High gas prices have us all feeling the pinch ($65 bucks last night for me), and as you're all well aware, many folks are changing their driving style, the amount of driving they do, or, in some cases, saying good-bye to their cars or trucks entirely. One beneficiary of people's changes of heart is Zipcar. The car-sharing service announced this week that its average monthly signups are triple what they were a year ago, with 40% of its new members citing fuel prices as the reason they've decided to join. Services like Zipcar allow people to use cars by the hour or by the day, and the vehicles are generally situated in urban areas where car ownership can be inconvenient, expensive, or, in many cases, both.

According to Zipcar (their announcement is pasted after the jump), members who opted to participate in the company's latest survey are saving as much as $600 per month by choosing the service instead of owning a car of their own. Figure in a car payment, insurance, gas budget, and garage/parking costs, and that number gets believable in a hurry, especially for someplace like Manhattan. The company also says that its members are more likely to also use public transportation as they settle into their car-free (or "car-reduced", so to speak) lifestyles, and that the environmental benefits of the service are myriad. If any readers are current Zipcar users or patrons of a similar car-share service, we'd like to know your experiences and hear how well (or badly) it has worked out for you in the comments below.

[Source: Zipcar | Photo: akseabird]

PRESS RELEASE:
In Wake of High Gas Prices and Low Car Sales, Zipcar Grows 100% During Past 12 Months

New Survey Shows Americans Ditching Cars at Record Pace

CAMBRIDGE, Mass., July 9 /PRNewswire/ -- Zipcar, the world's largest provider of cars on demand by the hour or day, today announced record membership growth. The company is averaging 10,000 new members per month, triple the number joining at the same time last year. A new survey attributes the growth to rising gas prices -- 40% of new members cited cost of fuel as their reason for joining, nearly three times the percentage cited one year ago.

The survey also demonstrates that swapping car ownership for a Zipcar membership has a significant impact on American cities and the environment. The study found that:

-- 65% of respondents said Zipcar led them to get rid of a household vehicle or halt a purchasing decision, up from 40% 12 months ago. Zipcar estimates that it has taken more than 75,000 personally-owned vehicles off the road.

-- 40% of members said that using Zipcar has led them to increase their overall use of public transportation.

-- After joining Zipcar, members reported driving an average of 2,200 miles less per year.

-- At current membership levels, Zipcar will save 16 million gallons of gasoline and 150 million pounds of CO2 annually.

-- In the midst of rising concerns about a recession, respondents reported saving more than $600 per month compared to the average cost of owning and operating a car in an urban environment, money that can be used to buffer rising cost-of-living expenses throughout the country.

Zipcar says that rising fuel costs are causing urban residents to consider alternative transportation. "The sharp increase in gas prices is a catalyst for American's to rethink car ownership in a way we have never seen before," says chairman and CEO Scott Griffith. "Thirteen million people can walk to a Zipcar in 10 minutes or less, making our service a viable, mainstream alternative to owning a personal car."

The data was collected in an opt-in survey of 20,000 Zipcar members living in Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, New York, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Portland, San Francisco, Seattle, and Washington, DC.

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