If ZipCar, Airbnb, Enterprise, and Uber made a baby airport, car-sharing programs would be it. It’s a simple equation: time off from work + traveling = spending lots of money. Two companies, RelayRides and FlightCar, have figured out a way to make money while you gallivant around the world.
It works like this: instead of leaving your car unused and idling at the airport, you can rent it out.
“We’re tackling a vast inefficiency in the market,” FlightCar founder Rujul Zaparde said. “The top 30 airports have 300,000 cars just sitting there in long-term parking. So, we help you rent your car while you’re away and also provide free airport parking.”
RelayRides offers a similar program at San Francisco Airport, but it adds a larger rental marketplace where owners and renters manage the coordination of the vehicle. “For the airport rentals on our marketplace, owners make as much two times the transaction value they normally would on our marketplace,” says Director of Community Steve Webb. “We have thousands of cars listed at over 300 airports in the U.S.”
Let’s break down how this all works. You have a vacation booked (yay!) and are planning to leave your car at the airport. Before leaving, you can set a pickup and drop-off availability date through flightcar.com. The car gets dropped off at a specified location near the airport and a town car drops you off curbside at your terminal.
(Photo: Getty Images/iStockphoto)
While away, other travelers can rent out your car and you can earn anywhere from 5 cents to 20 cents a mile, depending on the make and model of your vehicle.
Even if your car isn’t rented, you get free airport parking, your car is washed and cleaned, and insurance is automatically included.
If you want to justify upgrading your hotel room, an average five-day rental can make you $30-$35. That can add up to you saving $100-$125 per trip.
If you’re traveling to a location outside of FlightCar’s domain, RelayRides has you covered. Instead of having a parking lot at a specified airport like a rental car company, their service allows owners and renters to make their own plans. This has opened up the car-sharing program to 2,100 cities across the U.S. “By having the owners and renters set the terms, it allows the owner to make more of a profit and the renter to get a better deal,” says Webb. “Also, both sides have the final say if they want the rental to go through.” With average rentals at $40-$50 a day, a couple of days renting out your car could help you splurge on that 4-star feast you were eyeing.
On the other hand, if you’re looking to rent a car the benefits are just as awesome. According to both companies, it is approximately 40-50% cheaper to rent from them over a large rental car company and 30% cheaper than a smaller chain. With FlightCar, you also get that same town-car service as the rentees and supplemental insurance is already covered. To save some money, RelayRides allows you to decline coverage if you prefer.
Both services are expanding rapidly. Launching in 2009, RelayRides went nationwide by 2012. “We have thousands of cars listed at over 300 airports in the U.S.,” says Webb.
FlightCar is already available near Boston Logan, San Francisco and Los Angeles Airport, and is headed to Seattle next. “So far we have just over 8,000 cars dropped off since last February and about that many rentals,” says Zaparde. “We’re steadily growing.”