Update: Sadly, Flightcar shut down its operations in 2016.
I absolutely love the concept of the sharing economy. No matter if it is meal sharing, where locals invite you in their home for a home-cooked meal, or AirBnB, where locals rent out their apartment when they’re traveling (or a spare room, which is what I used to do in my London apartment – long before airbnb became big), touring a city with a local thanks to websites like WithLocals, where locals can play tour guides or offer other cool activities. Then there is ride sharing, where you can share a ride with someone or offer the spare seats in your car to travelers – and most recently: renting someone else’s car while they are on vacation or simply don’t need it, thanks to FlightCar.
What is FlightCar?
The idea behind FlightCar is that, similar to AirBnB, people can earn passive income while they’re traveling. You could actually do both: rent out your apartment and your car while you’re on a trip, and pay for your vacation that way! The concept of FlightCar is genius: Instead of parking your car at the airport when you go on a trip (which is pricey, especially if you’re going on a longer trip) you’re dropping your car off at the FlightCar office where travelers can then rent the car. FlightCar then gives you a ride to the terminal and takes care of the rest. Not only do you save money on airport parking, but you actually earn money from people who rent you’re car while you’re gone. And even if nobody rents your car: you still get free airport parking and a free car cleaning! If you don’t need your car for a longer period because you’re out of the country or are a couple who can make due with one car for a while, you can make up to an extra $500 a month – the guaranteed monthly payout is between $200 and $500, depending on age, model and size of the car, no matter if the car is rented or not. If you’re saving up for a big trip, that is a great way to make some extra cash without doing anything for it.
What does the renter gain from renting through FlightCar? Cheaper rates. Since FlightCar doesn’t need to pay for the maintenance of a large rental car fleet but uses other people’s cars, they only have to pay for overhead and office space, allowing them to offer better rates than conventional car rental companies. It’s a win-win for both, the renter and the car owner.If you have a car and leave it at the airport with FlightCar, but travel to another city where FlightCar operates: even better. Someone else can use your car while you’re gone, and you are able to use another person’s car while visiting their city, benefiting another car owner instead of a large corporation (which is exactly the reason why I love the peer-to-peer concept of AirBnB or WithLocals!).
My FlightCar experience
I was a bit skeptical at first about the condition the car would be in when I signed up and booked my first car with FlightCar on my recent LA visit. I opted for the smallest size (I am not great at parking, so the smaller the car, the better for me), which is also the cheapest option. Would I get a really old car, filled with junk or old cassette tapes? (This fear arose because every time I own a car, even if it’s only a rental for a few weeks, my cars tend to be messy.)But I didn’t need to fear anything – my experience with FlightCar couldn’t have been better. Upon arrival at LAX I was picked up and driven to the office, signed a few papers and was shown my car, a beautiful Hyundai Veloster.
The car was impeccable on the inside as well as the outside, and within five minutes I was all set and ready to go. The experience is pretty much like any other car rental – just cheaper. Daily rates at FlightCar start at $15 a day, and insurance is already included in this fee. You pick up the car, sign the papers, use the car, and bring it back in the same condition as you’ve picked it up, including the gas filled up to the level it was when you picked it up.The rental rate includes 100 miles per day, which was more than enough for me. If you use more mileage, you pay an extra fee per mile.If you’re the one owning the car you might be nervous about the condition your car is in when you get it back, but fear not: the cars are fully covered by insurance – FlightCar provides $1,000,000 in liability coverage. In case of any damages, severe dirt or vandalism caused by the renter, FlightCar takes a $300 security deposit from the renter. The renters are thoroughly screened by the way, and only drivers who have been driving without any major driving citations are able to rent through FlightCar.
FlightCar operates in 14 U.S. cities so far: Austin, Baltimore, Boston, Dallas, Denver, Los Angeles, Oakland, Philadelphia, Portland, San Diego, San Francisco, San Jose, Seattle, Washington D.C and is constantly adding new cities to its network – I know for sure that I’ll be using it again!