Why Is Renting A Car So Difficult?
While I’d say I have a fairly above average knowledge of frequent flyer miles and hotel points, one thing I have never understood is car rentals.
Up until a year ago, I was under 25 so it was difficult to rent a car but even now being 26, I still maybe only rent a car once a year.
I don’t know what it is about buying, selling, or renting out cars but the entire auto industry seems to be out to trick customers.
Renting a car is such an unnecessarily complicated process due to all the promos codes, different pricing on weekdays as compared to weekends, different classes of cars, etc.
Seriously what is the difference between a economy car and a compact car?
Below are all the different discount codes that Hertz accepts…
5 different types of codes that all have different restrictions and requirements.
And this is all before you even get to the airport to pick up your car and are badgered about buying insurance.
All in all, it is a broken process that I try to avoid at all costs.
For a long time, customers didn’t really have a choice when it came to renting a car. You either had to rent a car from the airport or take a taxi to your destination.
Now days thanks to companies like Lyft and Airbnb, collaborative consumption or basically the idea of renting out what you own to your neighbors, has really taken off and has now finally “disrupted” the rental car industry.
RelayRides is basically Airbnb but for your car.
Most people have a car that basically sits idle for 23 hours a day unless they are driving to work or running errands, so it makes sense that people (or you) would want to rent it out and make some money.
I’ve used RelayRides, 3 times now and I absolutely love it.
1. Everything But Gas Is Included
Unlike renting a car, where you are hounded about insurance and tons of upsells when you pick up your car, with RelayRides everything but gas is included in the final price. So you know the exact price when you book it online.
As for insurance, you can pick from 3 options.
Either you can decline getting insurance if you have your own car insurance, or get a $500 / $2,500 deductible policy and then you are fully covered for anything over the deductible.
In the above example, I chose the $500 deductible and it was $15.20 extra which I think is pretty reasonable.
If I had opted for the basic protection, it would have only been $6!
I am not sure if car rental insurance from your credit card would be applicable here, so it is best to call and ask them if you are planning on doing that.
I hate paying insurance as much as the next person but I appreciate that RelayRides options are at least transparent and basic protection is extremely reasonable.
2. You Pick Your Car
Unlike rental agencies, with RelayRides, you pick out the exact car you want.
No more dealing with compact, economy, mid-size shenanigans and then arriving at the rental car agency only to find out your preferred vehicle is sold out.
As you can see for Chicago, there are literally hundreds of cars that you can rent from all across the city and you don’t even have to go to the airport!
To make things even better, you can filter for the types of vehicles you want!
When we went skiing in Colorado in January, we needed a vehicle with all wheel drive, so with one click we were able to find one.
Try doing that with a rental car agency website…
We ended up renting a brand new Jeep Grand Cherokee.
3. Way Cheaper Than Rental Agencies
The above Jeep that we rented for 3 full days in Denver only cost us $166.25 total (including insurance). Only additional thing we had to pay for was gas.
If we had tried to rent an SUV from a rental car agency, the cheapest I could find was $150 a day!
Obviously I normally don’t rent SUVs since they are gas-guzzlers and extremely hard to park in cities.
Using RelayRides a couple times now, I’ve found the best value are hybrids.
Not only are they “green” but more importantly they can save you serious green on gas. When we went to Napa last August and rented from RelayRides, we got a Prius and barely had to fill the tank.
What is awesome about RelayRides is that since individuals are pricing their cars, there isn’t a huge mark-up for hybrids as you will see below.
In Chicago, I can rent a Toyota Prius for the day for only $38 total. That was just the top result, so I am assuming there are even cheaper hybrid options if I had chose to dug a little more.
Now you might be wondering how much would a hybrid cost from a normal car rental agency.
Glad you asked because I randomly selected a rental car agency (Hertz) and checked how much it was to rent a hybrid for 1 day.
$208 a day which is almost the monthly cost if you just straight up bought a brand new hybrid…
While the rate for Hertz is obviously ridiculous at $144, you can see that there are about $33 in taxes and other non-sense airport fees.
Again since RelayRides is peer to peer, they don’t have to deal with that!
So $208 a day from Hertz or $38 a day from RelayRides, you be the judge!
Under 25 Drivers
I have never really understood why you had to be 25 to rent a car. While I am sure there is “data” to back up their rationale, if you have a clear driving history and are insured, 25 seems like an arbitrary number.
What is even more bizarre is that most rental car agencies will conveniently waive any concern about being underage if you pay an additional fee…
Anyways, if you are 21 or older you can rent from RelayRides as long as your driving record is clean. No additional underage driver fees required!
Full details here
Airport Pick Up
While RelayRides in theory sounds great, once someone gets off a flight, the last thing they want to do is navigate offsite to pick up a car.
This is why rental car agencies have had a strong hold on the car rental industry for so long. People (including myself) are lazy and want the quickest and fastest option.
RelayRides has addressed this 2 ways.
1. SFO Airport Parking
If you live in San Francisco (where RelayRides is based), you can park at SFO for free (more info).
In exchange, they will rent out your car to incoming RelayRiders.
So if you are landing in SFO, you can rent from RelayRides right from the airport!
If you are renting out your car at SFO, you don’t get any money from the rental BUT you do get free parking and a free car wash.
Your car is covered by their $1 million insurance policy.
2. Airport Pick Ups
Outside of SFO, Relay Ride renters have basically figured out that if they offer airport pick-up / drop-off, they are more likely to get a potential renter.
Not all renters offer this but many people will add it to their rental description on the site.
If there is no message, I typically will just message the owner and ask them if they will pick us up for a small fee of like $20 each way.
I have also messaged RelayRides about adding in this “airport pick up” feature in their search. They said they have forwarded it to their product team, so we will see what happens.
In Denver, we had this exact issue given that the airport is in the middle of nowhere.
Our renter apparently rents his car out a lot, so he just parks his Jeep in the short-term lot when people are renting it out. When we landed, we took the shuttle to the lot, picked up the Jeep and then dropped it off in the same place when we were done. He even left cash in the car for us to pay for the parking.
Although airport pick-up is nice, I personally find it nice that there are so many potential rental options not at the airport.
When we were in San Francisco last summer, we landed at night and were driving to Napa in the morning. It didn’t make sense to rent a car from SFO that night and then pay to park it overnight in San Fran.
Instead we used RelayRides, found a hybrid literally 2 blocks from where we were staying. Picked it up in the morning and we were on our way to Napa. No picking up or dropping the car off at the airport.
While not everyone is comfortable with staying at other people’s houses, ride-sharing with strangers, or renting out someone’s car, I for one have fully embraced this new sharing economy.
Not only is RelayRides substantially cheaper than rental car agencies, but often for the same price of renting a crappy compact car, you can literally get any type of vehicle you want from RelayRides and as an added benefit, no one will try to sell you extra insurance!
Don’t ever miss another FFU Update or Travel Deal!