Does my auto insurance cover me driving for Zipcar?

If you need insurance for a Zipcar, you must settle for the limits that the company provides - $300,000 for bodily injuries and $25,000 for vehicle damage.

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Leslie Kasperowicz holds a BA in Social Sciences from the University of Winnipeg. She spent several years as a Farmers Insurance CSR, gaining a solid understanding of insurance products including home, life, auto, and commercial and working directly with insurance customers to understand their needs. She has since used that knowledge in her more than ten years as a writer, largely in the insuranc...

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Dan Walker graduated with a BS in Administrative Management in 2005 and has been working in his family’s insurance agency, FCI Agency, for 15 years (BBB A+). He is licensed as an agent to write property and casualty insurance, including home, auto, umbrella, and dwelling fire insurance. He’s also been featured on sites like and Safeco. He reviews content, ensuring that ex...

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Reviewed by Daniel Walker
Licensed Auto Insurance Agent

UPDATED: Jul 16, 2021

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Things to remember...

  • Zipcar is a car-sharing service that has become popular and convenient in several U.S. states
  • Zipcar’s insurance is a bare minimum for its drivers
  • Existing insurance may not cover shared vehicles
  • Drivers are not required to be insured to be Zipcar members

Zipcar is a fast-growing service that allows people to gain access to a vehicle whenever they need one. It is intended to be more convenient than the more common rental services.

Customers can reserve a car or truck for whatever amount of time is agreed upon in any of the over-150 cities that currently participate.

Typically, customers the service for trips that take a few hours or less with trips to or from an airport being among the most common.

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However, all those details are flexible and worked out in a given transaction to fit the present needs. The rules for membership in the program are clear and simple, and they promote basic respect for other peoples’ property.

  • Customers pay for membership, either a weekly or monthly fee.
  • Over 1 million vehicles are sharable in the program.
  • Customers praise Zipcar’s logistics, vehicle quality, and communal nature.
  • Insurance is the most common problem customers report.

Zipcar’s Insurance Policy

The company provides its members with auto insurance. However, Zipcar’s liability coverage for any accident caps off at $300,000 for bodily injuries and $25,000 for vehicle damage.

The maximum is fixed for all incidents regardless of the number of injured people, medical costs, vehicle repair or replacement prices, and many other factors that make accidents extremely expensive problems.

Furthermore, the amount of insurance the company offers its auto sharers, though dependent on the state, most often reflects the lowest minimum of insurance required by each applicable state’s laws.

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Zipcar Use and Existing Auto Insurance

Auto insurance companies do not usually treat unowned, shared vehicles as rented automobiles, so if a person has an accident using a car belonging to somebody else in the network, the only coverage they are likely to receive come from one of two sources:

  • The minimal benefits offered in the company’s policy
  • Any applicable coverage of the vehicle’s owner


Is better coverage than Zipcar insurance possible?

Insurance policies vary greatly, and especially if a customer is borrowing a vehicle from a different state with its set of legal requirements for auto insurance, it may be very difficult to know how much coverage is available when using a shared vehicle.

The purpose of any kind of insurance is to prepare for the unthinkable.

No one can ever know how much insurance they will end up needing when they take out a policy. In most cases, it’s possible to assess needs and potential risks to supply an adequate amount of coverage.

However, driving a shared vehicle in the Zipcar program involves too many variables that cannot possibly all be considered when doing such an analysis.

Even more importantly, there is not always any possibility to begin such an analysis since the Zipcar member does not always have any choice over his or her amount of coverage.

  • Unlike rental cars, Zipcar vehicles do not require extensions of coverage.
  • A shared vehicle’s insurance does not have to be shared.

Uninsured Zipcar Users and Users Who Do Not Own Vehicles

While members who are willing and able to share their vehicles as one (or more) available in the network of cars and trucks available, people are not required to be vehicle owners to become members.

This means, of course, that not all drivers in the program are insured. Such drivers are only required to have a driver’s license, and the lack of insurance may mean a higher risk.

  • Drivers without vehicles are likely to be inexperienced or out of practice.
  • Drivers without vehicles are likely to be uninsured.
  • Risk factors are dramatically increased with uninsured people in a sharing program.

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Auto Insurance for Non-Vehicle Owners

The rise of auto-sharing services like Zipcar has brought about a new phenomenon of drivers seeking insurance without owning a car. Such policies are very similar to the liability portion of most conventional auto insurance policies.

  • Such these policies only cover liabilities.
  • They pay only for the damage done to other vehicles, but not for the car that the policy-holder was driving at the time of the accident.
  • Personal injury and vehicle damage may be part of the basic liability, but it only covers the person who purchases the insurance.
  • No others (whether family members or other potential drivers within the sharing network) can be added to one of these plans.
  • No present non-owner insurance policy is known for comprehensive, collision, towing, labor, rental reimbursement, equipment, or parts coverage.

Like many matters of vehicle insurance, these matters related to Zipcar drivers who do not own their own car differ from state to state.

Nevertheless, all state laws reflect the common sense that people who cause accidents should pay (whether personally or through their insurance) for the damage caused.

How this common sense manifests itself legally differs from state to state, but the underlying principles behind these state regulations are common enough to help an individual determine whether or not Zipcar (or another auto-sharing program) is financially responsible for her or him.

Is Zipcar sharing a responsible decision?

Like every company, there are pros and cons of using Zipcar. The advantages and disadvantages may carry different value for each driver depending on their needs, so here are some basic positive and negative aspects to Zipcar for you to consider.

Positive Aspects of Zipcar

  • It is an attractive program to help people access vehicles.
  • Access of vehicles is applicable to times and locations where/when it would have been difficult before the inception of sharing services like Zipcar.
  • Vehicle sharing is convenient.
  • Zipcar’s available cars and trucks are reported to be safe.
  • Policies encourage mutual respect and community among its members.

Negative Aspects of Zipcar

  • Insurance provided covers the very minimum required for most of the states that Zipcar serves.
  • For rented vehicles, coverage within the driver’s existing policy may carry over to accidents that occur while driving a rented vehicle. But policies do not often offer a similar type of extension of coverage toward accidents that occur while driving a shared vehicle.
  • Individuals who do not own cars are eligible to become members with Zipcar without insurance.
  • Insurance assessment find many risks associated with driving a shared vehicle.
  • Accidents occurring with only the company’s policy applied can create financial dilemmas.
  • Policies for non-vehicle owners offer comparable coverage to what Zipcar offers.

So as the situation currently stands, potential Zipcar customers are advised to approach the decision to use the service with great discretion.

It is important that they consider the potential costs very seriously and understand the possible long-term financial problems that may outweigh the initial convenience that Zipcar offers.

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