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RelayRides set up borrowers and lenders to use private cars.RelayRides sets up borrowers and lenders to use private cars.

RelayRides: A New Spin on the Traditional Car Rental Company

Leave a Car, Rent a Car 

Traditionally, travelers leave their cars behind at the airport when they go away, and return to find them exactly where they left them, assuming the car has waited there patiently for the entirety of their trip. Now, there is a new option that could put some extra money in travelers' pockets, and put their car to good use while they are gone.

RelayRides offers a different style of car rental. Instead of merely arriving in a location and renting whatever freshly cleaned vehicle you can afford, pumped full of that “new car” scent, travelers now how the option of renting someone else’s car, and having their own car rented in just the same way.

This innovative new rental system lets travelers make money, put their car to good use, and rent a car more cheaply than at most rental companies.

Why RelayRides?

RelayRides is the largest peer-to-peer car rental service in the United States, servicing 1,900 cities nationwide.

“When our company started we were trying to create an on-demand model,” Steve Webb, director of communications for RelayRides explained, adding that it comes in handy for people “flying in from a different location and staying for a longer duration.”

This service comes in handy for families who need bigger cars for their vacations, or people traveling somewhere by plane where they don’t have their own car.

The service, according to Webb, is not only for travelers lacking a car, but for those perhaps seeking a different kind of car for the type of trip they are taking. For example, you can rent out an SUV if you are going to be driving in mountainous terrain that your current car is not equipped for.

relay rideslogoThe convenience of this service is based on the fact that people can get their car right at the airport, and put their own car to good use while they are away, says Webb. Owners list their vehicles so that potential renters know what is available when they arrive at their destination.

Owners of GM vehicles with an active OnStar account can use the system to make access to their cars easier. And it potentially expands the RelayRides pool to over 6 million vehicles. Since the OnStar system has an embedded cellular modem, renters can unlock the car using a smartphone or by sending a text message, and then access the keys the owner has hidden inside – no in-person hand-off necessary.

According to RelayRides founder and chief community officer Shelby Clark, car owners with an active OnStar subscription will be able to add their vehicles to the list of available rentals on the company’s website and link it to their OnStar account in five minutes. If someone browsing the RelayRides site wants to rent the OnStar subscriber’s vehicle and the transaction is approved, the car can be unlocked by pressing a button on RelayRide’s mobile website or by sending a text message. “It’s pretty cool to text a car and watch it unlock the doors,” Clark said.

Renting out your car

If interested in renting out your car while you are away, there are no hoops to jump through, no membership fees and really, it’s pretty simple. All you have to do is list your car as available for rent on the RelayRides marketplace website. You simply leave your car in the airport parking lot, and someone else can rent it while you are away.

Car owners make an average of $250 per month renting out their vehicles. This service is useful for travelers who need a car for a day or who need a car for the entirety of their trip. When a traveler who is part of the program leaves their vehicle idle in the airport while they go away, another traveler coming to that location can rent out their car.

RelayRides did away with their rent-by-the-hour option back in October, due to limited interest, so there is now a one-day minimum for rentals. It is specifically an option for travelers, as opposed to companies like Zipcar, which are more for conveniences such as taking a trip to the store or going out for the day.

Safety Measures

“We vet every single renter in our marketplace,” said Steve Webb, director of Communications for RelayRides, explaining that they check the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) driving records of potential renters to be assured that those renting out their vehicles can be trusted with the rented vehicles.

Drivers who have major violations such as speeding over 20 mph are not allowed to rent vehicles and there are also fraud protection measures in place.

“We make sure our marketplace is thoroughly safe and secure for vehicles,” says Webb. “A series of trust and safety measures are taken to protect our owners and make sure our marketplace is safe.”

 You can lend or borrow someone's car by the hour with Relay Rides, or leave it at the airport and park free while some else is using your car.RelayRides also offers a 1-million dollar liability and insurance policy, so that car owners will be covered and their insurance will not be “on the hook” if something were to happen to their vehicle while it was being rented out.

Learn Before you Rent

With RelayRides, there are no secrets. You can learn about potential renters and potential cars beforehand, by reading reviews. Had a great experience with your car? Write about it! Did you have a negative experience with a renter? Maybe they left your car a mess. You can write about that too. With this feature, owners can review their renters, and renters can review the car they rented, leaving future renters and owners with information at their fingertips, making the whole rental experience just a little bit simpler.

More for your money

Instead of letting your car just sit there, collecting dust while you are away, why not put it to good use? Or, in this case, let someone else put it to good use, and make money in the process?

“People love our unique selection,” said Webb. “For a price that you would get the bare bones at a traditional rental car company, at RelayRides you could end up with a Fiat, for example. People prefer our selection.”

He added that if you fly into, say, LAX, you could get a convertible for cheaper than a traditional company, for a competitive price.

“Right now we are competing with traditional rental car companies,” said Webb, who explained that RelayRides is financially, the smarter choice. With RelayRides, renters have more car options in their price range than at traditional rental companies.

One way to look at it, according to the RelayRides website, is that most cars sit idle over 92 percent of the time, but consistently costs their owners money between insurance, garage fees or just maintenance costs. This opportunity to rent out your vehicle offsets some of these costs by letting car owners profit instead of just letting their car sit idle.

A Growing Industry

In addition to RelayRides, other companies have begun offering peer-to-peer car rentals at airports. FlightCar, started earlier this year at San Francisco International Airport, is working to connect passengers with less expensive car rental options when arriving at the airport.


Steffi Porter
 is a creative writer and journalist who has written for The Daily Hampshire Gazette, Hearst Newspapers and the Houston Chronicle. She is a former writer and editor for her college paper, the Massachusetts Daily Collegian and a graduate of the Institute for Political Journalism and the Fund for American Studies.

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Tags: storySection: Transports
author: Steffi Porter
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