For a trip to Las Vegas in May, I spent $51 per day (plus taxes and fees) to obtain a car from Alamo for three full days by canceling and booking multiple times through major automakers. The challenge of this trip was that we would have six adults and lots of driving to do, visiting Yellowstone National Park and other wilderness areas. We needed either a really big car – imagine a van going through the Rockies – or two cars. The SUVs or vans that might suit us all were around $400 a day – plus obscene gas prices.
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That’s when I decided to find out tutorial, the peer-to-peer car-sharing application. The friends had mixed experiences, ranging from mild to literally getting ripped off. With that in mind, I decided to give it a shot.
The first thing my family decided was to rent two vehicles, but I still wanted an SUV to store luggage and handle the terrain of Montana and Wyoming. Options ranged from Teslas to pickup trucks.
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I put Bozeman, Montana as my location, narrowed my search to “All Star” hosts, and started listing like I would on Airbnb. I wanted to make sure we had both a clean, comfortable vehicle and a host with a track record of positive reviews – I’ve heard complaints from car owners canceling just before a trip. I also made sure the ad was canceled free of charge so I could edit it if needed; most rentals I’ve seen had this. I opted for a 2018 Buick Encore for $99 a day from a host with a five-star rating and over 20 reviews. Compare that to almost $300 a day for sedans on rental car sites.
I created my account, where I had to add my driver’s license information. I reserved my vehicle and paid $636.78 for five days which included my daily rate, travel costs ($10.54 per day) and minimum protection plan ($17.82 per day). Then I waited for my host to accept my reservation, which only took a few hours.
There were other options to weigh when considering cost: some hosts charge for drop-offs, including at the airport for around $35-$50, and some had mileage limits. Our rental covered 1,000 miles and charged 50 cents per mile thereafter. I thought that was more than enough, but soon learned how much you drive in the Yellowstone area. The Jeep my brother rented through Tur0 had unlimited mileage but was about $10 more per night.
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For young drivers, there are other considerations. Some hosts don’t rent to people under 30 – we don’t mind – or don’t include additional safety checks for young drivers. You must be 18 or older to rent from a peer host and at least 21 to rent from companies that rent on the platform. If you’re under 25, you’ll pay a minimum “young driver” fee of at least $30 per day. It’s $50 if you’re between 18 and 20.
You can add items such as bear spray (required in Montana), camping gear, coolers, and child safety seats for a variety of costs. You can also prepay for refueling, which varies greatly by vehicle.
Your personal auto insurance often covers you when you rent a car. But because this was my first time using Turo and renting a car that was owned by a person rather than a company, I felt nervous about dismissing any insurance. Plus, Montana is wild, as we know from the recent Yellowstone floods. Weather, rocks and animals could all cause damage.
turo has three levels of plansFirst, Standard, and Minimum, which cost 100% to 18% of your trip plan and set your liability for damages from $0 to $3,000. I opted for the minimum protection, which costs less than $18 per day.
As our host advertised free airport delivery, I was surprised to learn that Turo might charge their own for this service. In Bozeman, Turo makes tenants pay 10% of their transaction have the cars dropped off at the airport. Because I hadn’t selected the airport as my pick-up location, this charge was not on my radar. In my brother’s case, he paid $35 for the drop-off service and over $60 for the “airport fee”.
When I asked Turo about airport fees, the company told me that they apply at some airports when Turo is allowed, but not all, and the cost depends on the city. Charges are displayed before departure when an airport is set at your pick-up location. So that’s another cost to consider when comparing rental companies to Turo.
As I was collecting the car without the host present, he asked me if I could upload a photo of my license in the “travel photos” on my account a few days before the trip. Because my brother was picking up at the airport, his host asked for his flight information.
We calculated how much it would cost to have the car dropped off at the airport and decided it was best to have Uber drive to the pickup location. It was a $35 ride, but the trip allowed us to talk with our driver about how Bozeman and nearby towns exploded and residents were priced accordingly. And the Uber ride was way cheaper than the $95 my brother paid in delivery and airport fees.
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The car was parked on the street in a neighborhood about 20 minutes from the airport. It was super clean and as expected – no decorations or weird smells. I packed a charging cable, which I know from previous experience is not included, and connected to Apple CarPlay. And we were gone.
The small SUV was just what we needed for all the hours we spent driving around Yellowstone with four adults for five days. We had no problems and had no reason to contact our host during our rental.
The day before our trip ended, I received an alert that I could ask to extend our trip; we didn’t need it but it was nice to have the option. A few hours later my host sent a message with drop off instructions – leave the car where we picked it up with the keys inside and message him afterwards.
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The car was covered in mud after driving through Yellowstone and I asked my host if he wanted it washed. I had a motive behind this offer: I realized I had lost track of the mileage and we were probably over 1,000 miles away. I was hoping that this gesture of goodwill would save us from being accused. My host said not to worry about it as they wash the cars between renters. No extra mileage charges for us anyway, but next time I’ll remember to set the odometer.
As I stood in line at a rental car counter at Chicago’s Midway Airport last week, I dreamed of Turo. The queue was long, and you had to deal with all the spiel from the car rental agent, which seemingly takes forever: do you want insurance? Do you want to prepay to fill up? Do you want to upgrade? It’s the last thing you want to deal with after a long flight.
Overall, my Turo experience was more affordable, easy to pick up and drop off, and no different than booking an Airbnb.