Why it’s impossible to rent a car right now

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Peer-to-peer car-sharing platforms are – cliché as they are – just like Airbnb is for cars. But unlike Airbnb, which is currently valued at $78.8 billion, car-sharing has yet to take off, even though cars sit idle 96% of the time. But now, with old-fashioned rentals expensive and hard to get, carpooling might finally have its moment.

Xavier Collins, vice president of Truo, says convenience is another benefit of peer-to-peer, with many people able to find a car within walking distance rather than at a rental park on the outskirts of town. This convenience is great if you’re already in a city, but what about people flying in for a vacation? HiyaCar is currently focusing on local renters rather than tourists, saying support for holidaymakers will hopefully be added this year, but the other two companies are targeting flyers. Getaround strives to obtain parking spaces for its cars at transport hubs; in France, for example, it has dedicated spots near stations.

Truo goes even further. Cars are delivered directly to the arrivals area of ​​airports, with the owner either meeting renters with the keys or leaving the vehicle in the airport car park, where it is unlocked via the app.

Apps like Truo, Getaround and HiyaCar have the same advantage as Airbnb and other so-called sharing economy platforms: they own nothing. “The cars on the platforms don’t belong to the company,” says Even Heggernes, Vice President of Getaround Europe. “The car shortage happening everywhere is not something that really affects us.”

But that doesn’t mean these platforms have enough vehicles: in the UK, HiyaCar has 2,000 cars for its 150,000 registered users. Truo has 3,000 in the UK, while in the US, Getaround has 160,000. Sharing platforms rely on individuals letting strangers drive away, which requires trust as well as effort. to keep vehicles clean, full of gas and otherwise ready for renters. It’s a tough question, although Heggernes, whose job it is to encourage drivers to sign up, says supply has increased due to the cost of living crisis as people look for ways to earn extra money.

HiyaCar has a solution to the continued lack of supply: recharging the system with its own vehicles. With 150,000 registered users, HiyaCar has only 2,000 cars, of which 350 are part of its car club system. They are not owned by HiyaCar, but by car manufacturers, who are guaranteed a minimum income, and the aim is to fill cars where there is not yet enough supply, which the company calls the “cold start problem”.

“We have a lot of requests but not enough cars,” says Rob Lamour, co-founder of HiyaCar. “You can’t just walk into an area and suddenly have lots of cars to rent; it takes time to accumulate. Car clubs are also being created in areas where there are usually not enough vehicles, such as central London, where public transport could reduce the number of car owners, but demand for ad hoc rentals remains high .

But traditional car rental companies aren’t sitting idly by and letting newcomers disrupt their market. Even before the pandemic, rental companies were pushing for tighter regulation of the peer-to-peer market, demanding tighter vehicle checks and restrictions on drop-off areas at airports.

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