Business
4:10 pm
Mon June 6, 2011

Rent your car to a stranger?

Your car may be your most-prized personal possession, but the vast majority of the time it's parked not doing anything. Now, several startup companies propose to help you capitalize on your car's downtime by renting it to perfect strangers.

Following the example set by California last year, the Oregon Legislature is set to tweak its insurance rules to smooth the road for person-to-person car rentals. One company already has hundreds of registered users across the Pacific Northwest, even though the service has not officially launched in that region. And, another company plans to include Washington state this summer.

John Atcheson, the vice president of the person-to-person rental company Getaround.com, said renting out personal vehicles in California has so far brought “surprisingly few issues” concerning the condition of cars or misuse by renters.

Atcheson's company and its competitors screen the driving records of prospective borrowers. Private car owners post when their vehicles are available in a members-only internet marketplace. The car sharing companies take a 35 to 40 percent cut of the rental price to cover administration and insurance. Atcheson said owners and borrowers police the marketplace by giving each other online ratings.

“ The only issue I can think of right now,” said Atcheson, “is that someone had a BMW sports car in the system. It was a stick shift. Someone who didn't know how to drive a stick shift very well took it and burned the clutch down."

His company helped to pay for a new clutch, he said. Getaround.com already has 500 registered users across the Pacific Northwest, he said, and hopes to formally launch in Oregon soon.

Eric Loebel is one Geraround customer ready to let his Portland neighbors "borrow" his car. Loebel drives a 2000, dark blue Volvo sedan. The sales and marketing consultant says he doesn't use it much.

"My wife and I are huge bike commuters and almost don't need a car,” he said, “but haven't quite been able to eliminate that element. So we have a car that basically sits in front of the house maybe 85 to 90 percent of the time."

So, Loebel will be one of the first car owners in the Northwest to list his wheels for rent.

"Cars are so expensive to own. This can definitely offset some of the cost," he said.

Another service called JustShareIt plans to start up in California, Oregon and Washington this summer. JustShareIt's founder says his company will stand out by going beyond cars. It plans to offer person-to-person rentals of power boats, ATV's, jet skis and snowmobiles too.

To keep up with the discussion about person-to-person rentals, check out the Oregon Peer-to-peer care sharing blog.

 

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