Car rental alternatives during COVID-19 pandemic

  • As the COVID-19 pandemic surges on, many feel trapped in their homes and want a break from the monotony — which is hard if they don’t own a car.
  • People are turning to rental cars in droves, which is driving up demand and diminishing availability.
  • Alternative rental services such as Turo, Zipcar, and others provide other options.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

There’s, unfortunately, no end in sight for the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Those who are responsibly social distancing in cities have suddenly found themselves feeling trapped as many businesses remain closed. They yearn for an escape in the form of a drive out of the city — but without owning a car, it’s difficult. 

Thankfully, a number of rental services exist to hopefully make things easier. And they aren’t just traditional rental options from Hertz, Avis, or Enterprise, either. A recent New York Times story reported that New Yorkers have been flocking to rental cars in droves. Prices are high and availability is low.

Fear not. Alternatives do exist, though some, like Car2Go and UhaulCarShare, have closed down as recently as earlier this year.

Some of the services we’ve listed below are regional, so be sure to double-check and confirm their availability in your area. It’s worth doing some research and reading the fine print before committing to anything. 

But start your search here!

eGo CarShare

For people living in Denver and Boulder, Colorado, eGo CarShare is an option. You can choose from hybrid and fuel-efficient vehicles, pickup trucks, or cars with all-wheel drive.

The company bills itself as a short-term car rental service. You just have to sign up to become a member, choose a rate plan, and reserve a car with the website or by calling their number. You’ll be able to reserve a car and just have to return it to the same place you picked it up from when you’re done. 

Gas, insurance, parking, and maintenance are all covered. There are over 50 locations in the Denver and Boulder areas.

Turo

Turo is unique in that it doesn’t keep its own fleet of cars. Rather, existing car owners sign up to rent out their private cars when they aren’t using them, peer-to-peer style, and Turo acts as the middleman, providing insurance and connecting owner and renter. 

To get started, you have to create a Turo account, be at least 18 years old with a valid driver’s license, and receive approval to drive from Turo.

To find a car, simply go on Turo’s site and narrow your search by date and location. You’ll see many options pop up, all priced differently depending on the car and owner in question.

There’s also Turo Go, which lets you book, locate, and unlock cars using Turo’s app. You don’t need to meet the host. Currently, Turo Go is available in Los Angeles, San Francisco, and San Diego.

Turo allows for some truly cool loans, so sometimes people go on just to see what driving a Porsche 911 sports car is like for a day. 

A few things to note: Turo users cannot share or deliver their cars in New York because of insurance reasons. Also, if you are thinking about renting out your car on Turo to make some extra cash on the side, be sure to get the insurance figured out, because sometimes things can get ugly.  

Hui Car Share

Those in Hawaii have the option of Hui Car Share. To use it, simply download the app in order to locate cars, book them, or change or cancel a reservation. You can rent cars by the hour or by the day. And during your rental, your smartphone is used as the car’s digital key to lock and unlock the car. Once you’re done, simply return the car to where you picked it up from. 

On its website, Hui Car Share says that it has locations near big hotels, apartments, and attractions in Waikiki, downtown Honolulu, Kakaako, and Ko Olina.

Each reservation includes insurance coverage, gas, 24/7 roadside assistance, maintenance, and professional cleaning. Hui Car Share notes that especially during this time, all of its cars are “cleaned and sanitized regularly.”

Available cars include the Toyota Prius, Toyota RAV4, Toyota Tacoma, Toyota Camry, Toyota Sienna, Lexus NX, Lexus RX, and Lexus UX 200.

Gig Car Share

Gig is AAA’s car-sharing program. Gas, insurance, and parking are all included. Membership is free — it does not cost anything to join. The cars are also hybrid or electric, which will soothe the climate-guilt somewhat.

You don’t need to return the car to the same place you picked it up from, just leave it in another Gig-approved parking spot. The system seems very reliant on your smartphone, however: You’ll need the phone to download the app, scan your license, upload a selfie, upload a credit or debit card, and unlock the car (a Gig Card is also available to do this). 

Rates vary by location. Gig is available in Sacramento, Seattle, and the Bay Area.

Getaround

Similar to Turo, Getaround is also a peer-to-peer car-sharing program. It’s available in places such as Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Denver, Los Angeles, Miami, New Jersey, Philadelphia, Portland, San Diego, San Francisco, Seattle, and Washington, D.C.

There’s no subscription or membership fee. You just sign up to create an account, find available cars in your area, and book them. Rates are dependent on the type of car, location, and length of reservation. 

Hagerty DriveShare

Hagerty DriveShare is through the car insurance company, Hagerty. Similar to Turo, it offers privately-owned vintage and exotic cars for people to rent out at day rates. So, if you have an event or a special outing planned, this is the service for that.

On its website, Hagerty notes that you start by looking through the listings in your area and then connect with the owner directly to arrange everything. From there, you and the owner can decide on a pick-up time and location. 

Before making a reservation, you need to register on DriveShare. Membership is free. The current minimum age for driving a rental is 25.

Lyft Rentals

Lyft also offers car rental options. Using the Lyft app, you can pick your location, dates, and car. Review those trip details, confirm your driver information, and reserve. Lyft recently sent an email out, informing customers that Lyft Rentals “are back” — but appear to only be available in the San Francisco and Los Angeles area.

The company says additional rental locations are “coming soon.”

Zipcar

As of Thursday’s writing, Zipcar is available in various cities in 41 states of the United States, including Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania. Zipcar was acquired by Avis Budget Group in 2013.

How it works is easy: you simply select a membership plan (there’s a $7 a month plan or a $70 a year plan), get your driver’s license and identity verified, and start booking cars. You can use either the website or the app. 

Each rental is priced based on an hourly or daily rate that depends on which car you pick. They start from $11.25 an hour to $82 a day. Membership includes secondary insurance on all trips, free gas, and 24/7 maintenance and roadside insurance. You start out with 180 miles per day and it costs $0.45 per mile beyond that.

Be careful, though: recent reports about Zipcar in New York City is filled with claims of randomly canceled rentals, dirty cars, unresponsive representatives, and cars not being at promised locations.

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