'Car-sharing companies still have to work hard to convince the masses'

OPINION Car Sharing
4 Sep, 2019 9:50am Steve Fowler

After a disappointing experience with a car-sharing app, Steve Fowler explains that they have a long way to convince the public

Car-sharing is nothing new – we’ve long been able to rent cars. But with ACES (Autonomous, Connected, Electric, Sharing) a car industry buzz phrase, it’s become a sector that’s gripped by start-up fever. Plenty of new companies are claiming to be the next big thing, some already backed by big names, while car makers are looking hard to see if it’s an opportunity or a threat.

So when I was on holiday in the US recently and needed a car for a few days, I thought I’d look around at the options. One new one, Turo, looked great. Put simply, it’s like Airbnb for cars; owners advertise their cars for hire, they’re rated, the renters are rated and it’s all managed through Turo’s digital platform. Great.

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So why didn’t I use it? I found what looked like an ideal car: a Nissan Rogue (similar to an X-Trail) nearby and with great ratings for the owner. But what was advertised at a tempting $49 a day turned into much more when Turo’s ‘trip fee’ (to run the platform) and insurance were added. Not especially transparent.

It turned out cheaper to hire a car from traditional renter Budget, where I was upgraded from a small saloon to an SUV! But that’s where the good news ended.

The car was so dirty I could’ve written my name along the side, it had scratches front and rear, it stunk of cigarette smoke, the tyre pressure warning flashed to tell me one tyre was under inflated, some joker had put the driver’s headrest in back-to-front and when I returned it they tried to charge me for fuel when I’d just filled up! What was Budget’s response? They didn’t bother replying.

I assume the likes of Budget will want to embrace the car-sharing future (I can’t tell because they didn’t answer my questions), but my experience highlights what’s crucial for consumers: make car-sharing simple, convenient, a great experience, risk-free and with transparent pricing. Is that too difficult? Let’s hope these newcomers make the car-sharing market as exciting and enticing as it should be.

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