Test Turo, the P2P car rental service

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Turo presents itself as an AirBnB

ABNB
for cars, and after using it twice in two different cities, I can say it has the same kind of digital convenience and individual differences as the most famous peer-to-peer apartment rental service. At a time when rental cars can be hard to come by or, if you can find them, incredibly expensive, Turo is a welcome, albeit quirky, alternative.

I used Turo in Missoula, Montana and Austin, Texas in late 2021 through promotional credit from the company. Other than that bonus, my rentals were done exactly the same way anyone else would have, where I booked the cars myself and communicated directly with the vehicle owners without they know I was a member of the media.

Last year, Turn’s most reserved models ran the gamut from novelty to practicality to performance. The most booked vehicle by American guests in 2021, based on the number of trips booked, was the Tesla Model 3, followed by the Toyota Corolla and then the Ford Mustang. The Toyota Camry and Jeep Wrangler round out the top five. I rented a Hyundai Accent and a Chrysler 200.

Booking a car through Turo is a relatively simple matter. You scroll through the vehicles either on the Turo smartphone app or on the company’s website. As you can see when browsing the potential rides, the choices you have and the daily costs vary wildly from place to place. You can also search by vehicle type. Something electric, maybe? A pet-friendly ride? Or maybe an off-road beast or a set of fancy wheels to impress a date. Current Turo prices range approximately between $100 and $200 per day. In the United States, you must be at least 18 years old, have a valid driver’s license and go through a short approval process to rent a car through Turo. Once you’ve been approved and rented a car yourself, you can add additional drivers at no additional cost, which is convenient.

Booking a car is just the first step, or of course. Once you selected your ride and made arrangements to collect it – in my case the owners of the vehicles dropped the cars off at the airport’s public car park and gave me instructions on how to get there. find – you need to contribute to Turo’s smart way to keep renters and hosts honest. The process is simple, although it takes a bit of time. The vehicle owner uploads a series of interior and exterior photos to the app, which you as the renter can then view. When you get in the vehicle, you upload your own set – confirming (or, if anything, not confirming) that the owner’s images match what you see. When you return the car, you take the same series of images to prove that you did not damage anything while driving. Other than these changes, using Turo is a bit like renting from a traditional rental agency, but with more personality in the rental car.

Using Turo once again introduces you to the concept of non-uniform randomness. Just like you’re never quite sure how clean your next Lyft is.

LYFT
or Uber

UBER
will provide, you don’t know how access to your Turo will work. The first time I rented one, the owner just hid his key from me behind the gas cap door. It’s the “no one will ever guess the location” method of keeping thieves away. My second experiment used a key box, similar to what you would find in an unoccupied rental home, but designed to fit in the driver’s side window. Both methods work, and I’m sure there are other ways Turo drivers can let renters into their vehicles. Hopefully, once again, cars will be available with digital keys – i.e. means of authorizing access to a car via an approved smartphone – which will quickly become the preferred method of access for more Turo users.

These kinds of high-tech features may soon find their way into Turo vehicles. The company recently said some of its hosts have heard that they plan to make some of the hottest new electric vehicles on the site, once they actually become available. The list includes the Tesla CyberTruck, Rivian RS1 and RT1, Lucid Air, Ford F150 Lightning, Hummer EV and Fisker Ocean.

In general, using Turo is simple and straightforward. One thing to pay special attention to is the fees that renters or the company add to your booking. For example, a “delivery charge” of $60 was added to one of my rentals on the last page before payment, something that was not communicated in earlier stages of the booking process and something which I didn’t see until I had already clicked “send to us.”

One of the best parts of Turo is that you get at least a little temporary connection with the people behind the car you’re renting. I won’t go into details to protect privacy, but I left something in the car I rented in Austin. It was a small thing, just a piece of paper, but important. I informed the owner of the vehicle and he promptly mailed it to me, no questions asked. It was a small thing, but human. And that’s where Turo can really outshine your standard car rental company, when you’re lucky.

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