Effective immediately, you will be able to drop off and pick-up Zipcar Flex cars from Gatwick Airport.
It is a welcome addition to the long-standing drop-off at Heathrow Terminal 5. However, that service has been downgraded in the past months and has moved from its on-terminal location at T5 to the Holiday Inn London Heathrow which is accessible via shuttle bus.
It is not a total slam dunk. Anyone hoping to pick up or drop off a Zipcar at Gatwick will have to pay a £20 airport surcharge – not exactly chump change.
How does Zipcar Flex work at Gatwick Airport?
The new Zipcar service will operate from Gatwick’s North Terminal, which is where most of easyJet’s flights go from. It is therefore less convenient for anyone flying from Gatwick South, including British Airways, although there is the free landside inter-terminal shuttle.
Here are Zipcar’s instructions for finding the facility:
“When approaching North Terminal drop-off and pick-up follow the signs for ‘Car Rental Returns’ the car park is located just off Racecourse way.”
‘Over 20’ bays are available, so you should be able to find an empty one.
The facility is a 2-3 minute walk to the North Terminal, or you can use the free airport shuttle for the South Terminal.
If you are arriving at Gatwick and want to pick up a car, simply follow the instructions in reverse. To exit the car park use barrier code 1066#.
What is Zipcar Flex?
Note that the service is only available with Zipcar’s Flex service and not round-trip car rentals.
Zipcar Flex is an extra service offered by the Zipcar car share club.
Most people in London will have seen parking bays marked ‘Car Club Only’, often containing a Zipcar-vehicle. In return for a modest hourly rate, you can rent these cars via the Zipcar app and return them to their parking spot at the end of the trip.
Zipcar Flex is more flexible but more random. In certain London council areas, Zipcar Flex vehicles can be parked in any street parking bay. You don’t take the car back to where you got it from. You open the app, hopefully find a car near where you are, book it and then drop it in a street parking bay at your destination. The only rule is that the destination also needs to be in a local authority area that supports Zipcar Flex.
When Heathrow Airport adopted Zipcar Flex, it meant that you could pick up a car from near your house and drive directly to the Terminal 5 short stay car park. You dropped the car in one of the Avis / Zipcar bays and that was it. As our review showed, I could get from South London to Heathrow in an an hour for £19 compared to taking 90 minutes and three different trains by public transport.
Zipcar Flex also works in reverse, of course. You could get off your aircraft, walk into Terminal 5’s short stay car park and jump in a Zipcar, as long as you lived in a Flex drop-off area.
Is Zipcar Flex to Gatwick good value?
That will depend on what you compare it to. £20 (one-way), on top of your total trip costs, is significantly more than the £7.50 that is charged at Heathrow, and quadruple the previous £5 charge.
Zipcar says that “We have taken on feedback from our operations at Heathrow over the last 3 years across both locations and believe it is fairly priced when compared with private hire and car parking fees.”
£20 seems hefty given that cars at Gatwick are likely to see a high turn-over. It is not like a normal one-way rental – there will be plenty of people arriving at Gatwick who will want to hire a Zipcar to drive back home into Central London, thus returning the cars.
There is also less value in taking a Zipcar Flex versus the train, unless your journey requires multiple changes. A Thameslink return ticket to Gatwick costs less than £15.
How to get FREE car rental status and other benefits via UK credit cards (February 2024)
If you hire a car in the UK, you can get special benefits (discounts, upgrades, free additional drivers etc) if you have elite status with a car rental programme. You can get elite status for free via certain American Express cards.
The Platinum Card and American Express Business Platinum
The Platinum Card from American Express and American Express Business Platinum come with two free car hire status cards. Your supplementary Platinum cardholder can also receive status in their own right.
From Avis, you receive President’s Club status in Avis Preferred. This gets you up to 25% off standard rates, a free additional driver and a guaranteed one class upgrade. For weekend rentals you will receive a two class upgrade, subject to availability.
From Hertz, you receive ‘Five Star’ status in Hertz Gold Plus Rewards. This gets you up to 15% off standard rates, a free additional driver and a one class upgrade, subject to availability.
Hertz also offers Platinum cardholders a 4 hour grace period on rentals. Your final day is treated as 28 hours, so a 1pm pick up with a 5pm return the following day is only charged as one day, not two days. We wrote about the Hertz / Platinum 4 hour grace period here.
The Platinum Card also comes with full car hire insurance with no obligation to pay for the rental via American Express. You can refuse any attempts to sell you additional insurance at pick up. This benefit has substantial value if you rent on a regular basis.
American Express Preferred Rewards Gold
American Express Preferred Rewards Gold is an excellent card in its own right. You receive 20,000 Membership Rewards points for signing up (convert to 20,000 Avios amongst other things), four airport lounge passes and £120 of Deliveroo credit. Even better, your first year is free.
There are two car rental benefits:
- you receive Preferred Plus status in Avis Preferred
- you receive a special package with Hertz – 10% off best available rates at participating locations, a one class upgrade for rentals of 5 days or more, subject to availability, and no additional driver fees
Find out more about the benefits of American Express Preferred Rewards Gold in our review. You can apply here.