If you buy through our links, we may earn money from affiliate partners. Learn more.
Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky
Turo is the sharing economy's answer to big car rental companies.
You can rent everything from a standard Honda to the latest Tesla to a retro camper van.
I've tried the service twice and found it to be an excellent and more affordable car rental option.
Owen Burke/Business Insider
Though vaccine rollouts are well underway and travel is picking back up, travelers continue to seek safe vacation options. With social distancing remaining a top priority and many countries still not open to US travelers, domestic trips and road trips continue to reign supreme. For those without their own wheels, that means renting a car.
In fact, many of the best car rental companies are seeing such high demand that there's a nationwide shortage. In addition to it being just plain hard to find a rental right now, prices have skyrocketed – in some cases to as high as $700 per day. As an alternative, some travelers are looking for cheaper car rentals or last-minute options via peer-to-peer rental services. That's where Turo comes in.
Whether you're looking to get out of town in style, tear out into the wilds, or just avoid the line at Hertz, Turo, the sharing economy's answer to car rentals, may be the solution to your woes. What's more? You can also now earn a little (quasi-)passive income renting your own wheels out, too.
What is Turo?
Turo is a peer-to-peer service along the lines of Airbnb or Vrbo, but for vehicles. The website (also an app) allows you to connect with individual owners who set their own prices, and to some degree, their own terms and conditions.
I’ve tried Turo in two widely different capacities. My first trip was a weeklong escapade in a 1986 Volkswagen camper van through the Pacific Northwest of the US, camping along the coast. My second was simply a means of getting from Miami International Airport down to a beach house rental in the Florida Keys in an Audi A6 convertible.
Both experiences were delightful departures from absolutely every vehicle rental experience I’ve ever had and proved why Turo is an excellent alternative to standard rental car options.
How does renting a car from Turo work?
Signing up for Turo is a breeze. Plug in your email address or sign up through your Facebook or Google account, put in a few personal details, and you’ll receive a confirmation email to prove your identity and eligibility as a driver (license required).
Searching for a car is exactly like hunting for a vacation rental on Airbnb. Enter the name of the place you’re going, your scheduled dates, and either select the type of car you’re after or sift through the 850-plus unique makes and models within Turo’s database of hundreds of thousands of vehicles across more than 5,500 cities across the United States and the United Kingdom.
Of course, you’ll have better luck finding your dream car in more metropolitan areas, at least for now.
Car pickups vary from owner to owner, but if you’re lucky, the vehicle will be brought right to you. You can also filter for this option, which I highly recommend.
As with any rental, upon receiving the car, make sure to do the whole once around to ensure it’s in good shape. After simply showing your license, the car is yours.
When you’re finished with your trip, top up the gas to match where the needle was on the gauge when you picked it up before returning the car. If you don’t manage to refill the gas tank, you’ll pay a prorated fee per gallon (usually steeper than the prices you’d find at the pump). You can also opt for insurance and varying degrees of coverage just as you can with a traditional agency.
Give the car another pass with the owner or the representative present, hand over the keys, and you’re all set. The owner might offer to meet you at the airport before your flight, or drop you off somewhere, but this is case by case, and you’ll usually have to arrange that ahead of time. Reviews, as with anything in the sharing economy, are encouraged (and the owner ought to do the same for you).
How much does Turo cost?
The price of cars on Turo varies greatly and is entirely dependent on the make, model, and owner setting the price. However, Turo is frequently a more affordable experience compared with many of the rental agencies.
Looking two weeks out at rentals in San Francisco, for example, Turo’s rental prices start at a $25-a-day 2010 Mazda 6 (plus insurance, but more on insurance below), while, due to the surge in demand currently, an entry-level rental at Hertz in San Francisco will run you $149 (and you’re not guaranteed the vehicle you select at checkout) before getting to insurance.
Though using Turo as a more affordable car rental option is certainly a good use right now, the real fun starts in the $150 to $200 range. While that price would likely land you a Buick Regal “or similar” at a standard rental company during non-shortage times, you can land a Tesla Model 3 for a similar price on Turo. I’m no snob, but given the choice, and the level of service (pickup at your door), the choice seems like a no-brainer.
Of course, those who have a little money to burn could also pick up a Ferrari in California ($539/day), but insurance through Turo on such premium cars will run you upwards of $100 per day.
Do I need to buy insurance for Turo?
If you already have car insurance, consult your company first, as they may cover you (as they would with traditional agencies) depending on your level of insurance. If you’re purchasing insurance through Turo, there are five different levels of insurance to consider, but you’ll be covered through your rental with basic liability insurance through Liberty Mutual for up to $750,000, and it starts just shy of $20 per day.
My review of Turo
Owen Burke/Business Insider
Having lived in a camper van in a past life, I’m all too eager to jump at the chance to relive it whenever I can. So when Turo’s team wrote and asked if I’d like to try out a vintage VW camper van, I didn’t hesitate to take them up on it. Off I went to Seattle.
The owner arranged to pick me up with Gretel (the stunningly pristine specimen of an automobile you see above) so I could prove my capabilities with a manual transmission. Fair enough: I certainly wouldn’t entrust a classic vehicle to someone without vetting their driving skills first, either.
Granted, this is a special occurrence, and so long as you’re not renting a classic vehicle with a manual transmission, you probably won’t be put to the test. It should go without saying that no one ought to rent (or drive) a vehicle outside of their comfort capabilities.
After passing my short road test, I was free roam wherever I pleased (within reason) at the helm of Gretel for a week. I did, however, have a 1,500-mile limit, and would incur further charges if I surpassed it (0.75/mile). I ended up driving a couple of hundred miles over, which was a fee of about $150 more. Over the course of a week, getting to drive the Lost Coast of Northern California and sleep in the Redwood Forest though? Worth it.
The van also came stocked with everything I needed, from a sleeping bag, pillows, blankets, and sheets, down to a coffee pot, oatmeal, coffee, and kitchen cloths.
I dare you to try to find a hotel room on a cliff above the Pacific for less than $200 a night. You might luck out, but add the cost of a car rental to that. (Keep in mind that a Honda Accord will not exactly get you here.)
When you return someone’s pride-and-joy-on-wheels (keep in mind that old VW Vanagons are collectors’ items), they’re probably going to go over the thing with a fine-toothed comb. The owner of this particular vehicle did just that, and while I was embarrassed by the moderate disarray of things, he in turn told me I was the cleanest renter yet. Owners can potentially put up a fuss (just like with Airbnb), but the best course of action is to be considerate, courteous, and clean up after yourself. They expect to have to clean a little, but as with any rental or hospitality experience, there’s no need to go all Motley Crew on the poor set of wheels. If you do, there’s a good chance you’ll end up paying for it.
Owen Burke/Business Insider
After such a positive experience, I decided to try out Turo again during a road trip to the Florida Keys. This time, I was seeking a standard set of wheels to take me from the airport to my final destination. If you’ve ever picked up a car rental from the airport, you’re surely acquainted with issues that often pop up like long lines, faulty reservation systems, or just a super long walk from the terminal.
Save yourself the stress, and maybe the loss of your cool, and try Turo out at the airport. Arrange your car (at least 24 hours ahead of time to be safe), input your flight time, your ETA at arrivals, and your rental will be parked out front with either the vehicle’s owner or a representative on their behalf (there are a few small agencies using Turo, too). Show them your driver’s license, and off you go.
I went through this entire process without even the hint of a hitch and didn’t have to go searching for some far-flung rental agency outpost on the outskirts of the airport.
The Audi A6 was in immaculate shape, clean and detailed. The transition was smooth, and while I might not have mistaken it for a brand-spanking-new car fresh off the lot, it was in every bit as fine a shape as anything I’ve ever rented from Avis or Hertz.
Granted, just as with Airbnb, you’ll see some variation on a case-by-case basis. The difference between renting a 1980s-vintage VW Vanagon and a late-model sports car is about as immense as you could imagine. Think fully detailed interior versus a throw blanket over stained or torn upholstery. You’ll also be able to get a feel for the condition of the vehicle based on its profile online and reviews.
And again like Airbnb, your experience is going to largely depend on your host (they also receive ratings). Some hosts make renting vehicles on Turo their primary occupation; they’ll have a crew of drivers and a slew of vehicles. This was the case with the Audi I rented, and I felt like I received executive service as a result.
Are car rentals safe?
The CDC has stated that fully vaccinated people may safely travel in the US. If you’re wondering if renting a car is safe, we spoke to experts who say yes, as long as proper precautions are taken.
Turo has also updated its policies and guidelines to help ensure safety. Hosts are urged to disinfect cars after every trip, but guests booking cars should also bring their own wipes and sanitize all surfaces as an extra safety measure. It is also highly encouraged not to meet in person and instead, hosts should set up remote key handoffs via lockbox or via digitally upgrading to Turo Go if you’re located in the San Francisco Bay Area, Los Angeles, or San Diego.
You can find Turo’s full policies and tips for staying safe here.
The bottom line: Is renting from Turo worth it?
Even if you’re not the adventurous type, Turo offers a convenience you don’t get with any of the big rental companies, and that makes all the difference.
This isn’t to say there isn’t still a time and place to use more traditional rental agencies; in remoter places, there’s a good chance you won’t find any Turo listings, and in the case of one-way trips, Avis, Hertz, Enterprise, and the like are all likely your only option, unless you can manage a special (albeit highly unlikely) arrangement with a Turo vehicle’s owner to meet you at your end destination.
Whether you’re heading out to the beach, up into the mountains, straight to a hotel room, or just looking for something a little spiffier or more functional (and fun) than a Chevy Malibu, it’s plainly and simply the easiest way to rent a car.
Pros: More affordable and convenient than most (if not all) vehicle rental agencies
Cons: Like Airbnb, quality control is tough (but improving), one-way rentals usually aren’t possible
Read the original article on Business Insider