Why doesn’t every car rental start like this?

By | December 23rd, 2016

If you’ve ever rented from a car sharing company, then you probably know that it’s almost nothing like a traditional car rental experience.

Case in point: Turo. You meet your host at a predetermined location, and the pre-rental ritual is a lot different from the one you may be used to with a traditional car rental company.

Different, as in better.

I know because I just rented one of their cars.

I picked up a late model Honda CR-V in Phoenix from an affable guy named Sam. He met us at the arrivals area at Phoenix airport on a recent morning.

My first question: How are you going to get home?

“Uber,” he said.

Then he proceeded to give our car a once-over.

He took pictures of the front, back, sides and windshield. He urged me to do the same. I did.

He photographed the odometer. He suggested I do the same, noting the mileage. I did.

Then he walked around the vehicle. He pointed a scuff on the bumper.

“Don’t worry about that,” he said.

Then he motioned toward a chip on the windshield.

“Don’t worry about that, either,” he said.

Wouldn’t you know it, Turo strongly recommends it:


Photos must be clear, well illuminated, in focus, and high resolution. We highly recommend using the Turo Trip Photos feature for convenience. All these photos must be taken at the start and end of the trip.

Photos must include:

1. A clear and legible picture of the mileage and fuel level.
2. Six photos, capturing each angle of the vehicle (front right, front left, rear right, rear left, and both sides of the car) with the wheels positioned in a straight orientation.

If this were a car rental company, there’d be no such personalized inspection. Certainly, no one would encourage me to take “before” pictures. I understand that may not always be possible.

But isn’t it true that a lot of car rental companies go out of their way to not do the prerental inspection? You know, dark garages, lack of staff, no inspection forms. It’s almost as if they want us to take their cars and then get dinged for damage we may or may not have donel. It’s almost as if that’s part of their business plan: Cash in on those damage claims.

Then again, maybe it’s my imagination.

Anyway, back to the Honda I rented in Phoenix. Sam was really patient with us. He showed us some of the advanced features of the car (“Did you know that it practically drives itself?”). He made sure we knew how to open and close the trunk, which is a surprisingly complicated maneuver on some of these newer cars. By the time he said goodbye, we felt confident about the car we were about to drive.

That’s when I thought to myself, “Isn’t that the way a car rental should be?”

I wonder what kinds of lessons the big rental companies might learn from the sharing companies like Turo. Is there a better way to acquaint a driver with a car? Should the pre-rental inspection be mutual — with both the owner and the driver signing off and keeping all the necessary documentation? Wouldn’t that essentially eliminate frivolous damage claims?

So why haven’t car rental companies done this? Is it too labor-intensive? Or do car rental companies want to keep things as they are because the system is more profitable as it is now?

These are questions worth asking.

I’m happy to say my Turo rental was problem-free. I hope car rental companies take a closer look at how the new sharing companies handle their rentals. They might learn a thing or two. And we might all benefit from that.

  • BubbaJoe123

    1. Lots of car rentals do include a walkaround. It’s very standard in Europe, for example. Then again, the European rental companies are MUCH bigger sticklers about damage than the US locations.

    2. In the US, I just take a quick walk around the car, and snap a picture of anything I notice with my camera. Have never had an issue over hundreds of rentals.

    3. Personally, I’d find having someone show off the features of the car to me to be really annoying. I want to get in my car and go, not hang around for a chat.

  • Chris_In_NC

    “3. Personally, I’d find having someone show off the features of the car to me to be really annoying. I want to get in my car and go, not hang around for a chat.”

    Annoying yes… until you can’t figure out how to operate something with your car. Chat, not necessary, but some car features are NOT intuitive to figure out.

  • Jeff W.

    While your experience was wonderful, let us see if your attitude changes once the cases start coming in. Because we all know the sharing economy has been trouble-free (not!), as referenced by all the home/vacation rental cases that pop up on this site (AirBnB, as one example.)

    I don’t know how Turo exactly works, but there is still a risk. What if your dude didn’t show up? Or your flight was very late and your dude could not make the car available at that time? Who do you turn to? At least with a rental car company, for all of its issues, there is a counter right there.

    I do think you let your imagination take the best of on this one. There is no grand conspiracy here. The level of service you ask for is quite labor intensive. All of the majors have a variety of car types, no one person is going to know all of the features of every car.

    One last food for thought: Not sure how much the rental was, but the guy had to take an Uber home (and maybe two if he had to use one for your return). So whatever money he made on your rental, a chuck of it was used to pay for an Uber. That just does not seem right…

  • Alan Gore

    So if someone in the travel industry gives you conspicuously good service, there has to be something wrong with them? For one thing, I suppose it shows up everyone else’s surly penny-pinching.

  • Jeff W.

    No, but it was Sam that gave the good service. Not Turo. Turo (like uBer and AirBnB) is just a platform to connect Chris and Sam. There was no personal interaction.

    Let’s judge Turo when something goes wrong and then we can see on how well company responds and fixes the issue. Then we can laud Turo for being the next best thing if it does right.

    Sam is not an employee of Turo. He is an “independent contractor”. That can be a whole different discussion, for good and for bad. But since they are not employees, I can only judge the company when I need to interact with it directly.

    Or once I have used the service multiple times. When Chris uses Turo more than once and each time it is the same and wonderful thing, then Turo is onto something and the rental companies will need to be concerned.

  • BubbaJoe123

    Turo is basically a travel agent. We’ll see how they do when a vendor you book through them isn’t as great. How do they do when “Sam” doesn’t show up with your car? When it breaks down? When you want to return it early?

  • Fishplate

    It’s going to be interesting the first time you need the insurance…

  • Annie M

    I was going to point this out. You better buy Turos insurance because traditional insurance may not cover you if something happens.

  • Annie M

    Isn’t this what your forums recommend when renting a car? Why should this be a surprise? You advise car rental clients to take the same pictures in your forum.

  • PsyGuy

    This is just fantasy, damage recovery is a revenue stream for car rental companies. It’s the same in every travel business the internet has squeezed margins closer and closer. So many travelers are solely price sensitive, and so many of the digital tools such as search engines, filters, etc. are price focused. Your results whether it’s a flight or a car rental get listed first if you’re the cheapest, this means businesses to get those eyeballs had to come up with creative ways to price their product, from reserved seats, to resort fees. Damage recovery is just another tool of that industry because if they really didn’t care about the dings, and normal wear and tear than the cost of the rental would be higher.

  • PsyGuy

    True, but I’ve yet to meet a counter agent at a car rental stand, especially at the airport that gave me an intro to the cars features, or even how to do something like turn the lights on or the windshield wiper.

  • PsyGuy

    Yeah but if something happens it’s not really your car.

  • PsyGuy

    Yeah there might be a counter, but that doesn’t mean there will be someone behind the counter. I’ve gotten in to smaller airports in the late evening and no counter reps until morning.

    Depends how far away he lived, mine is typically about $10 each way so $20 round trip, that’s not bad, depending on the sharing cost.

  • PsyGuy

    You know Sam and Turo could have Googled Chris, realized who he is and made sure this and his future shares execute perfectly.

  • michael anthony

    Why is there so much pessimism? Sure, things could go wrong, and there will be instances when it does. That’s part of life. But maybe, just maybe, more ethical companies are going to come into play, seeing how bad the current crop of companies handle problems. If this is the way they start all their rentals, it certainly is refreshing. Rather than “let’s wait till the first problem ones up”, or “they could have Googled Chris”, why not cheer a good first impression? And nothing against Chris, but his last name is common, meaning many people might not run to Google his name. Now if it was Kanye, I could see your point.

  • joycexyz

    Great experience–with one person. Many people have also had great experiences with car rental companies. We just hear about the nightmares.

  • cscasi

    I have had issues with figuring out just what is what with various switches and knobs on some types of vehicles I have never driven before and since the drivers handbook is normally not readily available, I sometimes mumbled quite a bit while I figured things out. So, there are times when it would really come in handy.
    I think Turo had added extra to its customers and believe me, if I were where in a place where it rented, I would most certainly consider it for a rental.

  • cscasi

    Have you looked into the company to find out? Have you checked its pricing and to see if there are any customer complaints or compliments? Maybe we (those who are interested) should check this out before we decide one way or another. I just did and it is a service that allows you to rent another person’s vehicle (that is why they would normally come to the airport to meet you if you were flying in – or elsewhere if you were not).You do have to sign up for Turo and be approved,etc. So there is a process. As for costs, I guess it varies by where one is and what type of vehicle he/she wants to rent. But, now I know why the car comes to you with a driver – because it is his/her car and that is why he/she has to use some other means to get back home and then come back to meet you when you return the vehicle (it states there are three – Owners deliver to custom locations around town or owners deliver to nearby airports or travelers pick up the car at the owner’s location) And, that is why the renter takes pictures before and after the rental – to protect themselves on damage claims. I am not sure how the insurance works, but I am pretty sure if you damage the vehicle the owner will expect you to pay for the damage using your insurance or cash. What if the car breaks down while you have it? I guess one would have to find out from Turo how that works and if you would be brought another vehicle or not.
    Who knows what it costs or how it has been operating since it came into being. But, it is another type of service that it available.
    As for what the owner makes on his/her vehicle when it is rented out, I am sure there are expenses (like Uber in the case cited). But the car rental companies have a lot of overhead too; i.e. paying for their rental lot, building (s), personnel, cleaning equipment, servicing bays, rental personnel, management, corporate, shareholders, advertising, etc. All that adds up; a lot of which the car owner with Turo does not have. But, I am sure there are fees payable to Turo and I don’t know what those are because I have not tried to join.

  • cscasi

    You are right. Since it is obvious (from the posts I have seen here), we do not know just how Turo is, so we can’t judge it one way or the other. This is something pretty new and it will be interesting to watch. It might be better or it might be worse. Only time will tell.

  • Annie M

    Then they will send you the repair bill. There is a case on the forums right now about this.

  • Annie M

    We are talking about taking pictures when you pick up the car and drop it off. That should always be done and the pictures kept for at least 6 months. Agents won’t even come out of their booths if you tell
    them there is damage you want documented.

  • PsyGuy

    Of course not, then they cant blame you and charge you for it later.

  • PsyGuy

    True, but a bill is just a piece of paper.

  • Annie M

    But enough to cause sleepless nights while you are fighting it. Yet if you have an accident, you are responsible for the damage so in this case you can’t say it’s just a piece of paper. In a case like this the driver should be putting a claim with their own car insurance which should cover them within the limits of their coverage.

  • Annie M

    You can see how they handle it on the case in the forum. The writer assumed he had coverage through his credit card and the credit card refused to cover it claiming Turo isnt’t a car rental service.

    The writer claims he read everything about covering the rental but he never looked at Turos website information where it says that credit card insurance doesn’t consider them a car rental agency (which they are not). They sell their own insurance which I would imagine might be self insurance.

  • Annie M

    Yet they do. When cars are returned, the cars are scanned and checked for a full tank or gas and the car is moved to another area. The companies no longer do a thorough check of the car when you return. So they really can’t blame the last renter for dents or scratches

  • PsyGuy

    They really can blame anyone they want. There could be a dented bumper, and they could blame an charge the past 5 drivers for the same damage, and then blame and charge the next 5 drivers. That’s what the damage recovery unit does.

  • PsyGuy

    I don’t lose sleep over pieces of paper, and I don’t fight with paper unless it’s a Howler or delivered by owl, I just throw it away.
    Yes, you are responsible for the damage, but that responsibility is also just a piece of paper.

  • Annie M

    And that in a nutshell is the problem.

  • DChamp56

    Wow! Kudos to them…!
    ps, did you buy their extra charge insurance? *chuckling* (just kidding)

  • BubbaJoe123

    A court order seizing your bank account and garnishing your wages is also just a piece of paper.

  • PsyGuy

    There isn’t wage garnishment in Texas, where I reside when in the US. I suppose they could seize a bank account, but I’d empty is before that happens.

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