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

    Multimedia Obama Calls on Americans to Help the Families of Its War Dead

    In last Memorial Day of his presidency, Obama lays wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery

    The Strife of the Party: Will Trump Permanently Alter Republicans?

    While billionaire mogul's no-holds-barred style, high-energy delivery are what rocketed him to nomination, they also have created rift between party elites and his supporters

    China's Education Reforms Spark Protest

    Beijing is putting a quota system in place to increase the number of students from poor regions attending universities

    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.
    Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trendi
    X
    May 27, 2016 5:57 AM
    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trend

    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Reactions to Trump's Success Polarized Abroad

    What seemed impossible less than a year ago is now almost a certainty. New York real estate mogul Donald Trump has won the number of delegates needed to secure the Republican presidential nomination. The prospect has sparked as much controversy abroad as it has in the United States. Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Drawings by Children in Hiroshima Show Hope and Peace

    On Friday, President Barack Obama will visit Hiroshima, Japan, the first American president to do so while in office. In August 1945, the United States dropped an atomic bomb on the city to force Japan's surrender in World War II. Although their city lay in ruins, some Hiroshima schoolchildren drew pictures of hope and peace. The former students and their drawings are now part of a documentary called “Pictures from a Hiroshima Schoolyard.” VOA's Deborah Block has the story.
    Video

    Video Vietnamese Rapper Performs for Obama

    A prominent young Vietnamese artist told President Obama said she faced roadblocks as a woman rapper, and asked the president about government support for the arts. He asked her to rap, and he even offered to provide a base beat for her. Watch what happened.
    Video

    Video Roots Run Deep for Tunisia's Dwindling Jewish Community

    This week, hundreds of Jewish pilgrims are defying terrorist threats to celebrate an ancient religious festival on the Tunisian island of Djerba. The festivities cast a spotlight on North Africa's once-vibrant Jewish population that has all but died out in recent decades. Despite rising threats of militant Islam and the country's battered economy, one of the Arab world's last Jewish communities is staying put and nurturing a new generation. VOA’s Lisa Bryant reports.
    Video

    Video Meet Your New Co-Worker: The Robot

    Increasing numbers of robots are joining the workforce, as companies scale back and more processes become automated. The latest robots are flexible and collaborative, built to work alongside humans as opposed to replacing them. VOA’s Tina Trinh looks at the next generation of automated employees helping out their human colleagues.
    Video

    Video Wheelchair Technology in Tune With Times

    Technologies for the disabled, including wheelchair technology, are advancing just as quickly as everything else in the digital age. Two new advances in wheelchairs offer improved control and a more comfortable fit. VOA's George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Baby Boxes Offer Safe Haven for Unwanted Children

    No one knows exactly how many babies are abandoned worldwide each year. The statistic is a difficult one to determine because it is illegal in most places. Therefore unwanted babies are often hidden and left to die. But as Erika Celeste reports from Woodburn, Indiana, a new program hopes to make surrendering infants safer for everyone.
    Video

    Video California Celebration Showcases Local Wines, Balloons

    Communities in the U.S. often hold festivals to show what makes them special. In California, for example, farmers near Fresno celebrate their figs and those around Gilmore showcase their garlic. Mike O'Sullivan reports that the wine-producing region of Temecula offers local vintages in an annual festival where rides on hot-air balloons add to the excitement.
    Video

    Video US Elementary School Offers Living Science Lessons

    Zero is not a good score on a test at school. But Discovery Elementary is proud of its “net zero” rating. Net zero describes a building in which the amount of energy provided by on-site renewable sources equals the amount of energy the building uses. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, the innovative features in the building turn the school into a teaching tool, where kids can't help but learn about science and sustainability. Faith Lapidus narrates.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora