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Renting Out Our Car with Relay Rides

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?

It’s been easier than I expected. The five people who have rented the car so far have been clean, considerate, and mostly on time. How does it work?

  • Sign up through Relay Rides. There are some requirements because they want a reliable fleet, so check to see if your car is eligible. Our old one had too many miles.
  • Set the charge. Relay Rides takes 40% of what’s charged to the renter, so factor that into your calculations. (We didn’t at first.) We now have ours set to $9/hour, $70/day. This means that we get $5.40/hour, $42/day. If a person exceeds the mileage limit, this barely exceeds the depreciation ($0.23 per mile for a new car, according to the IRS), so we’re not making that much profit on it in the end. But I think of it as borrowing from my future self, and in the process putting something to use that would otherwise just be taking up a parking space all weekend long.
  • Reserve your own car. You should block out the times that your car definitely won’t be available. For us, that’s usually weekdays, since Jason takes it to work. You can’t set up recurring reservations on their calendar (a huge oversight), so we’ve started just blocking out Sunday night through Friday evening to save time. It means people aren’t able to rent it weekday evenings, but that’s fine with us.
  • Confirm reservations. You’ll get an email (or text) when someone requests your car, and you have to either approve or reject them. Do this quickly, since Relay Rides reports your average response time on your profile. If you need to, you can email people in order to work out the details before approving a reservation.
  • Check odometer and gas. There’s a “limit” of 200 miles a day, but it’s only a limit in that people have to pay a per-mile fee of $0.25 after that. (This happens all the time for the day rentals. Just email Relay Rides with the extra mileage.) I take before and after photos of the dashboard that show the mileage and gas (which they’re supposed to replace).
  • Hand off the keys. Unless you want to have a mobile access device installed (after you have two good reviews, you can buy one for $100), you email the renter to arrange for key pickup. It’s a good opportunity give them more info about the car (like, make sure to step on the brake when you hit the start button) and check their license (Relay Rides confirms that they have a valid license, but you check that it matches the person you’re giving the keys to). I was anxious about this at first, but I think the initial face-to-face interaction makes the whole thing more positive. They’re more likely to treat your car well, and you’re more likely to be flexible if they’re late.
  • Receive the keys. After the rental, arrange for key drop-off, check the car’s condition, and email Relay Rides with extra mileage or gas charges.
  • Get paid. Relay Rides mails you a check each month—through snail mail, so there’s quite the delay between rental and payment. But, hey, we made $179 last month, so it seems worth it.

So far I’ve had only positive experiences with renters, but if something does happen, Relay Rides insures your car for a million dollars. That’s partially what their fee goes to. There has been one instance where someone in a Relay Rides car got into an accident that killed them and seriously injured four people, and the company was quick to reassure people that even if medical bills topped $1 million, the owner would not be liable for them. This has been the only case of its kind, so the principle hasn’t been tested much, but I’m reassured.

The extra cash is nice, but the real reason I love doing this is that it ensures that Jason keeps the car clean, instead of treating it like a trash can. Bonus!

So what do you think? Would you rent out your car? Do you want to rent ours?

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