Turo Gives Traditional Car Rental Companies A Run For Their Money

I had major sticker shock when I was looking into renting a car in Alaska earlier in the summer. The major brands wanted upwards of $800 for a 2 1/2-day rental of a compact vehicle.

I posted/vented on Facebook about the high costs, and a friend in California suggested I check out Turo. It’s like Airbnb for vehicles.

I had actually downloaded the app when I was in Hawaii in January on the recommendation of my Lyft driver (who also rents out his vehicle using the app) but hadn’t tried it out yet.

I’ve become kind of spoiled as a Hertz Gold member. I like bypassing the huge lines at the airport rental counters and quickly choosing my own vehicle from the Gold member area of the rental car lot. But the prospect of saving money was enough to make me reconsider my loyalty.

The price difference between Turo and the rental car companies for my Alaska rental was astounding. Turo was about half the price. I found a 2017 Mini Cooper Clubman, which was perfect for tooling around the Denali National Park area. Mark, the car’s owner, met me at the airport and showed me around the vehicle. He couldn’t have been any nicer or more accommodating.

After the rental, both the car owner and renter leave reviews for each other. It gives renters a peace of mind knowing that others have had good experiences, and it helps owners know the person renting their beloved vehicle isn’t likely to trash it. 

My cost saving was par for the course, says Turo CMO Andrew Mok, adding that Turo is usually about 35% more affordable than traditional rental car companies, and savings are even greater for renters looking for a truck, SUV or other specialty vehicles.

Customer service is definitely the company’s strong suit. NPS (Net Promoter Score) is a management tool used to gauge the loyalty of a firm's customer relationships, rating experiences from -100 to 100. Traditional car rental agencies are typically 15-25, while Turo comes in at over 70, he says. 

“If you look at where our new customers are coming from, actually the vast majority today is still word of mouth,” Mok says. “It’s friends telling friends. So we really rely on delivering high customer experiences and having those folks repeat and tell their friends and drive new customers.”

The company’s referral program, where current users can give new users $25 toward a rental and then receive $25 in return when the friend books a rental, has been very effective, he says. 

“A lot of folks are still finding their car rental options on Google, so we invest a lot in search engine optimization to make sure when you search ‘get a car in Los Angeles’ or ‘rent a Tesla,’ we’re showing up there on the first page,” he says.

The company, which creates its advertising in-house, also has run national TV spots along with targeted billboard and radio advertising, as well as online social networks, he says.

Besides paid advertising, the brand has more than 63K followers on Instagram. Among those posting are influencers, celebrities and athletes.  A recent post shows San Francisco rapper E40 handing the keys of a Turo sports car to new San Francisco 49ers Richard Sherman and Malcolm Smith. Director Nick Hamm is also shown at the North American premiere of his new movie "Driven" at the Toronto International Film Festival in a Delorean, one of Turo’s featured vehicles. 

“The really interesting thing about these influencers is that they find us,” Mok says. “We actually haven't gone out and actively pitched them, they used Turo because influencers like to book cool cars. So we try to find influencer partnerships that are really organic. We find that sort of authentic partnership provides more compelling creative.”

The company also runs a monthly dream car online contest with the top prize of $500 in Turo travel credit.

Turo has also partnered with Classic Car Chasers, an Instagram account that shares collectible classics for sale at auction or by a seller. Once a month they’ll share photos of a classic available on Turo for the contest. Each edition of the contest will run for one day only — the winner is chosen and announced by 5 p.m. Pacific time. This month’s contest runs Sept. 19.

The San Francisco-based company has grown rapidly on the West Coast and is “slowly but surely” making inroads in other parts of the country, Mok says. It is currently in more than 5,500 cities.

I don’t plan to completely abandon traditional rental cars—for one-way rentals like I’m going to be booking next month from Portland to Seattle, they are a necessity. But it’s nice to have options.

6 comments about "Turo Gives Traditional Car Rental Companies A Run For Their Money".
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  1. Donald Frazier from OneVideo Technology, September 17, 2018 at 7:47 p.m.

    Turo performed no vetting at all of the car I rented.   I guess there was no way for them to know it was broken in three ways or almost entirely out of gas. Or that its owner lied three times about its location, costing me $10 in Uber fees and about three hours.  (All of this too late to back out.)

    But it might have learned from a simple online check that the purported 'owner' did not in fact own the vehicle. And it might have read the time-stamped texts I provided to learn that the renter agreed to shifting the rental time, and thus the payment period forward seven hours. Or looked at the time-stamped photos to prove that he owed me at least 3/4 a tank of gas at the end.

    The real shocker is not that there are criminals like the renter taking advantage of their system and my own misplaced trust. It's that their customer service system that you praise here is so automated, making such heavy use of subcontractors and call centers with limited data that it's impossible to ever talk to a real person with decision-making authority.  Even the so-called 'manager' taking 'escalated' calls has no more autonomy than a TaskRabbit minon.

    Funny thing is, today's technologies allow them a chance to connect with each customer's experience, and AI tools allow them to learn about multiple offenders like this renter. But they also allow Turo to hold the customer off at a distance, without even a home office phone number.  The latter is what Turo decided to do. Shame on them -- and red flags for your readers.

  2. Paula Lynn from Who Else Unlimited, September 17, 2018 at 7:59 p.m.

    $800 for 2.5 days for a compact seems outrageous even for 2.5 weeks. What do you attribute this rate to ?

  3. Tanya Gazdik from MediaPost, September 17, 2018 at 8:34 p.m.

    Donald—How horrible! But your experience must not be par for the course or else their NPS score wouldn’t be so high. Paula—I think it was supply and demand — not a lot of rental cars available for Anchorage in peak tourist season. I checked all the big rental agencies and even Hotwire and got similar rates. The Alaska taxes are super high, too.

  4. Donald Frazier from OneVideo Technology replied, September 17, 2018 at 9:13 p.m.

    Thanks, Tanya!  I'm certain fraudulant car owners are not very common.  But that's not really the point.  No matter how seldom this occurs, the company should have systems that can respond to it.  And I'm sure every customer of Turo wants the company to perform basic due diligence by checking the car's registration status first. Wouldn't you take that for granted?

  5. Tanya Gazdik from MediaPost, September 17, 2018 at 9:16 p.m.

    Definitely, Donald!

  6. Paula Lynn from Who Else Unlimited replied, September 18, 2018 at 9:26 a.m.

    Thank you for the information and lesson. It will help a lot of people up front.

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