Zip.ca touts itself as "Canada's leading online dvd service" and we agree, also coming top in a Financial Post rating of Canadian services. In addition to having an unrivalled (44,500+ unique titles, more than double their nearest competitor). Their website boasts functions and customer-friendly policies the other companies simply don't match. They must be doing something right to have captured two-thirds of the online rental market.
Zip's site design is excellent; each movie includes member reviews and ratings, as well as an "Amazon-like" list of other dvds rented by people who rented that particular film. There is also plenty of information about each disc which other companies often omit; plot synopsis, cast, crew, bonus features, etc. Browsing is simple and easy with 24 genres to surf, including 4,300 French titles (also a French version of the Zip site). They have started stocking both HD-DVD and Blu-ray High Definition titles.
We've heard complaints that they list dvds not yet released, but we don't think this is a big deal, as few people will be deceived into thinking they will be rentable, and this function allows people to reserve films ahead of time. Also, given their swift growth, Zip's customer service system has been strained at times, but we believe these are minor points.
They have an excellent numerical priority system introduced in 2006 for ranking your choices, including a "PARK" option, which means you'll eventually want that disc, but don't send it yet; useful to ensure that sequels and series arrive in order.
They also have a function called ZipRefill which allows you to email them when you've mailed a disc back to them; they then pledge to mail out your next disc within 24 hours. This cuts down on delays due to the postal service--a definite plus for remote areas--allowing quicker turnaround times and more discs viewed per month. Zip have four warehouses, all fully ship/receive capable, in Ottawa, Toronto, Calgary, and most recently Vancouver. Another quirk is their ZipRewards program, awarding points which can be redeemed for free gifts, dvds, etc.
Zip.ca was only launched at the start of 2004, but has had meteoric success and growth since. As the online market grows, Zip.ca has taken over a succession of rivals; HollywebDVD.ca, MailboxTheatre.ca, Moviebuffs.ca, and VHQOnline, previously its biggest rival. They have four distribution centers, so your location in Canada shouldn't be a major issue in termns of transit time. To get a sense of scale, in December 2006 Zip noted its total inventory consisted of 320,000 discs, and it sent 25,000 out on average per day.
Prices: Zip's best value unlimited plan is 3 dvds out at a time for $24.95 per month; if you watch three DVDs a week, that averages to just under 2 dollars per rental. This can represent excellent value if you watch the films swiftly and mail them back. They also have a wide range of limited plans introduced in early 2006 with controversial "caps," ranging from 1 disc out at a time, 2 discs cap total per month, for $10.95 (not a good value at $5.48 per disc) to 8 discs out at a time and 22 rentals for $49.95 (a more reasonable $2.27 per disc). On any of the limited plans, you can get additional rentals in the month for an extra $2.49.
Zip offers a two week free trial. If you want to cancel, you must suspend your dvd rental account before the end of the trial or your credit card will be charged. Instead of a free trial, you have an option to prepay for three months and get the fourth month free, which works out cheaper if you're sure you'll stay on with Zip.