People that need wheels for the occasional errand or day trip now have the option of Zipcar, a car-sharing service based in Cambridge, CT.

Options today are far greater than they would’ve been just five years ago, thanks to the marriage of Internet and voice-line technology with wireless communications. Customers make reservations via computer or telephone, and the company uses remote-access systems to control who can use the car when.

The two biggest car-sharing companies, Zipcar and Seattle-based Flexcar, are still pretty small.

Zipcar offers more than 400 cars to its 30,000 typically well-educated and young customers in congested Boston, Washington and New York. It plans to hit at least three more U.S. metropolitan areas in 2005 with hopes of reaching a total of 25 North American markets within five years.

Flexcar has 350 vehicles serving 25,000 members in more than 20 cities from Seattle to Washington, D.C.

Both services rent cars around the clock in increments of a half-hour or longer. Prices in Boston range from $8.50 an hour to $12.50, depending on the vehicle model. Gas is included. That’s not bad when you also factor in the insurance, maintenance and repair costs that come with ownership.

Car-sharing services also offer daily rates as low as $60, though conventional rentals are more economical to rent for more than a day at a time.

More here.