The pros and cons of Turo

Turo is a peer-to-peer car sharing platform that allows car owners to rent out their own cars to ordinary people. Think of it as a sort of Airbnb for cars.

With high rental car prices and often limited rental car availability, alternative rental car services like Turo can be a lifesaver. Finally, skyrocketing rental car prices became one of the biggest travel stories of the pandemic era when they hit record highs in July 2021.

The story of rental cars experiencing massive price increases since the pandemic continues. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, rental car prices increased 36% in January 2023 compared to January 2020, the last comparable month before the US COVID lockdowns

Meanwhile, peer-to-peer car sharing platforms continue to grow in popularity. The global carsharing market surpassed $2 billion in 2020 and is projected to grow 20% annually from 2021 to 2027, according to July 2021 data from market researcher Global Market Insights.

But while Turo can offer an excellent rental car alternative, it’s not necessarily better. Here are some of the times you might consider booking with Turo, and what to look out for.

When you find cheaper prices on Turo

Traditional rental car prices are particularly high compared to pre-pandemic times, but Turo prices are more variable. Sometimes they can be cheaper than traditional rental cars because the car owners set the prices.

A car owner who now works from home and has minimal need for a car during the weekday might be tempted to make it available on Turo for a low price to make some extra money or even get some miles out to get out of a car that is otherwise idling.

Many owners offer discounts for longer trips, and some offer discounts to guests who book at least a week in advance.

The total cost of renting from Turo could skyrocket once additional fees are incurred.

A 10-hour rental offered at $30 a day can easily double that. In this example, there is a mandatory $15 ride fee. Then, by default, Turo adds standard protection for $12 (although you can opt out of damage protection). You can add extras like a pet fee ($40), a booster seat ($35), unlimited mileage ($80), or prepaid fueling ($75).

Here are some examples of Turo fees you may incur before checking out:

Turo ride fee. Turo adds a travel fee at checkout that goes to Turo (not the owner). Fees vary, but in the US, travel fees range from 2.5% to 100% of the total fare.

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Turo fee for young drivers. Those under the age of 24 owe a young driver fee (minimum $50 per day under 21 or $30 per day under 25 in the US).

Various extras. You may also owe other fees, including airport taxes, pickup or drop-off fees, and optional extras like unlimited mileage (many rentals have a mileage cap).

And the fees might not end there, which adds to why Turo might be wrong for people afraid of potentially unknown costs.

reimbursement invoices. Hosts may send renters a reimbursement invoice for fuel substitutes, over-distance, tickets, and tolls, where applicable.

Turo Cleaning Fees. If you return a car in a condition that violates Turo’s cleaning and sanitizing policy, the host can report the issue to the company. If Turo sides with the host, you owe $150 for the cleaning violation plus a 3% processing fee.

(Photo courtesy of Turo)

Turo specifically says that renters “are not expected to clean or disinfect the car before returning it,” but there is a gray area between what Turo sees as normal wear and tear and what falls within the realm of injury device.

“Significant amounts of pet hair” is a violation, as is “large stains or residue,” but “minor spills from food or drink” is fine.

Many renters have documented negative experiences with penalties for violations that they felt were unjustified, leading to back-and-forth calls with customer service to remove those charges — or just pay the fine.

When you don’t rely on a credit card for car rental protection

Turo offers three optional protection plans, each with increasing levels of coverage, for an additional fee: a Minimum, a Standard, and a Premier plan.

U.S. pricing starts at just $10 per rental day, depending on the amount of Turo supplemental insurance you choose. It’s pretty easy to compare and add plans at checkout.

You can decline coverage, but you (or possibly your own personal insurance company if covered) will be responsible for all costs related to physical, mechanical and internal damage, plus administration fees and assessment costs.

When renting from Turo, don’t assume that your personal auto insurance or credit card coverage works the same way as it does with traditional rental cars.

“Turo is not a rental car company,” reads a post on Turo’s website. “We’re a peer-to-peer carsharing platform, so credit card companies may not offer coverage for a car booked through Turo.”

If you can pay for your rental car in advance

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Turo has a generous cancellation policy, allowing you to cancel free of charge up to 24 hours before your trip. Trips canceled within 24 hours of the start time are generally eligible for a partial refund.

Refunds are issued immediately, but it may take 3-5 business days for funds to be received.

While Turo’s cancellation policy is relatively generous, you still have to pay upfront.

In contrast, most rental car companies allow payment at the counter. That’s handy, because if your travel plans change and you can no longer rent the car, you probably won’t be eligible for a rental car reservation you didn’t show up for (although some charge a no-show fee).

When Turo is more convenient to your destination

Turo operates in the US, Australia, UK and Canada.

What is unique about Turo is the variety of locations where you can find the vehicles. Traditional car rental companies usually operate in places with a large number of tourists, such as airports, downtown areas and hotels. But with Turo, you may very well find a car available from the house next door.

The purple dots on the map indicate available vehicles. You might find one in a place that’s far more convenient than the nearest traditional rental car.

This is handy for someone who doesn’t usually have a car but wants to rent one from a neighbor every now and then. Travelers who only need a car for part of their trip can skip the airport rental car and rent a nearby Turo for the days they need it.

But Turo isn’t available in every city. Though it’s now available in all 50 states, Turo wasn’t launched in New York State until June 2022. And in every state, Turo continues to expand. Availability largely depends on a host being willing to post their car for rent.

If you need special pickup and drop off

When renting from many rental car companies, you are bound by their hours of operation. This is annoying when your flight lands at 9pm but the car rental closes at 8am.

However, many Turo rentals are available for 24/7 drop-off and pickup thanks to an integrated service called Turo Go. With Turo Go, renters can unlock cars directly from the Turo app without having to meet the host in person.

Other hosts prefer personal exchange. The owner may meet you at the airport and drive you to your hotel before handing over the keys (usually for an additional fee, although some hosts offer this service for free).

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Turo’s delivery service can be especially handy if you only need the car for a few days or a few hours.

While the array of pickup options can certainly be a pro, it also adds layers of complications — and it means your next Turo experience won’t be exactly like your last.

Read the pickup and drop-off rules carefully as they vary by owner. Some cars are parked in facilities where exit is subject to charges. While Turo requires hosts to disclose such fees in their vehicle listing, these are yet another pesky expense.

While Turo Go can certainly be convenient, you’ll need to have Wi-Fi or cellular data available to unlock the car when you start driving. And they don’t have personal customer support, which can create challenges if you run into problems during pickup.

It’s difficult with one-way rentals. You cannot book one pick-up location and another drop-off location.

🤓Nerdy tip

There is a workaround for one-way rentals where you can request a change in your pickup or drop-off location after booking the trip. However, you must clarify this with the host – and there is no guarantee that they will accept this.

In a promotion for Netflix’s “Wednesday,” Turo once offered a hearse for rent in Los Angeles. (Photo courtesy of Turo)

Turo can offer myriad benefits. You may be able to find a car in far cheaper places, especially in big cities. Turo Go allows for anytime pickup and drop-off, so you’re not limited by rental car company hours of operation.

Since a large portion of the rental price goes directly back to the car owner, more money stays in the local communities. Turo often offers a range of cars, from a tiny smart car to electric vehicle rentals to flashy muscle cars.

But renting from Turo also brings with it a high degree of variability. The experience is rarely consistent, and neither are the cars (or their owners). A vehicle may have squeaky brakes and some owners may have higher cleaning standards than others.

Sometimes it’s cheaper, but once the fees add up (and you realize your credit card rental car insurance probably isn’t kicking in), it’s not always as budget-friendly as you might think.

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