Car rentals too expensive or sold out? Here's why you should try Turo instead
Update: Some offers mentioned below are no longer available. View the current offers here.
If you’re a fan of Airbnb’s business model when finding a place to stay, then consider Turo instead of a traditional rental car. For those unfamiliar with Turo, it’s a service that allows you to borrow a local’s car rather than renting from a car rental company.
Currently, Turo is available in more than 7,500+ cities across the U.S., in select Canadian provinces (Alberta, British Columbia, New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, Ontario, Prince Edward Island and Quebec) and in the United Kingdom. It’s become an attractive alternative to traditional car rental companies as daily prices have skyrocketed and supply is limited.
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How Turo works
It’s quite simple to start using Turo. Start by setting up an account, verify your identity and then you’re free to pick whichever car you want.
You can sort through a variety of filters such as price, model or the ability to book instantly. Once you’ve selected your car, go through the checkout process and make arrangements for pick-up or drop-off with the car owner.
Our personal experiences using Turo
I have used Turo multiple times, with my first rental less than a year ago. My experiences have been extremely positive. Experiences are subjective, but I would rate my experience with my eight Turo rentals as a 9 out of 10.
As the rental car apocalypse unfolded in the summer of 2021, Turo gained popularity and attention. It can also be a great option if you find a car near where you currently are — rather than trekking to a car rental location, often located at an airport. For instance, I used Turo to rent a car for a few hours in Honolulu, finding an option around the corner from my hotel at a time when traditional rental cars were sold out.
When renting a car on Turo, experiences can vary. Typically, you will meet the owner to show your driver's license and inspect the car together before receiving the keys and driving off. You may also receive an explanation about any particulars with that car, where to park on your return or maybe an access code to get into the parking garage on your return. On my first rental, the car's owner was at work and verified my ID after I uploaded a selfie while holding my driver's license. Then, he unlocked the car remotely and told me where the keys were hidden.
Some Turo owners will even bring the car to you, depending on where you are. Note that there is a fee for this, however, so it's situation-dependent whether it makes more sense to pick up your car to save money on the fee.
Once you are ready to drive off with the car, you'll complete check-in through the Turo app and answer questions about whether there is existing damage. You also have the option to upload photos of the vehicle. This is very handy for noting any existing damages, whether the car is dirty or full of sand from previous passengers, etc.
Taylor Jenkins, director of audience development at TPG, also had a positive experience recently. He rented a 2019 Jeep Renegade that the owner had outfitted with a pop-up tent and refrigerator. Thus, the vehicle became transportation and lodging for a road trip with camping and hiking involved during Taylor's family trip to California. There was a delivery fee of $120 for the driver to bring the vehicle to Taylor's family at the San Francisco International Airport (SFO) and then retrieve it a week later.
Becca Manheimer, senior director of marketing and communications, agreed that Turo rental price points can be lower than rental car costs these days. For her, this outweighed the inconvenience of picking up a car that wasn't at her arrival airport on a previous vacation. She pointed out that there was an Apple AirTag in the car, which the owner could use to track the vehicle's location. As with any car rental, she took a video of the car's condition when picking it up and dropping it off, which helped her avoid a false claim for damage by a vehicle owner on a previous rental.
Kevin Martinez, an associate web publisher with TPG, loved using Turo because he's under 25 years old. Traditional rental car companies wanted to charge him extra fees, while the "young driver" fee was significantly less with Turo. He and his friends found renting from Turo as young drivers significantly cheaper than renting from a traditional source.
Alex Maben, a senior product designer, echoed this feeling from her recent trip to Orange County, California. On this solo trip, her hotel was a 30-minute from the beach. Renting from Turo — rather than using Uber to go to the beach every day — became significantly cheaper than using Uber. It was also priced lower than traditional rental cars at the time of her visit.
Thus, when traditional rental cars become expensive — because of demand, your destination or what you're looking to accomplish — Turo has been great for many TPG staffers.
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When and when not to use Turo
There are many positives to using Turo. Firstly, the app is user-friendly and can help you make last-minute changes in a jiffy.
Secondly, in our experience, we haven't run into hidden fees; all of the charges have been made clear from the start. Experiences can vary based on the owner, obviously.
Next, for drivers under age 25, Turo is great for avoiding the pricier young driver fees that some car rental companies charge. For example, Hertz charges $19 a day for young drivers.
Lastly, Turo is a great option if you’re making a round-trip drive to and from your destination.
However, there are some downsides too. If you’re planning a one-way trip, then you’re better off renting a car that allows for picking up and dropping off in a different city.
The major downside to Turo is that it’s most likely not covered under your credit card’s rental car insurance, as the service isn’t managed by an official car rental agency, such as Budget or Enterprise. It's a peer-to-peer service. You’re not completely out of options, however. Turo sells its own protection plans that range from 15% to 100% of the trip price.
Related: Are Turo car rentals covered by credit card insurance?
Earning points and miles on Turo rentals
Turo doesn’t have airline partners like some of the big car rentals companies, so there’s not a ton of opportunity to double-dip. However, do make sure to add your Delta SkyMiles number to your Turo account to earn 2,000 miles on your first trip and 500 miles on all others.
Beyond earning points and miles with an airline, you can also earn bonus points through your credit card because Turo codes as travel. Here are some of the best credit cards for earning points on Turo rentals:
- Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card: Earn 10 miles per dollar on Turo rentals through May 16, 2023, then 2 miles per dollar.
- Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card: Earn 5 miles per dollar on Turo rentals through May 16, 2023, then 2 miles per dollar.
- American Express® Green Card: Earn 3 points per dollar on travel.
- Chase Sapphire Reserve: Earn 3 points per dollar on travel purchases not booked with Chase Travel (which doesn't offer Turo rentals anyway).
- Chase Sapphire Preferred Card: Earn 2 points per dollar on travel purchases not booked with Chase Travel.
Turo is a fantastic alternative to renting a car. It could ultimately end up saving you money and may be able to offer you more flexibility.
Although it’s only available in certain countries, we can see the service becoming more widespread as its popularity grows.
Remember to use a credit card that earns bonus points on travel purchases to book your Turo rentals.