What is Ithaca Carshare?

Ithaca Carshare is a membership-based service providing 24/7 access to vehicles on an hourly basis. As a member, you reserve a car online, by smartphone, or by calling. You unlock the car with a personal access card, drive where you need, and return it to the same location where you lock it with your card. Members pay an hourly and mileage rate to use the cars. There are no additional costs for gas, insurance, maintenance, cleaning, or permanent parking!

Will Ithaca Carshare work for me? 

Our service can work for anyone with a valid driver's license and eligible driving history, but especially those who:

  • Drive less than 10,000 miles per year
  • Walk, bike, take public transit or use other ways to get around 
  • Do not often rely on vehicles for long distance or multi-day trips
  • Do not rely on a car for a daily commute
  • Are interested in owning fewer cars, but still need to use a car occasionally
    Check out Way2Go of Tompkins County for more transportation information and resources.

How is carsharing different from car rental? 

We refer to it as transit-oriented carsharing - an extension of public transit that is more flexible than a scheduled bus route, but still a wise and efficient use of resources. Ithaca Carshare gives you self-serve access to a network of cars throughout the city, 24/7, with cars in neighborhoods where people live.  Reservations can be made for trips 30 minutes and up, with time periods available in 15 minute increments. Members have convenient, direct access to vehicles without the necessity of repetitive paperwork or extra fees for gas and insurance. With carsharing, your insurance is already included in the rates, and you are covered to $1,000,000 in liability. You can reserve cars online or through an automated phone system, at any time, or by calling our office to talk to one of our 6 local staff. You don't need to visit an office to sign a contract or pick up keys when you need a car - it's an easy self-service at any time of day or night.

Is Ithaca Carshare affiliated with any other carsharing organizations?

Ithaca Carshare is a founding member of the Carsharing Association, an international association of carsharing organizations committed to a code of ethics of providing sustainable, transit-oriented urban mobility for the benefit of the communities that they serve. These carsharing organizations have over 15,000 vehicles and 1,000,000 members in over 25 cities, including TorontoSan FranciscoVancouverBoulderMinneapolis/St. PaulMadisonSouthern OntarioMontreal, and Ottawa. Ithaca Carshare has roaming membership agreements with several of these organizations. 

What kind of vehicles are available?

We are committed to cars with high fuel efficiency and low emissions; our average fuel economy was 31 mpg in 2013! Ithaca Carshare's fleet is composed of mostly newer fuel-efficient hatchbacks (Toyota Prius C, Honda Fit, Toyota Yaris, Nissan Versa), a larger Scion xB for added cargo space, a Dodge Grand Caravan minivan, and a Toyota Tacoma pickup. Both the Grand Caravan and Toyota Tacoma have a Tompkins County Solid Waste permit sticker for hauling waste and recycling. As Ithaca Carshare grows, we expect to add new vehicles with a continued focus on high fuel efficiency and low emissions.

Will Ithaca Carshare have electric, natural gas, compressed air, or hydrogen cars?

We are committed to having a fleet of vehicles with the highest fuel economy in their class. We continually check on new car models and take all types into consideration. Some of our sister organizations have incorporated alternative vehicles into their fleet, and we have a close eye on those programs as well. For now, our focus is on the positive impact of sharing vehicles. Research on Ithaca Carshare's operations indicates that each of our vehicles replaces roughly 15.3 privately owned cars, so we feel confident that even before we invest in alternative fuel vehicles, we are significantly reducing the environmental and economic impacts of transportation in Ithaca while keeping our rates reasonable. In fact, our members have already told us they expected to not own over 400 cars because Ithaca Carshare is available.

Where are Ithaca Carshare cars located? 

Find them on this map! We have a growing fleet (24 as of August 2014) located throughout Ithaca. As usage grows, we expand our network in locations convenient to members, most likely in densely populated areas and/or employment centers. Please note that while we do receive many requests for cars outside denser city neighborhoods, we strongly focus on our "network" of available vehicles. Neighborhoods such as West Hill, Northeast or Community Corners, more spread out and less walkable, are challenging to serve with carsharing. Given time and membership growth, we do hope to expand to these areas.

How much money can Ithaca Carshare save me?

The savings from carsharing can be anywhere from hundreds to thousands of dollars per year, depending on your current situation. Those who rely on a car for most of their trips can see a significant savings over a longer period when the cost of loan payments, depreciation, gas, insurance, maintenance, repairs, and registration are taken into account. AAA estimates the average annual cost of owning a car is at least $5,900 and more likely over $9,000! If you're considering buying a truck to haul loads around just once in a while, carsharing is a much more affordable choice, with hourly rates the same for our pickup as for our cars. Most carshare members combine their trips to make the most of their reservations, and therefore drive less, saving them even more!

Is carsharing less expensive than owning a car?

The average cost of owning a car in the U.S. is over $9,100 per year when the cost of fuel, insurance, upkeep, repairs, and loan or lease payments are taken into account (AAA, 2013). Contrasted with the average daily use of car - less than an hour and a half per day - car ownership works out to be about $17 an hour of usage! Put another way, car owners spend about $25 per day, no matter if they drove that day or not. For many people, carsharing gives the same convenience and flexibility of owning a car, for a much lower pricetag. A typical member spends no more than $1000 a year on carsharing (many spend much, much less!), but members know there's a car available and convenient when they need it. 

Comparing $17 per hour for owning a car to Ithaca Carshare's highest rates of $8.95 per hour (plus mileage and tax), if you drive only occasionally, there's no question carsharing is less expensive.

Is there a benefit for students, faculty or staff of Cornell University or Ithaca College?

Both Cornell University and Ithaca College offer special rates and packages for students and faculty/staff. You can find the full details on our Rates page.

What about insurance?

For members 21 and up, you are covered by Ithaca Carshare's insurance. If you are 18-20, you must also be primarily covered by another auto liability insurance policy and provide proof of this to us. Ithaca Carshare provides you with liability coverage of $1,000,000 per incident. As a member, you're only responsible for a $500 deductible in the case of a crash. This insurance is included in our rates, and is not an add-on. Head to our membership eligibility page for the details.

What are the membership qualifications?

Ithaca Carshare offers membership to drivers age 18 and up who have a valid driver's license and who meet minimum eligibility requirements, including 2 years of reasonable driving history.

How does the application process work?

Just fill out an online application for membership and complete the online orientation. Once you have done this, we will charge your payment card for the application fee and process your membership, which can take up to a week. Approved members will be notified by email about when to expect their member materials and keycard by mail. Email us or call our office at 277.3210 x3 if you'd prefer to pick up your member materials.

Do I need to have a credit card?

No. Any Visa or Mastercard branded payment card (credit or debit) is fine. You can also pay by cash, check or Ithaca Hours, though we require a $200 deposit if you don't have a payment card on file. We also have a special account at Alternatives Credit Union in the West End where you can make a payment directly to your Ithaca Carshare account with cash/check using a special deposit slip.

How do I find the car I reserved?

Each Ithaca Carshare vehicle is parked in a designated "home" space, indicated by an Ithaca Carshare parking sign. No other vehicles are allowed in these special tow-away zones, just like taxi stands and bus stops. All vehicle locations are shown on this map, and all of our vehicles have the Ithaca Carshare logo.

How do I get the keys?

Your keycard will unlock the car you've reserved. The ignition key is in the vehicle. All of these details are outlined in our Member Handbook and in the online orientation.

Who keeps the gas tank filled?

We all do. One of the responsibilities of membership is to help keep the car fueled. If the gas gauge goes below one-quarter tank, just stop at a gas station and fill the tank using the Ithaca Carshare fuel card in the car. It's easy, and there are instructions with the card. You are not charged for using this card, as gas costs are included in your mileage rate.

How far can I drive an Ithaca Carshare car?

There are no limits to how far you drive, but all usage must be round-trip, not one-way. You pay per mile and per hour that you drive. Most members use the cars for trips of a few hours, as that is what our pricing accommodates best, though we do have full day rates as well.

How long can I keep an Ithaca Carshare car?

If the car is available, you may reserve it for as long as you need it, via web or phone. Most cars also have a day rate where your charges are capped at 10 hours for each 24-hour period. Please keep in mind that our service is based in Ithaca, every trip must begin and end at the car's home location, and we do charge penalty fees for late returns.

What are other rules for carsharing?

When you become a member, you complete a short orientation and receive our Member Handbook, outlining the requirements of membership. Ithaca Carshare members are expected to use the vehicles responsibly and have consideration for the other members. For instance, we expect you to return the car on time, keep the car clean, and gas it up if the tank is low. If an infraction occurs you may be charged a penalty, and if problems continue, membership may be terminated. When in doubt, call us! The number is 607.277.3210.

Why is carsharing "good for the planet"?

Several studies (including this one on Ithaca Carshare) showed that for each carsharing vehicle, over 15 privately owned cars come off the road. Fewer cars on our streets and highways means less traffic, less wear-and-tear on the infrastructure, and a reduction in climate-altering emissions. Our own data and independent studies also show that more than two-thirds of carshare members either sell their second car or postpone buying one, once carsharing becomes a habit. Because second cars are often older, less efficient, and less well maintained, getting them off the road means fewer greenhouse gas emissions, cleaner air, and quieter, less congested neighborhoods. Already our members have told us Ithaca Carshare has helped them sell or avoid purchasing over 400 cars!

What if I'm late bringing the car back?

If you know you're going to be late, log on to our mobile site or call our automated reservation system at 607.277.3210 x9 to see if you can extend your reservation. Always wait for a confirmation: If someone has the car immediately after you, your extension won't got through and you will be connected with our 24-hour line, where we will help make arrangements to accommodate your late return for the next member. If you're the member who is waiting, we will contact you as soon as we know your car may be late. We will see if it works for you to adjust your time, move your reservation to a nearby vehicle, or call you a taxi to get you where you need to be. The member who is late will be charged a penalty fee: $1/minute with a $30 minimum if they didn't call in, and 50c/minute if they called us before their reservation was up. Reservations are often back to back, so returning on time is very important for keeping our system running smoothly.

What if the car I reserved isn't there?

This is unusual, but does happen occasionally. Call us immediately at 607.277.3210 x2 and we will help you locate the car, move to another car, or do our best to get you to your destination another way.

What if there's a crash?

Call 911 or the police, just as you would for any car crash or fender bender and make sure everyone involved is safe or is being cared for. Then call us immediately at 607.277.3210 x2 and we will help you. In all cases you must contact us before continuing your trip, and in the majority of cases we will require you to wait and obtain a police report. 

I have a question not listed here.

Just give us a call at 607.277.3210 or email us and we'd be happy to help.

Cost to Own

The average cost to own and operate a medium sedan is $9,122 per year when you include depreciation, gas, insurance and maintenance? If you drive an SUV that number soars to $11,599 per year! (Data from AAA, 2013Calculate for yourself the cost to own vs. share. You might be surprised!