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App-Ed: Rent Someone Else’s Car, Live Your Best Life

All it takes is a convertible and the car-sharing app Turo

I love driving, but I hate car rentals. There is no world in which renting a car is not 100 percent always a pain in the ass — no matter the company or locale, there is nothing more inconvenient and fraught with hidden fees and terror. Nowhere else are you threatened with pages of paperwork and insurance rules that you’ve never heard before in your life. Such as, did you know that in some states if you wreck a rental car — even if you have insurance — you have to buy MORE insurance to protect yourself from a rental car protection waiver that will force you to pay the car’s rental fee for every day that it’s in the shop getting fixed? I didn’t make that up; it’s real.

Every time I rent a car, I’m filled with so much fear of crashing it and owing Alamo or Budget or Hertz my firstborn child that I never have fun driving the car — be it the only shitty 2008 Kia Soul they had left on the lot or the only shitty 1997 Honda minivan they had left on the lot. Dreams of driving away with the kind of car you could only afford to purchase in your dreams (let alone be allowed to drive down an open highway!) are always thwarted.

But thanks to a recommendation from a friend and an app called Turo, this weekend I spent my time zooming around Santa Fe in a bright blue convertible: “HYDRO 1” it read on the back license plate. I felt the wind in my hair, enjoyed what would have been a stressful hour drive to and from the airport and had, overall, the best rental car experience of my life.

Photo by Lindsey Weber, obviously.

Turo is part of what many call “the sharing economy.” Like its better-known brethren — Airbnb, Uber, TaskRabbit — it enables a peer-to-peer sharing of services and goods. While revolutionary, it’s in no way a perfect situation. When a third-party company is creating the rules of decorum from afar (especially when safety is involved!), there can be any number of pitfalls. There’s a reason why the standard hotels and car rental companies are the norm and have been for some time. They abide by laws and inspections to keep you safe (and clean), as well as protect landlords and renters. Until more recently, quite a few of the apps found ways to skirt these kinds of rules.

But while the hotel industry has been majorly disrupted, car rental has not. Uber and Lyft have challenged the old ways of the taxi cab, but when you want to treat yourself to a fancy, fast car on vacation, you’re faced with the same half-dozen car rental companies — in fact, they’ve even staked their claim at the airport, so they tend to seem like the only option. Stuck with no ride and an hour’s drive north to your destination? What else are you going to do?

HYDRO 1 drove into my life after I decided to try Turo while spending a weekend at a wedding, after daydreaming about how fun it would be to rent a convertible for the weekend and doubting that any car rental place would have something affordable and available. The app suggested Jairo’s ride — for an extra $20 he would even drop the car off at the airport for me and be there to pick it up on my way out of town. There were a few options for insurance: premium or basic, with all the information spelled out in the app (and on their website)—of course I wanted to make sure I didn’t crash Jairo’s car and have to pay for it, but the app offered those two options without scaring me into additional “upgrades” or handing over pages of paperwork I’d never get a chance to fully read before being hustled out the door.

Best of all: I was fully in touch with Jairo throughout my time on the road with his car — so when the roof had a little trouble opening, I was able to text him and get both a reassurance that “sometimes that happens” and directions for how to fix it. He even suggested a fun route to take and jokingly told me to “keep it under 100.” (Which I did. The speed limit was 75.)

My friends made fun of me all weekend as I blabbed on and on about my ride. “Maybe you should actually buy one?” someone asked after I proudly showed off my freshly sunburned forehead — a convertible casualty caused by my lack of hat. (Turns out people who regularly drive convertibles aren’t just donning hats for style!)

Despite the convincing cosplay, I don’t think I’m a Convertible Person. I’m too anxious about safety, inclement weather, moving parts. But getting the opportunity to pretend for the weekend was the most fun I’ve had in ages. Next time, I think I’m gonna shoot for a Wrangler.

Lindsey Weber is an editor at MEL and was not paid to endorse Turo. She just really liked it. Promise.