I’d never give my car out like this, but for people who live in cities and normally just keep it parked, this is an interesting idea.
A Boston startup that lets car owners enlist their own rides in an ad hoc car-sharing fleet has expanded to San Francisco. Backers of the venture are hoping that the chance to make some cash will get people saying, “Dude, share my car!”
RelayRides lets car owners set their own rates, starting at $6 per hour. Of the cost, 65 percent goes straight to the car owner, while 15 percent goes to RelayRides and 20 percent covers insurance up to $1 million with a $500 individual deductible. Car borrowers are pre-screened, and online reviews keep hoopty owners honest about the true condition of their car.
Founder Shelby Clark sees the service as changing the often intensely personal relationship between owner and car. “Consumers are increasingly rejecting traditional forms of ownership, preferring to borrow rather than buy,” he said. “RelayRides builds on this changing consumer behavior by enabling neighbors to support each other, both financially and practically.” It reminds us of a story told by a relative of ours who lived in Brooklyn in the ’60s. He’d leave his Nash Rambler unlocked with the keys in the ignition as long as any neighbor who borrowed it brought it back.
Borrowers can check online to see available cars near them. They use an RFID key fob to unlock the doors. A keypad-screen combo on the windshield (shown above) displays how many miles have been driven, the current time and how long until a reservation expires. Borrowers can use the keypad to add more time if they’re running late.
Forget about letting a stranger drive any of our cars — we don’t even want passengers fiddling with the radio. Still, the service does make sense for city dwellers whose cars often sit idle while incurring of high insurance and parking costs, and we’d have no qualms about paying a neighbor to rent his or her pickup truck. Apparently, RelayRides has even attracted some owners of Jaguars, Audis and Porsches — though we bet they’re charging more than $6 an hour.
Scott Kirsner of the Boston Globe tried out the service back in August, borrowing a neighbor’s 2003 Toyota Matrix with 86K on the odometer. The car was about as nice as expected (the word “rattletrap” made it into the review), though Kirsner’s biggest gripe was that there weren’t enough cars near locations he frequented.
It appears that RelayRides is trying to get more people involved in the service by hiring ambassadors from college campuses and asking visitors to the website to vote for the city where they’d most like to see the service expand.