Car-sharing firm Zipcar, which operates a by-the-hour rental service in the US, Canada, UK, and Spain, has agreed to be purchased by Avis for $500 million. Zipcar began business in 2000 in Boston, MA, and has expanded to cover a number of major cities throughout the US and Canada. Its model, although based on existing systems in Europe, was a breath of fresh air when compared to traditional car rental services. After signing up for an annual membership, users can pick up a car from designated parking bays dotted around cities and college campuses, unlocking the vehicle via a windshield-mounted reader using their membership card. Having expanded its own international footprint by acquiring established companies like Streetcar and Avancar, Zipcar is now selling up.

"We see car sharing as highly complementary to traditional car rental."

With over 760,000 members to its name, Zipcar will now form part of the multi-national Avis Budget Group, which encompasses both the Avis and Budget car rental companies. Group CEO Ronald Nelson said that car sharing is "highly complementary to traditional car rental," and the group anticipates that "key members of the Zipcar management team" will continue to oversee the day-to-day operations at the company. It has not indicated any intention to rebrand the company under the Avis banner. The deal is expected to be finalized by Spring 2013.