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How does Turo work?

Turo, an app-based peer-to-peer platform founded in 2010, gives drivers an alternative to renting a car from a company like Hertz, while letting owners monetize their vehicle when they’re not using it. The company claims booking a car through its app is about 25% cheaper than renting from a bigger company. Convenience is another aspect the company aims to provide by allowing people to request, in some cases, delivery to the airport or other location.

Ready to give it a shot? Here’s what you need to know before you rent.

For renters

Turo platform
Image used with permission by copyright holder

First things first: Create a Turo account. It’s a fairly straightforward process during which you’ll need to provide personal information like your driver’s license number, your payment method, your home address, and a photo of yourself. Renters need to be at least 18, have a Social Security number, a text message-enabled mobile phone, and an auto insurance score that meets its benchmark. Getting verified can take 24 hours or more, so plan ahead.

Turo reserves the right to explore your Facebook account, check your credit score, and look through your criminal record. Once you’re approved, assuming you meet the aforementioned conditions, you can browse for your next ride.

One of the coolest things about Turo is that you can choose precisely the kind of car you want to drive; you don’t need to settle for someone else’s definition of a full-size car. If you want a Jeep Wrangler with a stick-shift, you can set those exact parameters in the search tool and see if there’s one available. You can also browse the inventory of available classic cars, so-called Super Deluxe cars with a value of over $85,000, or something more basic like a Toyota Corolla.

Once you find what you’re looking for, and assuming it’s available on the dates you need it, select one of the three available insurance plans (or decline additional coverage) and book it. Turo’s messaging platform lets renters and owners coordinate delivery (if applicable), pickup, drop-off, and other details. You can request to have the car delivered to an airport, a train station, a hotel, or another point of interest, but the owner may charge you.

While an app-based service is in the works, odds are you’ll need to go through the check-in process directly with the car’s owner. It shouldn’t take long; it’s a lot like picking up a car from a rental company. If you choose to meet in person, you’ll need to show a valid driver’s license in your name before receiving the keys. If you choose remote check-in, you must send the owner a photo of your driver’s license and a selfie of you holding it before receiving instructions on how and where to find the keys, which will likely be in a lockbox protected by a code.

Got ’em? Good. Once you’ve found the car, take a few photos of what it looks like inside and out to make sure you don’t get blamed (and, likely, charged) for a dent or a stain that was already there. Do the same when you drop it off.

How far you’re allowed to drive depends on the car, and the person who owns it. Turo clearly displays each car’s mileage allotment before you submit a trip request, and the number also appears on the “Trip Details” page, so there shouldn’t be anything ambiguous about where you can and can’t go. Still, the company recommends taking a photo of the odometer before you drive and a second shot after you return it to avoid any issues.

The owner can charge between a penny and $3 per mile driven over the allowance, so reach out as soon as possible if you think you’re going to drive further than the distance agreed upon. It could save you a lot in the long run.

Treat a car you rent through Turo like you’d treat your own car. You’re responsible for paying traffic and parking tickets, you’ll be financially liable if it gets impounded, dented, or otherwise damaged, and you need to return it in the same condition you picked it up in. That means the tank has to be full if you got it that way. It’s also wise to keep your receipt for at least five days. Common sense goes a long way when using a peer-to-peer platform like Turo.

For owners

2016 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon Hard Rock
Ronan Glon

Renting your car to strangers on Turo can be a good way to make extra money, but don’t expect to double the value of your 1993 hooptie by sharing it with others. Whatever you drive, whether it’s a sedan, a van, a classic model, or an off-roader, it needs to be insured, registered, and it may need to pass a Turo-requested inspection. It’s fairly straightforward; a mechanic will check the brakes, the tires, the lights, and so on. Your car should pass if it’s maintained.

Once it’s good to go, you need to create an account, provide basic information about yourself, and, crucially, agree not to share your car on other platforms. This clause can potentially limit your earnings, so tread carefully and weigh your options. You’re ready to create your car’s listing as soon as Turo approves your registration.

Your car needs to stand out to catch a renter’s attention. Take accurate, high-quality photos; write a comprehensive description of what it is, what it does, and what it doesn’t do; and set a fair price. You can alternatively use the automatic pricing tool and let Turo set your car’s daily rate, though you may earn less that way, or you can offer a discount. Remember to note any and all extras (delivery, a roof rack, etc) in the listing.

You’ll receive a notification when someone books your car; you can approve or deny the request unless you enable the instant booking function that bypasses owner approval. The next step is deciding where and when to hand over the keys. While you can request a remote check-in and put the key in a lockbox, the easiest way is to meet the renter in person. Depending on your perspective, this can be a good or a bad thing. Other services (like Getaround, notably) let you rent your car without ever dealing with the folks who drive it, but the catch is that you need to install a tracker in the OBD2 port. The call is yours. If you choose Turo and meet in-person, find a well-lit public area.

Coordinate the hand-over with the renter using the Turo messaging app, and make sure your car is ready for its next trip. Is it clean? Are the tires properly inflated? Is the tank full? We recommend taking interior and exterior photos before each trip, and carefully evaluating your car’s condition when it comes back. Note the mileage, too.

All payments go through the Turo platform, so the renter doesn’t pay you directly. If everything goes smoothly (e.g., the car comes back on time without damage), you’ll receive an ACH or a PayPal payment 30 minutes after a trip ends.

You can review the driver, and vice-versa. The higher your average score, the more likely someone is to rent your car, so strive for smooth transactions. The top-performing renters fall in the All-Star Hosts category.

New app in the works

Turo is in the process of rolling out an app that lets renters book, find, and unlock a car without shaking hands with the person who owns it. Called Turo Go, the service is currently available in Los Angeles, San Diego, and the San Francisco Bay area. The company plans to expand to other areas in the United States in the coming months.

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Ronan Glon
Ronan Glon is an American automotive and tech journalist based in southern France. As a long-time contributor to Digital…
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