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 2.1% cash back for travel with the Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite Mastercard.

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.

Editorial Note: We're the Million Mile Secrets team. And we're proud of our content, opinions and analysis, and of our reader's comments. These haven’t been reviewed, approved or endorsed by any of the airlines, hotels, or credit card issuers which we often write about. And that’s just how we like it! :)

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