Car Rentals Too Expensive? I Tried Turo (the ‘Airbnb’ of Cars) — Here’s What I Thought
I had a blast in this green Jeep Wrangler.
Dreaming about vacation? I know I am — there’s nothing like a sunshine-filled getaway after a cold winter and a rainy spring. In planning an upcoming trip, however, I’ve been forced to face the daunting reality of inflation; travel costs have risen dramatically since the pandemic. Car rentals have had the most significant price jump: The average price for car rentals increased by a whopping 67 percent from July 2019 to July 2021, and the price keeps going up. That’s when I looked into a company called Turo.
An unconventional rental option, Turo is called the “Airbnb of cars” because car owners can use the site to rent out their vehicles. Renters benefit from this arrangement in multiple ways — online checkout is fast, the pick-up location is convenient (because you rent a car in your area), and the cost is usually less expensive than that of a traditional car agency. Learn more about how the service works below.
How does Turo work?
If you want to rent a car using Turo, your first step is to create an account. You must provide your name, email address, phone number, and driver’s license number. In addition, Turo will ask you to upload a clear photo of your face and photos of your driver’s license, back and front.
Once you have an account, the search process is simple. Browse car options by specifying your travel dates and the area in which you will pick up the vehicle. You can also filter the results so that you only see cars under a certain price, or cars that the owner will deliver. If you click on the picture of a car you like, you will see basic information about the vehicle (number of seats, gas mileage) and features (automatic transmission, all-wheel drive, Apple CarPlay, and more). You can also see the host’s rating and reviews from other renters.
When you are ready to select your vehicle, you’ll see a breakdown of the cost. In addition to the daily rental cost, you will also be charged:
- A trip fee, which goes to Turo.
- Insurance, which comes in three levels — minimum, standard, and premier.
- Sales tax.
Booking is quick; when you have read the terms and the charges, you can book with your credit card information. Your host will then reach out to you to and coordinate the car drop-off location and time.
What are the pros?
For me, the biggest pro of Turo was the ease with which I could book a car. I didn’t have to drive all the way to the local airport to pick up a rental, nor did I have to endure a long checkout process. I also greatly appreciated these two add-on features: delivery and prepaid fuel. With the delivery feature, my host delivered the car to a convenient drop-off location, and with prepaid fuel, I could return the car at any fuel level.
My other favorite Turo features:
- You choose the exact car, rather than the rental agency choosing it for you.
- Search for cars by make, model, and year. (So, if you want to rent a special car for a special event, like a honeymoon or a surprise birthday gift, you can do so.)
- See your host’s rating, as well as written reviews from previous renters and the number of trips the car has been on.
- You can decide a level of insurance protection based on your budget and concerns.
- Many hosts offer a 3+ day discount.
- You can add a second or third driver to your trip by a) having the driver create her own Turo account; b) submitting the request 24 hours before the trip starts. Note that the host must approve the additional drivers, and there are other limitations detailed by Turo.
For a recent trip to Montauk, New York, Turo set me up with a bright green Jeep Wrangler, and I had a blast. It was fun exploring the area in a car I would normally never get to drive, and I appreciated my host’s care to detail (the car was very clean, and he left a charger, hand sanitizer, and air fresheners for my use).
What are the cons?
Though Turo is very different from traditional car agencies, it does have its cons. The biggest con? The total price of the rental can shoot up quickly depending on the add-ons you choose. Here is a list of downsides:
- The trip fee charged by Turo varies, so it’s hard to predict this cost.
- Insurance costs spike if you choose the standard protection plan or premier plan (rather than the minimum protection).
- There’s no way to add additional miles to your trip beyond the included mileage that the host offers. Hosts usually offer 800 miles.
- Hosts can charge reimbursement bills after the trip is over for a number of reasons, including: fuel replacement, distance over included mileage, tolls, tickets, and a cleaning fee if you cause spills or stains. (I was charged $20 for tolls, but I thought this was reasonable.)
Still, there are ways to mitigate these cons. If you don’t want to pay for standard or premium insurance, get in touch with your own car insurance company. Many insurers offer protection for rentals, so you may not need to buy additional coverage. Keep in mind that your insurer may only cover rentals from certain companies, and not Turo.
In addition, you can filter the car options in your area so that you only see hosts that offer more mileage. Lastly, you can keep reimbursement fees down by filling up the tank before you return the car and putting your own E-Z Pass (or the equivalent) on the dashboard. (Just remember to take your host’s E-Z pass off the dash or windshield before you set off!)
Overall, I thought the pros outweighed the cons. I was very happy with my rental, and I’m looking forward to using Turo for future hassle-free car rentals.
This article was not sponsored by Turo. Turo provided a car rental at no cost to our editor.