I am really not a car person. I can't tell any of the models apart and I couldn't care less about...wait, I don't even know what car people care about. The engine? The navigation system? The comfy interior? I drove my family's mini van in high school and nowadays, as a New York City resident, I'm hardly ever behind the wheel.
But a couple times a year, often in the summer, I am forced to rent a car to get out this
godforsaken city that I love so much. Public transpo will only get you so far. In the past, I've turned to traditional car rental companies in my time of need. That is, until my fiancé turned me on (NOT LIKE THAT, YOU SICKOS) to Turo, which is basically like Airbnb for cars.
How Does It Work?
You download the app (or you can do it on desktop if you drop your cellphone in le toilet), and create an account. Have your license handy because you'll need to get approved to drive before you can reserve a car. Once you've been approved, you search for a whip based on where you'll be starting your drive and the dates you'd like to reserve.
You can sort through the available rides using a couple different filters: price (rentals start at $10 per day and can go up to $250+ per day), your delivery preference (you can get the car brought to your exact location for an extra fee), by only the most top-rated, experienced hosts, or if you wanna ball out, you can opt for business, deluxe, or super deluxe class.
Then, once you find a car you like, you can scroll through pics, read reviews from previous guests, see the host's profile ("host" means the owner of the car, btw), and get deep into the weeds on some of the boring stuff (who provides the insurance, how many miles are included, the cancellation policy, etc.) before you commit.
How Much Does It Cost?
The price tag depends on what car you choose (a Hyundai Sonata is gonna cost less than a Tesla, obviously), how long you rent for, and if you opt to have the host deliver you the car or if you retrieve it from a location of their choosing.
Like with more traditional car rental models, there are a few fees that get added on top of the price per day—namely, protection, tickets and tolls, and something called a trip fee. (Turo describes the trip fee as a "variable percentage of the trip price.") You'll see an itemized breakdown of all the fees (minus any charges associated with tickets and tolls) before you officially book, so the total price won't be a shock.
Why Is It Better Than Renting a Car?
If you answered "yes" in that above lil poll break, please a) let me know what planet you come from and b) kindly see yourself out. I hate waiting in lines with a fiery passion, and simultaneously love using my phone to make arrangements, like the textbook lil millennial that I am.
I've used Turo twice and both times it was easy and pleasant. The first time was on a trip to Joshua Tree and Palm Springs, California. Josh, said fiancé, arranged for us to rent this sporty lil Fiat convertible (specifically, 'twas a 2017 Fiat 124 Spider, if that means anything to you 🤷♀️):
We rented the car for four days—from Sunday at noon to Thursday at 10 a.m.—and sprung to have it dropped off and picked up at the Palm Springs International Airport, which was super seamless and convenient and worth every penny. We arrived at the airport after barely surviving the most turbulent flight of my life, and Josh called the host (they had exchanged numbers on the app) and ultimately found him and the car in the serpentine airport parking lot. That was probably the trickiest part—describing to another person where exactly you're located in the mess of an indoor/outdoor 940-acre airport.
The Fiat cost $51.50/day, we paid $51.50 for the minimum protection, and splurged to have it delivered to the airport, which cost $120. Add in a trip fee of $5.40 and a post-trip cleaning fee of $10, and we paid $392.90 in total. So...not exactly cheap, but competitive with prices at, say, any car rental desk.
We had no complaints about the car itself, and dropping it back off after a few days of speeding through Joshua Tree National Park and ooh-ing and ahh-ing at big rocks from the comfort of the convertible was truly a breeze. We parked it in a spot as instructed by the host, left the keys in the car, and were on our way. Simple! as! pie! Or whatever the kids say these days.
The next time I used Turo was to drive from NYC up to a cabin in New Hampshire with some friends. New York City has a few intense insurance laws, so I had to pick up the Jeep Wrangler out in Jersey City, New Jersey. The host had left the car in a parking lot, so all I had to do was let him know via text when I was physically situated by the car, and hop in once he had unlocked it remotely. There was an extra key waiting in the visor. The drop-off worked similarly—I parked the car in the same parking spot, left the key in the visor, told the host I had returned the vehicle safe and sound, and he was able to lock it up by drone or however that works. The 2018 Jeep Wrangler cost $128 per day, and was owned by an "all-star host," a designation he earned based on his response rate and response time.
That's the other part about Turo that makes it feel like the result of a couple Silicon Valley folks putting their heads together—both drivers and hosts get rated after the rental is over. So in the same way that an Airbnb guest and an Airbnb host are incentivized to be on their best behavior (i.e. don't wreck the house, don't pretend that the bungalow you share with your mom is actually a mansion), Turo has built in several safety mechanisms.
Every driver ("guest") is screened, and every car that's available on the platform must meet the company's safety, conditions, and operations eligibility standards. There's a lot of fine print about the kind of cars they accept that I'm sure people like my parents would take the time to read. I'm comforted by the 24/7 roadside assistance they offer, and the fact that your personal information is only shared with the other party after a trip is booked, and that you, as the guest, can decide where you want to meet the host to pick up the car.
Okay, Cool, So Who Is Turo For?
If you don't want to deal with the bureaucracy of a traditional car rental company, you should try it. And if you're into cars—even just to the amateur extent that I am, which is "ooh, yes please to that shiny, pretty convertible"-level—you'll find loads more exciting options on Turo than you would at your regular degular airport car rental counter. I don't want to sound like an anti-social technocrat, but yeah, it's also pretty convenient to be able to book the whole thing on your phone. For me, Turo made the experience of renting a car actually fun, which is a pretty impressive feat.
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