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Becky Jo’s Carfree Life: We Have Hourly Rates

Posted by on January 7th, 2020 at 6:35 am

TFW you’re carfree but you need a car.
(Photo: Becky Jo)

Here’s the thing: I’m new to cycling as my main mode of transportation; but like each of you, there are things I am proficient at, and the sewing world is one of those things. So, when two weeks after getting rid of my car, I had to go to Tualatin to transport 54 bolts of fabric back to North Portland (about 20 miles, with hills), this presented a conundrum.

No worries, I said. We have a contingency plan for this, I said.

Our budget is set up to handle a Zipcar rental every now and again, and if used efficiently we figured should only be needed one or two times a month, tops. I researched it and set it up after the CarMax/Lyft revelation in the first post. I live by University of Portland, so I have three or four close Zipcars as easy options. This time around, I figured I’d get it for a full 24 hours, that way I could pick up the 54 bolts, drop off 54 bolts, drop off college kid’s really heavy dumbbell set at PSU, go to IKEA (because the standing desk I’ve been wanting is on sale), and get cat food/cat litter. No problem.

I biked over to UP, and opted for the Subaru Crosstrek with roof bike rack. I had watched YouTube videos the night before on how to put my bike in the roof rack. (Note: I’m about 5′ 9″ and like I’ve mentioned, my bike is really light, so it didn’t present any real problems. It wasn’t the most graceful job, but I got it done. If I were any shorter, or the car was any taller, it probably would have been more frustrating/comical.)

The hourly rate motel is no longer the seedy joke. Zipcar is the new hourly rate motel.

Before I even unlocked the car, I walked around the outside and shot a video of it. At mid-40s, I have had enough experience dealing with rentals and existing damage, so I was on top of it! No one was going to make a fool out of me! Heh.

I got in the Crosstrek, took a couple seconds to figure out the manual paddle shifters vs automatic transmission, but then hot damn! I had just sold a large SUV, which by comparison was sooo slow. I haven’t had a zippy car, let alone a manual transmission, for a few kids now… it was so fun! My immediate thought was, “I bet the college kids drive the sh*t out of this car!” This will come back to haunt me later.

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box of condoms found in car

Crosstrek Trojans

I dropped off my bike at home, dropped the rear passenger seats to increase loading area, took one teen to help with the first errand of fabric bolts. Came back home, unloaded fabric bolts, went to put back seats in position because for the IKEA trip I’m taking two teens. At this time, Teen #1 adjusts front passenger seat and a 12 pack box of Trojans popped out from under the back of seat right as I was about to set down one of the dumbbells.

This is the moment in the movie when the protagonist gets solid evidence of who the antagonist is, and then flashes back through the movie showing clues along the way.

I instantly thought of the front passenger and driver seats. How at first they seemed grungy but I didn’t think anything of it. Momlyfe, remember? I have other things to think about…. But now I’m fully focused on the fact that we’ve been sitting in 23andMe petri dishes for a few hours already.

Well, I was a hundred bucks into this venture, and I had things to do. Life as a forensic nightmare must go on. Don’t worry, I emailed Zipcar complete with photos and they promptly ignored me. It may not be a revelation to Zipcar, and maybe you’re even laughing at my naiveté right now, but the hourly rate motel is no longer the seedy joke. Zipcar is the new hourly rate motel.

So, my question to you is this:

What do you do when you need to move 54 bolts of fabric? Or, whatever it is that you need to move, but something that does actually require a car?

I looked at Getaround, but the husbeast was more wary of that because it’s not as well known, and could be creepy. Creepier than sitting in a sponge of bodily fluids? I don’t know. Please help or send bleach.

PS: While submitting this post, I stopped to call Zipcar so I could give you a full-circle. They said they’d open a ticket to look into why no one responded to me, that the complaints were received, they did clean the car, and offered to give me a $15 credit to apply to a later rental. Also it should be noted I was never once upset/angry in this situation; I’m impressed at the financial and sexual responsibility…maybe I just need to bring my own Glad bags?

— Becky Jo, @BeckyJoPDX
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34 Comments
  • Avatar
    9watts January 7, 2020 at 7:17 pm

    $100 for 24 hrs sounds too steep. Or maybe I misunderstood.

    You asked what we do in situations like you faced.
    Don’t underestimate bike trailers, and those who use them! 😉

    The Tualatin-from-UP part could discourage that, though there are folks here who would, and I on occasion have done that with a bike trailer. I bought and hauled home a table saw on my bike trailer from Vancouver once, starting and ending in inner SE Portland. A load of ten’ Irrigation pipe in Dayton? No problem.
    The trick is having a trailer well matched to the task and some experience pulling bulky or heavy loads. I can loan you a trailer – or six. Jonathan can put us in touch if you would like to try.

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    • Becky Jo (Columnist)
      Becky Jo (Columnist) January 8, 2020 at 12:03 pm

      the crosstrek on zipcar rents for $90 a day, plus the $7 a month fee, plus I opt in for extra insurance as I don’t have my own anymore at $9 a month….being I only rented once that month, it was $116… This weekend I have an event I have to help host and will need a car, so am going to try the Enterprise option, however, I may take you up on the offer especially once I can start planting veggies in the garden again! 😀 I’m def going to need a trailer to bring home tomato starts & fertilizer.

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      Glenn II January 8, 2020 at 7:54 pm

      I thought the U of P was a Christian school, not a den of fornication! Who gave them the idea to do that I wonder? Ohh let’s see now, who could it be, could it be… SATAN!??!?!?!

      Yeah Zipcar pricing is really only a “deal” on shorter trips. A full day or longer, you’re probably better off at a traditional car rental place. But occasionally I consider the extra cost worth it for the convenience. Haven’t really used it in a while though.

      54 bolts of fabric from Tualatin, yeah I would get a Zipcar for that, although before doing that, I would look for ways to not be responsible for getting 54 bolts of fabric from Tualatin. How about seller delivery? Speaking of weights, when I bought some off craigslist, I paid the guy extra to drop them off. Or I would look for it from a source closer to home within trailer range. Keep in mind whatever kind of deal you’re getting in Tualatin, you now have to add an extra $2 for each bolt after paying for the car. The car cost isn’t inevitable, it’s part of the price of the fabric. Maybe something closer but more expensive can now effectively compete.

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    Matthew72 January 7, 2020 at 8:00 pm

    Hilarious

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      Fred January 9, 2020 at 7:10 am

      Becky Jo, your photo makes me laugh – every time I see it. Thanks!

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    Matt S. January 7, 2020 at 8:19 pm

    I was car free for years in Portland. I looked into rideshare before ultimately purchasing my used $2800 Toyota Camry. The reason being is what you stated: just one 24 hour rental costs a hundred dollars. I do that twice and I completely cover my operating expense for the Camry including gas. I had a friend who was spending upwards of $400 a month on rideshare during the summer months (going hiking, out to the coast, etc.), he eventually purchased a used car as well. Rideshare is tough if you want to use it more than an hour here or there.

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      Jason January 8, 2020 at 10:47 am

      The point of diminishing returns for ride share vs self owned car is only a few trips per month. It’s really not enticing for someone who really feels they need a car.

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        yashar.vasef@gmail.com January 8, 2020 at 5:39 pm

        With Car2Go, it was way more than just a few trips per month. Car2Go was priced at $6 for 20 minutes of driving, or generally 45 cents per minute, and you could use it for one way trips without having to return it where you got it. Just the price I used to spend monthly on gas would cover 5-10 trips with Car2Go. Insurance was around another 5-10 trips per month. We really need someone to bring that type of car-share service back to Portland.

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          Jason January 8, 2020 at 8:24 pm

          Forgive me, but why are you speaking in past tense?

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            Jason January 8, 2020 at 9:33 pm

            Nevermind, I remember now, C2G left a few months back.

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      Chris I January 8, 2020 at 11:33 am

      Since the city gives away public real estate for free private property storage (street parking), it usually makes sense to just own a beater car and store it on the street. And of course everyone violates the rule about moving it every few days.

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        Matt S. January 8, 2020 at 7:19 pm

        Or you just park it in your driveway if you have one.

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          Chris I January 10, 2020 at 8:02 am

          Most people, even those that have driveways, don’t do this.

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      Todd Boulanger January 8, 2020 at 3:08 pm

      True Portland “Only” Problem: all those underused cars bought for bi monthly trips to the [fill in the blank: coast, mountains,…] by core cyclists that then these cars are often left stored on the city streets taking up street capacity that could be a bike lane, tree, depaved, etc.

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        B. Carfree January 9, 2020 at 1:18 pm

        If it stopped there, it wouldn’t be so bad. The problem is that far too often having easy access to a car often turns formerly car-free people into car addicts who drive more than they ride.

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          Matt S. January 9, 2020 at 5:37 pm

          Yeah, this has happened to me. Although I’m no longer wet, tired, and sweaty most days of the week. I do miss the cardio exercise.

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    Schrauf January 7, 2020 at 8:34 pm

    Check traditional car rental shops such as Enterprise. Often I can rent for 24 hours for $30 in the winter or other off season times. Summer can be more like $60-$70, which would be more expensive than Zipcar if you have to purchase insurance because you don’t otherwise carry. Fuel is obviously another cost a Zipcar doesn’t have.

    And they generally seem clean, but who knows, really!

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      Asher Atkinson January 7, 2020 at 9:35 pm

      I echo this. My wife and I went without a car in Portland for almost 15 years. We used Zipcar mostly for short runs and rented traditionally for full days (often through Enterprise) when we could plan longer excursions in advance.

      As Schrauf mentioned, with a traditional rental you will pay for fuel and, importantly, liability insurance (assuming you don’t have an auto policy). But for us that often came out to less than the 24 hour Zipcar rate. Plus there wasn’t a mileage cap.

      That said, Zipcar is likely more convenient than a traditional rental. We had to ride to the rental location, rather than walk to the corner, and we had to figure out what to do with the bike, as rental cars don’t have racks and not all could easily fit a bike in the back seat or trunk.

      Based on my experience I’m confident you can make it work with a bit of creativity and flexibility and likely save significant money by choosing to ditch your car and go with a mix of traditional and hourly rentals. Good luck.

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        dan January 8, 2020 at 11:57 am

        One more vote for traditional car rentals being the best choice on a cost/hour basis, especially Enterprise, which will pick you up and drop you off at no added cost. It’s a shame that we lost Car2Go; that was a great backup for living carfree.

        Also, note that Ikea will deliver, and I suspect whoever sold you the fabric might have considered delivering for that amount of material.

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      MonicainPDX January 8, 2020 at 12:06 pm

      ^^This. Enterprise in St. Johns will pick you up and the cars are always clean. It’s another reason to carry your own car insurance (or see if it’s included on one of your credit cards), so you don’t have to pay for that add-on. For a 24-hour rental, Enterprise is always less expensive than Zipcar. If you establish a relationship with the local shop, they’ll often give you a deal/good upgrade.

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    Lizzie January 7, 2020 at 9:24 pm

    Hi, thanks for sharing your car free adventures! I actually rented my car on Getaround for about six months last year. I also used several cars during that time. It sounds sketchy, but it’s often people like me who own a car, but who don’t commute in it so it’s mostly just sitting in the garage/street and they want to share it with carfree or one-car families. Which is to say, I’d recommend giving it a try! Unlike zip car or car2go, there’s far less users and sharers, so it’s possible there’s often not cars in your neighborhood. But if there is, you could find a gem of a car that you can borrow often for much cheaper. My car rented for $7/hr. Unfortunately for me, I had other issues so had to stop renting my car but I wish I could still share it!

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      Amy January 8, 2020 at 7:52 am

      I 2nd using Getaround, the nice thing is you get to know the cars near you and you just choose the ones you like. Not sketchy at all and just as easy to use as zip-car.

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    David Hampsten January 7, 2020 at 10:37 pm

    For those of us who can’t drive, rentals and carshare are options that are simply unavailable to us. I view taxis and rideshare as options of last resort. If I can’t haul it by trailer, I’ll ask typically myself, “Do I really need it?” In most cases the answer is “No, not really.” But for those thankfully rare occasions when it’s really really necessary to haul something exceptionally bulky or heavy, I ask around if any of my friends are willing to help, to provide a free taxi if you will, especially people who owe me favors and who have large SUVs or pickup trucks. For certain items such as new furniture and mattresses, the store itself will often deliver for free or for a fee (usually no more than $50.) Lowes and Home Depot also make deliveries, as do many grocery stores – I view their fees as simply part of the cost of doing business, same as traveling with my bike on Amtrak or on an airline. And when relatives come to visit 4 or 5 times per year, they usually offer to pick up stuff for me, and I sometimes even take them up on it.

    So in the case of your 54 bolts of fabric (60″ tubes about 3-5″ in diameter), I’d probably borrow my friend’s Sheldon’s Surly Bill trailer and make a couple trips 8 miles each way, preferably on a warmish dry day. He might even be willing to help me haul them. Or maybe contact my bike friends Ron or Gary who each own huge SUVs and ask them to pick me up and help me deliver those bolts of cloth. Or ask the store itself if they make deliveries and pick-ups, and if so, what they charge for it.

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      Mike Quigley January 8, 2020 at 8:28 am

      It doesn’t bother you to be so dependent on others?

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        David Hampsten January 8, 2020 at 9:30 am

        No, not really. I think of it as interdependence. I contribute both to the community and to numerous individuals, and like-minded folks periodically offer their services to me, as they do for others, just as I do for others. As a community advocate, I live among and work with other very giving people, as I am. I’ve found over the years both here and when I lived in Portland that such people exist everywhere and are happy to provide what others need, as long as it fits their own schedules and convenience. As long as I am flexible, it has always managed to work out. It’s a form of community infrastructure, part of a resilient social structure. I give and I periodically receive. Nothing to do with religion, but more to do with human nature, to trust, to develop society – we’re social animals.

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        raktajino January 8, 2020 at 10:17 am

        David’s answer was great–it’s definitely an interdependence! When I was a complete non-driver I only called in favors if I had no other options, and I only asked people who were good friends and going the same direction. I was flexible, I was kind, I provided a lot of handmade goods as thank-yous and in friendship. Coworkers and friends knew my situation and often offered me rides without prompting.

        If I was using a taxi, I was no more dependent on others than if I were riding the bus–it’s their job, I was paying.

        We’re a community.

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    Stephen Keller January 8, 2020 at 5:33 am

    There are a bunch of local courier and delivery services in town.

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    Jason January 8, 2020 at 10:45 am

    …about 20 miles, with hills
    This is approximately my new commute, so I bought an ebike. Class 3 pedalec to be more accurate. So, no throttle; no pedal, no go. You would be surprised at what it’s like to go nearly 30mph on a bike – while not going downhill. Anyway, my office is moving to Lake Oswego and I live in SE. The best route for me is to go up and over the South Hills. I *could* do that on my analogue bike, but everyday? For perspective, in 2015 I did four century rides, six if you include Seattle to Portland. So, I know my limits for distance riding day over day.

    Pair the ebike with a solid trailer (did someone hear a record skip?) and you’re golden. Yes, you have to be cavalier, but hey, it’s that or tacit consent to climate chaos.

    I’ve shown the Bikes At Work trailer before (300lb or 600lb capacity), which is really the best trailer on the market. Burley makes a much less expensive one, max load is 100lbs. Still, it has open front and back so carrying long loads is feasible. Did I mention, it folds down flat.
    https://www.burley.com/product/flatbed/
    https://www.bikesatwork.com/store/bicycle-trailers

    Another option is to get a dutch cargo bike. I prefer the trailer since you can take it off and have a conventional bike. If I didn’t have space issues, I’d have a bike for every mood.

    I know that’s a lot to take on, an ebike and a bike trailer. Both in cost and commitment. I’ve been biking literally since the 8th grade, so I’m well and truly invested in car free living. That said, it’s difficult to completely cut the ties that bind me to cars.

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    • Becky Jo (Columnist)
      Becky Jo (Columnist) January 8, 2020 at 12:06 pm

      Thanks Jason! You’ve definitely bumped the ebike+that trailer higher up on my list. We’re enjoying not owning a car too much already to go backwards….maybe this is the honeymoon period, but being that it’s winter, I’d like to think we really are just happy with it overall.

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        Jason January 8, 2020 at 2:37 pm

        That’s good to hear. 😀

        Keeping that happy glow going really comes down to having a reliable bike setup and good clothing choices. Being comfortable on an efficient bike does wonders for your personal experience.

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    Phil Richman January 8, 2020 at 2:14 pm

    You seem like perfect candidates for at least one e-cargo bike. I’m 6 1/2 years into my first and it relatively easily replaces any roundtrip of 20-30 miles including hauling stuff or people. The downside being I can’t take it on TriMet, but I’ve helped fill in this deficiency and supplement some shorter local trips by getting an e-scooter. Specifically the Ninebot Kickscooter Max. Hate on me for riding an e-bike or an e-scooter if you want, but at least it’s not a car.

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      Jason January 8, 2020 at 2:40 pm

      Cargo bike would make grocery trips a slam dunk as well. ; )

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    esther January 9, 2020 at 6:04 pm

    I have used Turo pretty well the couple times i needed a car to move some stuff too big for my bike. I liked the idea that it was taking advantage of those extra cars sitting around being unused, which another poster mentioned above. I have not used it in a few months, so dunno if it’s still a good deal for an afternoon trip, but i liked that some of them offered to deliver the car to you (although the time i used that option, the driver expected me to then drop them back off somewhere before actually “starting” my own trip). They also offered pet-friendly as an option, which was vital one of the times we wanted a car (to visit shelters to find a lonely old doggo for my friend to adopt!). Another thing i really appreciated about Turo compared to standard rental agencies or Zipcar is that it allows one to filter for Hybrid and/or EV when searching available cars.

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  • Rivelo
    Rivelo January 10, 2020 at 6:20 am

    Agree re: Enterprise. Just rented a “Compact SUV” for a trip down to Mid-Southern Oregon. Two days total: $114.

    The location at 1924 NE Columbia Blvd has a friendly staff, and if you reserve online, you’re outta’ there in no time.

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