News / USA

Americans Try Renting Their Car to Strangers

Free market solution is designed to help neighborhoods make do with fewer cars

Eric Loebel, of Portland, Oregon, plans to rent his Volvo S80 out to strangers with the help of a car sharing service.
Eric Loebel, of Portland, Oregon, plans to rent his Volvo S80 out to strangers with the help of a car sharing service.

Multimedia

Audio
Tom Banse

Americans love their cars. There are more cars, per capita, in the United States than in any other country - more than eight cars for every 10 Americans, according to recent government figures.

But most of the time, those vehicles sit idle, parked in a driveway or on the street. Now, several startup companies on the U.S. West Coast are helping people rent their personal car to someone else when they don’t need it.

Peer-to-Peer Car Sharing

Eric Loebel is one of those people. For a small price, he wants to let his Oregon neighbors “borrow” his car. It’s a dark blue, model year 2000 Volvo sedan.

The sales and marketing consultant says he doesn’t use it much.

“My wife and I are huge bike commuters and almost don’t need a car, but haven’t quite been able to eliminate that element," he says. "So we have a car that basically sits in front of the house maybe 85 to 90 percent of the time.”

Loebel is one of the first car owners in Portland to list his wheels for rent through a so-called “peer-to-peer car sharing” service called Getaround.com.

The website for car sharing service, Getaround.com, lists the personal vehicles available for hourly rental.
The website for car sharing service, Getaround.com, lists the personal vehicles available for hourly rental.

“Cars are so expensive to own," he says. "This can definitely offset some of the cost.”

The website lets car owners decide for themselves how much to charge borrowers to rent by the hour, day or week.

Collision protection

Loebel is charging $9 per hour or $199 per week. So is he worried someone will wreck his car?

“Ummm... no. My relationship to my car is one of non-attachment.”

And besides, he says the car sharing marketplace automatically includes liability and collision insurance that is separate from his own. That’s an important feature. Most U.S. insurance companies hold the owner of a vehicle responsible for accidents, no matter who is driving, and can raise the insurance premium.

So the Oregon Legislature is considering new regulations to smooth the road for person-to-person car rentals, following an example set by the California legislature last year.  

“Commercial uses of vehicles are prohibited under typical insurance policies," says State Rep. Ben Cannon, a Democrat from Portland. "So we needed to create new law to provide for the possibility that someone could put their car into a car sharing program without violating their motor vehicle insurance policy.”

Cannon’s legislative fix encountered no organized opposition on its way to passage. He enthusiastically endorses personal car sharing as a free market solution to help neighborhoods make do with fewer cars.

Something for everyone

Person-to-person rentals began in Germany a decade ago, and there are a handful of similar companies in Europe and Australia.

The concept caught on quickly in California over the past year, according to John Atcheson, vice president of Getaround, one of four car-sharing startups in the San Francisco area.  

“We have had an amazing array of cars leaping into our system," Atcheson says. "Not just 1995 pickup trucks, but we have had late model Mercedes, Audis, any type of car you can imagine.  We actually have a Tesla Roadster - a $150,000 sports car - that people have put into this pool.”

Atcheson’s company and its competitors screen the driving records of prospective borrowers. Private car owners post when their vehicles are available in a members-only internet marketplace.

The car sharing companies take a commission of 35- to 40 percent of the rental price to cover administration and insurance. Owners and borrowers can police the marketplace by giving each other online ratings.

“So far, we have had surprisingly few issues come up," Atcheson says. "In fact, the only issue I can think of right now that has happened is that someone had a BMW sports car in the system. It was a stick shift. Someone who didn’t know how to drive a stick shift very well took it and burned the clutch down.”

Getaround helped to pay for a new clutch.  

Another service called JustShareIt plans to stand out by going beyond cars. Its founder says the company will offer person-to-person rentals of power boats, dune buggies, jet skis and snowmobiles too.

You May Like

UN Ambassador Power Highlights Plight of Women Prisoners

She launches the 'Free the 20' campaign, aimed at profiling women being deprived of their freedom around the world More

Satellite Launch Sparks Spectacular Light Show

A slight delay in a satellite launch lit up the Florida sky early this morning More

Fleeing IS Killings in Syria, Family Reaches Bavaria

Exhausted, scared and under-nourished, Khalil and Maha's tale mirrors those of thousands of refugees from war-torn countries who have left their homes in the hopes of finding a better life More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOAi
X
August 31, 2015 2:17 AM
Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOA

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Iraq's southern wetlands are in crisis. These areas are the spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, and source of livelihood for fishermen and herders. Faith Lapidus has more.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Rebuilding New Orleans' Music Scene

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina inundated New Orleans, threatening to wash away its vibrant musical heritage along with its neighborhoods, the beat goes on. As Bronwyn Benito and Faith Lapidus report, a Musicians' Village is preserving the city's unique sound.
Video

Video In Russia, Auto Industry in Tailspin

Industry insiders say country relies too heavily on imports as inflation cuts too many consumers out of the market. Daniel Schearf has more from Moscow.
Video

Video Scientist Calls Use of Fetal Tissue in Medical Research Essential

An anti-abortion group responsible for secret recordings of workers at a women's health care organization claims the workers shown are offering baby parts for sale, a charge the organization strongly denies. While the selling of fetal tissue is against the law in the United States, abortion and the use of donated fetal tissue for medical research are both legal. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.

VOA Blogs