My First Turo Rental Experience: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

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first Turo rental experience

My First Turo Rental Experience

Finding cheap rental cars used to be easy for me. From using Hertz points for expensive rentals, to finding one-way deals from the Bay Area back home, to canceling and rebooking lower and lower prices for multi-day rentals, I’ve rarely had to pay through the nose for a rental car. Add to that insurance coverage provided by multiple credit cards, and you have both a good deal and peace of mind.

But this past year has been entirely different. I’ve not found a cheap car for any potential trips. My last car rental was during a week in Alaska last summer. I was happy to pay just under half my initial quote of $1,000 for four days.

This has made me look for other options while traveling. Recently, this led to my first Turo rental experience.

What is Turo?

Turo is the sharing economy applied to the car rental problem. It’s a platform that facilitates peer-to-peer renting. Have a car you aren’t using while on vacation? Rent it out to someone else while you’re away. As long as you trust a stranger with your wheels, that is. It’s the same concept as AirBnb.

But like AirBnb, it suffers from some similar problems. Rather than people occasionally renting out their car, people are purchasing cars to rent them out. I knew this might be the case. What I didn’t know is that I’d be getting one, which became apparent when I picked up my rental. It wasn’t truly a car-share of someone’s personal vehicle.

Still, it proved to be the most reasonable option by a long shot. For a long weekend in Palm Springs, Turo prices were less than half of what I would have paid renting a car through a typical agency.

Overall, my Turo rental experience was good. But there were some hiccups, and I want to provide a detailed account of how to rent with Turo and a review of my rental.

How to Rent with Turo

To rent with Turo, you need to create an account. It’s completely free and easy to do. Head to turo.com or download their app and click “Sign up”. Like any service, you need to provide personal and contact information.

You don’t have to have an account with Turo to browse cars, though. You can see what’s available and check prices anytime.

Turo rental experience

The Turo prices shows are a bit more transparent than when you use AirBnb, but you will pay more than shown. You are required to purchase a protection plan. I’d expect to pay $10-20 more per day than the listed price.

This is one of the downsides if you are used to paying for a rental car with a credit card that offers auto collision damage coverage. Unfortunately, Turo doesn’t qualify as a rental car agency.

Turo rental fees

I do recommend the Turo app. Even though I ditched my smartphone for daily use, I sometimes use it while traveling. The app makes it easy to stay in touch with your Turo host on the go, and I found it indispensable after I landed in Palm Springs.

Once you book, your host will confirm the reservation and contact you.

first Turo rental experience

My Turo Rental Experience

Most of the Turo car options I found in Palm Springs were very high priced. But these were often for things like convertibles, BMWs, and other fancier cars.

I finally found a listing for a VW e-Golf for just $40 per day, which seemed like an excellent deal. Fees and the lowest level insurance coverage included, I was paying just $222 for four days. This was far better than any option through a typical car rental company. The rental included up to 800 miles (200 miles per day for four days).

The host confirmed my booking within an hour of my request. I communicated with him via my online Turo account prior to the trip. He provided some details and tips on the rental ahead of time. As I had chosen to rent an electric vehicle, and this was my first time every driving one, I needed a bit of help. More than a bit.

When I arrived at Palm Springs Airport, I sent the host a message through the app, and he responded almost immediately. He asked me to call a number that would connect me with an individual at an offsite parking lot. This is when I began to realize that the car handoff wasn’t going to be taking place directly with my host.

When we arrived at the lot, I recognized a couple other cars from what I’d seen in the listings. It turns out that this particular Palm Springs lot offers both off-airport parking and manages the Turo rentals for at least two different hosts. Not a bad setup for both parties. But not quite what Turo is sold as.

Off to a Bad Start

I was given the key to my electric car and hopped in, ready to head over to Yucca Valley for my first night. But there was one problem: the car didn’t have the range. The VW e-Golf doesn’t have the range of a Tesla, of course, but it should get you 90-100 miles on a full charge. The battery wasn’t close to full charge, and the range read just 43 miles. Given the distance and climb up to Yucca, this wouldn’t be enough.

We plugged the car in and it started charging. I figured I could give it 30 minutes of charge and be off and running. Not so. It was charging. So. Slowly. I would be unplugging it around midnight and would make it up to Yucca after 1:00 AM at the rate it was going.

I’d initially contacted the lot attendant about charging the car on site. Losing 30 minutes would have been no big deal. But this had gotten far more frustrating, so I contacted the host. I’d expected to have a car ready to go.

He apologized profusely and called the lot manager. About 20 minutes later we had a solution. I’d charge the car at another location in town that would be faster, right across from the airport. They also offered me $80 back for the trouble, which was paid in cash. I was able to charge the car to nearly full in another 90 minutes.

All said and done, I made it to my destination about 2.5 hours later than expected. I think $80 is fine compensation for that trouble.

I made it back down the hill to Palm Springs just fine, and the car worked great for getting around Palm Springs for a couple more days. If you need wheels for short little trips, an electric vehicle is perfect.

At the end, the host let me keep the car a few extras hours for free, another great gesture. I promised to return it with a full charge and delivered on that promise.

Final Thoughts

While my Turo rental experience didn’t go 100% smoothly, I feel my host ultimately made things right. I was satisfied with the compensation offered for the initial headache and lost time.

I’ll definitely keep Turo in mind for the future, especially if car rental prices stay as ridiculously high as they have been lately in many locations.

Have you ever used the service? What was your Turo rental experience like?

Ian Snyder
After igniting his passion for award travel while planning his honeymoon, Ian now enjoys using points and miles to see the world with his wife and three internationally adopted kiddos. He loves dissecting loyalty programs to find maximum value. His goal is to demonstrate that extraordinary travel is possible for the ordinary family.

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19 COMMENTS

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19 COMMENTS

  1. I’m actually in the process of renting a Turo at the moment and quickly noticing how may fee are adding up. I have a 1 week typical rental booked @ $640 so I checked Turo and decided it will be fun to try a Tesla which the week rate showed at $854 and claimed to have “free supercharging” during the booking process another $100 Turo fees were added then another $100 for airport drop off. Then insurance as you said not covered by personal insurance or CC as typically rental, cheapest insurance option is $160 for the week ($3,000 deductible) then after the booking was confirmed I read all of the fine print and down in guidelines it said pay as you go superchargers, at top of page in bold says FREE super charging. I asked the host is it free or charged and he said sorry he forgot to update the page he had a short term free charging promo on the car which is now expired. With my booking confirmed the host was able to updated the terms on his page removing the free charging and the Turo system does not send out a message or warning that the host has modified the rental terms while booking has been confirmed (kind of shocking, what else can they slip in?). So now there is more added charged for supercharger which originally said FREE. In the end what started out to be a $854 week rental with added fees is around $1350 and there are other terms that vehical must be returned cleaned if not cleaning fees will apply,ust be full charge of charging fees will apply etc.. im feeling some owners could have a higher standard of what “clean” is to their standards and habe a blank check to add on an undisclosed cleaning charge at the end? It’s also not unlimited miles if I exceed the 200 miles a day (1400 week) limit it’s an additional 0.85 per extra mile charge. So what started to be a nicer car slightly more expensive then rental quickly has nearly doubled in price and becoming very expensive.

    • I can see how this would make one leery. My rental did NOT have all those extra fees, just some basic and reasonable ones that I expected.

      Fees, but more so expectations, would make me leery of renting expensive vehicles.

  2. I’m a turo host, and the hosts should be making sure things are fully charged, they need to place gaps in the rental period. it’s what I do for one of my cars that is a plug in hybrid.
    As a host also, it’s almost not worth it. I’ve had smokers permanently ruin the inside of the car, hit things, and even had parts stolen off. Turo doesn’t have a real recourse, unless you find ashes, you took clear pictures of things, and can prove things without a doubt. I had interior window trim stolen and a door panel, floor mats, engine cover, etc. Turo did nothing. It’s a crap platform to list on. I even had a car stolen by a guest, Turo did nothing and I didn’t get any reimbursement for the extra week the guest had the car until the car was surrendered in a parking lot and the guest told me where to get it. This is just the tip of issues but I invested to do this before covid and now I’m stuck for a while. Turo ruined their assistance plans to save themselves money. Oh, and had someone else rent a standard that I have, burn up a new clutch in less then 9 miles, and ditch the car and say they actually didn’t know how to drive one but wanted to try. Turo was no help and the guest got to walk away. Good luck going that with any commercial rental agency.

    • Wow I can see how it can be a risky platform for both the owner and the renter. I can for sure see some con artist removing parts for their own vehicle.as a huge problem, easy to find the perfect vehicle match. On the renter side im worried as the terms have many open ended charges that can be applied after I return. If it’s not cleaned properly, fully charged, damage, sand & pet hair etc..etc.. all extra charges upon return. Feels like I’m writing a blank check for the host to add what ever they want upon return.

  3. Was the car cleaned between rentals in your experience with Turo? Based on KSteel’s experience, I would now be afraid of the owner changing rentals terms during the rental! I used ZipCar in Waikiki a few years ago because I needed a one-day rental and the Alamo on-site at the hotel wanted a two-day rental since their office closed at 5 pm and I wanted to return the car early evening. The last person using the car went to the beach and left the car completely covered in sand – seats and trunk. It looked like they literally drove the car on the beach. Since the car was just parked at an unstaffed lot, there was no cleaning between rentals, unlike a traditional agency. The one positive with Zipcar is the pickup and drop off experience – it’s all app-activated. Also, fuel is included in the rental and the fuel card is provided in the car.

    • K Steel here… if the Turo app allowed pick up and return at two different locations, then one would not have to rely on the verbal promise of the owner, as I did (she was very friendly and communicative). Then all would be in the contract and they would not be able to change their mind. I trusted her. In the future I will know this and not go “off contract”. Other than this issue, it was easy and cost effective and I have already signed up for another Turo car for Colorado this summer.

    • I agree I’m in the process of booking on turo right now and the host changed the rental terms by removing “Free Supercharging” changing it to pay as you go after the booking was confirmed under original term. I can confirm Turo does not send a notification to let you know if the host updates the terms and conditions that your originally confrimed under.

  4. How did you guys take care of insurance? I hear that primary auto insurance is not covered by the credit cards and if you buy extra insurance from turo that the rates go up pretty fast

    • You have to buy Turo insurance. This started at $10/day, I believe, for this rental. Something to keep in mind when reviewing the rates.

      • For my 1 week Turo booking their was 3 insurance options cheapest started at $23, $52 & $78 a day. Gets expensive very fast.

  5. I rented a Tesla 3 for 1 day and a Tesla X for a different da, 1 week apart. While each stated “unlimited free mileage”, both ended up charging me for recharging the vehicles during use. Both were charged to 80% prior to delivery & I returned each with 80+% charge. The T3 owner commented on my “hard driving”, assumably upset at my 0-60 “fun”, the T-X voice commands were set to Cantonese! Both experiences were HUGELY FUN. Unfortunately they also changed my mind about ever owning a Tesla. Far too much time spent recharging,

    • The 0-60 in 3 seconds is like the main selling feature for me.

      Interesting they charged you for recharging. Was this because it added mileage? Some charging stations charge you, although I only used free ones during my rental.

    • Unless I’m missing something here, “unlimited free mileage” does not equal “unlimited free charging”. That would be like a gas car with “unlimited free gas”. Was that communicated in the contract – that charging would be free? If so then that’s different and it’s possible that the owner’s Tesla X had free Tesla supercharging.

  6. I have had pretty good experience overall, but one was at the Tampa airport where they just leave the car. It was very difficult to find although part was user error, but the host didn’t give me any heads up he/she would not be meeting me there. With some preparation and heads up, I’m sure I would have found the car in five minutes.

    • Good to hear! I bet much of the experience comes down to communication and expectations, which, like AirBnb, are far more varied than a typical car rental/hotel.

  7. I rented an adorable and super clean Mini Cooper in Big Island, Hawaii. Rental of $214 for two days, which was reasonable for post-Covid Hawaii and was about half of the rental agency fee. Drop off was very easy with the owner driving it to the hotel and handing me the keys. The only problem came when she had agreed that the return could be at the airport – for an extra $20 fee (due to the further distance for the owner). I offered to just pay in cash once we met since the Turo app did not allow a different location for the return. Unfortunately, during our two days, a new rental for the car came in and the owner changed her mind and told me I would have to make another plan for getting to the airport as she needed the car back close to her location…which added an unexpected $130 to our trip expenses. Because it was a verbal agreement, not in the original app contract, I had no recourse with Turo! Not every owner will be so accommodating unless they are held to their promises via the app contract. Be careful!

    • That does sound like a great Hawaii rental price. Bummer the host changed their mind on your agreement. That sounds frustrating.

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