Instead of paying as much as $36 a day to park your car at some major city airports, you can park for free by renting your car while you are away travelling.
The new car-sharing service FlightCar even promises owner-renters can earn as much as $400 a week, depending on the make and model year of the car, by matching vehicle owners away on a trip with arriving passengers looking for rental wheels. Plus, they’ll wash and vacuum your car before you return home and take back the keys.
Like all offers that sound too good to be true, FlightCar may be a bad deal for you as an owner, or as a renter.
Here are the pros and cons:
FlightCar rents for about the same daily price as the big guys Hertz, Avis, Budget, National and Enterprise, we we will refer to as the Big Guys for the rest of this article. But the Big Guys have many more airport locations than the new guys, and offer unlimited mileage, compared with FlightCar’s 75 miles a day limit.
FlightCar is currently available in 14 airport locations: Austin, Baltimore, Boston, Dallas, Denver, Los Angeles, Oakland, Philadelphia, Portland, San Diego, San Francisco, San Jose, Seattle and Washington, DC. So if you aren’t leaving from of these airports, or visiting them, you can’t use FlightCar.
The Big Guys are everywhere, including downtown locations in dozens of cities. Of course, FlightCar hopes to grow, but it likely never will match the market saturation of The Big Guys.
The Big Guys also let you pick up in one location and drop off in another, often without a fee. I cannot count the times I’ve picked up at an airport and dropped off downtown, or the other way around, with the Big Guys. FlightCar cannot do that because the owner wants his or her car back where he or she left it.
So, if all you want is a car to get you two and from museums, restaurants, hotels and other attractions in the city you are visiting, you may do better with Zipcar, Uber, Lyft. Or, take public transportation and avoid downtown parking fees entirely. ecoXplorer is a big fan and supporter of public transportation.
Whether or not someone rents your vehicle, FlightCar gives you free parking, plus a free car wash and vacuum, which is a great deal, no question about it. They also protect owners who rent with $1,000,000 in insurance liability coverage and require that “renters have a good driving record and meet rigorous standards.”
If a family member or friend is in an accident driving your car, your personal auto insurance policy normally covers you. That may not be the case if the stranger is paying to drive your car.
And as a renter, it’s important to know you won’t have the owner’s insurance policy, only FlightCar’s documents. That could lead to a legal mess for you if police are involved, following an accident.
Owners should read the fine print in their their personal auto insurance policy, even check with your auto insurance company before signing up. You want to be absolutely sure you won’t be dropped for cause because you illegally earned commercial or business fees hiring out your personal vehicle. Getting dropped by one insurance company could cost you higher premiums with the next one willing to take you on, costing you more than you make from renting your car with FlightCar.
To be eligible to rent your personal car, FlightCar requires pretty much the same driving safety record as the Big Guys. That means no major violations or alcohol/drug related incidents in the past three years, and no more than two violations or accidents combined in the past three years.
FlightCar imposes a $25 daily surcharge for drivers under 21, similar to what the Big Guys charge.
Additionally, FlightCar refuses drivers under 21 if any accidents or violations appear on their record, and only those 21 or older may rent cars worth more than $30,000. That sounds counter-productive to me, since smaller, less expensive and older cars have fewer of the very safety systems, such as lane departure alarms and voice-activated navigation systems, that help inexperienced younger drivers drive more safely and help prevent accidents.
Drivers 18 to 21 may be better served paying the Big Guys extra charge for a young renter, and get a current model car, for much the same price as a FlightCar.
FlightCar brags that confirms this history by running a Motor Vehicle Records check on the renting driver before his or her first rental, and may also add a criminal record check. The Big Guys do this routinely, even though they don’t tell you so.
FlightCar may not check whether your vehicle is on the recall list, for the Takata airbag defects, the GM ignition switch defects, or other current recalls. So they wouldn’t know whether your vehicle has been repaired, or if it’s still is a potential safety hazard. The Big Guys are more likely to get the recalled vehicles fixed, or take them out of the rental pool.
After all of this, can you really earn money renting your car through FlightCar? That depends.
A 2007 Lexus would fetch .10 cents per mile. At 40 miles per day, that would pay you $4 a day, or $12 for a three-day weekend. A 2015 Lexus pays double that, or .20 a mile, $8 a day and $24 a weekend. Plus, of course, the savings in the airport parking fees you are not paying.
Also, as an owner/renter, you get discount rates for renting a FlightCar vehicle in your destination. Rates start at $15 per day, plus you get free insurance and free GPS.
According to GeekWire, FlightCar was started by two young entrepeneurs whose combined age is less than 45.
Would you use FlightCar? Let us know. Have you used FlightCar? Tell us your experience.
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