“I Tried It” is a series about testing happiness. Some of these trials are to save money, some are just to see what is possible. Going without now will help me achieve my other goals later, but its scary sometimes to make a permanent change. These are my adventures of just trying it out.
How to Rent Out Your Car to Strangers (and Get it Back)
Yes, I rented my car to strangers. I did it and then I did it again. And again. And again for the past year.
The idea seems crazy, I know. I know because when I tell people I’ve rented out my car, they give me that look. The look that says, “I’m happy for you, but I have now stopped listening to you because you’ve obviously separated yourself from reality.”
You may be giving me that look right now. I have no idea. But hear me out. This is actually really cool.
How I rented my car
Along with all the other ways the internet brings us closer together and makes small businesses out of someone with a laptop and wifi access, it has given us RelayRides. RelayRides is a way for you to either list your car for rent, or rent someone else car.
They provide all the infrastructure to get the job done from screening renters, to liability insurance, to email and text reminders, to an app that helps you meet up with your renter via gps tracking on each of your phones.
Listing the car
I gave RelayRides information about the year, make, model, and mileage of my car (2007 Toyota Prius). I uploaded a picture and gave a short description about the car. I also chose dates I would be willing to rent.
RelayRides gives suggested pricing and mileage limits for the car. I don’t think the process they use is very sophisticated, and after awhile I adjusted my rates and mileage limits based on my own research into the demand in their market and my personal costs to rent. I also posted weekly and monthly rental prices that are less than the daily rate (with decreased mileage limits as well).
The rental inquiry comes in
I get a text letting me know that someone is interested in my car. Although I can just respond to the text and set up (or deny) the rental right away, I will normally follow the link to get some more details about the renter and their plans.
This process is more like a craigslist transaction than an Amazon sale. The potential renter will usually give me some details about their trip and themselves, which helps give me confidence to rent to them. For example, I feel much better about renting to someone who is just in town for a work conference and won’t put many miles on the car than to a 19-year old who wants to take my car to another state.
Of course, many people are arriving at the airport and need the car there. RelayRides allows an additional charge for that service, and I will do the drop off in a number of ways. I can have the renter drop me back at my house if they’re headed that direction anyways, I can have my wife follow me to the airport and take me back home, or I can have my wife follow me to an airport parking facility (like The Parking Spot) and I can leave the car there and the keys with the attendant. The renter can then just take the parking shuttle to the facility whenever their flight comes in and we don’t have to coordinate the drop-off.
Making the exchange
Of course, it’s nice to meet the person you’re renting to if possible. You can give the ins and outs of the car and make sure there is a plan for the pick up at the end of the rental. I’ve found most people (like doing deals on Craigslist) are nice and fair.
I take a picture of the dash to verify the drop-off mileage and fuel level (the rental site allows for uploading of pictures related to the rental).
That’s basically it. Pick the car back up and RelayRides deposits the rental fee they took from the renter (minus their fee) into your bank account.
Like I said, I’ve done this for a little over a year now with my car (cars, actually. I also listed my 2004 Honda Odyssey) and its gone well. In the past year I’ve brought in $5,532 in rental income. Of course not all of that is profit. I realize that the increased mileage brings with it depreciation, but my cars are old, so I don’t think there’s much depreciation cost. I also have maintenance costs and my personal time to set up the rentals to consider.
But I also need to factor in saving money. All the time I’ve been without my car has saved me money on gas as I’ve learned to ride my bike more often.
But besides the money, renting my car has also helped me further understand that I don’t need to be attached to my possessions, and I don’t need everything I think I need. It’s been another important lesson that happiness is not dependent on comfort or possessions.
If you want to try out RelayRides as a renter, here’s a link for $25 off your first rental.
Phew, you made it through my longest post to date. Here’s a funny video about car rentals.