Introducing the Airbnb of car hire – would you trust a stranger with your vehicle?
Next time you go on holiday or take a business trip, your car, rather than costing you money to sit at the airport, could now be earning you cash.
The catch? There's a stranger driving it around in your absence.
Embracing the sharing economy fronted by companies such as Airbnb and Uber, "Car & Away" has come up with a solution both for voyaging car-owners and those in need of a rental at the airport - which as we all know is a bothersome affair to say the least.
The new initiative, only currently available at London's Gatwick Airport, is certainly an intriguing prospect.
How does it work?
You drop your car off at Gatwick's South Terminal Short Stay car park with a valet who whisks it off to be cleaned. If the car is hired out during your break, any earnings will be deposited into your account before your car is cleaned again and returned to you at Short Stay when you land.
So what if no one rents your car?
Your parking fee is the same as if you’d parked it in the Long Stay car park anyway, but you get the car cleaning and valet services for free.
There are a few requirements in relation to your vehicle. It has to be less than eight years old – so no rocking-up in a 90s-era Ford Fiesta. It must also have less than 100,000 miles on the clock, have passed its MOT and be insured on a fully comprehensive policy.
In exchange, you’re well protected. Your car will be covered by Allianz insurance and RAC breakdown cover, it will only be rented to “carefully vetted UK and Ireland residents aged 25 and over” and it will be fitted with a telematics unit to monitor how it’s driven while in the hands of a stranger.
Might it feel a bit odd – going on holiday while someone else drives your car around London? Not if you're the type who's happy to rent out your own home through Airbnb.
Andy Hibbert, Founder and CEO of Car & Away says: “We are sharing more and more, and we have less attachment to our cars than our homes.
“For people driving to the airport it's now just a case of drive up, drop off at the terminal and leave your car behind to earn for you, knowing it is fully protected.”
How much can I earn?
That all depends on the duration of the hire, your car type and whether or not it’s peak season (think summer and school holidays).
Its website advertises potential earnings of "up to £160/€182 a week". On average though, owners can expect to pull in around £80/€91 over a seven-day period for a small hatchback like a Fiesta or a Golf, with prices higher for a larger car or SUV.
And how much to hire?
Plenty of our readers having expressed their frustration at the hidden costs involved with car hire and the many tricks the industry employs to ramp up the prices after you've booked. This is something Car & Away is seeking to do away with.
Using comparison site Rentalcars.com,availability was hit-or-miss, but the cost of a three-day hire from Gatwick in March was £57/€64 including insurance with Car & Away - you'd be getting a 2017 Black Mercedes E class Saloon; compared to £97/€110 with Budget (for a Fiat 500 - insurance not included) and £121/€138 with Hertz (for a Vauxhall Corsa - again before insurance).
The cheapest quote overall was seemingly a bargain at only £11/€12.50 from Easirent, for a Ford Fiesta, but if you add the £38/€43 optional insurance fee, that brings you to around £50/€57. And as previously stated, further hidden fees commonly crop up once you actually go to collect from a car rental company.
It should be noted, however, that Car & Away, like standard car rental companies, will put a block on your credit card (£250/€284) to be released upon return of the car.