Business & Tech

Zipcar, Uber lower rental rates in driver partnership

Reuters/file

Zipcar and Uber have lowered the hourly rates drivers will pay for short-term rentals after the initial charge was criticized as too high.

The two companies announced a partnership in February that allows Uber drivers to rent Zipcar vehicles for a few hours at a time, but some analysts said the original $12 an hour charge would eat up too much of drivers’ wages. In Boston Uber drivers typically make about $20 an hour.

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But the companies quietly changed the pricing a few weeks ago, according to Zipcar spokeswoman Lindsay Wester. Now, drivers using Zipcar vehicles essentially pay $7 an hour on weekdays and $8 on weekends.

Zipcar and Uber are each playing a role in lowering the rate. Boston-based Zipcar’s rental fee for Uber drivers is now $9 an hour on weekdays and $10 on weekends. Meanwhile, Uber pays drivers $2 an hour for using Zipcar, provided they complete at least one ride each hour.

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The two companies each said they expected to adjust the program.

“This was always an initial deployment of the partnership, and was then focused on testing, learning, and iterating as necessary,” Wester said.

Wester acknowledged the company had heard some feedback about pricing. Zipcar has also dropped a $35 application fee for participants in the program. The drivers will still pay a $7 monthly membership fee.

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The partnership is only active in Boston for now. For Zipcar, it’s an opportunity to experiment with a new use for its cars, and to grow its membership. Uber is using Zipcar to expand its driver ranks to those who do not own cars.

But the price to rent the Zipcar vehicles stood out to some industry watchers. Harry Campbell, who runs a blog about driver issues and had criticized the $12 an hour fee, said the new rate is “an improvement, but I still don’t know how enticing it will be to drivers.” Drivers who want to be on the road for hours at a time, Campbell added, may not want to pay a rate that would add up over the course of a day.

Wester said the system is mostly aimed at people who are interested in driving for Uber, but want to try it out without committing to buying a car or renting for more than a short period of time.

She declined to share any data about how many drivers have signed up for the program. But she said it has expanded since its launch, with cars now available for Uber drivers to rent in three locations, as opposed to one Dorchester location when the partnership began.

Adam Vaccaro can be reached at adam.vaccaro@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter at @adamtvaccaro.
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