Car-sharing firms Zipcar and Flexcar will merge this week under the Zipcar brand, which has the largest network of the two. The firms, both 7 years old, rent cars by the hour, rolling gas, insurance, parking, and maintenance costs into a $7-$15 hourly rate and an annual membership fee. Cambridge-based Zipcar has 3,500 cars in 35 cities and most of Seattle-based Flexcar’s 1,500 cars are in 15 West Coast cities.
The car-sharing business is aimed not at travelers, like other rental firms, but residents who use cars only a few times a week. "We are trying to replace car ownership," said Zipcar's CEO. "It's a business model that locates cars in neighborhoods." By merging, the companies hope to be able to expand more rapidly and reach profitability within the next year, Flexcar's owner said. The merged company will have about 180,000 members.