Using RelayRides To Save Money On Car Rentals

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.

"Hertz DIscounts"

“Hertz Discounts”

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.

Enter RelayRides

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.

Link to RelayRides

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.

RelayRides Benefits

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.

"Pretty Reasonable"

“Pretty Reasonable”

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.

"Insurance Options"

“Insurance Options”

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!

"Large Selection"

“Large Selection”

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…

"Pick What You Want"

“Pick What You Want”

We ended up renting a brand new Jeep Grand Cherokee.

"Jeep"

“Jeep”

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.

"Talk About A Deal!"

“Talk About A Deal!”

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.

"Going Green"

“Going Green”

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.

"Hertz"

“Hertz”

$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.

"Airport Pickup"

“Airport Pickup”

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.

Recap

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!

-Parag

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Comments

  1. Hua says

    I have a RelayRides membership but never use it because it is always too expensive. I rent from non-airport locations on weekends and can usually get rentals for between $10 and $20 per day, after taxes and fees — and as long as you belong to a rental agency’s frequent renter program, there is typically very little of the upsell pressure associated with non-member rentals. You just specify your preferences in the profile and that’s what you get. The possible exception to that is Enterprise, but during my current rental ($38 for an entire weekend) I just had to say “no” a couple times, and it wasn’t a problem.

    Although you’re right about not getting a specific vehicle, in this case I reserved a compact and ended up with a mid-sized KIA. Although I probably wouldn’t have picked a KIA by myself, it is a perfectly acceptable car and it’s from last year — I doubt you’ll be able to get a 2013 on RelayRides for three days for under $40.

    I just checked the market where I will be next weekend, and RelayRides has rates as low as $20 per day if I want a 1995 Civic or a 1996 Plymouth Grand Voyager a couple towns over, plus the “average response times” are in the six to seven hour range with a 78 percent response rate? What sounds more appealing to you, an instantly confirmable $38 rate, or sending a request to use someone’s vehicle from 95 or 96 that may or may not receive a response?

    I also noticed that your example included a $10 “driving credit.”. Where does that discount come from, is it related to referral credits?

    Speaking of referral credits, is your “Link to RelayRides” a referral or affiliate link? If so, shouldn’t that be disclosed as a material relationship between you and the company you’re advertising?

    • Parag says

      Thanks for your response. If you are a frequent car renter or business traveler, a rental car from a agency is probably fine. Hard to beat $38 for the weekend but if you are a casual traveler who wants a specific vehicle or perhaps a hybrid, I’d probably still recommend Relay Rides.

  2. Crowley says

    I might add to the above comment, which I think is right on, that one should be both wary and very careful with regard to the insurance that RR has to offer. Consider the following:

    1. RR, though sometimes classified as “Car Rental” by your credit card, will not be credited as such if you should try to make a claim regarding damage that credit cards sometimes have added protection for. They don’t even do this for Zipcar, which is a far more credible candidate for being included. To counter your examples, I recently rented through Hertz (also got a $40 weekend rate at a non-airport location), and someone backed into the passenger side in a parking lot and drove away. My credit card just came through with a full coverage of all the damage, which totaled nearly $3500 with “loss of use” fees and such from Hertz. My liability was $0 in this case. Most people who have a credit card, which you need to reserve a RR car, have this coverage.

    2. To contrast this model – in this case, even if I had the premium protection from RR, which adds a substantial cost onto the rental (40% of the daily cost), I would be on the hook for $500, and with the basic, a staggering $2500. I don’t know about you, but I don’t keep that much $$ hanging around. It wouldn’t matter if the damage wasn’t my fault, it happened while I had the car.

    3. I was about 250 miles from home when the damage occurred (something that I also wouldn’t have been able to do with RR wildly varying mileage limits in a weekend). However, I called Hertz, everyone was really nice, and someone from a nearby agency came and picked me up, brought me to the office and got me in a new car a half-hour later. I can’t even imagine what a pain it would be had this happened in a RR car. Whoever the poor owner was would have had their badly damaged car in another state, I highly doubt that there would have been another car for me to use in the vicinity, and if there was, what if the person who had it had a 68% response rate? I don’t doubt that RR would have worked something out, but I highly doubt it would have been as fast or easy as Hertz was. This stuff happens a lot for them, so they have a pretty straightforward protocol for dealing with it.

    4. Some people don’t know this, but rental car agencies are required to maintain whatever the state minimum liability for the state in which an incident should occur, even if the driver does not have insurance. This is at no additional cost to you. So, obviously some states don’t have this requirement, hence you should pay attention when declining more coverage – but it remains that if you want even the minimum amount for RR you have to pay extra. Also, the additional liability insurance for Hertz, which is 1M/2M coverage, is about the same per day as the RR premium, which provides 1/3 of that.

    5. You can drive forever in a rental car. You can get a rental car for 2 days and drive the entire time for 2 days if you want. I’ve brought rental cars back after racking up 3500 miles on them and no one blinked. You would be hard-pressed to find a 2-day rental where you could even do 400 miles with RR. Now, I get this – these are peoples personal cars and they probably don’t want them to rack up 20,000 miles a year – but again, an inherent limitation of the model.

    6. You have to trust the ability and attentiveness of the owner with regard to vehicle maintenance. I have had cars 2 quarts low on oil, overheating because of low coolant, with severely underinflated tires, with no washer fluid, or with other obvious mechanical issues when renting with RR – I would actually say the majority of the times I have rented have had some issue with the vehicle, usually with my having to do something to remedy so that I can continue to drive it. And reimbursement? Am I going to go through whatever that would take to get 8 dollars back for 2 quarts of oil? Or 10 bucks of coolant? Probably not. On the flip side, I had a mechanical issue one (1) time with a Hertz car, and again, I was able to go to a nearby agency and exchange it for a new one. They are a business that rents cars, and has protocol for maintaining them, as well as dealing with issues that arise spontaneously. I’d really rather not having to worry that an engine is going to blow on the highway because someone hasn’t changed the oil in 23,000 miles.

    These are only a few further things to consider before so wholeheartedly supporting RR. It seems like a nice model on the outside, but there are so many inherent issues with it that couldn’t be resolved except via adopting an entirely different business model. In the end, if you require a very specific kind of car such as a large SUV or minivan, or if the 38 mpg you get with a brand new compact car just isn’t good enough and you need a hybrid, then I suppose RR might be a good option. Otherwise, I think it seems hip, cool, and part of this new “disruptive” economy, but you should ask whether someone is making equally big bucks off of this patina that they lay on top of an essentially non-disruptive interior. One clue – it isn’t the car owners.

    • Crowley says

      I know it does seem like I am a shill for Hertz or whatnot, and I probably should have used a more generalized example so that it didn’t seem like I was pumping Hertz up, but I honestly am not. I used Hertz as an example because: (1) they are company used by Parag as a comparison (2) they are company that I have used the most, and have been the best of those that I have utilized.

      I was a happy user of RR for about a year or so (back when they used to offer good coverage for renters and drivers, not just the latter). They were substantially cheaper than the traditional car rental companies, and I did like the idea of keeping money in the hands of my neighbors rather than a large rental company. However, with RR going nationwide, are they really any different than Hertz, Avis, or Budget? Some of my neighbors work at Budget, and they get a paycheck, along with some basic benefits from working there. I like to think that my renting a car from Budget probably contributes to their livelihood. The 10% fee that RR skims off of every rental pays peoples salaries as well, and you’d think that because they are asking people to assume the risk of lending their cars out (risks I’ve already outlined above, and none of which you actually addressed, preferring instead to try and get others to discount my post by labeling me as a promoter or a particular company), that it would result in substantially lower prices.

  3. Tim says

    I think if you just rent a compact car, the car rental is fine. But if you are looking to rent Van or SUV. It can be very expensive. And you don’t really know what kind of car you will end up getting at the car rental place..
    My recent trip to San Diego. I have a good experience renting a 8 seat cars. I don’t think you can find this car at any car rental places.

    https://relayrides.com/car-rental/san-diego/ford-taurus/55226

    We have fun and good experience with the renter. We messed up our reservation. They fixed it no problem at all. I don’t think you can get that personalize service and accommodation from car rental companies.

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