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Zipcar Flex rolls out further – join for free and drive to or from Heathrow T5 for £17

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Most readers, at least London-based ones, will know Zipcar as a ‘pound per hour’ car hire group.  They have a few hundred cars scattered across Central London and you can book them by the half-hour via their app.

If you live in the right area – there are about 10 cars within 10 minutes walk of us, the nearest around 30 seconds away – it is a fantastic service.  You are virtually guaranteed a car when you need one and the cost is a fraction of buying and running one yourself.

What is Zipcar Flex?

Zipcar Flex, which is currently being rolled out, takes the service one step furtherYou can take a car and leave it wherever you want, within a designated zone.  Park and walk away.  You don’t need to drive it back to where it came from.

The only downside with Zipcar Flex is that you can never be certain that there will be a car near you.  It obviously requires another Zipcar user to have dropped off a Flex car near you.  To make life a little easier, you can put a 15 minute ‘hold’ on a vehicle via the app, giving you time to get there before it is released for another user.

Zipcar Flex Heathrow Terminal 5

Zipcar Flex has taken time to roll out across London, because it has required separate agreements with each local authority.  Basically, Zipcar needs to persuade each council to relax its parking rules to allow a Zipcar to be dropped off in ANY on-street residents parking bay.  The good news, for me at least since I live there, is that Kensington & Chelsea has just come on stream.  This was one of the last major hold-outs.

The following boroughs now allow you to pick up or drop off a Zipcar Flex car.  It is perfectly fine to drop off the car in a different zone to the one you collected it in:

  • Hackney
  • Islington
  • Kensington & Chelsea
  • Lambeth
  • Lewisham
  • Merton
  • Southwark
  • Tower Hamlets
  • Waltham Forest
  • Wandsworth
  • Westminster
  • plus London Heathrow Terminal 5

What does Zipcar Flex cost?

The Zipcar Flex service is priced at 29p per minute, with a £12 per hour cap and a £72 daily cap.

How does Zipcar Flex work at Heathrow?

Zipcar Flex launched at Heathrow Terminal 5 last year.  You can jump in a Zipcar Flex car anywhere in London (well, anywhere on the list of boroughs above) and drive yourself to Terminal 5, where you must park in the Avis Budget area on Level 4 of the car park.  You can also do it in reverse – walk up to Level 4 of the car park, jump in a Zipcar Flex car, drive yourself home and leave it outside your door for the next user to pick up.

To or from Central London, Zipcar Flex will cost you £17.  This assumes that it takes you under 60 minutes to get to the terminal – longer trips will cost more.  This is far, far cheaper than even an UberX.

(£17 comprises the £12 fee for a 42-60 minute trip, plus a £5 fee charged by the airport.)

This is how it works if you want to book a Zipcar Flex car when arriving at T5:

“When landing at T5 and considering using Flex to get back to the Zipzone, here’s what to do:

    1. When you’re within 15 minutes of exiting the terminal (such as waiting for your bags), open the Zipcar app and reserve an available Flex car. They’ll appear in the app within the Short Stay Car Park directly opposite the Terminal 5 building
    2. Follow the signs within the terminal to the Avis Budget area on Level 4 of the car park
    3. Upon arriving at Level 4, you’ll see several spaces clearly marked with green Zipcar flags in the back-right hand corner- check the number plate to see which one you’ve reserved
    4. Unlock with the app as usual and set off on your journey home
    5. The exit barriers will open without a ticket as the number plate will be automatically recognised
    6. Remember, you can only drop off in the Zipzone, so double check before you drive that you will be parking in the right area (this can be seen easily in the app)”

Here is a map (click to enlarge):

Zipcar Flex zone at Heathrow Terminal 5

Full details are on the Zipcar website here.

You can now join Zipcar for free

You don’t even need to pay to join Zipcar.  There are now, in London, three pricing plans:

FREE – pay the Flex rates above, plus from £8 per hour for standard ‘return to base’ cars

£6 per month – pay the Flex rates above, plus from £6 per hour for standard ‘return to base’ cars

£15 per month – pay the Flex rates above, plus from £5 per hour for standard ‘return to base’ cars

As you can see, if your only intention is to use the Flex plan then you might as well sign up for the free scheme.

You will get £25 of free driving credit, even on the free plan (a reader tested this yesterday and it works) if you use my referral link

Remember that you need your driving licence to hand when signing up.

(Want to earn more miles and points from credit cards?  Click here to visit our dedicated airline and hotel travel credit cards page or use the ‘Credit Cards Update’ link in the menu bar at the top of the page.)

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  1. I underestimated you Rob. Always imagined you lived in Fulham for some reason!

  2. Looking at car clubs, albeit up north. Does car hire insurance with Amex Plat come into effect?

    • It’s not clear. However, insurance4carhire annual policies DO specifically cover Zipcar etc if you look at their website, so that gives me some hope that the Amex policy would too.

      • Charlieface says:

        Why do you love pushing insurance4carhire? Questor is much cheaper with the code, they include car clubs, and they have affiliate links.

        • Lady London says:

          I think I’ve used all of the car hire excess insurance co’s. Currently Bettersafe is my go-to. Pricing very fair so if their conditions cover my particular hire i go for them. (Works out about 2 pounds per day in Uk/Europe. They used to price by the hour after a certain minimum but think it might ne priced per day now. At 2pounds I’m not complaining. I’ve had to speak to them a couple of times they were thoughtful and professional.

          If you dont carry an Amex Plat and you hire a few cars per year do the sums most of the Excess car Hire Insurance co’s offer a good annual policy rate. I take a policy on a per-hire basis as I hire différent types of vehicles not just cars and no one excess policy çovers all.

      • Alfonso says:

        As I understand, insurance4carhire covers any vehicle owned by the rental company (incl. car clubs I believe). What is not included are cars owned by individuals/companies rented through an app such as Drivy.

        • Thanks Rob – the car club is with Enterprise. Technically it is car hire by the hour – will look into it. When signing up it is £10 a month to reduce the excess from £750 which is standard.

  3. AndyGWP says:

    Does anyone have experience of using their Zipcar membership to use a car in another country? Any hints / tips appreciated. Considering the use of it in America.

  4. IslandDweller says:

    Zipcar Flex is a great offering, I use it occasional. One small detail, the prices quoted above are for a Polo. Other vehicles, such as the electric Golf, cost a little more. (I usually choose the E Golf, it’s a fabulous vehicle for urban use)

  5. abhey says:

    Probably should clarify with zipcar flex you’re charged by the minute so there’s no need to try and get your journey completed within an hour.

    • Lady London says:

      Thé break even on this is about 40 min. Under that you’re paying less. Over that you might as well keep it for an jour (going under a couple of minutes would make sure)

      • Yes, 41 minutes. If you’re not going to be able to lock out the car in 41 minutes, you might as well go for a bit of sightseeing around Hounslow for 19 minutes as the extra time is free.

  6. Lady London says:

    The beauty of thèse Zipcar-type things is also that Congestion Charge is included An Uber driver was telling me that each Uber fare in thé zone now has to have what seemed to me quite a large amount built into the price. (Over 2 pounds IIRC).

    That’s each and every fare every passenger pays for every journey on Uber niw has this huge surcharge. Even though thé driver also has to pay the full official daily congestion charge rate as well.

    Apparently this was extorted by the London Mayor’s office as part of a raft of conditions to let Uber operate after the Mayor’s office suddenly announced they were banning Uber

    The same is not required of Black Taxis. Also, unlike everybody else including Uber, Black Taxis can keep their pollutung diesel engines that are not Euro 6 compilant, until 2025.

    • simple answer is don’t use black cabs. the sooner they go out of business the better. although i could say the same of uber tbh…

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