In the summer of 2021, with travel beginning to return but many car rental companies having sold off their fleet, rental prices from traditional rental agencies (like Hertz, Sixt, Enterprise, etc) skyrocketed. People called it the “carpocalypse” and if there’s one good thing that came out of it, it’s that many people found out about Turo, a great alternative to traditional car rentals.
Officially considered a “peer-to-peer” company, it allows travelers (drivers) to rent cars from local car owners (hosts). Often this means you can save money compared to a traditional car rental agency, or have access to different types of cars than you would otherwise.
If you’re considering Turo for your next trip, read on to learn all about the company, how it works, and why it’s a legitimate, safe option for your next trip.
What is Turo?
Turo is a car-sharing service, often described by those familiar with it as “Airbnb for cars.” It was founded in 2010 under a different name, RelayRides, by Shelby Clark. Today the company is helmed by CEO Andre Haddad, whose first company was bought by eBay for $140 million back in 2001.
Under Haddad’s leadership, Turo has grown to become the world’s largest peer-to-peer car-sharing platform, and operates in over 7,500 cities across the United States, United Kingdom, and Canada.
How does Turo work?
To find a car to rent on Turo, all you need to do is put in your destination and preferred rental dates. The Turo platform will then show you cars available for those dates and the daily price for each vehicle. There are filters available for price, delivery (some hosts charge a fee to deliver the car to you), distance included (which ranges according to the host’s preference for their car), and more.
Once you find a car you like at a price that matches your budget, you can click in to learn more about the vehicle and see additional car features, ratings, and reviews. You can then book the vehicle you want, adding on insurance if needed or wanted. There is also a trip fee (a percentage calculated by Turo and collected by the company for each rental) and sales tax added to the final price you pay.
In many ways, Turo works a lot like a car rental site, with the exception that each individual car you see on Turo is likely owned by a different person rather than a single car rental company. There are some hosts on Turo that own and rent multiple cars (just like there are some companies that own many properties available on Airbnb), but most cars are the only car offered by that host.
The Turo app
The Turo app works much like the Turo website when it comes to searching and booking a car. You can also see upcoming trips, communicate with hosts via messages, and host your own car using the Turo app.
Additionally, the Turo app is required when checking a car in/out at the beginning or end of your rental period; you use the app to take photos of the car exterior and interior, as well as the odometer and gas gauge, to verify the state of the vehicle before you drive and after you return it to the host.
How much does Turo cost?
From a cost perspective, Turo is generally a good alternative to rental cars; usually they end up being in about the same ballpark for price. However, in the past several years as rental cars have experienced a supply shortage, Turo has been noticeably cheaper than equivalent rental car options in most major tourist destinations.
>> Read our guide to saving money on rental cars
The core component in the price of a Turo rental is the daily rate set by the host (car owner). They can set their daily rate as they see fit, though Turo provides guidance to hosts when setting up each car in the platform, based on the car age, type, and condition.
As mentioned, there is also a Trip Fee added to every rental. Turo describes this fee as “a percentage of the trip price calculated by Turo, and varies based on the expected costs to support the trip, the vehicle’s value, trip duration, and other factors.”
In further detail on their support documentation, Turo explains that the Trip Fee is unique to every rental: “Several factors unique to each trip can influence the trip fee calculation. These include the vehicle’s value (a higher-value vehicle may incur a higher trip fee), lead time of booking (trips booked further in advance can lower the associated trip fee), trip duration (shorter trips contribute to a higher trip fee, while longer trips can help reduce the trip fee), and more.”
A quick search revealed Turo Trip Fees ranging from 13.5%-17.5% of the pre-sales tax rental price for vehicles, though you may find the Trip Fee is higher, lower, or somewhere in this range depending on the specific vehicle, dates, and duration of your trip.
Insurance on Turo
Since you’re renting someone else’s car, you’d rightly expect that you’ll need some sort of insurance to protect yourself and the host’s car. Turo offers a number of “Protection Plans” for their rentals:
- Premier, which completely covers the vehicle. This means no out-of-pocket costs for vehicle damage or theft and provides $750,000 in liability insurance at the highest daily price.
- Standard, which offers basic insurance and has a $500 max out-of-pocket for vehicle damage or theft and provides state minimum liability insurance at a mid-tier price.
- Minimum, which has a $3,000 max out-of-pocket for vehicle damage or theft and offers state minimum liability insurance at a lower daily rate.
In terms of the cost for each level of protection, that varies—it too depends on the car you’re renting and other factors, so there’s no good way to estimate it before you’re in the process of booking a car on Turo.
You can also choose to decline coverage and assume liability for the vehicle and any expenses. You also still need to provide your own liability insurance, though some personal auto insurance policies cover this when renting through Turo. (If you’ve never rented through Turo before, it’s a good idea to call your auto insurance company and ask.)
As a general rule, any car rental insurance provided by your credit card does not cover Turo rentals. Turo is not considered a car rental agency, and thus falls outside the protected coverage provided by credit cards. The best way to confirm whether your own credit card will provide insurance coverage for a Turo rental is to call the credit card company and ask.
Booking a car on Turo
To rent a car on Turo is a pretty simple process. Below you’ll find a walk-through of making a Turo booking on their desktop website, but it’s basically the same experience on the Turo app.
To begin, you’ll enter the destination and dates you want to rent for.
Then you can browse cars available for those dates and get a sense of the daily prices for each car.
Once you choose a car that matches your style and budget, you can click into the individual car listing. On this page you’ll find more information about the car and the host, as well as reviews from past travelers who’ve rented the car.
After you’ve decided to book a specific listing, you then get a final estimate and can choose your level of protection for the rental.
It’s on this final screen that you can see the total cost of the rental, add a message to the host, and book the vehicle.
Renting a Turo car from the Airport
Turo is available pretty much nationwide in the United States, and that means you can rent a Turo in almost every major city. Many hosts will also allow you to rent their vehicle right from the airport. Typically what this means is that you will arrange for the host to pick you up in the vehicle at the airport, then move to an off-property site where you can inspect the car and hand-off the keys. Some hosts charge extra for this delivery service; others include it for free in the price.
Some popular destinations where you can rent a Turo right from the airport include Hawaii, Orlando Houston, Atlanta, Dallas, and Chicago, among many others.
Tips for booking on Turo
When it’s time to book a car, here are some tips to help ensure a successful and stress-free experience:
- Read reviews. Like on all peer-to-peer booking platforms, reviews are the best indicator of how your experience might go. Keep an eye on the ratings, too.
- Keep an eye out for the daily mileage limits. The host is allowed to set this and there is no standard amount; going over the daily mileage limit usually incurs a hefty per-mile fee, so it’s best to find a different car if you’re worried about how many miles you’ll put on the car.
- Review the fees and costs to avoid sticker shock or surprises later.
- Message your host as part of the booking process. Since most hosts allow “instant booking,” a quick personalized message will help you create a connection with the host and smoothen the rough social edges of these kinds of transactions.
- Use the Turo App to document the car before (and after) renting. When you check out a vehicle or return it, you’re asked to upload photos of the car from many angles. This is the best way to protect yourself against claims that you damaged the vehicle. The app asks for 10-15 photos—use them all!
- Communicate with the host leading up to the car handoff. Most hosts are accommodating but everyone appreciates a heads up about delayed flights or schedule changes.
After over a dozen Turo rentals, I’ve found these six tips ensure that everyone has the same expectations for the rental, hand-off process, and returning the car to the owner.
When to use Turo, and when not to
So when is Turo the right choice for renting a car during travel? Some people love car rental agencies or are loyal to one program or another; those people will always opt toward a traditional agency car rental first. Others are more flexible and may want to price-compare to see if there’s a better deal on Turo. I personally tend toward being budget conscious, so I always check car rental prices via an OTA like Kayak, then check Turo directly on Turo.com.
Some considerations to keep in mind when deciding whether to rent from Turo are: availability of and access to cars (can you get the car delivered to the airport or where you’re staying?), price, insurance coverage, and comfort with peer-to-peer sharing platforms.
Turo is a great alternative to traditional car rental agencies, especially for those who are willing to use the peer-to-peer model. It can definitely be a more budget-friendly option, and almost certainly has a wider variety of cars and prices available for travels of any style.
What we love about Turo
- Unique cars. You can find everything on Turo from Volkswagens to Tesla to Lamborghinis.
- Pick up and drop off. No waiting at rental counters; if you coordinate it properly with your host, this part of the process is a breezer.
- Reasonable Under-25 Driver Fees. Turo charges different flat daily rates for drivers aged 18 (the minimum) to 24 from $30-$50 depending on the car, country, and driver age.
- Increasing car utilization. Turo’s mission is to put the world’s cars to better use; renting on Turo supports local hosts and keeps cars moving.
What we dislike about Turo
- Price inconsistency. Hosts set their own prices, so they can vary wildly depending on the demand for cars and how much hosts think they can get for theirs.
- Fees add up. The daily rate you see on the initial results page is misleading; you’ll only see the final price once you get to the booking screen, and this can be surprisingly higher based on fees and taxes.