Disclosure: We get a commission for links on the blog. You don’t have to use our links, but we’re very grateful when you do. American Express, Barclaycard, Capital One, Chase, and US Bank are Million Mile Secrets advertising partners. Opinions expressed here are the author's alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or endorsed by our partners. Here’s our Advertiser Disclosure.
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.
RelayRides could save folks a lot of money. But is it worth it?
How Does It Work?
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.
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.
Enter your dates to check availability and see the number of miles allowed and the price (without insurance).
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).
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!).
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!
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.
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.
I also checked Hotwire, which sometimes has bargains on rental cars. Their best rate was on a mid-size, for ~$53 per day.
The cheapest car (the 2011 Kia Rio) on RelayRides costs $36 per day, including premium insurance coverage ($500 deductible).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
* If you liked this post, why don’t you join the 16,000+ readers who have signed-up to receive free blog posts via email (only 1 email per day!) or in an RSS reader …because then you’ll never miss another update!