Your car may be your most prized personal possession. But the vast majority of the time it’s parked not doing anything, isn’t it? Now, several startup companies propose to help you rent your own car to someone else when you don’t need it. Come to think of it, you could also rent out an idle boat or ATV.
For a small price, Eric Loebel wants to let his Portland neighbors borrow his car. Loebel drives a dark blue, model year 2000 Volvo sedan. The sales and marketing consultant says he doesn’t use it much.
“My wife and I are huge bike commuters and almost don’t need a car, but haven’t quite been able to eliminate that element. So we have a car that basically sits in front of the house maybe 85 to 90 percent of the time,” he said.
So Loebel is one of the first car owners in the Northwest to list his wheels for rent though a so-called ‘peer-to-peer car sharing’ service. It’s called Getaround.com.
Loebel says, “Cars are so expensive to own. This can definitely offset some of the cost.”
The website lets car owners decide for themselves how much to charge borrowers to rent by the hour, day or week.
Loebel says he plans to charge $9 an hour, $199 a week, and isn’t worried about a stranger “wrecking his car.”
“My relationship to my car is one of non-attachment,” he explained.
And besides, he says the car sharing marketplace automatically includes liability and collision insurance, that is separate from his own. The Oregon Legislature is tweaking insurance rules to smooth the road for person to person car rentals. State Rep. Ben Cannon says Oregon lawmakers are following an example set by the California Legislature last year.
Cannon said, “Commercial uses of vehicles are prohibited under typical insurance policies. So we needed to create new law to provide for the possibility that someone could put their car into a car sharing program without violating their motor vehicle insurance policy.”
Cannon’s legislative fix has encountered no organized opposition. The Portland Democrat enthusiastically endorses personal car sharing as a “free market solution” to help neighborhoods make do with fewer cars. There are four such car sharing startups in the San Francisco area. At least two of them are looking to expand into the Pacific Northwest. The vice president of the service called Getaround hails from Seattle. John Atcheson told Oregon lawmakers the person to person rental concept is catching on quickly in California.
There are four such car sharing startups in the San Francisco area. At least two of them are looking to expand into the Pacific Northwest. The vice president of the service called Getaround hails from Seattle. John Atcheson told Oregon lawmakers the person to person rental concept is catching on quickly in California.
“We have had an amazing array of cars leaping into our system. Not just 1995 pickup trucks, but we have had late model Mercedes, Audis, any type of car you can imagine. We actually have a Tesla Roadster – a $150,000 sports car – that people have put into this pool,” Atcheson said.
Atcheson’s company and its competitors screen the driving records of prospective borrowers. Private car owners post when their vehicles are available in a members-only internet marketplace. The car sharing companies take a 35 to 40 percent cut of the rental price to cover administration and insurance. Atcheson says owners and borrowers police the marketplace by giving each other online ratings.
“So far, we have had surprisingly few issues come up. In fact, the only issue I can think of right now that has happened is that someone had a BMW sports car in the system. It was a stick shift. Someone who didn’t know how to drive a stick shift very well took it and burned the clutch down,” he said.
Getaround helped to pay for a new clutch.
Atcheson says his company hopes to formally launch in Oregon shortly. Separately, another service called JustShareIt plans to start up in California, Oregon and Washington this summer. JustShareIt’s founder says his company will stand out by going beyond cars. It plans to offer person to person rentals of power boats, ATV’s jet skis and snowmobiles too.
Personal vehicle sharing companies:
Oregon Peer-to-peer care sharing blog:
Oregon Legislature - House Bill 3149:
OPB Radio: Think Out Loud segment on personal car rental (April 2010):