The Claremont Colleges lack a viable option for car sharing, which has a drastic effect on students’ ability to experience the local community. Transportation to cultural events, concerts and casual weekend outings is inordinately expensive.
The colleges currently offer two different services for renting cars: the exorbitantly expensive Zipcar and the equally overpriced Wheelz. Although the services are fundamentally different, both are flawed systems that detract from the college experience.
The most egregious offender is Zipcar. With no other commercial option for renting a car, 5C students are stuck with Zipcar. Zipcar’s effective monopoly over car rentals on Pomona’s campus allows the company to charge exorbitant prices for its services. Zipcar’s hourly rates start at $7 for weekdays, and prices increase by over 10 percent on weekends.
Zipcar’s daily prices are almost twice that of traditional rental options available in the Claremont area. An economy level car at a local Enterprise Rent-A-Car comes in under a meager $33 per day, including taxes. However, the majority of car rental companies have minimum age requirements, which automatically exclude Pomona College’s student base. Zipcar does, however, offer hourly rates, something its larger competitors have yet to catch on to.
While this isn’t exactly a fair comparison, it highlights the most notable fact about Zipcar: The lack of competition has led to inflated prices, which negatively affect students.
Wheelz, while a preferable system, is still flawed. It offers a very practical and environmentally friendly service: renting students’ cars out to other students for hourly or daily rates. The owner sets an hourly rate and a daily rate, and the renter browses through various cars, comparing cars and prices. This idea of car sharing rewards both car owners and renters.
Wheelz’s rates, however, are still almost twice as expensive as the local major rental companies. While these rates include insurance, they still run over $60 daily for the least expensive cars in Claremont, not including gas.
Wheelz’s concept of car owners renting their cars to other students is valuable. Students don’t have to leave campus to rent cars. Renters can offset the cost of owning a car by making money through renting it out. On paper, students have a cheaper, more environmentally friendly way of renting cars.
However, in practice, Wheelz fails to deliver. Prices, particularly for full-day rentals, are excessive. Wheelz takes a sizable 40-percent cut of the rate, leaving only 60 percent to the car renter.
Wheelz’s large cut pulls money away from Claremont. It is not beneficial to either the renter or the owner. I adamantly believe Pomona should form a network connecting students needing to borrow cars to students wanting to rent out their cars. In addition to eliminating the unnecessary 40-percent cut Wheelz takes, it would allow more 5C students the opportunity to run their errands at a reduced price.