Last week, for the first time ever, I rented a car from a fellow named Jimmy who was a complete stranger to me. Of course, over the past year I’ve gotten a little used to strange.

I now know that Turo, the AirBnB of car rentals, has been around for for a decade and has become very popular. But before a couple of weeks ago, I had never heard of them. Chances are that you haven’t either, because there are only a few rentals available in the Tri-Cities. But, last year’s restrictions on travel put the squeeze on the travel industry, and car rental agencies were no exception. Faced with a shortage of cash and “excess” inventory, major companies like Hertz and Enterprise sold thousands of cars with the expectation that when the economy picked up, they would just replenish their inventory.

Fast forward to 2021 and a semiconductor shortage is preventing car rental agencies from buying cars. This, in turn, is driving up the price of rentals by 200-300%. When I checked the price of rentals last month for a short trip to Colorado with my daughter and son-in-law, I saw that prices had gone through the roof and so I looked up alternatives.

I found Turo to have a much wider selection of vehicles and ended up picking the best deal I could find: a 2010 Ford Crown Victoria/retired police cruiser. This was going to be epic! The day before my trip I was getting my Men in Black attire together when I got a message that the Crown Vic was having mechanical issues and I was going to need to switch. Uh oh. Had I made a bad choice?

It turns out that Turo has a pretty seamless process of switching vehicles in situations like mine, so I was offered a few alternatives and ended up choosing this 2014 Subaru Crosstek for the same price as the Crown Vic. Why did I choose this over the Jeep Liberty or an Alfa Romeo that I was offered? Because this Crosstek had a manual transmission, of course, and I needed to refresh my skills. And I wanted to feel like a native Coloradan in my Subaru.

The rental was everything I needed, even though it wasn’t very punchy going uphill at 10,000 feet in elevation. When I returned the car to the valet parking lot near the airport at the end of the trip, all I needed to do was snap a few photos of the car and turn the keys into the parking lot attendant.

I enjoyed my trip and plan on enjoying many trips to come through this non-traditional rental agency. This is a perfect opportunity for people who aren’t using their spare cars all of the time and want a little extra cash, and it is great for consumers who want more options (like a Tesla) and want to save some money.

One of the other impressive things about Turo is that they insure their vehicles up to $750,000, a far cry from the industry standard of $25,000, or whatever the mandatory minimums are in the rental state. This means that you don’t need to worry about being hit by an uninsured or underinsured driver of a rental vehicle, which happens more often than you may imagine.

If you’ve had an experience with Turo, let me know how it went in the comments below.


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