Note: I was not sponsored by Turo to write this article.
When I first heard in 2010/11 that people were making their cars available for rent online, suffice it to say that I was surprised. At that time, peer-to-peer ride sharing, let alone renting, had not yet gained momentum and became the commonly used tool that it is today. To my knowledge, RelayRides (now known as Turo) was and is the first such nationwide service to operate on such a large level.
At the time I was made aware of Relay Rides I didn’t have a need for rental cars, let alone the money to pay for them. As a result, I read the Yahoo.com article and thought to myself: “Hmm, that seems cool.” I went to RelayRides’ website and browsed the cars. The selection was a little small and I didn’t give any thought to it until a couple years later when I saw an ad on Facebook this past April announcing RelayRides had been renamed Turo. My interest was pricked and I decided to take another look. The website seemed nicely refined in comparison to its predecessor and there was even an easy to use app. A couple months later I would make my first reservation and never use Enterprise again.
Fast forward one month to May: I moved from Plainfield to Chicago (more specifically, to the Marquette Park area) using nothing but my newly purchased 2005 Ford Focus ST. No, not the versatile 2012+ hatchback ST that we so love, the 2005-2007 sedan only ST. I recall that I made at least four trips over the course of two weeks to move all my stuff, and even my modestly sized furniture was a hassle to get into the back seat. I considered renting an SUV from Enterprise, but with the prices they charge and the young driver fee that a 23 year old such as myself gets pummeled with, it was a no-go.
After getting moved into my apartment, I decided I needed more furniture. In June, I tried to figure out how I could get my hands on a SUV or station wagon for a couple days. No one I knew was able to let me borrow their car, and traditional rental car companies were out of the question. Remembering that Turo was an available option, I registered my driver’s license and created a profile with the easy-to-use mobile app. Afterwords, it was a matter finding the right vehicle at the right price.
Here’s how reserving on Turo works: once you’ve registered and been approved to drive, you select your dates desired, search for a vehicle by either selecting a vehicle class or narrowing down by certain fields (such as make, transmission, and daily price) and send a message to the owner requesting the rental. Insurance is available if you choose (which I always decline) and the reservation changes to pending status upon owner approval. The approval/decline is usually pretty quick so the renter doesn’t have to be in rental limbo for long.
My first request was for a red 2015 Toyota Prius V at $50 a day and was declined twice. I moved on the next day and found a grey 2005 Ford Escape Hybrid in Joliet that was being rented out by a man named Carlos for $25 a day (the price has since crept up.) I submitted the request for Friday evening through Sunday evening (Turo allows pick ups and drop offs on any day at almost any time, so long as it works for the vehicle’s owner.) Approval came about 5 minutes later and after exchanging a couple of messages through Turo’s in-app messaging service, everything was set. When I met Carlos at his home at our agreed to pick-up time, he was friendly and offered to explain a few ins and outs of the Escape Hybrid and asked that I not slam the hatch too hard since there was a little bit of rust in that area.
The Escape Hybrid got the job done: I was able to get the furniture I needed without a hassle and got a great bargain. In all, my total tip cost (excluding gas) was $75.40, which included all a small trip fee and young driver fee. Had I rented with Enterprise, I would have been charged at least $12.00 every day as a young driver, paid a considerable tax, and would have paid for an extra day due to lack of Sunday business hours. Such a reservation would cost at least twice as much with much less flexibility.
This flexibility has come in handy, and I’ve rented several times with Turo since June. I rented a 2014 Lincoln MKZ Hybrid from a friendly guy name Paul in September for three days at about $45 per day and a total cost of $172. Again, Enterprise would have skewered me, if they would even allow an “underage driver” to get a vehicle under their Luxury class. My next two trips came in October while my Focus was in the shop, and consisted of a 2014 Chevrolet Spark from Mike and a 2009 Honda Fit from Melanie. I had the Spark from Friday through Saturday and the Fit from Sunday through Wednesday. One major plus with Turo is that there are cars available with a manual transmission and both these economy cars came with a third pedal. Both cars ended up costing me a total of about $170, which was about a third of what I would pay for the same time with Enterprise.
My reservation with Mike’s Chevy Spark was the most flexible and interesting. He approved the trip with a 1 hour notice and had a code available to discount a Lyft ride to the car. I never met him in person, but he made getting the car very easy. There was a locked box with the keys to the car near by that he provided the code to for easy access and all he asked was that the keys be left locked in the car upon return.
My experiences with Turo have been incredibly pleasant and the immense flexibility has been very useful. I do also like that I can actually pick out the car that I want. Everything from cheap economy cars to luxury vehicles and high performance coupes are available, including two Corvettes and a couple Porsche Cayennes here in Chicago.
I will never use a traditional rental company again. The benefits of Turo are simply too good.
Please keep in mind again that I was not paid to write this and have simply written from my satisfaction with Turo. I have decided to include links to the reservation pages of the owners I have rented from and I encourage all to explore the app. I have also included a link for first-time users to get $25 off their first trip: $25 off first trip