New car-sharing service Wheelz rolls into Berkeley

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After a successful start at Stanford University, the car-sharing service Wheelz began operations at UC Berkeley Monday, with more plans to expand in the future.

Like the popular car-share service Zipcar, which recently headed a $13.7 million investment into the new startup, Wheelz lets patrons pay to rent cars by the hour or day. But unlike Zipcar, which operates its own set of vehicles, Wheelz limits transactions to members of the campus community who rent cars from one another at rates they set themselves.

Wheelz installs each registered vehicle with software that allows owners to see who is renting their cars, while a $1 million insurance plan covers loss and damage. The company also outfits cars with technology for keyless entry and GPS so that renters can find cars online, said Aaron Platshon, head of marketing and communications for Wheelz.

The service currently has four cars in use on campus with more for rent in the future once all the software is installed, Platshon said, adding that student interest has been positive on campus.

Platshon said that, as at the Stanford location, the company expects to register 25 cars in Berkeley over the next few weeks. At Stanford, nearly 500 students have used the service, and owners pocket an average of about $250 a month after subtracting the 40 percent rental rate that Wheelz charges, Plashton said.

The company also plans to offer its car-sharing services to college students at UCLA and University of Southern California, according to the Wheelz website.

But Wheelz’s reception has not been unanimously positive on campus. Some students said that, like Zipcar, the car service could be too restrictive and might be a hassle.

“When I need a car,” said UC Berkeley junior Laura Redmond, “I need it for commitments.”

Still, for those who are interested in renting with Wheelz, students who sign up using the word “launch” will receive a $20 discount, said UC Berkeley junior and campus director of Wheelz Henry Wang. Wang said the company is offering the first 25 campus car owners who register free car washes and $150 in revenue for two months.

“It’s the most realistic way of car-sharing on campuses,” Wang said. “It will spread by itself.”