The answer to your car rental problems right now might be a four-letter word.
If you recently got excited about one of those ultra-cheap pandemic airfare deals going around only to have the wind knocked out of your sails when you checked car rental “deals” at your destination, welcome to a new club.
It’s called People Appalled by Car Rental Prices Right Now. And our ranks are growing.
I recently searched Orbitz for car rentals in Honolulu for four days in May to find starting rates of, brace yourself, $711 per day for a standard SUV (there were no economy cars available). Grand total: $3,354 for four nights to rent the same car I do my grocery shopping with in Florida.
On Expedia, a four-day “Economy Special” rental in Anchorage, Alaska, for the first week in June was pricing at $271 per day, or $1,435 for four days (many times more than the price of the flight deal I almost snatched up).
It used to be I’d book a flight and then tackle the car rental portion of my trip later when I got around to doing the rest of my vacation planning.
But with car rental prices as they’ve been lately—an uptick in travel interest and low inventory from car rental companies is coming to an ugly head—travelers might want to rethink that order right now.
The good news is there’s an alternative to standard car rental companies and aggregator websites if you’re looking to rent a car right now and getting priced out.
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It’s called Turo. And if you haven’t heard of it yet, you probably will soon.
With inventory in all U.S. markets as well as Canada and the U.K., Turo is a car-sharing website and app that’s been around for several years and is being likened to the Airbnb of cars. And you’ll often find far better car rental prices using it than on the aggregators right now.
On Turo, for that same June week I was searching in Anchorage, for example, somebody named Emmanuel was renting out his very Grizzly bear resistant-looking pickup truck, which seats six, for $119 per day.
In Honolulu, an SUV for the same dates in May that I’d searched on Orbitz was being offered by Robert for $200 a day.
And while car rental rates that top $100 per day aren’t something I’d normally celebrate as a deal, the pickings are decidedly slim right now.
And Turo is really coming to the rescue for sticker-shocked travelers.
“Turo offers travelers an alternative to traditional rental cars and provides guests with a unique selection of vehicles at all price ranges.”
Travel blogger Alicia Richards turned to Turo during a nine-day trip in mid-April with her family to Los Angeles when the cheapest rental car she could find was $650 for nine days. She checked Turo and found an even bigger car, a Toyota Camry, for $320 for the same period, she said.
“We love Turo and would happily use it again,” said Richards, who has rented her own car out through the app, too. “It had always saved us on car rentals and we can often get nicer cars than a traditional rental,” she said.
Sarah Sheehan, who lives near Hampton Roads, Virginia, is another new Turo convert. When her car was out of commission recently and she had an important appointment to attend in a city two hours away, she would have had to Uber to a rental car company to pick up a rental for the day, she said.
“After hearing someone talk about how they used Turo as an income supplement on Instagram, I was like, ‘Hey, wait a minute, this might be the answer to my prayers,’” Sheehan said. “I was able to rent a car through the app and arrange a no-contact delivery/pick-up right to my door.”
Grand total? $60 for the day. Not to mention no waiting in car rental queues.
How Turo Works
If you’ve ever booked a place on Airbnb, you’ll recognize how the Turo website and app work.
Among the familiar features are ratings and reviews, descriptions of the product (a vehicle in this case, instead of a home) written by the owner, and also information like mileage limits and delivery locations, which owners can control. Some vehicle owners on Turo throw in “extras” you can rent, too, which could be anything from snorkeling gear and coolers to car seats.
You have to have a Turo account to book a car. And to sign up, you’ll need to provide your driver’s license number, payment method, email, and phone number.
There are age requirements to book cars through Turo, too. For cars with a value of $20,000 and up, renters have to be 21 or older. For renters between the ages of 18 and 25, “young driver fees” of between $30 to $50 per day apply.
Turo also accesses your auto insurance score to determine your eligibility for booking cars.
Once you’ve booked your car, you communicate with the host to pick it up or, in many cases, have it delivered to you, whether that’s at the airport, a hotel, or where you live. Then check in with the app, get the keys and get going.
Bookings can be canceled for a full refund up to 24 hours before your trip starts, which isn’t quite as lenient as aggregator sites like Orbitz, where you aren’t committed to paying for the rental until you actually pick up the car.
When it comes to insurance, Turo has different protection plans for guests that provide a certain amount of third-party liability insurance and a deductible for physical damage to the vehicle (the cost of the insurance you choose is displayed when you go to check out).
Credit card insurance generally doesn’t work with Turo the way you might be used to using it with traditional rental car companies, however, and most personal car insurance plans that cover rental cars do not cover peer-to-peer sharing.
You’ll definitely want to look into what your personal car insurance and credit cards cover before booking so you can make sure you’re covered in the event of an accident or damage to the car.
A Nice Side Hustle, Too
For many people who’ve decided to rent their private cars out on Turo, it’s turned into a nice side hustle, or “small car sharing business” as Turo calls it on a page that helps hosts “build a business plan.”
“Our hosts are telling us that their businesses are booming due to sky-high rental car prices and the surge in travel,” said Turo CEO, Andre Haddad.
“We’re proud that Turo offers travelers an alternative to traditional rental cars and provides guests with a unique selection of vehicles at all price ranges,” he said.
Maria Davydova and Vadim Davydov of Tampa, Florida are two new Turo hosts who’ve had no trouble renting their cars out since they joined the website in March.
They were about to sell one of their cars when a friend told them they should try renting it out instead, said Maria. So they signed up for Turo.
“It was right during spring break, and as soon as I posted it I got five bookings in a row,” she said.
During the month of April, when the couple rented out all three of their cars—a 2013 and 2014 Chrysler Town and Country and their 2014 Honda Accord Hybrid—they pulled in roughly $4,000 in extra earnings through Turo, which they plan to put toward a summer family vacation in New York.
“Airbnb costs a lot more to get in the door. You need some sort of accommodation to rent,” said Vadim.
“With Turo, you can buy a car for 10 to 15 thousand dollars and rent it for $100 a day,” he said, “In terms of return on investment, it’s a good deal.”