Is RelayRides a Good Deal for Car Rentals?

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There are lots of ways to save money on car rentals but RelayRides is a fairly new concept.  Regular folks list their cars and prices, and renters can search by city or airport.  You meet directly with the owner to pick-up the car.

It’s like Airbnb, but for car rentals.

Is RelayRides A Good Deal For Car Rentals

Rent Cars From Private Owners, Not Car Rental Agencies, With RelayRides

RelayRides could save folks a lot of money.  But is it worth it?

How Does It Work?

Link:   RelayRides

Link:   How RelayRides Works

Link:   RelayRides Support

1.   Search for a Car

If you’re looking for a rental car, you can search by entering the city or airport, pick-up date, and return date.  You don’t have to sign-up to do a search.

Is RelayRides A Good Deal For Car Rentals

It’s Easy to Search for a Car Using RelayRides

RelayRide will give you a list of privately-owned vehicles that are available for your desired dates.  And they’ll show you where the vehicle is located on a map.

Is RelayRides A Good Deal For Car Rentals

Do You Want to Rent a Mercedes-Benz or a Mini Cooper on Your Trip?

To see more details about a vehicle, you have to sign-up and log into the site.  Signing-up is easy (you can do it through Facebook).  Then click on the car you’re interested in to see a description.

Is RelayRides A Good Deal For Car Rentals

Clicking on a Vehicle Gives You Details About the Car

Enter your dates to check availability and see the number of miles allowed and the price (without insurance).

Is RelayRides A Good Deal For Car Rentals

You’ll See the Price, Rental Fee, and Allowed Mileage When You Click on a Car

2.   Verify Your Identity

To continue with the booking, you’ll be asked for your drivers license number, date of birth, and last 4 digits of your social security number.

You’ll also need to answer questions to verify your identity (like the model year of your own car, or which state your social security number was issued in).

Is RelayRides A Good Deal For Car Rentals

They’ll Check Your Identity Using Your Driver’s License and Ask Verification Questions

3.   Enter Your Credit Card and Choose Insurance

You’ll be asked for a method of payment (they won’t charge your card at this time).  Then, you’ll be offered insurance.

For this 1-day rental, it costs $24 for “premium protection” ($500 deductible), or $9 for “basic protection” ($2,500 deductible).  You also have the option to decline insurance altogether (I wouldn’t recommend this, unless you know your personal insurance policy will cover an accident in someone else’s car!).

Is RelayRides A Good Deal For Car Rentals

All Levels of Protection Include $1,000,000 in Liability Insurance

Finally, once you’ve made your selection, you’ll be asked to send a note to the owner and put in the request to rent the car.

But the owner still has to confirm your request.  If they’re not able to provide the car, your credit card won’t be charged.

Note:   They’ll also pre-authorize your card for a $250 security deposit!

Is RelayRides A Good Deal For Car Rentals

Send a Note to the Owner and They’ll Get Back to You Within 24 Hours

4.  Confirm and Make Arrangements With Car Owner

Once the owner gets back to you, arrange a pick-up time and place to meet them.  You’ll have to do an inspection (to check the vehicle for any pre-existing damage).

And at the end of the trip, you return the car in (hopefully!) the same condition you got it in, replacing the gas you used.

That seems like a fair bit of work to rent a car!  But it might be worth it if there’s significant savings.

Is It Worth It?

I searched for cars in Austin from December 8, 2014, to December 9, 2014.  Prices ranged from $24 a day (for a 2011 Kia Rio) to $459 a day (for a 1991 Acura NSX!).  But most vehicles were in the $40 to $70 per day range.

Is RelayRides A Good Deal For Car Rentals

I Wonder If Emily Would Approve of This?

To compare, I checked the Chase Ultimate Rewards travel portal for car rentals on the same dates.  That’s 1 of the places I always check when looking for a rental car, because their prices are often the cheapest.  You can read this series to learn more about finding the best rental car deals!

The cheapest deal was an economy car from Budget, and costs ~$68 per day.

Is RelayRides A Good Deal For Car Rentals

You’d Pay ~$68 for a 1-Day Economy Car Rental in Austin

I also checked Hotwire, which sometimes has bargains on rental cars.  Their best rate was on a mid-size, for ~$53 per day.

Is RelayRides A Good Deal For Car Rentals

Hotwire Is Cheaper Than Chase for the Same Location and Dates

The cheapest car (the 2011 Kia Rio) on RelayRides costs $36 per day, including premium insurance coverage ($500 deductible).

Is RelayRides A Good Deal For Car Rentals

RelayRides Is the Cheapest Option … In This Scenario

So you could save money using RelayRides, especially if you’re not particular about model or age of the vehicle.  But that might not always be the case.

I do like the fact that there are some interesting vehicles being offered (that you’d never get at a regular rental car company).  And if you’re renting locally, the car you want might already be in your neighborhood.

That said, RelayRides might not necessarily be your best choice!

This Is Not For Everyone

My main concern with RelayRides is that there’s no guarantee the car you’ll get is well-maintained or won’t break down.  Owners do have to provide certified vehicles under a certain mileage, but you’re essentially putting your trust in a stranger’s car.

That said, you can read a full description of the vehicle before you rent it.  And folks who’ve rented it before leave reviews, which might give folks assurance that they’re getting a good car.

Is RelayRides A Good Deal For Car Rentals

Read Reviews From Previous Renters to Find Out If the Car (and Owner!) Are Reliable

And if you’re an owner, you’re handing your keys over to someone you’ve never met!  They do check renters’ driving records, and won’t rent to folks who’ve gotten lots of speeding tickets or been charged with reckless driving, DUI, or other major violations in the past 5 years.

Is RelayRides A Good Deal For Car Rentals

Trust Me! I’m a Great Driver!

If you’re flying into a city, some owners will arrange to meet you at the airport, but not all.  So you might be responsible for finding your way to the owner’s home to pick up the car.

If something goes wrong, RelayRides does promise 24/7 roadside assistance and customer support.

Note:   RelayRides does not offer their service in New York.  That’s because the state ordered the company to halt operations, and has warned consumers not to use the service!  And here’s a scary story from the New York Times about what can happen if a driver has an accident in a RelayRide car.

Is RelayRides A Good Deal For Car Rentals

A Minor Fender Bender May Not Be an Issue, but a Major Accident Might!

What About Points and Credit Card Insurance?

Remember, too, that credit card issuers may not code RelayRides as travel, like a regular car rental agency.  I don’t have personal experience with this, but don’t count on getting 2 miles per $1 you spend with the Chase Sapphire Preferred, or 2.2% cash back for travel with the Barclaycard Arrival Plus card.

And you will most likely NOT be covered by your credit card’s rental car insurance using RelayRides, because they’re not a traditional car rental agency.  I’d much rather pay a little more for a rental and have the peace of mind knowing that I’m covered by both my credit card and my own insurance.

Is RelayRides A Good Deal For Car Rentals

You Won’t Be Covered by Your Credit Card’s Car Insurance If You Run Into Trouble

I haven’t personally used RelayRides, but there are enough red flags here that I’m not going to try it.  For me, saving money isn’t worth the hassle and risk.

What if you rent a car to someone and they commit a crime?  Or what if you’re the renter and you’re hit by a drunk driver?  The liability issues and insurance complications aren’t worth it – for me at least.

But some folks might be comfortable with the idea and give it a try.

Bottom Line

RelayRides is an online service that connects private car owners with renters.  It’s like Airbnb, but for vehicles.

You can rent a car from folks who list their vehicles on the site.  Often, it can be cheaper than renting from regular car rental agencies.

But there are some risks involved, the rental process can be complicated, and you probably won’t earn extra points on your credit card for a travel purchase like you would with other car rentals.

I don’t think I’ll be using RelayRides.  Have you tried it?  Please share your experience in the comments.

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6 responses to “Is RelayRides a Good Deal for Car Rentals?

  1. I’ve used it a bunch. Sometimes it’s great. Othe time it fails. Is rented a Prius from an owner in New Jersey and he met me
    In manhattan. I drove the car to
    Maine. It saved gas. Had a great Soundsystem. It worked well. But I had to contact multiple drivers and wait up to 24 hours for a response. It was ambiguous where we would meet and drop off. Sometimes the cars have scratches and dents. If you can roll with the ambiguity of it and dot always need a brand new car and you can be flexible
    It *can* work. Bottom line for me is what is going to be the best price. I also found that after insurance and extras for
    Mileage that relay rides can be more expensive.
    I use zipcar too. But now I’ve found it can be cheaper to just rent a car for a day from a local Enterprise.

  2. I’d highly recommend RelayRide. Was able to rent a Prius in SF for $30 a day. Great for going to Napa.

  3. Good summary of the pros and cons of RelayRides. They are definitely the most well known peer to peer car rental company in the U.S., but there are a lot of other options including the innovative FlightCar which focuses on rentals at airports. I’ve written a few overviews of the options in this sharing economy transportation space, and created a spreadsheet of all the companies I know of (with info on where they operate): http://sharetraveler.com/category/transportation/car-rentals/

  4. I’m in Austin at the moment for a month. I found a 2006 Prius for $495/mo with all fees (but no extra insurance since my policy will cover me). Cheapest economy car from any rental agency was roughly $1000 more. My “carlord” met me at the airport right on time and I’ll drop at the airport. I was thrilled to find such a great deal on a well-maintained car and would highly recommend Relay Rides. That said, I’ve been burned before with AirBnB rentals and I would imagine it could easily happen with RR if a nice photo of a car didn’t reveal that it needed tires, a tune up and the inside smelled like a bar at 2AM on a Saturday night. Read the reviews before renting and then hope that they’re real.

  5. Relayrides and their owner have really horrible services. May be not all of the owner are bad. The owner let us go and sign the sign out paper with no issue. However, the owner sent us a pic of scratches on bumper in the next day morning and charge $850 for fixing bumper. But we return the car in same condition as we pick up. Full tank gas and car washed. I ask another body shop for quote , the maximum price is $650. But we find out there is suspicious. We check the car once before return and we park the car in safety place, no bricks…no curb. When we arrive at the return location, it is a parking lot from the car owner apartment. We parked at the guest parking and we did back parking, the paint on the ground and curb are green. The pic from the owner is showing the car was moved and park at different location in front parking after we leave and the paint on the scratch is red. We all are not angry and we talk to the owner politely, but the owner are so rude and frighten us. And now the owner and relayrides ask for $11xx.xx. it is so ridiculous. From the first min until now…we don’t have any chance to explain and objection. In Addition, the scratches on bumper is so obviously, the owner must see the scratches when he checked the car. If we did the scratches, we would like to tell the owner at first time. Plus no one know wt happen in between from we returned the car until owner found the scratches. We all gave a serious thinking , we didn’t scratched the car and we did back parking all the time in the trip, it is impossible to scratch the bumper. Relayrides is more goes to the car owner and benefit them, it is unfair to the renter cause they have a policy for the owner that if they found any car problem such as scratches, they can report to relayrides and ask for money from renter, plus they can charge the money from renter’s credit card without any investigation and permissions. Now I need to give all of u a serious advice that if u wanna rent a car from relayrides, please stop or think twice.

  6. I noticed their insurance is secondary.
    I am not an attorney, so challenge me if I am wrong, but the way I read that, the insurance you carry is on the hook. Theirs may pick up any left over. If there is an accident, even if 100% not your fault, they will charge our credit card the maximum they are allowed (3000 for the basic or no insurance) then start to sort it out. It seems to me that the insurance is not very useful, they are charging a rate that is in line with a rental car companies insurance, yet it is not primary. This seems to be a bit misleading.