Anyone who owns a vehicle knows that there’s inevitably a time when it requires service. I drive a Mazda CX-5 that has served me well. But when the brakes began grinding, I know I made a cardinal mistake and did not replace the brake pads in time. Off to the mechanic I went (I prefer going to a local, trusted mechanic versus a dealership once out of warranty) for the necessary work. Due to a backlog, it was going to take a few days to complete. I don’t usually drive a ton during the week since I work from home. But I do require a car for short, daily trips. So, I decided to use this opportunity to try the Turo car sharing service.
What is Turo?
Consider Turo the AirBnb of car sharing. Vehicle owners can list their cars on the site for others to browse and use for short- and long-term periods. The site features thousands of cars in various local areas, ranging from muscle cars that will make your pals salivate to practical minivans for a family road trip and simple sedans if you need to get from Point A to Point B while visiting a new city.
When you find a car you want at a price that’s reasonable, you can book (with an account) on the app or online. Choose an insurance protection plan, then start chatting with the host to make necessary arrangements. There is free cancellation for up to 24 hours before the trip should your needs change.
There are a few common questions people have about the Turo experience. Is it safe? Is the coverage good? How easy is the process? And most important, is it worth it? I decided to find out.
How to Use Turo
The first thing you need to do is set up a Turo account using the app or website. Manually enter your details or log in automatically using Apple, Google, or Facebook credentials. Add personal details, including your address, credit card details, driver’s license number, expiry date, birth date, and more. You will also need to take a profile photo so owners can easily identify you.
Now, get searching. Browse by city or specific address (like the airport) as well as the preferred date and time for pick-up and drop off. If you want to have the person drop the car off right at your door (I wanted this option), first enter your address in the “where” top search field than under “All pickup locations,” select “pickup at address” or “pickup near address” which will narrow the search down by people who are willing to do direct drop off and pick-up. Talk about door-to-door service! Some hosts include a few free drop off spots, like a local GO Train station or airport.
There are additional search filters to narrow things down by parameters like price, distance included, top-rated hosts, cars that offer app unlock, exclusive options for guests aged 30 and above, accessibility vehicles, all-wheel drive, back-up cameras, and more. You can also search by vehicle type, from mini vans to standard cars, and even vehicle make, year, number of seats, and more. Search by category as well if you’re looking for something family friendly or backroads ready, for example.
Options are expansive, ranging from large SUVs (perfect for family road trips) to smaller sedans, electric vehicles, cool muscle cars, and more. Each host has a rating on a 5-star scale (devised by previous customers) along with how many rides they have arranged to date, plus reviews from past bookers. Ratings take into account five major factors: cleanliness, maintenance, communication, convenience, and accuracy. Some hosts are listed as All-Star Hosts, meaning they have developed a reputation for offering top-notch service with fabulous reviews (similar to Airbnb’s Super Hosts).
Within each listing, you can see multiple photos of the vehicle as well as additional details like how many kilometres you can add to the odometer (some offer unlimited), how many kilometres you get per tank of gas (or per charge for an electric vehicle), what type of gas the car takes (or what percentage charge it will arrive with for an electric), how many people it seats, how many doors, if it’s automatic or manual transmission, and other amenities, like built-in Apple CarPlay or Android Auto, back-up cameras, Bluetooth, GPS, and more. There are even extras, including a child car seat (usually for an added fee). Some vehicles are available for long-term rentals as well. Bottom line: using the filters, you can find exactly what you need.
What about insurance? You should be covered by your own insurance plan, but it’s always best to cover your bases, especially with this unique car sharing option. Turo offers minimum and standard coverage. All plans come standard with $2,000,000 liability coverage. With the upgraded standard protection, you get a maximum of $500 out of pocket in the event of an accident or damage. Insurance is provided by Economical Insurance Company, or ICBC in British Columbia.
Expectations are also listed, including things like no pets or smoking, and the gas or charge status required for the return. Some listings provide an option to prepay so you don’t need to refuel or recharge before return (within reason, of course. It’s never good form to return a car on empty!)
Finally, there’s the total price, which fluctuates based on how many days you want to book (there’s a discount for three or more days) as well as the times for drop-off and pick-up.
Naturally, I focused on booking with an All-Star Host who had done more than a dozen transactions. For my review experience, I wanted to level up from my compact SUV and opted for an electric vehicle. Rather than go with a Tesla, I opted for a 2022 Ford Mustang Mach-E. Go big or go home, right?
The price is broken down by the trip price and how many kilometres are included (the charge per day and the total number of days), the discount if you book for three or more days, extra charges (if applicable), the trip fee in total and per day, and the sales tax. Does it all look good to you? Then, it’s time to book! I hit the book button and started my journey.
Finalizing the Booking
The vehicle I booked included 1,200 kilometres, which is much more than I would need. The base cost was $140 per day or $420 total, minus $84 for the three-day discount (I booked for three days total). I opted to prepay the EV recharge so I could return the vehicle with at least 50 kilometres left on it. I upgraded to the standard protection plan, which was $134.40 ($44.80 per day) and the trip fee was $94.16, or $31.39 per day. The grand total was $624.27, or $208.09 per day. Yes, this service is expensive. But consider that this is a higher-end electric vehicle. There are options for standard vehicles that are half that, potentially less.
Before finalizing the booking, you are asked to provide a photo of the front and back of your license along with a live photo of yourself to confirm that the pictures match. It took a few times for the camera (you can use a QR code to switch to your phone if you book on a computer and then switch back) to properly read the barcode on the back of my license. Make sure you are somewhere with good lighting and place it on a dark background, like a table.
Once the booking was confirmed, the host’s address was provided. (You can initially see the general area of where pick up is if you are picking up the car but the actual address isn’t revealed until booking is complete.)
Within a minute, I received a message from him, thanking me for booking. He asked if I was local and said that dropping off the car would not be a problem. That saved me $120 in selecting “pickup at my address” upgrade, but note that it isn’t guaranteed every local host will be as willing to do this.
A few housekeeping things to note: you can add a driver but you personally must be present for pick-up and drop-off. Under the “Help” section in the Trips tab in the app, you’ll also see the incident information card should you require it as well as the car sharing agreement and details of the protection plan you have chosen.
Pick up, Drop Off, and Using the Vehicle
Now came pick-up. I set this for 10 a.m. the morning after I booked, but, as noted, arranged with the host for him to drop the car off early in the morning on his way to work, after which he could remotely unlock it for me once I sent a message and a photo of myself with my license and was ready to drive. I confirmed on the Turo website that this is a legitimate method for remote check-in. If you do this, you can cover the address and/or first few digits of your license number before taking the photo for privacy purposes.
I was awake when he arrived, however, so met him outside for a quick walk through. The host was gracious and informative, advising me that I could contact him day and night through the in-app messaging if I had questions or concerns. He also advised of close by EV charging stations, which ones are best, and gave me some additional tips about the vehicle. There needs to be photos before departing on your first journey, and he did that in advance and uploaded them to the Trip section in the app. He also snapped a photo of me with my license in front of the car before leaving and added that to the app. This confirms that he delivered the car to the correct person.
Through the following three-day period, I took several short trips within my area (despite friends urging me to speed down the highway and really give the car a test drive!) I did some light highway driving as well.
This isn’t a review of the 2022 Ford Mustang Mach-E, but for those who are wondering, it’s a wonderfully smooth drive with comfortable seating, an oversized digital display for controlling everything from music to cameras and other settings, and handles beautifully. (The owner assured me it can go pretty fast, but much to the dismay of many, I did not take to the open road to break the speed limits with it.)
As a first experience driving an electric vehicle, this car has me seriously considering one as my next vehicle. With that said, back to Turo!
Whenever I had a question, I messaged the owner and he replied almost instantly every time. (Then again, I would, too, if someone had my very expensive car in their possession!)
All communication is done within the Turo app, with a trip page that includes a messaging tab, the ability to modify the trip if needed, and report damage (let’s hope you don’t have to do that!) Towards the end of the trip, I also received an e-mail asking if I wanted to extend it, noting that the host may be able to do so if notified in advance. This is a great option if you decide you want to stay at the cottage for an extra day, or you’re stuck in traffic and would prefer returning the car the day after scheduled.
Once the car sharing period was over, he returned to pick up the vehicle (again, not something he had to do). Photos were taken of the vehicle and uploaded to the photos section of the app to confirm that it was in pristine condition. You need to take at least eight images of the exterior and 8 of the interior. This is for insurance purposes in case a claim ever arises due to damage or other issues.
Thankfully, I got my Mazda back a few days earlier than anticipated (shout out to Richmond’s Auto Service in Oshawa!) There was a nice dent in my wallet after that, but thankfully none in the Mustang.
Should You Use Turo?
I was skeptical about Turo. There are always worries about insurance, damage, and renting from private owners. Should I, especially as a woman, meet a stranger alone to pick up a vehicle? The rating system and previous guest reviews provide reassurances, and you can select a public place to meet: even if it costs extra, it will be worthwhile if you are worried, especially meeting someone at night.
It sounds like a crazy idea, but then again, so did AirBnb and Uber, and look at those companies now. Turo is shaking up the market with its car sharing alternative, providing serious competition for car rental companies like Enterprise and Budget. It provides a potential supplementary source of revenue for hosts. Imagine living in downtown Toronto and owning a car you only use on weekends since you walk or bike to work. Why not rent out the car for the times when you aren’t using it? Maybe it’s a two-vehicle family that can get by with one vehicle for much of the time, or on weekends, and can make some extra income on the second vehicle.
If a host shares a car out once a month, that could effectively pay for the car itself. Of course, there are risks, including the potential for damage, accidents, disputes, and other incidents that could occur while someone else is driving a car you own.
Who would use Turo? People traveling to a new city, a family or person taking a road trip, or people like me who might need something for a few days while an out-of-warranty car is in the shop. Then, there’s the market for super-cool cars. Someone who has spent a fortune on one can rent it out (for a handsome sum) to those who want to test drive it for a day or two. Imagine getting your spouse their dream car (the one they could never afford) to drive around for a weekend as a birthday present? (Check out, for example, this Lambo rental in Los Angeles!)
I’d recommend that if you use Turo, only choose from five-star All-Star Hosts, read the reviews, and double check that all the parameters meet your needs, including things like kilometre and distance allowance. Always opt for the standard insurance versus minimum, which will offer greater peace-of-mind.
Whether it’s to get around during a business trip, take the family on a road trip from Toronto to Montreal for the weekend, or to impress friends when you roll up in a Maserati or Jaguar (yes, there are ones available!), Turo is worth checking out. My first experience was simple and went off without a hitch. I can’t guarantee it will be the same car sharing experience for everyone, and with every host and vehicle. But I’d highly recommend using Turo the next time you need a car to get around. I’ll definitely be using it again.