Can’t find a rental car? Why you should try Turo instead

Editor’s note: This post has been updated with new information.

If you’re a fan of Airbnb’s business model when finding a place to stay, then consider Turo instead of a traditional rental car.

For those unfamiliar with Turo, it’s a service that allows you to borrow a local’s car rather than renting from a car rental company. Currently, Turo is available in more than 5,500+ cities across the U.S., in select Canadian provinces (Alberta, British Columbia, Nova Scotia, Ontario and Quebec) and in the United Kingdom. It’s become an attractive alternative to traditional car rental companies as daily prices have skyrocketed and supply is limited.

Related: From sold out to $700+ daily rates, where the car rental shortage is worse than you think

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How it works

It’s quite simple to start using Turo. Set up an account, verify your identity, and then you’re free to pick whichever car you want. You can sort through a variety of filters such as price, model or the ability to book instantly. Once you’ve selected your car, go through the checkout process and make arrangements for pick-up or drop-off with the car owner.

Personal experience

One of our TPG staffers recently used Turo for the first time while visiting Montréal (before the pandemic), and she was pleasantly surprised at how easy it was to get a car.

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One morning, she decided to rent a car to visit Quebec City. She checked the app to see if there were any cars available day of, and sure enough, there were plenty to choose from.

She chose the cheapest car because all she needed was a vehicle to get to and from Quebec City. Once she scheduled the pickup, she made her way to the car owner’s house via Uber. Note that you can also schedule for the car to be delivered for a fee, but it’s situation-dependent whether it makes more sense to pick up your car to save money on the fee.

Upon arrival, the owner met up with her, explained the rules of the car and checked her license. She checked in on the app, which then prompted her to check the car for and document any damage. During the “inspection,” the app automatically opened up the camera, organized all of the pictures and automatically added them to the booking for documentation.

While she initially wanted to borrow the car for just 24 hours, she later decided to keep it a little longer. The app allowed her to easily make the changes and showed any additional charges that would be incurred upfront. Then, she returned the car earlier than expected because of a flight change plan, but once again, it was super easy to change through the app. The car owner quickly replied, accepted the change and agreed to meet at the airport. Upon arrival to the airport cellphone parking lot, he took over the driver’s seat and dropped her off right at the terminal.

Overall, the whole process was seamless, from the last-minute booking to all of the changes made along the way. Another notable feature was that the “under 25 fee” wasn’t outrageous — she was only charged a $10.30 CAD (US$8.32) young driver’s fee.

When and when not to use Turo

Turo is a great option if you’re making a round-trip drive to and from your destination. However, if you’re planning a one-way trip, then you’re better off renting a car that allows for different city pickup and drop-offs.

A huge downside to Turo is that it’s most likely not covered under your credit card’s rental car insurance, as the service isn’t managed by an official car rental agency, such as Budget or Enterprise, and is a peer-to-peer service. You’re not completely out of options, however. Turo sells its own protection plans that range from 15% to 100% of the trip price.

However, there are many positives to using Turo. The app is user-friendly and can help you make last-minute changes in a jiffy. There were no hidden fees and all of the charges were made clear from the start. It’ll certainly depend on the car owner, but Turo was super accommodating based on our staffer’s personal experience. If you’re under 25 (like I am), Turo is great for avoiding the pricier young driver fees that some car rental companies charge. For example, Hertz charges $19 a day for young drivers.

Overall, the only reason for you not to use Turo is if you’re planning a one-way trip or if you want complimentary rental car coverage with your credit card.

Earning points and miles

Turo doesn’t have airline partners like some of the big car rentals companies, so there’s not a ton of opportunity to double-dip. In the past, we’ve seen Turo partner with airlines like Southwest to offer consumers bonus miles.

Beyond earning points and miles with an airline, you can earn bonus points through your credit card because Turo codes as travel. For example, you can book with your Chase Sapphire Preferred Card to earn 2 points per dollar. Here are some other credit cards you should consider to get bonus points:

  • Chase Sapphire Reserve: Earn 3 points per dollar on travel purchases.
  • Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card: Earn 2 miles per dollar on all purchases

Bottom line

Turo is a fantastic alternative to renting a car. It could ultimately end up saving you money and may be able to offer you more flexibility. Although it’s only available in certain countries, we can see the service becoming widespread with the ongoing shortage of car rentals.

Featured photo by Austin Neill via Unsplash.

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Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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