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How does Getaround work?

Founded in 2009, Getaround is an app-based carsharing platform that connects motorists who need to rent a car with owners who have a vehicle they’re not using. It can be a good alternative to renting, especially if you only need to take a short trip, and it can be a stellar way to monetize your car when you’re not using it.

The service is available in a growing number of American cities including Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Denver, Los Angeles, Miami, Portland, San Francisco, and Seattle. It’s also available in some European cities. If you need wheels, or if you want to make money by renting out your car, here’s everything you need to know about using Getaround.

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Further reading

For renters

Getaround screen shot

You need to open an account and get your identity verified before you’re able to reserve a car on Getaround. First, download the app (which is compatible with Android- and Apple-powered devices), create a profile, fill in your payment information, and upload your driver’s license. There is no membership fee and the app is free, though Getaround charges a one-time $10 Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) license check fee to ensure applicants meet its eligibility requirements.

The guidelines are fairly basic: You need to be at least 19 years old and have incurred no major violations in the past three years, no drug- or alcohol-related violations in the past seven years, and no more than two moving violations in the past three years. You can’t rent if you’ve had a license for less than two years, and international drivers (plus those in Hawaii and Canada) need to be at least 25. The company also snoops through your Facebook profile to verify your identity.

Getaround organizes available cars by body style, so begin by setting filters. Do you need a truck to move a couch, a minivan to haul seven people, or a thrifty commuter? The categories include sedan/coupe, SUV/Jeep, hatchback/wagon, convertible, minivan/cargo van, and pickup trucks. Once you’ve picked what you’re after, booking a car via Getaround is a lot like lining up a rental. Select the pickup and drop-off dates and the city you’re driving in to see available options. You can narrow it down further by setting a price limit, or requesting a specific make.

For example, as of this writing, there are 38 SUVs available in the Los Angeles area including a 2011 Land Rover Range Rover Sport, a 2018 Kia Niro, a 2016 Subaru Crosstrek, and a 2018 Dodge Durango. The interactive map shows you each car’s exact location, which is helpful considering Getaround is mostly used by motorists in big cities.

Click on the car that best suits your need to see a description of it. The aforementioned Range Rover Sport has air conditioning, power windows, and leather upholstery, among other features. Its owner also states that renters can’t smoke or carry pets in it, and they’ll get fined if they break the rules. Getaround’s hourly rental fees are a boon because you don’t need to pay for a full day’s worth of driving if you’re only planning on being out for a couple hours.

Book a car, and you’ll receive pickup instructions via the app 15 minutes before your trip starts. You’ll be able to unlock it using the aforementioned app thanks to an electronic device installed in every car listed on Getaround’s platform. This will be your key for the entire duration of the drive, so keep your phone on you at all times.

Insurance is included, but remember there is a 200-mile limit for what the company calls standard cars, and a 100-mile limit for so-called specialty cars worth over $75,000. You can drive further, but you’ll need to pay more. While owners are responsible for keeping the cars they rent in tip-top shape, Getaround offers 24/7 roadside assistance.

Returning the car is as straightforward as picking it up. Fill up the tank, make sure it’s clean, park it where you found it, and lock it. Ending the trip with the app locks the car, so remember to collect all of your belongings first.

For owners

Getaround screen shots

Some carsharing services let motorists list a vintage model; Getaround is not one of them. It doesn’t accept cars made before 2010, and it turns down vehicles with over 125,000 miles on the odometer. The company warns it reserves the right to ask owners for proof of a recent major service before approving a car. Its sharing platform is only open to cars that haven’t been modified, so forget about renting that 600-horsepower Civic. It only accepts vehicles with at least four wheels and less than 10 seats. Finally, cars with a salvage or rebuilt title can’t be rented.

If your car fits the bill, download the app, sign up, get verified, and list it. One of Getaround’s Pproduct evangelists will contact you after you’ve created the listing to coordinate the installation of an electronic device called Connect, which allows renters to lock and unlock it using their smartphone. It also lets you track your car using GPS, which helps ensure renters don’t exceed the daily mileage limit, and disable the vehicle if it’s stolen. The Connect plugs into the OBD2 port. There’s a one-time $99 installation fee, and you’ll need to pay $20 for a monthly data subscription.

To maximize earnings, write an accurate description of your car that includes its powertrain type, its main features, whether you allow pets in it, and any aftermarket accessories like ski racks. Upload clear, in-focus pictures to give renters a good idea of what you’re offering. Getaround suggests washing and vacuuming the car on a regular basis. The company doesn’t accept cars that have been smoked in, and it doesn’t let renters smoke in the vehicles they rent.

Your car will appear in search results once everything is set up, and you’ll receive a notification when someone books it. Getaround assumes the car is available all the time, so remember to mark the days you need it to avoid having to pay a cancellation fee. You can add or remove a block on your calendar via the app. There’s no fee if you cancel a booking more than 24 hours before the trip starts, but you’ll need to pay up to $100 if you make a last-minute cancellation. Once a renter has the car, you can’t get it back before the predetermined return time, so plan ahead.

Getaround automatically calculates and sets each car’s hourly price by taking into account its location and renter demand, plus the year, make, and model. You can set your own price if you disagree with its assessment. It pays renters by check or Paypal on the 15th of each month. How much you can make largely depends on what you’re offering and how often you rent it; you can keep track of your earnings by logging into your account.

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