By GalTime's Consumer Watchdog Mary Schwager
It could be coming to a city near you: "Peer-to-peer car rental". Huh? Rent a car from someone who has equal driving ability? Equal kinds of cars? No! It's a new phenomenon sweeping the nation and you heard about it first here at GalTime because, as you know, we're on the cutting edge around here. Companies are popping up across the country that allow you to rent a car from 'regular' people. Well, actually the range of cars goes from economy-sized bargains to Porsches and Tesla Roadsters, so maybe not all regular people, but people with all sorts of wheels. Basically, you could rent from your neighbor, someone with a car you like, or a stranger. It's all arranged right online.
The peer-to-peer car idea is really getting rolling! Many people love the idea of avoiding the line at the commerical car rental counter and of dodging contracts requiring you write your initials next to font size four print you can't even read. "We've seen very fast uptake - and have seen over 18,000% growth this year," says Nick Kelsey who owns peer to peer rental company Getaround.com.
Kelsey thinks the concept is accelerating because car ownership is expensive. His selling points to potential renters and rentees? Do the math. Renters save by avoiding the cost of ownership. He says car owners can earn up to $10,000 a year in extra income. "Many people are covering the monthly costs of owning a car by sharing on Getaround. Cars generate $325-$400 per month on average, with the best performing cars generating up to $1500 per month."
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Different companies are signing up car owners and renters in different regions in the US. Relay Rides is in the Boston area, Jolly Wheels rents cars in quite a few states, Getaround has vehicles in San Francisco and San Diego and plans to expand. RentmyCar.com has some cars for rent scattered across the country.
The rental costs vary depending on what kind of car you want. Some are as cheap as $5 an hour, but if you want that cool luxury ride you could pay more like $50 an hour. We found some sites advertising BMW's for $50 a day.
Some of the companies require car owners to enter their VIN, mileage and other car details to make sure you're legit. Renters may have to give their driver's license info and agree to a driving record check. If you don't look so hot on paper, have a lead foot problem or other moving violations, you could get rejected, though some companies don't check out renters at all.
Once you've made an online connection it's up to the owner and renter to work out the details of when the car is available. Some owners want deposit money and create their own terms of the deal in regard to gas and insurance. Oh yeah, insurance. That's where this can get tricky. Getaround.com says it fully insures cars during the rental period. Other companies don't offer insurance at all, leaving it to be worked out between the owner and renter.
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Vice president and associate general counsel for the American Insurance Association, David Snyder, says, "WHOA ! Hit the brakes. Check with your insurance company or agent before you ever rent out your own car. "Understand that your car is one of your most sizable assets. Even more importantly, it is one of your few possessions that is capable of killing, seriously injuring, or causing large scale property damage to others. If you don't have adequate insurance coverage, you could be liable for hundreds of thousands of dollars in damage, even if you are not the driver. There may be restrictions or exclusions in your policy that would apply to renting."
Still interested in renting out your wheels? Check with your insurance company first, obviously. If you get the green light, you may want to think of this like you're creating an online dating profile for your ride. Spiff up your car, take some great pictures and create a cool online write up. Make your car shine. Apparently if you meet the right person, and you're both happy sharing the keys, it could lead to an ongoing rental relationship!
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