Flexcar: billboards for Flexcar, posters on the sides of SEPTA buses, cars parked at their designated pods. However, while I often catch people driving their PhillyCarShares, I have yet to actually see a Flexcar on the road.

So, what’s the deal with Flexcar?

According to their website, “Flexcar is the progressive way to get around town that saves time, money and the environment.” Their hourly fees include gas, insurance and maintenance. There are several membership plans, starting with a basic no-montly-fee starter plan.

Okay, so far they haven’t enticed me with anything that I can’t get through PhillyCarShare. Let’s compare some more:

Flexcar hourly rates vary depending on location, time, day, and vehicle type, while PhillyCarShare’s rates are standard (excepting the daily rate, not valid on Saturday).

PhillyCarShare Flexcar
Hourly $5.90–$7.90 $6–$11
Daily $48–$56 $55–$75

The only difference in rates that I can see is Flexcar adds 150 free miles in the first 24 hours of your reservation ($0.20 per mile after), while PhillyCarShare charges $0.09 per mile up to 200 miles each day ($0.18 per mile after).

PhillyCarShare is a non-profit organization, while Flexcar is a private, for-profit. Both car shares allow driving anywhere in the continental U.S.; both have special discounts or promotions for members; both have a variety of cars and SUVs; both offer online reservations and invoices.

Hmm. This is going to take further investigation.

Sample of late fees associated with the car shares
PhillyCarShare Flexcar
Call before reservation ends
  • 15-minute grace period
  • $10 per 1/2 hour
  • expenses for inconvenienced member
  • 10-minute grace period (15 minutes if no other member waiting)
  • $20 fine
  • additional hourly charges
  • expenses for inconvenienced member
Do not call before reservation ends
  • 15-minute grace period
  • $20 per 1/2 hour
  • expenses for inconvenienced member
  • $50 fine
  • additional hourly charges
  • expenses for inconvenienced member
Sample of credits/fee associated with the car shares
PhillyCarShare Flexcar
Referral Credit $50 $40
Vehicle Washing Credit $10 plus reimbursement $4 plus reimbursement
Failure to lock car $50 unknown
Late Payment Fee $25 $35
Damage Fee first $500 of the deductible first $500 of the deductible
Failure to Refuel $25 $25
Unauthorized Driver unknown $300 plus termination
Smoking/Pets Fee $50 plus cleaning fee $200
Replacement key fob/card $25 $15
Tickets/Violations $25 plus costs $50 plus costs

Plus points for PhillyCarShare include car seats (available for many vehicles) and household memberships. One nifty plus I noticed for Flexcar is the ability to reserve a car in network cities.

Are there any Flexcar members around? I’d love to hear what you have to say about them! Still, I think I’m going to stick with my PhillyCarShare membership. There is something to be said for supporting the local community-minded non-profit!

6 Comments so far

  1. Jeremy (unregistered) on May 30th, 2007 @ 3:34 pm

    Wow – you’ve done quite a comparison! Let me start by acknowledging that I’m a Flexcar employee so you know where I’m coming from. Here are some of the main differentiators that you didn’t already mention which our members appreciate:

    1. Flexcar offers daily rates 7 days/week – no blackout dates.

    2. No pod fees – (saving members $2.50/trip on many locations).

    3. Off Peak pricing of $3/hour for members on our Frequent Flexer Plan.

    4. Flexible rate plans that meet a variety of driving needs:
    a. $9.99/month Auto Assurance Plan gets you 3 free hours of driving every month. Perfect for somebody who only needs a car once/month.

    b. $19.99/month Frequent Flexer Plan allows members to use cars for $3/hour off peak, and $6/hour peak. 150 miles/day are included. Great for members who need a car a couple 1-3 times/week.

    c. $99.99/month Everyday Errander Plan gives members 2 free hours of driving every day of the month.

    d. $0/month Standard Plan. Members can use vehicles for $6 – $11/hour depending on location, vehicle type, and peak/off peak time periods.

    5. In car communication device allows members to connect directly to our on-call staff to extend a reservation or for other assistance.

    6. No deposit required for membership

    Although I can’t claim that Flexcar started here, or that we’re a non-profit – we are committed to bringing the benefits of car-sharing to Philadelphia and many other cities around the U.S. We have also won numerous sustainability awards and maintain a very fuel efficient fleet of vehicles.

    San Francisco now has the benefit of 3 car-sharing companies to choose from – which means more cars in more locations, and a greater positive impact on the community. I don’t believe this is a “one or the other” type of decision; many members in other markets report joining multiple car-sharing organizations so they can be assured the best options when they need some wheels.


  2. Art (unregistered) on May 30th, 2007 @ 5:16 pm

    I joined the Standard Plan, but found that Flexcar’s advertised rates were unavailable. Flex advertised $6-$11/hr, but rates actually were $9-$11/hr! Nothing compared even remotely. I brought this up on Philly Blog (link below), but Flex’s GM responded by confusing the issue. Totally frustrating. Anyway, car sharing is very cool. I just don’t understand why Flexcar has to be dishonest to sell its product.

    http://www.phillyblog.com/philly/showthread.php?t=36361


  3. Charles (unregistered) on May 30th, 2007 @ 5:31 pm

    Very interesting… Yeah, I noticed that here, he also indicated incorreclty that PhillyCarShare requires a deposit… but he didn’t mention that Flexcar actually charges a $35 annual membership fee.

    Anyway, I live in South Philly, and I can see a PhillyCarShare Prius hybrid and Mini Cooper from my bedroom window… That’s about the biggest selling point for me. Not the view… the convenience. :-) (If they had beautiful women greeting you at the cars… then maybe the view too!)


  4. Joe S (unregistered) on May 30th, 2007 @ 10:27 pm

    What a great series of Posts. Very informative. Thanks


  5. Jeff (unregistered) on June 1st, 2007 @ 4:18 am

    theres also the part where flexshare doesn’t allow people under 21 to use the service unless you are are at one of the schools on their list- not in PA. but phillycarshare allows anyone 18 and older


  6. Andrea (unregistered) on June 6th, 2007 @ 10:46 am

    Thanks for the additional info, Jeremy!

    Charles: I live in South Philly too, and I’m within very easy walking distance to several PhillyCarShares.

    I’m a PCS member, and I have no monthly fee (basic plan) and no membership fee, and when I signed up I didn’t have to put down a deposit for pay an application fee.

    I do like the freedom to choose a car share, and (like I mentioned in my post) I really think the ability to reserve a car in one of Flexcar’s network cities is a huge plus.

    I’m hoping to update the post as I get more information to compare. Thanks everyone!



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