There’s a new way to rent cars in San Francisco, and I’ll admit I’m intrigued by the concept. Flightcar is to car rentals as Airbnb is to accommodations, letting you list your personal car for rent or allowing you to rent someone’s private car rather than deal with official agencies.
If you’re a car owner, instead of paying for parking at the airport, you can actually make (a small amount of) money by listing your car for rent. You’ll show up at the airport, leave your vehicle with the Flightcar valet team, and they’ll take it from there. If someone rents your car while you’re gone, they’ll guarantee your car with $1,000,000 in liability coverage, as well as comprehensive, collision, and theft coverage. Additionally, you’ll profit in the form of a gas card, with amounts dependent on length of rental and type of car (in addition to having your car returned with the same level of gas as when it was dropped off) plus your car will be returned fully cleaned – inside and out. If your car isn’t rented out while you’re gone, Flightcar will still cover the cost of your parking while you’re away. Either way, when you land at the airport, just give the valet team another call and your car will be waiting for you at the terminal, with no shuttles to parking lots necessary.
If you’re a car renter, you simply search for and book a car rental on their website. You can choose the specific vehicle you prefer, including details on the make, model, and year you’ll be driving. When you arrive at the airport, the valet team will have the car waiting for you, so you don’t have to worry about shuttles when you land. Prices, admittedly, didn’t look all that that great to me, though it’s worth noting prices include tax, insurance, GPS units, and carseats (if applicable): things you’d normally pay extra for if you rented through a standard agency. Be aware of rental limitations though, including maximum mileage per day and pick-up/drop-off hours.
The business model has piqued my interest, though I probably won’t be trying it anytime soon. For starters, the service has “soft-launched” at SFO, but has yet to arrive at any other airports nationwide. However my main deterrant is that, as a renter, I still think that I can find a better deal than what Flightcar offers. Are the prices better than going directly through a well-known agency? Yes – assuming you aren’t applying valuable discounts or mileage bonuses to your rental and would consider purchasing add-ons like insurance and GPS. However, someone willing to put in some research will probably be able to match the savings through other methods, not to mention add in convenience and flexibility of 24-hour pick-up times, unlimited mileage, and nationwide locations.
Despite the current limitations, I love seeing innovative new offerings out there and I think this one has potential, so I’ll be watching it going forward. Would you consider using someone else’s personal car through Flightcar? What about renting out your own car to save on parking costs?