Would you pay a stranger to drive his or her car instead of renting one?
Would you let a stranger pay you to drive your car while you’re not using it?
In a twist on conventional car rental and a step beyond short-term rentals like Zipcar, a new service allows car owners to rent their vehicles to anyone who might need them. Need a truck for a Home Depot run? A luxury sedan for a night on the town? Just look in the garages of the people who own the appropriate vehicle. It’s now possible, thanks to smart phones and services like OnStar.
General Motors and a company called RelayRides have teamed up to create peer-to-peer car sharing, where anyone can rent other people’s personal vehicles.
After a GM vehicle is reserved through the RelayRides network, renters are able to unlock the rented vehicle’s doors through OnStar with a mobile phone and then start the car with a key left by the owner. OnStar tracks the car’s mileage and, if necessary, can locate the car if it is somehow lost.
I’m not sold on this being a good idea.
On one hand, my family owns two cars, one of which is usually sitting in the garage. On most weekend days, both cars sit side-by-side anxiously waiting for a spur-of-the-moment jaunt to Starbucks. Charging a few bucks to a guy looking to woo a first date with my car would be a good deal for both of us. (I would implement a rule, though, that any post first-date extracurricular activities happen after my car is returned safely.)
On the other hand, I love my cars, and the idea of a stranger taking them out alone is a bit disturbing.
Vehicle owners who choose to participate get to decide how much to charge for the rental, with 20 percent of that cost going to insurance and 15 percent going to RelayRides.
Even with insurance there is, of course, risk involved anytime someone borrows a car. Rentals are notorious for being abused, and the same could be expected out of peer-to-peer rentals. Accidents, ruined upholstery, smoke in the car, scratched paint and damaged suspension parts are all distinct possibilities.
I don’t imagine car enthusiasts would be keen on the idea of sharing their cars, but the idea might work for the average vehicle owner who might not mind being compensated for potential abuse.
The program is currently available in San Francisco and Boston, with a nationwide roll-out coming in 2012 for all OnStar-equipped vehicles.
Does peer-to-peer car sharing make sense to you?