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

Turkey: No Ransom Paid for Release of Hostages Held by IS Militants

President Erdogan hails release of hostages as diplomatic success but declines to be drawn on whether their release freed Ankara's hand to take more active stance against insurgents More

Audio Sierra Leone Ends Ebola Lockdown

Health ministry says it has reached 75 percent of its target of visiting 1.5 million homes to locate infected, educate population about virus More

US Pivot to Asia Demands Delicate Balancing Act

As tumult in Middle East distracts Obama administration, efforts to shift American focus eastward appear threatened 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.
Natural Gas Export Plan Divides Maryland Towni
X
Deborah Block
September 21, 2014 2:12 PM
A U.S. power company that has been importing natural gas now wants to export it. If approved, its plant in Lusby, Maryland, would likely be the first terminal on the United States East Coast to export liquefied natural gas from American pipelines. While some residents welcome the move because it will create jobs, others oppose it, saying the expansion could be a safety and environmental hazard. VOA’s Deborah Block examines the controversy.
Video

Video Natural Gas Export Plan Divides Maryland Town

A U.S. power company that has been importing natural gas now wants to export it. If approved, its plant in Lusby, Maryland, would likely be the first terminal on the United States East Coast to export liquefied natural gas from American pipelines. While some residents welcome the move because it will create jobs, others oppose it, saying the expansion could be a safety and environmental hazard. VOA’s Deborah Block examines the controversy.
Video

Video Difficult Tactical Battle Ahead Against IS Militants in Syria

The U.S. president has ordered the military to intensify its fight against the Islamic State, including in Syria. But how does the military conduct air strikes in a country that is not a U.S. ally? VOA correspondent Carla Babb reports from the Pentagon.
Video

Video Iran, World Powers Seek Progress in Nuclear Talks

Iran and the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany, known as the P5 + 1, have started a new round of talks on Iran's nuclear program. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports that as the negotiations take place in New York, a U.S. envoy is questioning Iran's commitment to peaceful nuclear activity.
Video

Video Alibaba Shares Soar in First Day of Trading

China's biggest online retailer hit the market Friday -- with its share price soaring on the New York Stock Exchange. The shares were priced at $68, but trading stalled at the opening, as sellers held onto their shares, waiting for buyers to bid up the price. More on the world's biggest initial public offering from VOA’s Bernard Shusman in New York.
Video

Video Obama Goes to UN With Islamic State, Ebola on Agenda

President Obama goes to the United Nations General Assembly to rally nations to support a coalition against Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria. He also will look for nations to back his plan to fight the Ebola virus in West Africa. As VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports, Obama’s efforts reflect new moves by the U.S. administration to take a leading role in addressing world crises.
Video

Video Migrants Caught in No-Man's Land Called Calais

The deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean this week has only recast the spotlight on the perils of reaching Europe. And for those forunate enough to reach a place like Calais, France, only find that their problems aren't over. Lisa Bryant has the story.
Video

Video Westgate Siege Anniversary Brings Back Painful Memories

One year after it happened, the survivors of the terror attack on Nairobi's Westgate Shopping Mall still cannot shake the images of that tragic incident. For VOA, Mohammed Yusuf tells the story of victims still waiting for the answer to the question 'how could this happen?'
Video

Video Militant Assault in Syria Displaces Thousands of Kurds

A major assault by Islamic State militants on Kurds in Syria has sent a wave of new refugees to the Turkish border, where they were stopped by Turkish border security. Turkey is already hosting about 700,000 Syrian refugees who fled the civil war between the government and the opposition. But the government in Ankara has a history of strained relations with Turkey's Kurdish minority. Zlatica Hoke reports Turkey is asking for international help.
Video

Video Whaling Summit Votes to Uphold Ban on Japan Whale Hunt

The International Whaling Commission, meeting in Slovenia, has voted to uphold a court ruling banning Japan from hunting whales in the Antarctic Ocean. Conservationists hailed the ruling as a victory, but Tokyo says it will submit revised plans for a whale hunt in 2015. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Iraqi Kurdistan Church Helps Christian Children Cope find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil

In the past six weeks, tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians have been forced to flee their homes by Islamic State militants and find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil. Despite U.S. airstrikes in the region, the prospect of people returning home is still very low and concerns are starting to grow over the impact this is having on the displaced youth. Sebastian Meyer reports from Irbil on how one church is coping.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid