Zipcar’s rapid expansion from a Cambridge startup into a global brand has paralleled, and helped fuel, a widespread revival of urban living. As many people who a few decades ago might have settled in the suburbs instead opt for revitalized cities, the convenience of the company’s rent-by-the-hour cars has often helped seal the deal. And by popularizing the car-sharing concept, Zipcar also laid the groundwork for other new urban amenities like Boston’s Hubway bike-sharing network.
The announcement Wednesday that car-rental behemoth Avis Budget would purchase Zipcar for about $500 million marks car sharing’s symbolic arrival into the mainstream. Avis, which says it remains committed to Zipcar’s new Boston waterfront headquarters, promises that combining a traditional car-rental firm and car-sharing service will improve both.