Thursday 18 July 2019

New 'Airbnb for cars' could earn you cash through airport parking

A new company is disrupting airport car hire models, and it could soon take off at a terminal near you...

Car hire: Are you being ripped off?
Car hire: Are you being ripped off?
On the road - car hire tips
Road trip! But are you getting the best value on your car rental? Photo: Deposit
Pól Ó Conghaile

Pól Ó Conghaile

Instead of paying to leave your car in pricey airport parking lots, what if you could rent it out and earn a little extra cash?

That's the idea behind Car & Away - a new, peer-to peer car sharing platform that has been operating from London Gatwick Airport for just over a year.

"You bring your car to the airport, and while you're away we rent it out to an inbound passenger," explains the site's Chief Marketing Officer, Dave Smith.

Owners pays a flat parking fee ranging from £14.99 to £22.99 to Gatwick, and Car & Away takes a whopping 40pc commission on any rental earnings.

But you could still net up to £160/€185 per week, it claims.

Rental rates fluctuate depending on demand - varying from £35 per day for a Ford Focus to £118 for a BMW 4-Series as we publish, for example.

"We take the keys, and off you go," as Smith puts it.

The service is run in collaboration with Gatwick, which benefits from the "virtual car park" concept by being able to re-sell parking spaces, he says (Car & Away owners are buying an official ‘rent and earn’ product).

For a vehicle to qualify for rental, it must be less than nine years old and have fewer than 100,000 miles on the clock. Staff also run an RAC-approved roadworthiness check and valet clean cars before they are given out.

Allianz is the company's insurance partner; RAC its breakdown assistance partner. "If anything happens to you car, we fix it," Smith asserts. Plus, if it's not rented while you're away, you still get the valet service for free.

So how does the system work for renters?

"I arrived, went straight out the door and across to the car park, where I was met by two staff members," one customer - Martin O'Hanlon, a Kildare-based Environmental Health & Safety Manager - told the Irish Independent.

O'Hanlon came across the site while searching for car hire, he says. Drawn to the idea ("it makes sense and you're also helping in terms of sustainability, with less car parking space used and fewer cars produced for hiring"), he decided to give it a go.

A Mercedes A180 rental was "spic and span", he says.

"It was a quick transfer, and away I went. They didn't try to sell me Collision Damage Waivers or anything. And there was no hassle on the way back."

While its rental prices are similar to traditional car hire companies, Smith says Car & Away customers benefit by avoiding "upsells, hidden charges, queues" and other things "that people traditionally dislike" about car hire.

Road trip! But are you getting the best value on your car rental? Photo: Deposit
Road trip! But are you getting the best value on your car rental? Photo: Deposit

There is a "standard excess" of £750 per rental, however - though customers can reduce this to a lower rate of £250 for a flat fee of £15.

Renters must also agree to have a pre-authorised deposit of £250 taken from their credit cards for potential post-rental charges like additional fuel or parking fines.

Renters, who can book on carandaway.com and rentalcars.com, are "carefully vetted" through credit, background and drivers' license checks, Smith says.

They must also be UK or Ireland residents aged 25 or over.

In addition, OCTO Telematics units placed in cars allow the company to monitor the driving in real time, "so if someone isn’t treating it with respect, we can text them to say, 'Hey, slow down a bit’," he adds.

While conceding that some owners are emotionally attached to their vehicles and would never dream of renting them out to strangers, Smith says younger generations are "interested in access, not ownership" - as evidenced by the growth of similar car sharing companies like GoCar, Drivy and HiyaCar.

"I would definitely leave my car to them," Martin O'Hanlon says.

Surprisingly, perhaps, about 20pc of Car & Away renters are Irish - and Smith says word of mouth has proved positive among them.

Backed by investors including easyJet and The Founders Factory, the company launched with London Gatwick Airport in December 2017, and is eyeing expansion - with a target of three "significant" airports by the end of this year.

"We’re talking with major airports in UK, Europe and the US," Smith says.

Watch this (parking) space.

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