There's no denying that Airbnb forever transformed how we travel and think about hotel stays.
It's no longer the utilitarian part of our trips, the everyday detail to an otherwise memorable experience. We aren't limited to scrolling with disinterest through cookie-cutter hotel rooms that are only marginally differentiated by price. Instead, we can get excited about the stay and even make it the centerpiece of our vacations.
It's travel evolved, and unless you've been paying attention, you might have missed another evolution that's been gaining traction since 2010.
Turo is the rental car company to Airbnb's hotel chain. The revolutionary car-sharing app adds yet another layer of experience to travel, opening up affordable access to one-of-a-kind rides.
The pandemic hit the car rental industry hard. Less travel and rental demand led to cars being sold, and companies transitioned to a "fewer cars, higher prices" strategy to stay afloat. Many downsized their workforce to cut costs.
Things changed, and demand is back with the post-pandemic recovery — demand that the rental companies are struggling to meet.
This has been good for the Turo car sharing community, which can pick up the slack with its innovative peer-to-peer rental structure.
Through the Turo platform, individual car owners can sign up to become "hosts", who list their vehicle for rent for a limited time. As the unofficial Airbnb for cars, it can be a great side hustle or even a primary income source for aspiring entrepreneurs. If you build a solid reputation, you can upgrade to an "All-Star" host with a higher profile.
On the other side of the equation is the renter. If you're travelling, waiting on a car to get out of the shop, or thinking of test-driving a car, you can use the simple interface to quickly book a ride.
After entering a city, hotel, airport, or address and choosing your pick-up/dropoff dates and times, you can start looking for cars. You're presented with a list of cars that are available to rent for the chosen dates, along with their daily rental price.
There are several filters to help you narrow down the search, including:
Hosts can set special requests like cleaning or refilling the tank for more peace of mind. Renters also have to verify their driving credentials during sign-up and have their application approved before renting.
Renters can cancel bookings for free up to 24 hours before they pick up the car. After arranging and completing the drop off when you're done with the vehicle, you can leave a review, which is critical for future renters and hosts alike.
Turo Toronto was one of the first sites for the car-sharing company when it came to Canada in 2016. It has turned out to be a good move, as incomes continue to rise for hosts even in the midst of a pandemic.
Turo is in over 5,500 cities across Canada, the U.S., and the U.K. In 2020, Toronto sat in the top five for most rentals for two months. It's a growing market that can set car owners up for a great revenue stream, like this host who made $20,000 renting his cars last year.
Canada has been a great place for Turo to innovate through partnerships and government cooperation. When SmartCar entered the Canadian market, they first partnered with Turo, giving hosts and renters a chance to test digital key technology for contactless car sharing.
Montreal is traditionally a popular city for car rentals, and it's currently the second biggest Turo Canada market behind Toronto. It's a large and lucrative landscape that is catching the attention of manufacturers, giving residents some unique driving opportunities.
Just take a look at how Porsche, who, in a nod to Turo's commitment to the environment, partnered with them to offer Montrealers exclusive test rentals of their new electric Taycan sportscar.
Turo's processes are designed to protect the host and the renter, and they do well at staying active to address concerns and continually update their policies. With that being said, no service is perfect, and common, simple mistakes while using Turo can end up costing you.
Turo's been around long enough for long-time hosts to rack up a healthy number of rides and reviews. In many cases, you'll see some All-Star hosts with near-perfect ratings. If you're not careful, you may not realize that a slew of 5-star ratings is covering up some significant 1-star reviews.
Let's say you find a car, and it has everything you need. The price is right, the features are great, they've given you plenty of driving miles, and the host will even drop it off at the airport.
Before you say "yes", check the reviews for any suspicious patterns or highlighted issues. If you sort by newest-oldest, you can better estimate what your experience will be like. You'll also know what to look out for in your initial inspection of the vehicle.
If you see recent negative reviews, but the host has a high rating because old reviews are propping it up, be wary of the vehicle. More than likely, you'll be part of the new pattern of disappointment.
If you absolutely need the car, take careful note of the exact issues that other renters had and follow up with the owner beforehand. You have until 24 hours before check-in to cancel, so take advantage of that time to answer critical questions. At the very least, make sure to do a quality check before you accept the car.
The Turo community is full of integrity. That still doesn't stop some unscrupulous characters from trying to hide problems or take advantage of renters.
Do not let your host rush you to complete your check-in before you have a chance to thoroughly assess the condition inside and out. If you accept the car, you're taking responsibility for the condition that the host stated it was in.
The app makes you take pre and post-trip photos to guarantee the condition of the car, but you need to be sure to bring any defect up with the owner.
Turo advises you to not complete check-in on any car that has glaring safety issues, problems with cleanliness, or unusual odours like cigarette smoke. If you accept the car, the host may be able to charge you a cleaning fee for something you didn't do.
Usually, the only way to get a full refund is if you refuse the check-in. Turo will cancel the booking and try to find you a replacement vehicle.
When you accept the car and wait to report any issues, Turo will only refund a portion in a best-case scenario. For example, if you have a booking for 10 days, and you finally call Turo on day four about a check engine light, they may only refund you 60% of the total to cancel it.
Plus, you can get into a war of words with the host about who's responsible if you don't have clear documentation that there was an issue when you received it.
Schedule a set amount of time to perform a thorough check of the car. If you can, avoid setting a pick-up or delivery on a busy street or other location that makes it hard to do a full assessment.
Most car owners on Turo are enthusiastic about their vehicles and proud to let others experience the same enjoyment they do in driving them. Take advantage of that by engaging them about the ins and outs of their car. They can give you special insight and advice to make sure you enjoy it to the fullest and avoid any unwelcome surprises.
Research the car you want to rent and how it operates in the places you'll take it. If there are any important features that make it stand out, it's even more essential that you know how to use them. Checking over the manufacturer's guides and talking with the owner will ensure you get your money's worth from the second you start the car.
The Turo car rental options are not your everyday Enterprise or Hertz offerings. Those services are excellent at keeping the most current lineup of cars, but they have nowhere near the breadth of vehicle types as Turo.
Turo is the one place where you can find a top-of-the-line Tesla and an '87 Bronco in the same list, depending on your location. There's no limit to the type of vehicle you can find.
Turo's commitment to sustainability features prominently in their filters with the option to select electric or hybrid green vehicles. When you're filtering, this option shows up before the standard vehicle types.
Like many car rental companies, Turo offers its vehicles in five classes:
There's room for error in filtering your choices with Turo. When searching for a van, for example, you may also see some sedans or SUVs thrown in by mistake.
Keep in mind, your choices may be better or worse depending on the city. If you're in a smaller city, your limited options may be worth checking out, but a traditional rental car company might have a better selection.
Turo pricing can be inconsistent because the owner has control over rates. Still, you can find cars cheaper on Turo than most traditional rental companies. In the pandemic recovery, the car shortage and price increases have made Turo an especially intriguing alternative.
In Toronto, Montreal, or any other large Canadian city, you can find inexpensive options. Turo advertises on their homepage that you can get rentals as low as $25/day. This is before you start factoring in additional fees.
Each car will have its delivery or pick-up options and the associated cost, which you can also filter in your initial search to make it easier. A trip fee is assessed at checkout. It's a percentage that can change based on the expected trip costs, the car's value, and other variables.
You can enter promo codes if you have them, and Turo also rewards renters with discounts based on how and when they book. For example, you can get a discount for booking at least a week ahead of time in some areas. If you rent a car for more than seven days, you can get another 10% discount.
You'll have several extras to pick from, depending on the owner. Many offer car seats, strollers, prepaid fuel, and cleaning fees, among other options. Note that if you don't select fuel or cleaning fees, you'll have to return the car spotless with a full tank of gas.
To rent, you need to create a profile with a clear headshot, valid driver's license information, contact information, and payment information. From there, you just plug in your location and pick up/drop off times then start searching for cars.
There's no clear organization to the options, so you really have to make good use of the filters. As mentioned, even the filters can make mistakes, and they may present options that don't quite fit your criteria.
When you book your car, you are presented with the fees, pick up/delivery location options, and optional extras, the last of which includes the insurance option.
Insurance varies depending on the country you rent in, but all rentals include third-party liability insurance.
In Canada, Turo has partnered with Intact (or ICBC in British Columbia) to provide $2 million in liability with every rental. Beyond that, it's up to the renter to deal with the owner regarding damage, vandalism, or theft.
To avoid paying out for damage or loss, you can purchase a protection plan that includes other damage or theft with either a $500 or $2000 deductible option. These plans can add on a few extra hundred dollars if you plan on using the car for over a week.
As an online service, Turo cannot accept cash, cheques, and many prepaid cards. Beyond that, there are few limits to the accepted payment methods for Turo in Canada, which include:
If you pay with credit or debit, Turo charges a $1 authorization fee. They refund this as soon as the host accepts or declines the booking. You aren't charged the full amount until the host accepts.
If you pay with Apple Pay or Google Pay or book instantly, Turo will charge the total amount. It can take up to 30 days to get a refund if you pay this way.
Turo struggles with abysmal ratings on the Better Business Bureau website. Many complaints talk about favouritism towards hosts, poor customer service, unexpected host cancellations, and extra fees.
Other sites like Consumer Affairs and Trustpilot are more forgiving, where Turo's ratings hover between 4-4.5 out of 5 stars because of all of the reasons we have discussed thus far in this article.
Turo can be a great value and an amazing experience in many cases. It may not always be the best option, but the important thing is that now you know all about this unique car-sharing opportunity!
Whether you're booking through Turo or any car rental, insurance is a crucial part of any trip. If you want peace of mind the next time you travel, contact Insurdinary for more information on your insurance options.