Imagine parking your car at the airport and getting a check for the privilege. Thanks to peer-to-peer car sharing, that fantasy is now a reality.
Peer-to-peer (P2P) car sharing applies a simple principle. Your car is one of your greatest assets and for most people it goes unused 90% of the time — and 100% of the time while it is parked at the airport. Entrepreneurs recognized this untapped resource and have developed programs for you to rent your car out to other drivers while you are away.
A multitude of companies has entered into this market over the last few years, including FlightCar, RelayRides, and Getaround. Several cite AirBnB as an inspiration. The relationship between these services and car rental agencies is quite similar to that of AirBnB and hotels.
Once you sign up with a P2P car sharing company, you will be able to create a listing for your car and the times it will be available for rental. Each company has their own qualifications to allow your car to be listed for rental. Typically, there are limits on the age of the car, odometer readings, and the total book value of the car. The car must also be registered, properly maintained, and relatively clean.
The P2P car sharing market is beginning to fragment into niches, either geographically or by services provided. For example, RelayRides has shifted its model away from daily and shorter rentals toward longer-term rentals with interaction between the renter and vehicle owner. Getaround is moving in the other direction, focusing on short-term (even hourly) rentals and greater convenience of transfer.
A simple Google search shows plenty of P2P options, but how do you decide which one is for you? Take these factors into account.
- Transfer – In some services, you drop your car off at the airport or at a facility; in others, you take the car to the renter. Check into the details of transfer, such as whether or not you meet your renter(s), how the keys are handled and secured, and expectations of cleanliness. If you are leaving your car anywhere other than an airport, verify the logistics of getting to your flight and back to your car upon return.
- Rental Period – Does the company specialize in short- or long-term rentals and do their plans match with your travel schedules?
- Rates – Generally, you are paid for the use of your car on either a per-mile basis or a flat time-based rate, depending on the service. Are the rates set by you or by the P2P company, and are your airport parking fees paid whether or not your car is rented out?
- Insurance and Liability – The greatest threat to the industry may be the murky insurance situation. Since insurance is mostly regulated at a state level, each state has its own interpretation of whether your car is under commercial use during your rental and whether your existing auto policy applies. All P2P car-sharing services cover the car with their own insurance during the rental period, but the boundaries are fuzzy in many locations.
Make sure you understand liability for not just your car, but also injury/casualty consequences. For example, if a renter has an accident caused by a mechanical failure in your car, who is considered responsible? We suggest verifying your insurance ramifications with three sources—the P2P car sharing company, your insurance carrier, and your state insurance regulators.
- Limitations – Check for mileage limitations and other travel limitations to make sure you are comfortable with the boundaries of how your car can be driven during the rental period.
- What-Ifs – Check the fine print and the FAQ section of the service’s website for specific outlines of what happens when things go wrong — everything from your flight being cancelled to somebody smoking in your car to your car’s involvement in an accident. Pay special attention to the responsibilities for any repair that may be required due to a rental experience.
- Reviews – Read the online reviews of the service, especially local ones, to see performance ratings and any potential trouble spots.
If you are interested in this concept, search the different P2P car-sharing companies to find out which one operates at your nearest airport and review the details of their offering to see if it fits your travel habits and comfort level. You may want to check whether the service operates at your destination as well, so that you can deal with only one company for each side of the rental transaction.
Do not expect to make enough money that you can take random flights just to make money renting your car — but P2P can certainly help you to recoup some of your travel costs if you are willing to take on the rental risks.