It’s no secret that rental car prices have skyrocketed since travel has rebounded. With higher demand and lower supply after most car rental companies sold off their fleets during the pandemic, finding an affordable rental car has become one of the more challenging aspects of travel lately. Enter Turo, a car sharing service that’s an alternative way to rent a car.
On a recent extended family vacation, I found myself needing to rent a car 4 times. After plenty of research, I rented from a traditional rental car company (Hertz) twice and Turo for the other 2 rentals.
Over the course of my 2 Turo rentals, I feel like I got to experience a little bit of everything (good and bad) that the platform offers. I had 1 host that canceled on me, 1 that I never saw, and 1 that was extremely hands-on.
Except for the canceled reservation (which apparently is common), I enjoyed my experience with Turo, but it is not without its flaws.
Let’s take a look at Turo, my experience, and how to make your next rental better.
What Is Turo?
Turo is a peer-to-peer car sharing marketplace where owners can list personal cars and other people can rent them. Put simply, Turo is “the Airbnb of car rentals.”
The website is intuitive and easy to use and has an unparalleled variety of cars to choose from — a far cry from the standard airport rental car fleets.
The Turo platform has exploded in popularity recently and has become a serious disruptor in the rental car industry.
Not only are the prices good for renters, but hosts have also found this platform extremely lucrative, often renting multiple cars at a time.
How Do Turo Prices Compare to Rentals?
Prices are set by each car’s owner, so prices can vary greatly. That being said, more often than not you can find a better car for less money on Turo compared to a traditional rental car company.
Let’s run an example search for a week in June in Boston. Hertz had the best prices compared to other rental car companies, so I will use them as a base.
Hertz (1 week estimated total, cancellable rate, without insurance)
- Small sedan, Ford Focus or similar: $771.84
- Large sedan, Chevrolet Malibu or similar: $836.19
- Small SUV, Nissan Rogue or similar: $1,093.60
- Medium 5-passenger SUV, Chevrolet Equinox or similar: $1,275.32
Turo (1 week estimated total, cancellable rate, without insurance)
- Small sedan, Toyota Corolla Hybrid: $597
- Large sedan, Audi A6: $720
- Small SUV, Tesla Model Y: $820
- Medium 5-passenger SUV, BMW X6: $910
As you can see, not only can you save money by renting with Turo, you can often get a much nicer car as well. Plus, you can see pictures of the exact car you are renting, so there are no (well, fewer) surprises.
Of course, this isn’t considering perks from traditional rental car companies like National or Hertz where you can pick your own car or earn loyalty points on rentals. But simply comparing cash rates (without insurance), Turo wins.
Turo does not have a referral program for first-time renters, and Turo warns that third-party promo codes are unauthentic. However, occasionally, Turo will email members promo codes, so look for those.
While hosts often offer trip discounts for rentals that are 3+, 7+, or 30+ days long, if you want an additional discount, keep an on your Amex Offers.
Is Insurance Included?
Insurance is not included with your Turo rental, and that extra cost can add up.
Many travel credit cards offer traditional car rental insurance, and some will even offer primary coverage. However, most do not offer coverage for ride-sharing companies like Turo.
The official Turo personal insurance requirements are pretty thorough. As a renter, you have a few options which vary based on your location:
- Premier Plan: 65% to 100% of the trip price with a minimum of $14 per day
- Standard Plan: 40% of the trip price with a minimum of $12 per day
- Minimum Plan: 18% of the trip price when the trip price is $250 or more with a minimum of $10 per day, or 25% of the trip price when the trip price is less than $250 with a minimum of $10 per day
For a real-world example, the Tesla Model Y listed above had 2 insurance options:
- Standard Plan: $47 per day
- Minimum Plan: $21 per day
Those extra insurance costs can drastically change the final price of your rental, so be sure to click all the way through the rental process before making your final decision.
As Turo becomes more and more popular, I wouldn’t be surprised to see premium travel cards start offering this type of insurance to differentiate their product.
As I mentioned above, I rented a car using Turo twice during a recent trip: once in Boston and again in Honolulu.
The rental process is extremely easy. The only difference from a traditional rental company was the pickup and drop-off experience, which varies by the host (owner).
How To Book a Car on Turo
To book a car with Turo, you can use the Turo app (iOS, Android) or Turo.com to enter your rental location and dates, and then you can filter your options by price, car type, year, host rating, and more.
The process is quite simple and you will be presented with a list of results with photos of the cars, ratings, number of trips, and prices, as well as a map of where the car is located.
Once you find a car that fits your needs, simply select it, confirm the dates and pick-up and return location, and continue with the booking process.
At checkout, you will be presented with extras that the host may offer, such as extra miles, prepaid fuel, or delivery. This is also where you will select your desired insurance plan.
Once everything looks good, click Book this trip and your card will be charged immediately. In most situations, you can cancel for free up to 1 day before your rental.
I booked using my American Express Blue Sky® Card because it was my only Amex that had a targeted Amex Offer to spend $150 and get $30 back. The charge was coded as transportation, so using a card that earns bonus points or cash-back on transit, such as the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express, is a good option.
Hot Tip: Through May 16, 2023, purchases with Turo can earn 5x miles per dollar spent on the Capital One Venture Reward Credit Card and 10x miles per dollar spent on the Capital One Venture X Reward Credit Card.
My First Turo Reservation Was Cancelled
One of the positives, but also negatives, about renting with Turo is that you are essentially at the mercy of individual hosts.
As is common with Airbnb, if a Turo host realizes that they have underpriced their car for a certain period (such as a holiday or big event), they can simply cancel the reservation and list their vehicle again at a higher rate.
This happened to me with my first rental in Boston.
I booked a Tesla Model 3 for 1 week over Christmas. It was the least expensive Tesla available during my trip, but within $20 of the next option. A few days after booking, the host reached out to me saying that he made a mistake with the price and wanted to see if I would be willing to pay more as an alternative to him canceling on me and relisting.
I politely told him that wasn’t willing to pay extra. He responded, apologized, and said don’t worry, he would honor the price — only to cancel the reservation 2 hours later.
Of course, in order to book a similar car, it was now more expensive. So I got in touch with Turo support, which was surprisingly easy.
They initially offered me a credit of $115.83 as they said that was the maximum they could offer without supervisor approval. Since that wouldn’t cover the difference of the new rental, I asked for the issue to be escalated and the next day a Travel Credit of $185.21 was approved.
The only negative with the Turo support was that the final booking needed to be made via phone in order to add the Travel Credit, probably so I wouldn’t use it towards a cheaper car, I assume.
Overall, sometimes you get a good host, other times you may not be so lucky. This was not an ideal experience for my first rental, but Turo made it right.
Turo Pickup and Return Process
Unlike a traditional rental car company, there is no fixed location to pick up your Turo rental.
Instead, each host creates their own policy which is highlighted in the listing. In most situations, the host will provide an address where you can pick up the car. However, many will provide the option to have the car dropped off (sometimes for a fee), which may be worth it, depending on your needs — like arriving at an airport.
For my 2 (completed) reservations, I had 2 very different experiences with hosts.
For my first reservation, I never saw or spoke with the host — which was admittedly odd for me, as I didn’t really know how the process was supposed to work.
The host simply gave me an address, which was a parking spot near a train station in Boston. I texted the host when I found the Tesla and he unlocked the car remotely for me. I found the key card in the console, took some pictures (which is recommended), and was on my way.
At the end of my reservation, I parked the car on the same street, took some pictures, and texted the host. That was the extent of my contact with him.
For my second reservation, it was the exact opposite experience, as the host was extremely hands-on.
The Tesla that I selected during our trip to Oahu had a pickup option, but it was far from our hotel in Waikiki, so I paid for the $30 delivery fee which was an option in the Extras section of the reservation. Yes, grabbing an Uber would have been a little bit cheaper, but we were on vacation and it wasn’t worth the extra hassle.
The host showed up at the agreed time (we chatted a lot via the Turo app), we took some pictures, he gave me a very complete overview of the car, and even upsold me another extra service (more on that below).
This car was immaculate and the host asked us to not eat or drink in the car, so taking plenty of close-up photos was necessary to avoid any potential damage issues in the future.
Charging a Tesla
For the first Tesla I rented in Boston, I simply charged it at public chargers or at my mom’s house during the week that I had it.
The charging infrastructure in the area was pretty good, so finding a charger was not really an issue. If I opted to use an official Tesla Supercharger, the host would be charged and then pass the charge along to me.
However, for my second Tesla rental, on Oahu, I rented the car for only 2 days so that we could explore the island, drive to the North Shore, and do some hiking. That meant that there was very little downtime to charge the car, if needed.
We were staying at the Sheraton Waikiki, which offers parking for $45 per night ($55 for valet), plus charging stations available for $2.20 per hour. So that meant I would need to first, be lucky enough to find an available charger, and second, pay for a few hours (at least) of charging. That would be at least an additional $55 per night.
So when the host offered to pick up the car each night and charge it for $45, it was a no-brainer. I simply texted him when I was returning to the hotel and he picked up the car, brought it home, washed it, charged it, and returned it to the hotel in the morning! All for $45, which saved me time and money.
Plus, with this arrangement, we realized we didn’t need the car on the morning of the final day, so he kept the car which saved us a night of parking/charging.
At the end of the trip, the host added the extra charge via the Turo app, and I accepted and paid.
6 Tips for Success With Turo
If you are researching rental car prices and are shocked at how much traditional car rental companies are charging, you may find yourself looking at Turo for the first time — as I did.
This relatively new platform can be an excellent option for someone who is looking to save some money or rent a vehicle not commonly found at your local airport car rental company. That being said, it is not perfect, but with the right expectations, it can be a great experience.
1. Read Host Reviews
Just like you would read reviews of a host on Airbnb, reading the Turo host reviews can give you a good idea of the person you will be dealing with.
The review section will also show if the host has canceled reservations in the past. Too many cancellations can be a red flag.
2. Factor in Additional Charges
While the base price of cars on Turo is often cheaper than traditional car rental companies, there are additional fees that you should factor in to get a true final price.
Charges like insurance and pickup/dropoff fees, which you otherwise aren’t used to paying, might end up costing you more than a rental company like Hertz.
3. Use Customer Service if Needed
If something goes wrong with your reservation, don’t be shy about using customer service.
I had an issue with my first rental that was going to leave me spending an extra $200 to get the same car. After a quick chat with Turo customer service, they took care of it!
4. Download the Turo App
Turo has a very user-friendly app that can be used to book, modify, and update your rental.
The app has a messaging feature that is a great way to get in touch with your host if you need anything. Plus, you can easily add photos of your rental to document the state of the car at the beginning and end of your rental.
5. Research Your Car in Advance
Since you know exactly what type of car you will be getting when you rent with Turo, you can do research about the car if you are unfamiliar.
This was my first time driving a Tesla, so I familiarized myself with the basics before my rental. This saved me time on my vacation as I was able to jump in and drive off.
6. Take Lots of Pictures
When you rent with Turo, you are using someone else’s car. While a tiny scratch may not be a big deal to the major car rental companies, it may be to certain owners.
Taking lots of pictures when you pick up and drop off the car can protect you in case a host wants to charge you for damage. Having proof and uploading directly to the Turo app could save you lots of headaches.
Overall, I really enjoyed my 2 rental experiences with Turo.
While far from perfect, being able to rent specialty vehicles at relatively reasonable prices was great for the times that I needed a car.
Moving forward, I will continue to search for airport rentals from companies like Hertz and National first, but will also compare prices with Turo. If I can get a similar car for less money (even with insurance and delivery), I would certainly rent from Turo again.
The information regarding the American Express Blue Sky® Card, Capital One Venture Reward Credit Card, and Capital One Venture X Reward Credit Card was independently collected by Upgraded Points and not provided nor reviewed by the issuer.