Saying Sacramento has proven to be a solid market for their self-service rental car approach, Zipcar officials announced they are expanding their Sacramento service — including offering a Mercedes-Benz and Mini Cooper convertible.

Two years after launching limited service here, Zipcar, Inc. officials said they are opening an office downtown and adding staff to help the company market its service in Sacramento.

Zipcar, a Boston-based car-sharing company popular in urban areas, allows people to rent a car, typically for a few hours, without having to go to a central rental car location or pay full-day fees. Marked with green stickers, the cars are parked at designated Zipcar street spots around town, including prime parking territory next to the Cal-EPA building downtown across the street from City Hall, and in front of Zocalo restaurant at 18th Street and Capitol Avenue in midtown.

The city of Sacramento, which solicited the company to set up shop in town, has agreed to offer up to 25 free spots for Zipcars downtown.

Renters — called “Zipsters” by the company — typically pay a $60 annual membership fee and are sent a programmed card that opens the vehicle. The renter pays a fee based on usage. Car prices start at $8.25 an hour for a Toyota Prius.

Company officials said they are increasing core Sacramento locations from five to nine, and are adding seven new cars, giving them 17 in the downtown area and 36 in the region, including several at California State University, Sacramento, and at the University of California, Davis.

The new Mercedes-Benz and a Mini Cooper cost $14.50 to $16.25 an hour.

In a report to the city of Sacramento earlier this year, Zipcar officials said the company had 737 members in the city, most of them students. Company officials declined to offer details on how many users it has currently, but said numbers are up since that figure was published, and that the time is good for a wider reach in the area.

“We have a foundation and utilization is strong enough that it is time to add momentum,” Grossman said.

Sacramento City Councilman Steve Hansen said he was pleased to see the firm expand, especially in the central city where it can tap into a growing number of users who choose to save money by not owning a car. Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson has described the company as helpful in reducing Sacramento’s carbon footprint as the city tries to market itself as a more “green,” environmentally friendly place to live.

The new locations downtown are at 20th and H streets, 15th and N streets, 5th and Q streets, and 8th and J streets.

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Photo Credit: Zipcar's Mini Cooper convertibles are coming to Sacramento, California. Zipcar