You've come a long way, Zipcar.

The recent announcement that the Avis Budget Group is aiming to acquire the Cambridge, Massachusetts-based company for nearly $500 million marked the pioneering car-sharing service's evolution from an upstart launched at the turn of the Millennium to a lucrative brand with serious international potential. Though Zipcar members (a.k.a. Zipsters) may squirm at the idea of a traditional (read: staid) car-rental agency holding sway over their quirky, beloved service, the deal could have great advantages for everyone.

According to Neil Abrams, president and founder of Abrams Consulting, which specializes in consulting and research for the global auto rental industry, Avis's acquisition of Zipcar gives the larger company a quick way to get into the car-sharing game for a relatively small outlay. This could prove especially lucrative as emerging markets such as China and India, where Avis already has a footprint, begin embracing the still-nascent idea of by-the-hour rentals. More immediately, some analysts predict that Avis and Budget customers will benefit from the company's adoption of Zipcar's celebrated mobile technology (coming soon: Avis access cards?) and customer service.

But it may be Zipsters who are the biggest beneficiaries. Zipcar continues to be plagued by weekend car shortages, when many of its 760,000 members hit the road. Avis's enormous domestic fleet, much of which sits dormant on the weekends, could be mobilized to ease these problems. Similarly, Avis's global footprint will likely facilitate Zipcar's international expansion, potentially bringing easy, by-the-hour rentals to cities such as London, Paris, and Berlin. That's a prospect that's sure to please Zipsters and travelers alike.

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