Renting a car has always been a pain. But it's getting better. First, companies such as Zipcar and Car2go made it simple for urban dwellers to quickly borrow an auto for a few hours or a day. Now new startups are forgoing the expense of buying a fleet of cars and instead taking advantage of the fact that most cars are sitting around for much of the day, doing nothing.
First, your car has to qualify. Each car-sharing company has different requirements, but most won't let you sign up a car that is in poor condition, is more than 10 years old, or has racked up more than 150,000 miles. Keep in mind that even if you find a service willing to list an older car, potential renters might opt for the nicer models available. allow you to rent out your car in your own neighborhood, helping out people who might need a set of wheels for a few hours and earning some cash in the process. Whether you're tired of watching your vehicle sit in an expensive parking space day after day or just want some extra money to cover gas or car payments, it's possible to cash in.
RelayRides is one of the more popular car-sharing sites, but Getaround, JustShareIt, and Spride all offer similar services. Find the one that's most convenient for you, and log in to create a profile and car listing. That listing will detail the make and model of your car, display photos, indicate when it might be available, and include reviews from (hopefully) satisfied renters. Most importantly, it indicates the price per hour you'd like to charge to rent out your car.
Then wait for renters to bite. Once they do and you accept their offer, you'll have to coordinate with the renter to exchange keys. Some of the services include devices that allow the owner to simply leave the keys in the car in a designated location. RelayRides, for instance, has partnered with GM and OnStar to enable a device that lets renters who've paid up to access the car via their mobile phone. Once their time is up, the renter returns the car to the specified location.
Feeling uncertain about letting a stranger drive your car? Car-sharing services include a feedback system much like eBay's to hold car owners and renters accountable. Owners can check out the reputation of their potential renters to decide if they want to work out a deal. Car owners can read past reviews to see whether other owners have had lousy experiences with renters in the past. You can even directly message the possible renters, asking for more details on how many miles they plan to put on the car, for instance, or if they'll use it to carry heavy items.
The amount of money you can earn depends on a number of factors, including how often you're able to rent out your car, the price you set, and how many renters want to use it. Nicer cars with low mileage that are still in a reasonable price range (between $25 and $40 per hour) tend to attract the most customers.
RelayRides claims on its site that car owners can bring in as much as $1000 extra per month, but the average user earns about $250. None of that money is exchanged directly between the car owner and the renter. The service act as the financial middleman, taking a cut of the fee (usually 35 or 40 percent) and issuing monthly payments to car owners.
If you like the idea of renting out your car but couldn't live without it for a day, consider making it available while you're on vacation. Hubber, a recently launched car-share program at the Los Angeles airport, allows travelers to drop off their vehicle at no cost near the airport before they head out of town. The company then rents the car out to city visitors. Rather than spend as much as $30 per day on parking, car owners could earn between $10 and $30 per day. Best of all, the cars are returned freshly washed and with a full tank of gas. FlightCar has similar services at the Boston and San Francisco airports and has plans to launch in more U.S. cities soon. Both companies provide full insurance against damage or theft for the car owners.
The decision to rent out your car might not be for everyone. Some car owners might be concerned about strangers riding around in their cars; others might not want the extra mileage. However, most of the car rental services try to alleviate some of those risks. RelayRides, JustShareIt, and GetAround have $1,000,000 supplemental insurance policies that offer coverage if a car is lost, damaged, or stolen. And remember, if you have suspicions about a possible renter, there is no pressure to confirm a booking. If you do confirm the rental, though, it can be a great way to help out a neighbor that needs a ride and maybe even fund a road trip for you in the process.
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