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.
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.
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.
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.
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?