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Thursday, January 17, 2008

Zipcar Tax Relief in Play

posted by on January 17 at 17:15 PM

As promised, Seattle state Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles (D-36), along with Vancouver Rep. Deb Wallace (D-17) has introduced legislation that would exempt carsharing companies such as Zipcar (I’m still having a hard time not calling the merged company “Flexcar”) from the rental-car tax. As I’ve written before, carsharing is not the same thing as renting a car. As Zipcar noted in an e-mail to members,

Car sharing gives members a convenient and cost effective alternative to owning a car. Each car sharing vehicle added to the streets takes approximately 15 privately owned cars off the street, resulting in less congestion and fewer resources dedicated to parking infrastructure. Car sharing members also increase their use of public transit, biking, and walking, while decreasing their car use, helping to conserve fuel and reduce emissions. Washington follows other leading states in making legislative changes to recognize car sharing and its members, including Oregon, Illinois, Massachusetts and others.

The rental-car tax has significantly increased the cost of car-sharing; getting rid of it would eliminate an unfair penalty on people who decide that getting rid of their cars is the right thing to do.

RSS icon Comments


Erica, you didn't have a car before FlexCar. Hasn't car sharing actually decreased your biking and bus riding, and allowed you to drive when you never drove before?

I still don't understand how it decreases congestion. How does a "shared car" take up less of a lane than a regular car?

They do reduce pressure on parking. Making it easier for everyone to find a parking space. And as we know, environmentalists strongly favor making it easier for drivers to find parking...

Posted by elenchos | January 17, 2008 5:24 PM

I buy products that are labelled green.

These help the environment.

Can I get out of paying sales tax on these because they help the environment?

PS--I also buy music. Music is good! Do I have to pay sales tax on my guitar and CD's?

Posted by unPC | January 17, 2008 5:31 PM

You can play all of the semantic games you like - these are still car rental companies, plain and simple. Your opinion regarding their moral superiority doesn't change that fact.

Posted by Mr. X | January 17, 2008 5:33 PM

@1: Actually, I did have a car--a Honda Accord. Now I use Flexcar about twice a month. So, yes, it did decrease my driving AND increase the amount I bike/walk/take the bus.

Posted by ECB | January 17, 2008 5:37 PM

Ah. Well, one should ask why we would reduce taxes on global-warming-emission creating forms of transportation and there by subsidize them.

As opposed to, say, your bike.

(walked to work 3 times this week, used the bus when it was too slippery)

Posted by Will in Seattle | January 17, 2008 5:53 PM

Yes "it" (Flexcar) helped decrease your driving. No "it" (the tax break) didn't decrease your driving -- because you made the change when there was no tax break.

Posted by unPC | January 17, 2008 5:55 PM

@2 The proposed exemption is from the car rental tax, not sales tax. Car share customers will continue to pay sales tax just like you do on your CDs, guitars, and other purchases. The proposed exemption simply recognizes that the state shouldn't be punishing customers who use car sharing by making them pay an additional 9.7% tax on top of the 8.9% sales tax (a whopping 18.6% total tax).

Posted by Bob | January 17, 2008 6:02 PM

Will Hertz get the same tax break - they are starting the same plan.

Erica, this is a bogus issue. No reason the public should add to the bottom line of the millionaire investors who own Zippy Car, a large RENTAL CAR company with good promotional instincts

One RENTS by the hour or day.

VERT VERY expensive. Enterprise has weekend specials for 16.00 a day. Zippy is 9.00 PER hour, and they want tax breaks.

Fuck the taxpayers one more time from corporate America ... chanting a bogus greenie mantra.

Fools do not shop around ... hey Erica. Enterprise will deliver and the C. Hill location is three blocks down Pine from your office. And, no membership fees.

Zippy Car is trying to scam us, plain and simple. And they got Erica hook line and shitter.

Posted by Jack | January 17, 2008 6:11 PM

Above - Bob at #7

Those tax rates are the law in King county. Just the fucking tax law that all rental car companies pay.

Big business does not care about a few more bucks for the car, and tourists get milked. Great taxes. Smart strategy.

Posted by Adam | January 17, 2008 6:17 PM

Selective tax prefs. are most likely unconstitutional.

Jeannie Wells is a dingbat. And I bet they give her campaign money.

Posted by zak | January 17, 2008 6:23 PM
Each car sharing vehicle added to the streets takes approximately 15 privately owned cars off the street, resulting in less congestion and fewer resources dedicated to parking infrastructure. Car sharing members also increase their use of public transit, biking, and walking, while decreasing their car use, helping to conserve fuel and reduce emissions.

Riiight. On the other hand, mere "car rental" companies, as opposed to these way-cool "car sharing" companies, provide no opportunity whatsoever for people to do any of these things, and should therefore be taxed heavily. Renting a car from Hertz occasionally is completely different than renting one of these magic earth-saving Zipcars.

Posted by tsm | January 17, 2008 6:27 PM

@8 Please show me where on the Enterprise site I can get one of their cars for one day for $19.00. No, I'm not interested in getting it for three days/nights, I just want one day. Also, since you're comparing their plan with Flex/Zipcar, I assume Enterprise will also be paying for the gas I use? Thanks.

Posted by stinkbug | January 17, 2008 6:42 PM

Jack @8 -- Yes, traditional car rental companies should get the same treatment if they move to a car sharing model. Comparing fees is bogus. Flexcar isn't price competitive for daily or longer rental because it isn't intended to compete with the car rental companies. It is offering members the ability to use cars for generally shorter amounts of time as a way to reduce the need for people to own a car. Flexcar's hourly pricing is also inclusive of fuel, insurance, and all of the add ons that rental car companies gouge consumers for.

Posted by Bob | January 17, 2008 6:42 PM


So, Erica, are you saying that you got rid of your car as a result of you beginning to use FlexCar? Or did you get rid of your car like, two years before you began using FlexCar? I hate to have to ask it this way, but let's face it, you've been known to spin facts.

And how does a car rented by the hour reduce traffic congestion? And how does making it easier to find parking help the planet?

Posted by elenchos | January 17, 2008 6:42 PM

there has to be a loophole that zipcar can exploit such as making themselves a car club or something.

Posted by Bellevue Ave | January 17, 2008 6:49 PM

Our state senator on Queen Anne is a fucking wacko. We need a new one.

Our wacko sat on the board of the monorail, for Christ's sake.

When ECB threw out some bait, pursuing her own self-interest. Kohl-Welles bit like a big trout.

Fuck exceptions to the general rule; fuck exemptions.

Fuck ECB, and fuck Kohl-Welles, the big sucker fish.

Posted by Luigi Giovanni | January 17, 2008 6:59 PM

The law will have to allow the same system to all rental companies. Join a club and rent by the hour and you pay no car rental tax.

ECB didn't drive her car, at least according to her previous posts, and kept getting tickets for storing it on city streets. Some people are introduced or reintroduced to driving by Share-cars and therefore add to driving.

Zipcar is already subsidized by the city and county. Instead of reducing the tax for Zipcar perhaps we should provide the same subsidies for other rental car companies and add more competition to the mix.

Posted by whatever | January 17, 2008 7:00 PM

#12 - Weekend special - do your shopping, pass it to a friend, drive to the ocean, divide the cost

Hey, really cheap.

Flex car is a scam for the hot house babies of urban America


Woo, woo, woo.


Posted by Jack | January 17, 2008 7:25 PM

"Weekend special - do your shopping, pass it to a friend, drive to the ocean, divide the cost"

haha, oookay. I'm not gonna pass a rental car (or even a flexcar) to a friend. Talk about a recipe for disaster. Do you let your buddies borrow your rental car? Can I borrow it?

Also, you didn't address the gas issue.

Posted by stinkbug | January 17, 2008 8:16 PM

#19 - sure. New cars, easy to drive, good drivers - what is to fear?

My, my, kind of uptight. Sound a lot like a granny, fraid of every possible thing that might happen, but never does.

Or Gramps who has the same mind set.

Try some arithmetic, since it is money passing hands here, yours or theirs. You seem to like the passing from you to them - I am one killer cheap skate.

Flex car/Zipppy Car = 60.00 a day, no bargain.

(But FREE from 12 am to 6 am ----- get the pickup and go dumpster diving and late grocery shopping at all the late open chains ... with friends and beer)

Woo, woo.

Posted by Jack | January 17, 2008 8:46 PM

Why must some of so vehemently hate anything liked by anyone you think thinks they are cooler than you???????

The rental car tax is an additional tax on visitors who choose to rent instead of using cabs or transit. Maybe it should only be applied at the airport. But it definitely shouldn't be applied to flex/zip car

Posted by Johnny Rigor | January 17, 2008 8:57 PM

Anyone who can afford Zipcar's high hourly rates can afford to pay the tax. And it makes you a martyr for the Earth!

Posted by CG | January 17, 2008 9:21 PM


I don't hate FlexCar. I just want somebody to tell me: how does it reduce congestion????? How does it reduce pollution????????????

I have more question marks if you need them in order to answer. See if I thought it reduced congestion, or did anything to reduce pollution, I'd support a special tax break, perhaps. I just want to understand the reasoning behind how hourly car rental saves the planet.

Posted by elenchos | January 17, 2008 10:20 PM


One great obstacle to people who want to get rid of their cars and switch to transit is shopping, errands, and short trips. Many people can't abandon their cars without the opportunity to have access to a car now and then; Flexcar (now Zipcar) does provide that access. Does that make it a little clearer now?

Posted by keshmeshi | January 17, 2008 10:26 PM

@24 - I suspect that elenchos's point here is this: Say that instead of driving some small number X miles a month with your car, you sell your car and drive X miles a month with Zipcar instead. What's changed?

Posted by tsm | January 17, 2008 10:39 PM

Yes, everybody knows that is how it is supposed to work. That people will get rid of their cars now that they have this hourly rental car. It's only that it makes them get rid of their cars, right? And that hourly rental cars for people who didn't have cars to begin with actually makes pollution worse, right?

Because I think there's a difference between how it is supposed to work and how it actually works. And the only way it saves the planet is if it succeeds in making people drive less. The fact that it is an hourly rental car itself does not do anything, right?

This kinds of leads back to the question of the real reason why ECB got rid of her car...

Posted by elenchos | January 17, 2008 10:40 PM

Oh, I forgot to mention this stoner I used to know who could never have afforded his own car, but he constantly mooched rides by saying we had to carpool to reduce air pollution and save oil. See, I think hourly rental cars are like that.

Posted by elenchos | January 17, 2008 10:42 PM

I recently got rid of my car. It wasn't because of Flexcar, but joining Flexcar made it a lot easier.

Now I pay a lot less (about $50/month in Flexcar fees as opposed to $300/month car+gas+insurance+maintenance) AND drive less (because the marginal cost of driving is higher for me).

I win, Flexcar wins, the atmosphere wins. (Also, Erica wins.)

Posted by Cate | January 17, 2008 11:47 PM

Wow, some of y'all are going to be seething mad to hear that the city will give you $600 worth of Flexcar time if you give up your car.

Posted by Anon | January 18, 2008 12:15 AM

car sharing reduces driving because it lets people pay per trip, and save when they don't take them. About 80% of the cost of owning a car is fixed, so that driving any particular trip is very cheap. In fact, you may feel like you have to drive to get your money's worth (ie why pay for the bus AND you car sitting in the drive-way). And, like any addiction, once you kick it you'll actually begin to enjoy the alternatives to driving so much.

It only really works (today) in urban areas where you don't need to drive to/for work everyday.

As stated in #21, the purpose of a car rental tax is to focus on visitors, not residents.

Posted by Kevin McLaughlin | January 18, 2008 6:01 AM

Fact Time:

A full day rental on Flexcar (NOT to be Zipcar until February BTW) runs around $60.00. Enterprise charges you around $20.00. So the amount of the over all tax that car-sharing ends up paying is considerably more than one would pay via a car rental at Enterprise or Hertz. So I can understand the argument that this is a penalty against people who are only doing occasional driving in an effort to reduce pollution etc.

Oh, another fun fact: Maybe if Seattle had a decent system of transit that ran on the weekends and evenings we would not even need car sharing in the first place.

Posted by Cato the Younger Younger | January 18, 2008 7:39 AM

Anon - I'm not seething mad but think that the $600 should be good at any car rental company.

Cate - no one argues that a subsidized rental car company can't be a good thing for someone that gives up their car. In could be argued and has been that if you didn't have the Flex you would drive even less. I know of a guy that didn't drive at all for years, signed up with Flex started driving and ended up buying a brand new car. Everybody loses including ECB.

BTW people that mooch rides double their impact by having their friends drive to pick them up and then drive home after dropping them off.

In most cases Enterprise or a taxi, both not subsidized and adding lots of tax revenue, is the most cost effective way to go. Multiple errands Enterprise. Visit with friends for dinner and a movie take the cab.

Posted by whatever | January 18, 2008 10:08 AM

I got rid of my car several years ago and one of the deciding factors was Flexcar. I would most probably have kept my car if there wasn't the option of car-sharing. It is true that I didn't drive my car that much when I owned it, but I drove a heck of a lot more then than I do now. So it definitely reduced the number of trips I take, and whatever small amount I contributed to congestion, pollution, etc. It seems so obvious and yet some folks on here are (willfully?) obtuse.

Posted by twee | January 18, 2008 4:57 PM

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