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Person-to-Person Car Sharing with RelayRides

On Saturday we tried out a Boston-based car-sharing service called RelayRides. It’s much like Zipcar, except that all the cars are owned by regular people. When they’re not using them, they rent them out.

The onboard computer

Jason and I are thinking of enrolling our car, since we rarely use it on weekends, but we wanted to try out the system from the other side first.

Like with Zipcar, a membership card locks and unlocks the door, but only during your scheduled time. An electronic device near the rearview mirror shows how long you have the car for and allows you to extend or shorten your reservation. It also houses the gas card. Gas is the owner’s responsibility (figured into the cost of the rental), but drivers are supposed to make sure they return it at least ¼ full.

When I signed up, I got a $25 credit on my account, to encourage me to use it. It’s such a new service that they’re also waiving any introductory fees, so it’s cost us nothing. If you’ve ever thought of using Zipcar, it’s worth trying out.

The whole thing’s remarkably easy, but there were a few hangups. The door unlocking mechanism was a little touchy; I had to hold the card against it longer than I thought necessary before it registered. And we did have a little bit of trouble finding the car. Unlike Zipcar, the only RelayRides sign around the car is in the bottom corner of the windshield, and the website showed a silver Honda Accord, when the car was blue. That wouldn’t have been so confusing, except a silver Honda Accord was actually parked nearby. Luckily, the owner of the car came out while I was calling the company and pointed out the correct car.

Despite that, though, the whole thing was so positive that it even convinced Jason that we should sign up, and he’s not always up for my cockamamie schemes. Once our car’s enrolled, I’ll let you know how it works from that side, too.

One year ago: Big Bellies.


Comment from Lesley
Time September 28, 2010 at 9:42 pm

I’ll be interested in hearing more about your experience with this. I rarely use my car, and this might be a good option for me. Thanks for sharing!

Comment from Isabel
Time September 29, 2010 at 1:24 pm

That’s such an interesting service!

Comment from Sharon
Time September 29, 2010 at 3:01 pm

If you need your car on the weekend, do you reserve it through the system? Presumably for free? If you make a plan on Wednesday for Saturday and someone already has your car reserved, do you sign up for someone else’s car?

Comment from Minka vanBeuzekom
Time October 6, 2010 at 11:03 am

I added my blue 2008 Toyota Yaris to the mix of available rentals. I live in Central Square so I thought I’d have lots-o-takers. However, its standard and that cuts down on the number of possible drivers.

You sign up to reserve your car up to a month ahead of time. (obviously for free!) If you screw up and need your car when its rented by someone, Relay Rides will let you use another car or pay for a cab.

Its a great concept to share your car with a wide range of neighbors. Its similar to Time Trade Circle in the sense that there is an internet interface to schedule, keep track, manage and rationalize the system.

So far its been good experience and I keep my car much cleaner than I would otherwise!

Minka vB

Comment from Brenda Pike
Time October 6, 2010 at 11:14 am

To tell the truth, that’s part of my motivation for signing up. Jason takes the car to work every day and never cleans it. I think the threat of another person seeing his mess will encourage him to pick up after himself. 🙂

I’ve never heard of the Time Trade Circle before. It’s a great idea, although there’s probably a glut of editors in Cambridge… I need to learn a useful trade.

Pingback from Pragmatic Environmentalism
Time September 21, 2012 at 11:43 pm

[…] I’ve already talked about renting cars through Relay Rides. Not that I’ve had to do it often, but it’s a useful option to have, and with no yearly membership fee, it’s a cheap, easy one, too. But for the last two months I’ve been on the other side of that particular transaction. Yup—I’ve been renting out my car through Relay Rides. Isn't it purty? […]

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