Car rental companies are the worst sometimes. They charge high fees, make you stand in long lines, and generally have awful customer service. Wouldn’t it be great if there were a way to bypass the rental counter and just rent a car directly from a private individual, from someone you can trust and speak to face-to-face?
There’s nothing to stop you from doing this, but it presents a lot of problems related to insurance. Your auto insurance isn’t going to cover you in someone else’s vehicle, and the vehicle owner’s insurance probably won’t cover you, either. Beyond that, there are issues of logistics and trust. How do people post their cars for rent without the danger of scams?
All of these seem like intractable problems, and they’re why traditional car rental companies like Enterprise Rent-A-Car and Hertz have held so much control over the industry for so long. In the past few years, though, things have started to change. Innovative startup companies have arisen to offer consumers a new option for renting cars.
It’s called peer-to-peer car rental, and in this guide, we’re going to show you how it works. In particular, we’ll take a look at the specific companies you can use so that you can spend less time researching and more time renting.
- What Is Peer-to-Peer Car Rental?
- How Peer-to-Peer Car Rental Works
- 4 Peer-to-Peer Car Rental Services to Check Out
Peer-to-peer car rental is part of the growing sharing economy. Through mobile technology, owners of assets such as houses and cars can now connect with people who want to rent them. The best-known sharing economy service to use as a comparison is Airbnb.
With that service, people can list part or all of their home for rent. The owners get to set the rate, determine their rules, and communicate with potential guests. Airbnb acts as an intermediary, providing the technological solutions, insurance, and customer support necessary to make the transaction possible.
Peer-to-peer car rental uses the same premise, except that it’s for renting cars instead of houses. The car rental company provides the platform, insurance, and roadside assistance that make the transaction safe and easy for both renters and car owners.
Note that peer-to-peer car rental is not the same as car sharing. With car sharing services such as Zipcar, a third-party company owns a fleet of vehicles that members of the service can use in exchange for a fee. The company maintains the fleet and often pays for gas.
With peer-to-peer car rental, in contrast, private individuals rent their vehicles to drivers. The company just acts as an intermediary; they don’t pay for gas, provide the vehicles, or do any maintenance. This allows them to expand their reach much more quickly than services such as Zipcar since all they need to enter a market is a sufficient supply of interested vehicle owners and renters.
All of the apps work using the same basic premise. An owner lists a car on the platform, providing photos, pricing, and other key information such as fuel economy. A user of the platform browses the app to find a car they want to rent, specifies how long they want it, and then requests to book the vehicle.
If the owner approves, then their credit card is charged and they can go pick up the vehicle at the arranged time. They go to the owner’s location, get the car, and take their trip. Once they’re done, they return the car. If there are any damages to the vehicle or other issues, the owner can work with the car rental company to help figure out if the renter needs to pay for them.
There are other details that vary based on the specific rental company, but the above is more or less how it works no matter your city or the service you’re using.
Now that you understand what peer-to-peer car rental is, let’s examine some of the services you can use to do it. While there are lots of players in this market, we’ve identified the top four companies that you can use. We chose them based on their wide availability, reputation, and overall ease of use.
- San Francisco
- Los Angeles
- Washington, D.C.
- New Jersey
- New York City
There is no monthly or annual fee to use Getaround. All rentals with the company include insurance and roadside assistance. All you have to do to sign up is enter your driver’s license and credit card information.
Getaround is notable for their focus on convenience. They install smart technology in all vehicles on their platform that allows you to unlock the car with your phone. This saves the car owner the trouble of having to be present when the renter picks up the car.
Turo is another app that’s been making big waves in the peer-to-peer car rental industry. It stands out for its wide availability. It’s currently available in more than 5,000 locations around the world. That’s right: You aren’t just limited to the United States when you use Turo. You can also rent cars in Canada, Germany, and the United Kingdom.
Turo offers an impressive range of cars, from high-end Teslas and BMWs to practical, everyday Toyotas and Hondas. The app also has an interface that looks very much like Airbnb, meaning that users of that service will feel right at home.
Turo is also set up to allow rentals for terms longer than by the hour or by the day. Car owners can even offer discounts for longer rental terms, which benefits everyone involved. On the other hand, the platform does not allow hourly rentals, meaning that it isn’t a good option if you just need to use a car for a couple hours to move a piece of furniture.
- Ann Arbor
- Los Angeles
- New York City
- San Francisco
- Washington, D.C.
Maven is notable for its focus on sustainability and reducing environmental impact. It offers a wide range of electric and hybrid vehicles for rent, with a particularly large selection of Chevy vehicles. Indeed, GM is the parent company for Maven, and all vehicles in use for the service are made by the company. This limits the number of people who can list their cars on the service since all models must be made by GM.
Our final peer-to-peer car rental service is HyreCar. It’s a bit different from the other options we’ve discussed so far. It uses the same basic business model (owners rent their cars to drivers), but it’s only for people who wish to rent cars to drive for Uber, Lyft, or a delivery service like Instacart.
The service is currently available in 35 states. You can see a full list of available locations here. The company claims that, after rental fees, drivers still make $1,000 per week on average. Of course, this will vary based on your area of operation and the amount of time you have to devote to driving.
Long Live Peer-to-Peer Car Rental
We hope this article has given you an idea of the many peer-to-peer car rental services out there. Car rental companies are worried about these new apps, and they should be. They’re truly disrupting the industry in a way that benefits renters and vehicle owners.
Brett Helling is the owner of Ridester.com. He has been a rideshare driver since early 2012, having completed hundreds of trips for companies including Uber, Lyft, and Postmates. In 2014 he acquired Ridester.com to share his experiences with other drivers. His insights are regularly quoted by publications such as Forbes, Vice, CNBC, and more. He is currently working on a book about working in the Gig Economy, expanding his skill set beyond the rideshare niche. Read more about Brett here.