Turo peer-to-peer car rentals expand Canada’s sharing economy

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CBC | By Aaron Saltzman | April 19, 2017

Turo coming to Canada

Canadians can now rent their personal vehicle to others through a U.S. company that has just launched in this country.

"We're actually the first company to bring the benefits of peer-to-peer car rental to Canada." says Cedric Mathieu, director at Turo Canada.

"It's an entirely new way for you to start making money out of your car."

Just how much money is open for debate. Car owners would also have to be comfortable allowing complete strangers to rent their vehicles. And renters would have to be comfortable renting vehicles from private individuals.

But experts say the average lifetime maintenance cost alone for a mid-size vehicle in Canada is around $10,000.
And Transport Canada says every shared vehicle would take eight cars off the road.

Cedric Mathieu, director of Turo Canada, is betting people would rather borrow a car than buy one. (CBC)

So if the idea catches on — and count Google and General Motors among those who think it will — it has the potential to take millions of vehicles off the road, and significantly disrupt both the car rental business and the auto industry as a whole.

How it works

Turo, based in San Francisco, offers a service that is similar to AirBnB, but for vehicles.

Through Turo's app or on its website, owners can list their vehicles for rent by the day, week or month, earning money from what is often an under-utilized, depreciating asset.

"It's very expensive to own a car these days," says Mathieu.  "Especially in Canada where the depreciation of cars is faster than almost anywhere else on the planet, because of the weather, because of the cost of insurance and so on."

"With Turo, you can cover the cost of ownership of your car and you can even turn a profit."

Mathieu says the average Canadian's car is parked more than 90 per cent of the time.

In order to list a car on Turo in Canada, vehicles must be 10 years old or newer, have fewer than 200,000 kilometres on the odometer, and can't be worth more than $75,000.

Turo, a private company with venture capital from both Google and General Motors, among others, has been operating in the U.S. since 2009.

See:  Slock.it secures $2 million seed funding to build Sharing Economy Platform

The company says U.S. members who list vehicles on its platform earn an average of $600 per month.

A check of Turo's website for vehicles available in San Francisco shows many listed for less than $25 per day. A 2013 Honda Fit, for example, was priced at $20 per day.

The higher-priced vehicles range from between $200 and $400 US per day. (A Mercedes C class is listed at more than $800 US per day, but that seems an outlier. Owners can set their own price or have Turo's dynamic pricing set the amount).

Of that, Turo takes a 25 per cent fee from the owner (and tacks on a further 10 per cent fee for the renter).

What's in it for the renters?

Turo claims to have several advantages over traditional car rental services, chief among them price.

The company says that, on average, vehicles on its platform cost about 30 per cent less than those from traditional car rental companies.

All payments are made through the app or the website.

Turo also says its members have access to a greater variety of vehicles, as many as 800 makes and models on its platform in North America right now. In that same San Francisco vehicle search, it was possible to rent a Tesla (both a Roadster and a Model S), a Porsche, multiple BMW models, off-road capable Jeeps, and minivans.

Users can also request vehicle delivery to their home. And in more mature markets such as San Francisco, the number of members means it may be possible to rent a vehicle from someone within a few blocks of home.

Turo says it has members in more than 2,500 U.S. cities.

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