Zipcar is a car-sharing service for short-term car rentals in major cities. Zipcar promptly published a Covid-19 Health & Safety Policy at the start of the pandemic.
The company, which is owned by the Avis Budget group, doesn’t provide concrete details regarding car cleanings on its web site, but it communicates that Zipcar “clean[s] our cars regularly and ha[s] upgraded our cleaning procedures with anti-viral and anti-microbial solutions.”
Zipcar mentions adding hygiene and safety practices to its team’s operating procedures. It removes cars from service if they’ve been exposed to the virus.
Zipcar’s Covid-19 policy page emphasizes that it’s contactless: you access its cars with an app which avoids the need to visit a rental car desk. The company has also said it allows customers with a valid drivers license to sign up and rent a car within minutes — helpful for the unexpected times you need a car amid the pandemic.
We’ve all learned a lot about Covid-19 transmission risks over the course of this year, and people understandably remain cautious about being inside any enclosed location that might have been exposed to the coronavirus.
As many people considering driving instead of air travel for the upcoming holiday travel season — or even if you simply need a car to drive solo for some routine errands — for the many urban dwellers that don’t own a car, you’re faced with renting one.
Can a Zipcar be properly sanitized?
Experts say that the hard surfaces in a rental car — door handles, steering wheel, radio buttons, ignition, and plastic center consoles — can be properly disinfected.
The areas that cannot be fully sanitized are the porous, cloth surfaces like seats, headrests, and arm rests.
So use extra caution around those areas, remembering to wash or sanitize hands frequently after touching those surfaces.
What should I do when I first enter my Zipcar or rental car?
Zipcar encourages customers to wash their hands before and after driving; to wear a mask while traveling; to avoid driving if you feel sick; to disinfect surfaces with antiviral wipes; and to take all belongings and garbage with you when you leave the vehicle.
To thoroughly disinfect surfaces, use sanitizing wipes or disinfectant spray to wipe down high-touch surfaces on the outside of the vehicle like the door handles, trunk release, and the gas cap.
Sanitize the hard surfaces on the inside of the car, including the steering wheel, gear shift, dashboard console, and seatbelt buckle,
Consider spending extra time on the steering wheel. According to CarRentals.com, the steering wheel has four times the amount of germs found on an average toilet seat, given crevices and interior sections.
Ventilate the car by rolling down the windows, preferably in an outdoor location.
Even with winter upon us, leaving the windows down as much as possible when you first get the car is wise. The Wall Street Journal’s article on COVID-19 transmission discusses the importance of adequate ventilation in slowing the coronavirus’ transmission.
Lyft‘s ride-sharing policy recommends avoiding using the recirculated air option for the car’s heating and cooling. Following that advice in a Zipcar or any other rental car makes sense.
In Comparison to Enterprise, Hertz, National, Avis, Alamo, Thrifty, Dollar & Budget
The major rental car companies have introduced new protocols for cleaning, disinfection, and social distancing.
Most policies are connected to the CDC’s Covid-19 cleaning guidelines.
It’s also useful to understand the ownership structure of the major rental car providers, as some may deploy similar cleaning and social distancing protocols across multiple brands:
- Hertz owns Dollar Rent A Car and Thrifty Car Rental.
- The Avis Budget Group owns Avis, Budget Rent A Car — and Zipcar too.
- Enterprise Holdings, Inc owns Enterprise Rent-A-car, National Car Rental, and Alamo Rent a Car.
We summarize the safety and cleaning protocols of the major rental car providers below, grouping sister brands with similar COVID-19 policies when applicable.
Enterprise, National, & Alamo
Enterprise, National, and Alamo have the Complete Clean Pledge, which expands cleaning and employee training to ensure proper cleaning of rental vehicles.
Every Enterprise, National, or Alamo car is cleaned between each rental, which includes sanitizing with a disinfectant that meets health authority requirements.
The three brands pay particular attention to 20+ high-touch surfaces in cleaning their rental cars. They also have protocols to isolate and quarantine any vehicle exposed to the coronavirus.
Hertz Safety & Cleaning Policy: Hertz Gold Standard Clean
Hertz cleans and disinfects all vehicles before renting, following CDC guidelines.
The company’s 15-point cleaning process includes: disinfecting vehicles upon return; removing trash; vacuuming interior seat areas and trunks; cleaning windows; disinfecting all high-touch surfaces (e.g.: steering wheel, consoles, door handles); and disinfecting the driver area.
Hertz also places a Gold Standard seal on the vehicle to indicate it hasn’t been entered since cleaning. This is reminiscent of Hilton’s CleanStay seal on hotel room doors.
Dollar & Thrifty
While Dollar and Thrifty are both owned by Hertz, the companies safety and cleaning policies differ slightly from that of Hertz.
Dollar and Thrifty are practicing preventative measures to reduce the spread of germs within rental branch locations. This includes alcohol-based hand sanitizers and reminding employees to wash hands frequently.
All Dollar and Thrifty rental vehicles receive multi-step cleaning between rentals.
The cleaning process follows CDC guidelines and includes: disinfecting vehicles upon return; vacuuming seat areas and trunk; disinfecting all high-touch surfaces; and disinfecting the driver area a second time.
Avis & Budget
Avis and Budget have enhanced the cleaning of rental vehicles after each car’s return.
The companies’ cleaning procedures focus on high-touch surfaces like steering wheels, dashboards, hand grips, radio dials, cup holders, center consoles, and door handles both inside and outside.
Using EPA-certified disinfectants before and after each rental, vehicles are cleaned multiple times.
Avis and Budget are also cleaning and sanitizing rental car branch locations frequently and urging employees to wash hands often.