Competitors Hertz Global and Enterprise already offer hourly rentals to compete with Zipcar's business model.

T

hings are changing in the world of car-sharing services.

The Avis Budget Group has purchase the Zipcar car-sharing service for $12.25 a share, or approximately $500 million.

According to materials that Avis presented for investors, Zipcar was targeted because of its size and growth—Zipcar has outlets in 20 major metropolitan areas and on 300 college campuses, with over 750,000 vehicles available to rent or borrow. Zipcar has locations in the U.S., Canada, and Europe.

zipcar A Mini Cooper used by Zipcar.

Competitors Hertz Global and Enterprise already offer hourly rentals to compete with Zipcar's business model, which allows customers who sign up for a yearly plan to rent cars by the hour or the day. Most Zipcar locations are in urban areas and college towns, owing to the fact that many of these customers are likely to only need a car occasionally and only for short trips. 

The acquisition is expected to close in the spring, and it gives Avis access to customers they might otherwise be unable to reach (young, urban renters who'd rather use a car-sharing service) while giving Zipcar access to the Avis Budget rental fleet.

The timing seems favorable for Avis, since this is the first time that Zipcar has reported an annual profit (meaning that this could be a good time to buy Zipcar, if it continues to grow).

"I’ve been somewhat dismissive of car sharing in the past, but what I’ve come to realize is that car sharing, particularly on the scale that Zipcar has achieved and will achieve, is complementary to our traditional business," Ronald L. Nelson, Avis' chief executive, said in a statment. "It enables us to serve new, younger, more wired consumers that our existing brands don’t always connect with.”

What this will likely mean for Zipcar users, at least according to investor materials, is an expansion of locations, more available cars, and more services—such as the ability to take a one-way trip to the airport before heading out of town.