Car Renting in the Shared Economy

A review of Turo

Photo courtesy of Turo.

Ridesharing services have revolutionized how we live our daily lives. Uber and Lyft have become so ubiquitous that people use the company names as verbs (“Can I Uber there?”). Their early successes made it possible for other companies to experiment with peer-to-peer services and bring new solutions to market. One interesting example is Turo, a car-sharing app that enables vehicle owners to rent out their cars for additional income. For consumers, it claims to provide the choice and convenience that traditional car rental companies can’t provide. We decided to try it out and put Turo to the test ourselves.

Getting Started with Turo

Turo’s initial setup is easy, especially if you’re already familiar with Airbnb.

We used the app version and easily created a profile by syncing to Facebook (you can also connect via your Google account). Next steps were typical for services that require payment methods; the account has to be verified and secured before moving onto the rental process. Turo made this process easy with a simple text-to-verify process, and we were ready to go in a matter of minutes.

Finding and Booking a Car

We narrowed our car search to the Los Angeles metro area.

Turo is active in a few different metro areas across the U.S., including Austin, Texas and Minneapolis, Minnesota. The different regions have plenty of options in a variety of price ranges.

Narrowing the search was very similar to Airbnb’s booking process. You can fine-tune your preferences around mileage allowances per day and preferred price ranges. Turo also offers a delivery option if you are short on time and unable to pick up your car. Most delivery charges start at $30, and there are some options available for free delivery (usually for more expensive cars like the Tesla Model X, but not all higher-priced listings offer complimentary delivery).

Coverage Made Easy Through Turo

One of Turo’s main benefits is the option to rent fuel-efficient and emissions-free vehicles.

We chose a Fiat 500e, which was listed for under $40 per day near LAX and was available for instant book. As soon as our profile was verified, the car was booked in less than ten minutes. The owner of the car then requested to see a picture of the driver’s license to further verify the identity.

Many renters might be concerned about insurance options when using a shared service like Turo. Turo clearly outlines its coverage options while going through the booking process. All insurance is covered through Liberty, with Turo offering up to one million in liability coverage per each vehicle owner. The options for our Fiat 500e were Basic ($3,000 deductible) and Premium ($500 deductible). If you get in an accident while renting a car through Turo, all the claims are handled through the app itself unless you denied Turo’s coverage in favor of your own insurance. If you do choose a plan with Turo, it is added to the final price, and we found the rates were comparable to traditional rental companies. Turo details everything you need to know about its insurance policy in a robust FAQ and support is always available for further questions.

Picking up the Car

A compelling differentiator for Turo was its pickup process.

Each pick up will vary depending on the owner. Two days before our scheduled trip, the owner reminded us to read through the listing FAQ, which had specific instructions for getting into the car. Finding the FAQ wasn’t as intuitive as we would have prefered, requiring multiple steps in order to access. It’d be nice if Turo included a direct link to the owner’s personalized FAQ once bookings are confirmed to make it easier.

All interactions with the vehicle owner were through text message. She informed us that the car was at a parking lot next to a few EV plugs. To unlock the car, we had to send a code through our verified phone number. Within five minutes, the car unlocked remotely. Overall, it was a frictionless experience.

Before driving off, Turo advises users to take pictures of the exterior (similar to the walk-through that rental companies will do) and upload them to the trip dashboard within the app. One thing to prepare for when renting through Turo: you’re never going to be sure of the state of the car when you get it. The pictures of the Fiat 500e looked nice from the listing, but upon arrival it was dirty and had several dents and large scratches on the body. Pictures were taken in this state, so to make sure we didn’t get charged for it later after returning the car.

Dealing with Sluggish Roadside Assistance

Turo offers 24/7 support and roadside assistance for the duration of a trip. This includes a free tow up to 15 miles if there’s an issue. We experienced this firsthand when dealing with a rapidly draining battery while driving the Fiat 500e on the freeway.

Luckily, apps like ChargePoint and PlugShare exist to help electric car owners find EV plugs when they’re running low on battery. Unfortunately, our Fiat 500e wasn’t receiving charge from any of the three separate stations we tried across the city. While waiting for a tow, Turo’s roadside customer support was very supportive and even tried to help figure out a solution for why the car wasn’t charging properly.

Turo contracts with independent towing companies and can’t guarantee speedy service. However, Turo’s support followed up several times after realizing that the tow truck was taking longer than usual. We appreciated that Turo’s customer support went above and beyond in helping us out.

Final Thoughts

PROS CONS
Intuitive app with easy account setup Car FAQs could be more prominent
Insurance provided through Turo Sluggish third-party roadside assistance
Many electric/hybrid vehicles options Not guaranteed a clean car on pickup
Frictionless pickup and dropoff Pickup experience varies by owner

We’d ultimately recommend Turo to anyone looking to try something outside of what a traditional car rental company can offer. It’s not a perfect service, but it is a great example of how peer-to-peer services are expanding to other industries. A modern society expects convenience, choice, and flexibility, and there’s no doubt that other peer-to-peer services will step in to fulfill these needs. We’re excited to where this next wave of the sharing economy will take us.

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