Liz Gannes

Recent Posts by Liz Gannes

RelayRides Brings Its Peer-to-Peer Car Rentals to the Airport

Correction: A previous version of this story stated incorrectly that drivers dropping their cars at SFO could make money from the rental of their car.

When a startup called FlightCar launched earlier this year to help locals who were flying out of town rent out their cars to visitors while they were gone, it seemed kind of like a “RelayRides for airports,” bringing the peer-to-peer car-rental model to a new venue.

(FlightCar quickly ran into some trouble, and was sued over permits and fees at the San Francisco International Airport that it says don’t apply to its business.)

But it turns out that RelayRides itself wants to be the “RelayRides for airports,” and today that company is unveiling its own car-sharing initiative at SFO.

Unlike FlightCar, RelayRides has set up its airport business from the beginning to pay 10 percent of its receipts to the airport, because it will primarily serve SFO passengers.

The San Francisco-based company will share an airport shuttle with the Westin and Aloft hotels, which will bring travelers to a nearby parking lot to pick up their rental cars.

As for car owners who participate in the program, they’ll receive free parking and a car wash. At venues other than SFO, where drivers drop off their own cars, there is an expected average rental haul of $300, versus $100 for the average city rental.

This is the most directly involved that RelayRides has ever gotten in the rental process; generally, owners leave their cars parked in accessible places in their neighborhoods and arrange access with renters directly or using an automated system. For SFO, RelayRides has hired its own parking attendants.

It’s not a small bet. RelayRides CEO Andre Haddad said he expects airports to account for 50 percent of RelayRides business within six to eight months.

Some airport setups will be less official than SFO; direct exchanges between owners and renters at some 180 airports across the country have been in trials since at least June, Haddad said.

The U.S. car rental business is worth $30 billion, and airports account for half of that, Haddad noted. “Effectively, we’re not operating in half the market, until now,” he said.

Though RelayRides owners generally set prices for their cars, the company estimated its rentals should cost approximately 40 percent less than big rental agencies.

Where RelayRides may have started as a sort of peer-to-peer Zipcar that provided an alternative to car ownership, the company has evolved over the years. Today, weekly and monthly rentals provide the bulk of the company’s business, Haddad said.

Correction: A previous version of this story stated incorrectly that drivers dropping their cars at SFO could make money from the rental of their car.

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Another gadget you don’t really need. Will not work once you get it home. New model out in 4 weeks. Battery life is too short to be of any use.

— From the fact sheet for a fake product entitled Useless Plasticbox 1.2 (an actual empty plastic box) placed in L.A.-area Best Buy stores by an artist called Plastic Jesus