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Don't buy a car, share it.

Car-sharing is a hot trend in a growing number of cities that boast good public transportation and large cohorts of Gen Yers and older residents moving back to town. For an hourly rate plus an annual membership fee, you get access to a car to run errands, go on a date or take a quick trip to the 'burbs. Zipcar -- the largest car-sharing company -- and a lengthening roster of copycat services emphasize the environmental benefits, as well as the cost savings.

With Zipcar's "pay as you zip" plan, you pay $9 an hour or more, depending on the car, plus an application fee of $25 and an annual membership fee of $50. In each of the 35 cities where Zipcar operates, cars from the fleet are parked in designated spots around town. Members, who must be 21, make a reservation online, use a card to unlock the car and locate the keys inside. Gas and insurance are included.

The cost savings are real: Drive a Zipcar Honda Civic ten hours a month for one year and the fees total $1,155, compared with $4,500 in annual ownership costs for a new Civic that you drive 5,000 miles a year.

For overnight trips, it also pays to share. A 24-hour reservation with Zipcar would cost less than $70, including insurance and gas, for up to 180 miles. Renting an economy car for one day typically costs about $80 -- including taxes, fees and liability insurance. And gas is extra.

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