Renting a car through Turo is a lot like booking a room through Airbnb. However, at this point, you’ve probably already booked a stay (or lots) through Airbnb. We recently had the opportunity of booking a car through Turo for our Tesla Model S Plaid review, but now it’s time to tell you how the Turo part of this arrangement worked.
The initial setup is a little more tedious than booking through a traditional car rental company like Avis or Enterprise. That’s to be expected when you’re trying to rent a car from another private citizen, though. Browsing through available cars is certainly more tantalizing for enthusiasts. Outside of the special high-horsepower Hertz rentals, the traditional rental agency choices are going to be full of drab options. In Turo, you can page through everything from a cheap-to-rent Prius to extra-pricey stuff like the Model S Plaid we went with.
And we do mean extra-pricey sometimes. The owners of the cars set the prices, so renters are subject to the rate they see. In our case, the Tesla Model S Plaid we rented was listed for an eye-watering $888 per day. That’s for picking it up at 9 a.m. and dropping it off by 9 a.m. the next morning. We only needed it for 12 hours, so we dropped the car off early, but that doesn’t get you a discount.
Another thing you should know, when figuring out what car you can rent and how much it’s going to cost, is that the big number you see in the listings when looking at all available cars is not the price you’ll ultimately pay. Yes, the Model S Plaid was listed at $888 for the day, but there was also a non-negotiable $191.56 trip fee. Turo says, “The trip fee is a percentage of the trip price calculated by Turo, and varies based on the expected costs to support the trip, the vehicle’s value, trip duration, and other factors.” In addition to the “trip fee,” Turo requires you to select a “protection plan” on vehicles of high value. The Model S Plaid qualifies under this rule, and the “standard” plan added another $355.20 to the overall trip cost. If you book early enough, Turo will give you an “early bird discount” of some nominal value (depending on the booking price), but that doesn’t do much to dent the cost. In total, our day with the Model S Plaid rang up to $1,434.76. Yowza.
With that much money spent, you’d expect to have the world at your fingertips, but if you only rent for a single day, this car’s owner limits the rental to just 100 miles of total driving. If you go over that amount, a $4.44/mile fee applies. It adds up quickly, so we kept it under 100 miles for our purposes.
Upon showing up on rental day, the Turo app prompts you to take a ton of photos so as to document the car’s condition. This is tedious, but definitely a good idea to protect yourself from any fraudulent Turo renters. And trust us when we say you’ll want to have the receipts when it comes to renting anything from a private individual (or business for that matter). We’ve seen the horror stories, and when there’s a six-figure car on the line, the stakes are just that much greater.
Once done with all the documentation, access to the car is granted, and the loan went off without a hitch. The owner hit us up partway through the day with the offer of more time (for an additional day’s rent), and we politely declined. If you were wondering about the condition of said Model S Plaid versus a normal non-Turo rental car, you can read all about that here. In short, the car was more than a little worse for wear, as the steering wheel covering was peeling off and the white seats were deeply discolored. It’s hard to know exactly how much of that was the result of it being a Turo rental and how much was the result of inherent Tesla quality.
After wrapping up with the Model S Plaid, we returned it to the owner’s parking spot with just a couple miles to spare on the mileage limit. The rules of the rental dictated that you must return the car with as much charge as you picked it up with, but since we needed all the miles we could get for evaluation, going to a Supercharger would’ve put us grossly over the limit. In a show of good faith, the owner did not charge us extra for returning the car with a battery far more depleted than we picked it up with.
The dropoff situation is just the same as picking it up. Take a ton of photos, upload them into the app, then go through the onscreen prompts of finishing the ride. It was easy, and the whole process required no interaction with the car’s owner or other people. No mysterious cleaning charges or anything else showed up in our account after the ride either — we actually left the car cleaner than we found it since we gave it a thorough washing at a DIY car wash for photos and video.
Since the rental, we noticed the same Model S Plaid has come down in price dramatically to be only $289 per day. Yeah, that’s absurdly cheap compared to the price we saw for the same experience — perhaps the owner just wasn’t getting any renters at $888, so the inaction of others dictated the price come down. That’s everybody else’s gain! If you do decide to rent with Turo, being as diligent as possible with photos and noting the condition of things should be top of mind. It’s definitely a downside, but on the other hand, your local Enterprise probably doesn’t have a Model S Plaid, Rivian R1T or Mercedes-AMG GT available at the counter.