Living in San Francisco, one of the hardest decisions to make is if you should get a car. On one hand, assuming you work in the city, it’s a city with public transport and a car is not strictly necessary. On the other hand, doing anything outside of the city without a car is nigh impossible.
Traditional car rentals are not terribly convenient; you would have to pick up and return from a rental shop, and the use case is generally for road trips or when you’re in a different country. It makes no sense to get one for a couple of hours to do groceries or go for a 20 minute drive somewhere.
On the flipside, Uber and Lyft exist and are a viable solution, but you now become a slave to surge pricing, random waiting times, and it’s a tad expensive if you want to go any further than a few cities over. Also, the cheap prices are probably not sustainable and will likely increase eventually.
That’s where Getaround comes in.Note: I’m not sponsored by Getaround and this post is purely based on personal experience.
Getaround is a car sharing company that makes car sharing easy and nearly hassle-free. If I want a car, it’s as simple as opening an app and renting one that’s nearby. I could rent a car for as little as an hour for about $5. On the flipside, I could also put my car up for rental to make money while I’m not using it. They do take a 40% commission but that covers the insurance, and their operating costs. They’ll install a device that allows for remote locking and unlocking of the car via their app. This keeps the rental experience mostly hands-off. Overall, this sounded like a great deal and I was sold on it.
Why did I decide to get a car as opposed to renting one?
Living and working in SF meant that my commute would not require a car and if I got one, it would mostly be sitting on the parking lot. Yet, I still chose to buy a car after learning of Getaround. I wanted the convenience of running errands on the weekend, or taking a drive to the seaside on a whim, or going to any one of the many places in SF not easily accessible by public transport, without needing to call and Uber or scramble for a rental car. For example, the grocery store I frequent is in Daly City. That's one city away from me and a 10 minute drive, or 40 minutes by public transport.
With Getaround, renting out would in theory cover some cost of operations and I could treat it like my own rental car (yes, it’s an oxymoron) that happens to be parked outside my home. The company covers the car with their insurance while the car is being rented out so I did not have to worry about my insurance premiums going up if a renter damaged my car.
The reality of renting
I am happy to report that, yes it worked out for me for half a year. Every month, I consistently earned a bit of spare cash to offset the operating costs. For the most part, when I needed the car, I just had to remember to reserve it lest someone else books it.
Naturally, there are things to keep in mind when renting out a personal vehicle.
You can not be emotionally attached to your car. Simple as that. You have to treat it as any other rental car, but you have to take care of it as well (oil changes, tyre rotations, cleaning etc). No personal belongings should be in the car since there is no insurance for the items in the car.
Sometimes I would forget to reserve my car for the weekend and someone would take the car out for the whole weekend. Getaround works in such a way that renters can instantly book a car without needing confirmation from the owner. This is slightly offset by the fact that Getaround provides two 50% off codes for owners to use each month, for situations exactly like this.
Fuel not topped up
Sometimes, renters would not top up my fuel and I would have to do so myself. This wasn’t too bad since Getaround would pay me back for my fuel and add an additional inconvenience fee to the cost.
I’ve gotten parking tickets when a renter left the car on a street with street cleaning the day before. This is not as bad as it sounds, renters need to ensure that the place they park is free of any parking violations in the next 24 hours after returning it. If they were to get a parking violation, they had to pay for it.
But in one instance, the renter parked the car at 7.45am on a Tuesday with a street cleaning at 8am on a Wednesday. I did not check my car since I assumed that they’d park clear of the street cleaning. I was wrong, and I got my parking ticket. Since it was 24.25 hours after the renter parked, that was on me. Then again, renters have saved me from having to move my car more often than not, so it probably works out in my favour.
Wear and Tear
There’s no avoiding it, the car will experience wear and tear and the value will go down. The only question is if the value goes down more than I would earn. In short, I don’t know. I have not done the calculations but so far it feels like it’s at least roughly breaking even. Even if I did lose money, I am paying for the convenience of having a car I can take on road trips and groceries. Even if it’s more expensive than renting a car or getting an uber when I need it, I was not too concerned about this part.
This one is tricky. Some of these damages are covered under the insurance policy. The problem is that because I don’t constantly check every corner of my car daily, when I notice a damage, I don’t know if it was me that did it, or a renter. And even if I was sure it was a renter, I have no way of knowing which renter did it. The damages pictured above were not eventually not claimed and I have no idea how much it reduced the worth of my vehicle, But this is a risk that I had chosen to accept when I rented out the car.
Same goes for dirty cars. Sometimes you get back your car in a condition that’s less than satisfactory. Getaround charges a cleaning fee if the renter returns the car in an excessively dirty condition. Most times, the renter didn’t do enough to justify filing a claim, but it’s still more dirty than you’d like. In this case, you get to experience the joys of cleaning the car out yourself.
The perils of renting
So far, I’ve only covered what I consider to be minor inconveniences to my daily life. Since November 2018, my car encountered three major incidents that required extensive administrative work from my part. This goes against the whole “hands off” rental experience that I thought I was signing up for. I’d like to believe that it’s just my luck and Getaround has reimbursed me for my troubles and repair costs. That said, I did not have a fun time trying to get my car in a working state.
The events below are based on my personal experience and do not reflect the typical owner experience. I do not claim to be the authority on the owner experience.
Incident 1: Missing License Plate (partially my fault)
When I bought my car, it did not come with the front license plate attached for some reason. No matter, I figured. It must be a weird American thing that doesn’t require cars to have both license plates. In any case, my glove compartment had the second license plate, so I could attach it whenever I required.
One day, 5 months after I purchased my vehicle, I got a ticket for not having my front license plate. That’s admittedly my fault, and all I had to do was to open my glove box and... realise that a renter had taken the plate (along with my insurance cards and various other documents). I have no idea what would compel someone to steal a license plate from a rented car, but it sent me on a very long quest just to fix my license plate ticket. The whole thing felt like a shoddily written story in an RPG just to stall for time.
- 30 Oct 2018 - Noticed that the license plate missing and sent an email
- 26 Nov 2018 - Go to AAA and spend an hour to get plates replaced
- 28 Nov 2018 - Send claim for cost of missing license plate
- 1 Dec 2018 - Go to O'Reilly's auto shop to buy a mount to install the plate
- 2 Dec 2018 - Go to a police station to verify that I had installed the license plate
- 3 Dec 2018 - Go to SFMTA to pay off the ticket
Incident 2: Broken Clutch
This was the first real incident that ended taking my car out for more than a month. It was Christmas eve and I was out shopping, like any good consumer should be doing. I received a notification that someone had rented my car for the day and I paid it no attention. It was only later in the evening that I received an email from customer support saying that the vehicle was not drivable and it had to be towed. I had complaints that the car was unable to start before, and when I did check it was fine. This felt like just another case of renters’ incompetence. Was I ever so wrong.
The clutch was indeed broken. I don’t know how it’s possible to break it and I suspect it could be something to do with my car being parked on a hill. But it didn’t even matter, I just wanted Getaround to fix it with their amazing renters’ insurance. And thus began my long and tedious journey to get my car back.
It started off simple enough, the claims department got in touch with me and said they’d process the claim and handle the repairs for me. About 3 weeks later, I still had no news, and no car. The lack of car was causing some major inconveniences. For starters, I could no longer get groceries since doing that would now take too much time. I spent the whole month eating out as opposed to buying groceries and cooking at home.
It was at the four week mark that someone finally got back to me saying that my claim went through. They told me that a pickup was scheduled which I took to mean that I could pick up the car from the shop. What they meant is they would pick up the car off the roadside and send it to the shop.
Fast forward another 2 weeks, with frequent calling and bugging and I finally got my car back. But my troubles were far from over. My car had been parked on a roadside with a weekly street cleaning. This meant that I had $304 worth of street cleaning tickets to deal with.
In the end customer support agreed to pay the parking tickets that as well as an additional loss of use compensation for the time that my car was out of service. The compensation they were offering was about three times the amount I would typically get in a month which I have to admit, does cover the expenses as well as the trouble I went through. I also had the clutch and flywheel replaced under the insurance and that was worth $2500. In the end, I’m still feeling kind of mixed about it. The car was still working so I suppose that was nice.
- 24 Dec 2018 - Received email that car had to be towed
- 25 Dec 2018 - Verified that car was indeed broken
- 26 Dec 2018 - Asked Getaround to fix the car.
- 18 Jan 2018 - Claim process complete. Car repairs started.
- 1 Feb 2019 - Car was returned without any warning.
- 4 Feb 2019 - Email correspondence about loss of use reimbursement.
- 22 Feb 2019 - Got confirmation of reimbursement.
- 15 Mar 2019 - Received Reimbursement
Incident 3: Blown Tyre, Damaged Suspension, Missing Key
Shortly (read: 9 days) after I received my car from the previous incident, I received yet another email saying that my car had to be towed. I had used my car a grand total of one time since then. This time, the tyre had blown and it sounded like an easy fix and I told them I would like them to get it fixed because I needed the car for a move I was doing. I had blocked off the car for the weekend, but in hindsight, I should have just blocked off the schedule for the whole week.
Over the following week, I received three emails asking me to send pictures of the damage to my car despite me not having the car. Their internal communications definitely needs work. Eventually, I got tired of waiting for them and went to retrieve the car myself. It was in the lot of a tow company, so it wasn’t collecting street cleaning tickets this time, which was nice. Interestingly, the tow company had a whole collection of Getaround cars in storage and were glad I could take one off their hands. I would like to conclude that renters all mistreat cars and this is proof, but this is also a biased sample.
I had the tyre replaced on the same day and I thought my troubles were over. Since you can read the title this section, you know that the suspension was damaged as well. When driving on the highway, I realised my car was violently veering to the right each time I let go of the steering wheel. At first, I suspected the wrong size tyre was installed, but when I brought it back to the shop, the mechanic informed me that the suspension was dented inwards. Fixing it would require replacement of parts and would cost about $1500.
This time, I was not about to wait another month for Getaround to process the claims and I paid for the repairs out of pocket first. The repairs were done in 2 days, and all I was left with was to claim the repair costs from Getaround.
Luckily for me, it was relatively easy to prove that the renter had damaged the car. I had pictures of the blown tyre and a diagnostic from the mechanic that made it quite easy to draw the conclusion that the renter had hit a curb or pothole quite hard and it blew the tyre as well as damaged the suspension. The tyre had a gash on the side and the suspension that was damaged was the same one as the blown tyre.
I don’t want to imagine how it would have went if I had just let Getaround handle it themselves. It probably would have gone something like this:
- Blown tyre.
- Take one month to replace a tyre and return my car.
- I realise that the car is driving funny, and report to Getaround.
- Since I have no pictures of the tyre before they replaced it, I have no way of proving that it wasn’t me that damaged the suspension.
- I pay $1500 out of pocket.
I shudder to think about that possibility. Luckily for me, this claim only took about 2 weeks to process, and I got my money back directly after another week. They also added a loss of use reimbursement which was nice.
I just had one last thing to handle, which was the loss of my key. Apparently the renter who damaged the car also conveniently forgot to return my key. It’s a good thing I have a spare key because I have no idea what I would have done if the car was rendered keyless. Call a car locksmith maybe? At the time of writing this, I still have not had the opportunity to get my key replaced, but I have confirmation from customer support that they would reimburse for the replacement of my key.
- 10 Feb 2019 - Received email that car had to be towed due to a blown tyre.
- 12 - 20 Feb 2019 - Asked me for pictures of the damage multiple times even though they were the ones who towed it.
- 21 Feb 2019 - Gave up and took time to go to the car’s location to pick it up, key was missing.Got a new tyre installed and drove it for a while
- 22 Feb 2019 - Noticed car was no longer driving straight.
- 22 Feb 2019 - Went back for a more thorough inspection, car suspension was dented inwards likely from the same thing that ripped a hole in the tyre.
- 22 Feb 2019 - Started a repair process by myself.
- 22 Feb 2019 - Reported this to Getaround with pictures and proof.
- 27 Feb 2019 - Accepted the claim and said they would reimburse me.
- 2 Mar 2019 - Picked up car
- 11 Mar 2018 - Received reimbursement for repairs.
- 11 Mar 2018 - Received acknowledgement that I could create a new key.
- 16 Mar 2018 - Went to get key replaced
Tyre blown and suspension damaged by renter. Performed the repairs myself, first of the tyre then the suspension after discovering that was damaged as well. Paid for the repairs first and submitted a claim. Getaround reimbursed for the repairs and loss of use after a month. Car was out of service for about 16 days in total, mainly because I went to repair the car myself. It took 17 days for the reimbursement to arrive.
All these problems boil down to having bad customer service, or rather, very slow customer service. In every case, they’ve met my customer service expectations, eventually. Though now that I’m reading through their Yelp reviews, it seems that renters have it better than owners who get quite a crap experience. Good to know I’m not the only one.
Now that I live in San Mateo, I wonder how many rentals I will be getting. I plan on leaving my car on the platform for a couple more months. If I end up getting nothing, I’ll just take myself off the platform. They charge a $20 monthly fee and if I’m not even earning enough to cover that fee, I don’t see any reason to remain on the platform.
- Renting out a car comes with additional inconveniences and isn’t just magic money appearing out of nowhere.
- If you already own a car that’s not being used often, you could probably rent it out to recoup some of the costs like parking, insurance or loan repayments.
- Sometimes renters will do substantial damage to the car but it’s covered by Getaround’s insurance policy, though it’s a hassle to get fixed.
- Minor damages will be harder to keep track of, so don’t rent out your brand new Tesla Model X.
- Customer service is slow but has not screwed me over... yet.
If you still want to rent out your car or rent cars after reading this, sign up with my referral link because I like money and why not?
They operate in a bunch of major metros in the US. Updated list can be found here.