By Tom Samiljan
October 24, 2012

When by-the-hour car-sharing services such as Zipcar and Hertz on Demand arrived on the scene, they upended the traditional model for short-term rentals. Now it’s their turn to be upended. Taking a page from bike-sharing programs, the latest car-sharing services offer by-the-minute rentals. The most traveler-friendly of the half-dozen or so services that have recently emerged is Car2go ($35 one-time membership fee), which rents smart cars in five U.S. cities (Austin; San Diego; Portland, Oregon; Washington, D.C.; and Miami), and 15 more across the globe (Toronto, Berlin, and Amsterdam, among others).

As with bike-sharing programs, Car2go’s vehicles aren’t tethered to specific pick-up and drop-off locations. Instead, thanks to deals with local parking authorities and extensive use of GPS and other technologies factory-built into its electric- and gas-powered fleet, Car2go allows users to locate and drive nearby vehicles, then drop them off in any legal parking spot in town. Rates, which include parking, fuel, and insurance, are standard across the country: 38 cents per minute, $13.99 per hour, and $72.99 per day—on par with Zipcar’s prices. The best thing about Car2go is that it requires no reservations. You just find a car in real time via the Car2go smart-phone app, hold your membership card up to the reader on the windshield, enter your PIN to release the keys, and you’re ready to go. Your card will work in any domestic city, with international compatibility planned by the end of the year.