My wife and I had planned our trip to Siesta Key, Florida with Allegiant Air for the flight, and also having found a nice condo through AirBNB. The final item on the list was whether to get around via Uber/Lyft, or rent a car.
The last time we rented a car was in Savannah, Georgia (SVH) from Alamo, and it was a total nightmare. The car could not hold tire pressure and I had to inflate the tires each time before driving it. We were finally allowed to exchange the car for free, and picked our new one up at Hilton Head Airport (HHH). Upon returning the car to Savannah, we left thinking that was it. However, the nightmare would just begin. We were notified that we scratched the car and they were seeking hundreds of dollars. However, we didn’t scratch the car, and after a lot of back and forth fighting, they dropped the request and we were even. However, after this bad experience, I was very leery of rental car companies.
While browsing prices on Enterprise, Alamo, Budget, Hertz, etc, an advertisement appeared on TV for the rental car website and app Turo. I checked out the site and was very surprised at the types and quantities of cars available for rent.
The website is very easy to use and I had fun viewing all of the different options for our trip.
I am used to getting one of the lower end models with rental car companies, which usually might consist of a low end Chevy, Toyota, etc. However, with Turo, you can even rent luxury models like Lexus, BMW, Mercedes, and even a Ferrari!
My goal was to find something nicer than I would usually get from a rental car place, but with a lower price than going through a big name rental company.
I found a nice white 2012 BMW Convertible for 1/2 the price of the cheapest rental car from Enterprise for 1 week. However, I took a few days to think about it, and when I went to book, someone had snapped up 2 days of the car mid-week, so this was no longer an option.
The other high end cars in that area were newer, which obviously means a much higher price. My dreams of cruising around sunny Florida with the top down were slowly drifting away.
After a little more scrolling, I found what appeared to be a really good option. A gentleman was offering his 2011 Mercedes Benz GL class SUV for less than a tiny Toyota from the big name rental companies. I decided to go with the Mercedes!
Signing up on Turo is easy, and there are a few steps they take to verify you are a real person (verify e-mail, verify phone, verify drivers license).
Upon booking the car, it notifies the owner, and he then can accept/reject the trip just like when renting via AirBNB.
The other reason I selected this car was that there was NO delivery fee to any of the airports around the area (Sarasota, Punta Gorda, Fort Myers). One thing to keep an eye out for is when owners charge a fee for delivery to a certain destination.
The final step before finalizing your booking is to select an insurance option. Turo provides 3 options. The highest cost option has no deductible for any damage to the car, the middle has a $500 deductible, and the lowest is $1,000 or $1,500 deductible (I can’t remember exactly now). We opted for the $500 deductible option, which was reasonably priced and cheaper than the options with big name rental places.
Upon booking, I had a brief texting conversation with the owner of the car, providing him with our flight details so he could make sure the car was at the airport for our arrival. He had agreed to meet us curbside outside of the arrivals area so we could load up our bags, and head off to the beach.
A few days prior to our arrival, he had messaged me that he had to do some running around that day, and he would leave the car parked in the short term lot with the parking ticket and cash to pay it under the floor mat. No problem! This was actual ideal, as the car was parked literally 10 feet from the entrance of the airport. Also, by letting us take it from the parking lot, it gave us time to get familiar with how the car functioned/operated prior to taking it out on the open road.
Before beginning your trip with Toro, the app requires you to walk around the car and take photos of any damage that you see (scratches, dents, etc). Once inside the car, always make sure to take a picture of the dashboard showing the Fuel and Odometer to ensure you stay within the allowed mileage (750 miles) without having to pay a surcharge for more.
The car was fun to drive. While it was a far cry from a brand new Mercedes, and did show it’s age, it was still a nice safe way to travel, and much nicer than some tiny Toyota or Hyundai. The car had no issues during our travels and before your knew it, our week vacation was ending.
The day before we were set to leave Florida, I texted the owner to arrange drop off instructions for the car. He told us which lot to park the car at in the airport, as well as where to leave the key and parking ticket. The entire process was easy and simple.
Upon arriving home, the seller had sent a request on the app to pay him $10 as he had to get the car washed. You are required to return the car in the same condition as when you picked it up, as well as with the same amount of fuel. (this is why it’s important to take photos of the car and dashboard before and after the trip).
I told the owner of the car that when we picked it up, the car had not been cleaned or washed, as evidenced by the massive number of dead bugs on the windshield and front of the car. The owner reviewed his own photos and realized his mistake, and rescinded the request for the $10 washing fee.
Overall, I really enjoyed the Turo app and wouldn’t hesitate to use it again. Also, it seems like a really nice way to make some extra money if you have another car sitting around that is rarely driven.
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