Determined to Be Cooler, Avis Buys Zipcar

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Now more opportunities to drive through this.Photo: George Rose/Getty Images

If you're not familiar with the "fast-growing U.S. car-sharing market," it's likely you are familiar with Zipcar — if only as the service that gets your friends to car-necessary places like Costco, Ikea, and Westchester on weekends.

But the frustration of wanting to book that Prius for five hours on a Saturday, only to find there aren't any available for 40 blocks, may soon be alleviated thanks to Avis Budget, who bought Zipcar today for $500 million. Cash.

The problem for Zipcar was that with so much demand, there often weren't enough cars to go around — especially at weekend peak times. Slate explains:

"People who want to use a car to commute to work are going to want to own their own vehicle. And people generally need to work during weekdays. Which means that demand for spot rentals is very highly concentrated on the weekends, which makes it hard for Zipcar to manage inventory efficiently. Avis says that combining its fleet with Zipcar's will make it much easier to meet those demand peaks, as individual vehicles can switch from hourly rental to traditional rental on a day-by-day basis."

Avis CEO Ronald Nelson put it another way: "We see car sharing as highly complementary to traditional car rental, with rapid growth potential and representing a scalable opportunity for us as a combined company."

While there's no word on how this will turn out just yet, Slate points out that "a post-merger company could either end up being a bigger voice on [the car share] front, or else a more muted one that's less specifically interested in the topic." Though we really can't imagine ever not being interested in a ride to Target.