What you need to know when renting from Silvercar
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Silvercar has always been a bit different from most car rental companies and now its differences, such as no-contact pickups leveraging its app, might be an advantage in a socially distanced world.
I’ve been a Silvercar fan since the service launched in 2012. Nothing takes away all of the car rental pain points, even in a normal world, but Silvercar has done a reasonable job of trying.
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With Silvercar, you know you’re getting an Audi (high-quality car seats are included), and Wi-Fi is free. Fees for fuel refueling ($9.95) and using the toll transponder ($4.95), although not as low as they used to be, are still better than many of its competitors.
If you’re considering renting with Silvercar for the first time, here’s what to expect.
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Vehicle types and prices
Silvercar’s fleet at one time was entirely made up of silver Audi A4 sedans. Now, you have more choices of color (gray, silver or black) and vehicle type, though still all Audis. In fact, Silvercar is now owned by Audi, so I don’t expect the vehicle lineup to expand beyond Audi offerings. The lineup varies a bit from location to location, but may include:
- Audi A4 (sedan)
- Audi Q5 (small- to medium-sized crossover SUV)
- Audi A5 Cabriolet (convertible)
- Audi Q7 (three-row SUV)
I’d argue that, if you’re traveling with more than four people — especially with luggage — you need to get the Q7. The others just aren’t all that spacious. Even with a family of four, we had luggage piled everywhere on a ski trip, making the drive to the mountains from Denver in an A4 a bit too cozy.
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The price generally goes up as you progress from the A4 to the Q7. Outside of discounts (we’ll get to that in a minute), the A4 usually starts around $60 per day and the Q7 starts around $90 per day, though those rates can vary depending on the rental location, season and demand.
Although Silvercar is seldom the cheapest rental car option, it isn’t always an order of magnitude higher than competitors when you start stacking discounts and there have been times when it is a more affordable option than some of the big car-rental brands.
Silvercar has expanded since its beginnings, but it’s far from everywhere. Currently, you can rent from Silvercar at the following locations:
- Austin-Bergstrom (AUS)
- Boston Logan (BOS)
- Charlotte Douglas (CLT)
- Chicago O’Hare (ORD)
- Dallas Love Field (DAL)
- Denver International (DEN)
- Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood (FLL)
- McCarran International in Las Vegas (LAS)
- Los Angeles International (LAX)
- Miami International (MIA)
- Miami South Beach (temporarily closed)
- Newark Liberty (EWR)
- New York City — Brooklyn Williamsburg
- New York City — Brooklyn Downtown
- New York City — Manhattan Columbus Circle
- New York City — Manhattan West 42nd Street (temporarily closed)
- John Wayne Airport in Orange County (SNA)
- Orlando International (MCO)
- Sky Harbor International in Phoenix (PHX)
- Salt Lake City (SLC)
- San Diego International (SAN)
- San Francisco International (SFO)
- San Francisco Downtown — Union Square
- Seattle-Tacoma (SEA)
- Tampa International (TPA)
- Dulles International in Washington, D.C. (IAD)
Silvercar is tech-friendly, which is also to say, if you don’t have a smartphone and don’t use apps, you probably won’t like renting from Silvercar. You can book your Silvercar in either the Silvercar app or on the Silvercar website.
If you need something special, like a car seat, you have to request that directly from Silvercar after you book your rental. It would be nice if you could note those requests at the same time you rent your vehicle.
Whether or not you want to add something extra to your reservation, be sure to download the Silvercar app before picking up your rental, as you’ll need it to pick up the car.
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Silvercar has the best car seats in the car rental industry and doesn’t charge for them, but they do run out of stock. If you need the Peg Perego Primo Viaggio Convertible or Peg Perego Viaggio Flex Booster car seats, submit a car seat request, which utilizes Silvercar’s chat feature.
Silvercar’s Denver and Salt Lake City locations offer ski racks at no extra charge, but again, you need to request them online well in advance.
Pet hammocks are available upon request and cost $25 for the duration of the rental.
Surf racks are available upon request at Silvercar’s San Diego location for no additional charge.
Related: Road trips to take this summer
Silvercar’s pickup process is a little quirky and variable depending on your pickup location.
Last year in Salt Lake City, for example, Silvercar picked my family up at the terminal and away we went in our rental car. The Austin location is also known for that service. But in Denver, you typically board a shuttle bus and head to an off-site rental facility to get your Silvercar. Sometimes, at drop-off, you can pick up a Silvercar employee at their airport location, and that employee drives you (and your kids, plus belongings) to the airport without having to unload a second time. However, that feature isn’t consistently available anymore, so the experience varies.
To learn the exact pickup process for your airport location, you’ll need to either check Silvercar’s website or pay attention to the instructions they’ll text you on the day of pickup. You can notify Silvercar of your arrival in the app when you land at your chosen airport and pickup instructions will display.
If you are renting from one of the city locations in Brooklyn, Manhattan and San Francisco, Silvercar will deliver and/or pick up the vehicle upon request from you for a fee of $75 to $100, depending on the day of the week. (Note that this service has been temporarily suspended because of COVID-19.)
Regardless of when and where you retrieve your Silvercar, you need the app to scan a code on the car to pick it up and complete the rental pickup process.
There are no paper contracts, upsells or waiting lines, which is nice. On the other hand, I’ve never experienced an upgrade with Silvercar, so be sure to book the exact Audi vehicle you want.
Silvercar has outlined some practices it has implemented to address COVID-19 realities. First, it’s requiring its staff to wear face masks and maintain six feet of social distancing. It has also instructed staff to maintain a no-touch rental handoff, including not handling your credit card or driver’s license with their hands.
The company is using a 19-step process that reportedly includes cleaning all interior areas and surfaces with a disinfectant and germicidal cleaning solution. The Peg Perego Booster and Flex Convertible child seats are cleaned with a concentrated quaternary ammonia detergent and disinfectant.
There are alternative shuttle transport options available in some locations. Through May 31, 2020, Silvercar is permitting one-day drives between all of its locations with no additional one-way fee. It is also offering weekly and monthly rental options at reduced rates, upon request.
Save on Silvercar
New customer offers
If you are a new Silvercar customer, you’ll save 20% on your first rental with the code FIRST20. You can also stack a referral code to earn a $25 virtual Visa gift card with your first completed rental, though word is that the program is ending soon. Reservations must be made by May 23 and completed by Oct. 15, 2020, to earn the $25 Visa bonus. My Silvercar referral code is SHULL, and here are some instructions on how to enter the code in the account section of a Silvercar profile before the first rental to earn that perk.
- If you have a Visa Infinite credit card, such as the Chase Sapphire Reserve®, the code VISAINF20 will save you 20% on Silvercar rentals.
- Silvercar periodically releases seasonal discount codes. Currently, Y6CD20 will save you 20% off your rental.
- Stay on the lookout for Amex Offers that can sometimes help you save on rentals.
Audi owner’s program
If you own an Audi, you can score additional Silvercar deals. Through Dec. 31, 2020, Audi owners get one free day on each two-day rental and two free days on four-day rentals. If you are in the market for an Audi, those purchases and leases on 2019 and newer models come with seven free Silvercar rental days.
In August 2019, Silvercar introduced a loyalty program called Premium Rewards. You earn 1 point per dollar spent on the base car rental rate. Points can then be used to offset the base rate of a future rental at a rate of approximately 9.5 cents per point, based on our tests.
Once you have enough points to cover at least 50% of the base rate of a rental, you can cash them in. Taxes and fees will still have to be paid with good old-fashioned cash.
Is it worth it?
Sometimes, a Silvercar rental feels infinitely more luxurious and high-tech than your regular car rental experience. Those situations are usually when you are picked up and/or dropped off at the terminal, the app is downloaded and works as it should and you are on your way within minutes in the Audi of your rental car dreams. In those cases, it has always felt worth it — especially if you need a ski rack or child seat.
For example, last year we rented Silvercar for a Colorado ski trip, and our Silvercar Audi rental handled the icy, snowy roads just fine, whereas my parents’ compact rental car was sliding down the driveway and had to be manually pushed up a hill.
But in cases where you are still dealing with the off-airport shuttle, don’t require a specific type of car or you couldn’t secure the complimentary extras you needed (like a car seat), Silvercar isn’t always worth the price tag.
Since I am still in the car-seat phase of life and like to know exactly what type of vehicle I’m getting, those issues alone make Silvercar worth it for family vacations that involve time spent in a car. But if it’s just me, and I simply need a car to get me from Point A to Point B, I don’t always decide Silvercar is worth the premium on those trips — especially at locations where the pickup process isn’t much better than what you’d find with competitors. Right now, in a world where nothing is normal and road trips may experience a resurgence, Silvercar might make sense in some situations where it might not have previously.
Featured image courtesy of Silvercar
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