By David Heitz / NewsBreak Denver
(Denver, Colo.) They're like an Airbnb for cars.
With Turo and Avail, regular people can rent out their automobiles to people who need a car to drive. Whether it’s for vacation or just getting errands done around town, Turo and Avail are apps that set the carless up with wheels.
The companies recently expanded in Denver. Turo and Avail have been operating as part of a pilot program at Denver International Airport.
“Denver is one of our top 10 largest markets, and the number of Turo vehicles varies on the availability of hosts; please refer to our interactive map to view active hosts in the Denver area,” said Catherine Mejia, a spokesperson for Turo. “The purpose of the agreement with the airport is to provide a seamless and safe experience for all parties by allowing for peer-to-peer car sharing exchanges to take place on airport grounds.”
Making sure cars parked properly
Councilmember Stacie Gilmore during a council committee meeting about Turo said she wants to make sure cars are not parked illegally in Green Valley Ranch and other areas. “We expect our hosts to follow our Good Neighbor Policy under which hosts should be mindful of parking and other restrictions in their neighborhood,” Mejia said. “Turo reserves the right to restrict vehicles and accounts if we receive specific complaints regarding host parking and vehicle storage.”
From Teslas to Toyotas
People wanting to rent from Turo can choose from a variety of cars. “Over the past year, Jeep, Toyota, Ford, Chevrolet, Subaru, and Tesla are Denver’s top vehicle makes on Turo,” Mejia said.
Robert Bruno of Denver has several cars he rents out on the platform, including a 2021 Tesla Model Y, 2016 Chevrolet Volt, 2012 Fiat 500 Sport, 2010 Toyota FJ Cruiser, 2010 Toyota Prius and a 2009 Acura MDX. “All are maintained religiously, kept impeccably clean and we drive them frequently as well to make sure they stay issue free,” Bruno said.
Questions about disability access
Councilmember Chris Hinds voted against the expanded Turo contract because he said the company is vague about accommodating people with disabilities. Hinds uses a wheelchair to get around.
“Turo guests can choose from an extraordinary selection of over 1,400 makes and models across our platform as unique as our hosts, and some hosts offer handicapped-accessible vehicles as well,” Mejia responded. But Hinds argues that while some rentals may show they are handicapped accessible, they don’t’ specify how. For example, a Porsche recently was listed as handicapped accessible, but no specifics were given as to why it received the designation.
Reviews: ‘I’m pretty happy’
Denverites have shared their experiences about Turo on Reddit. “Got a rental, 15-year-old decrepit minivan, for the weekend to do stuff that I normally can’t do since I don’t have a car,” said Jiggajawn. “Rental got replaced with a newer Chevy Suburban free of charge. Might spend an additional $20 on gas, but for the better amenities, space, and what not, I’m pretty happy. It’ll make the weekend slightly better.”
“Turo can be the devil or a blessing,” reported Littlegriznaves. “Had an experience where I rented a Volkswagen that still had snow tires on in July. Tried to explain to the owner that you need to change those out to reduce the vibrations/wear on expensive snow tires. Thanked me and gave me some money back for the inconvenience, super nice interaction.”
Ruckusseur said he used Turo for the first time while on vacation in San Diego. “The car I rented died on me twice in three days. Called customer service and they refunded me the full amount of the week, gave me a credit toward a new rental and reimbursed me for all Ubers/Lyfts I needed in the interim. Used it a handful of other times without incident.”
Trouble returning cars
One Reddit commenter, Unkempt Cabbage, said he had a difficult time returning a car. “I felt bad because I had to park in a 6 a.m. lane last time I used a service like that. The person had a really small radius set, in Cap Hill, and there was literally zero available parking (but there was a bunch across the street, out of the allowed parking radius) so I had to call the poor person and let them know so they didn’t get towed.”
Bruno said he tries to make pick-up and drop-off of vehicles as simple as possible. “We give very clear written, pictorial, and even video guidance to our guests as to where exactly they’ll pick up their vehicle as well as where they will leave it after the reservation. Although we offer different options for guests to choose from, most prefer to pick up at the airport which has clear arrangements and guidelines with Turo for this purpose.”
Interested in renting your car out?
As for cars getting damaged, Bruno said it comes with the territory and Turo has policies in place. “This is a business, and our vehicles are thought of by us as business assets. All business comes with a degree of risk but for the most part people are very respectful of our business property. Turo also has clear guidelines for both renters and hosts and when properly followed the risk is mitigated. On the rare occasion that damage may occur I also know I’m covered by Turo’s protection packages and policies.”
Bruno said he treats his Turo involvement as a business as opposed to “extra money.” But, he said, “It is however, the income from Turo that allows us to own and enjoy these vehicles when they are not out being rented. We love what we do and are so grateful to Turo for giving us an opportunity to make a living with these vehicles and interacting with some really awesome people coming to visit Colorado. Most days, it doesn’t even feel like work.”
Denver gets 10 percent of receipts
Denver's pilot program began 18 months ago at the airport. Under the Turo contract, the city received 5 percent of receipts. Under the new three-year contracts, the city will get 10 percent.
Last year, the airport collected $1.3 million in carsharing fees from the pilot program. More than 54,000 transactions occurred.
Even during the pandemic in 2020, the pilot program tallied 15,000 transactions. In the first quarter of 2022, the city has collected more than $580,000 in fees.
Those numbers should balloon in the years ahead. The airport estimates revenues to the city of $3.4 million in the first year, $4.3 million in the second year, and $5.4 million in the third year.