This App Lets You Rent Your Idle Car To People

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The typical American car sits idle for 23 hours a day, so there’s a lot of potential to create a car rental market from the asset base of people’s personal vehicles.

A few people in my area use this service called RelayRides, that lets you rent other people’s cars, or list your car for rent.

I haven’t tried it yet, but it is a lot cheaper than a traditional car rental service, and also “car rent share” membership programs like Zipcar and Enterprise. I have Zipcar currently, which has a $35 annual membership fee, costs $7-10 hr or $70-90 for the whole day, and requires no gas or insurance payments.

Alternatively, I could rent this dude Brian’s 2013 Ford Focus he says is parked over near the Ellsworth-Federal stop off the Broad Street subway for $30 a day, or $185 a week, and then replace whatever gas I use.

Both options are pretty convenient for how much I drive these days (rarely) but I could imagine actually using RelayRides more if there were multiple cars for rent throughout the neighborhood, especially if I could rent them by the hour.

What’s the political angle? Philly’s taxi market has way too few taxis for the amount of people who live here and the prices are too high. That’s because state law says there can only be 1600 medallions in the city, even as the population grows. Now we’re printing 150 new medallions for disability-accessible new cabs, which is great, but we should really just keep on printing until we get to the number of cabs per person we see in DC.

Some state politicians from the area have gotten interested in this issue, and that rules. Hopefully we’ll get some kind of population-based formula for printing medallions at the state level. But even if they’re not successful, we can “print more medallions” ourselves by signing up more cars to get rented with this RelayRides app. Every car that signs up for this is basically the equivalent of a new taxi, from a medallion owner’s perspective, and it’s a cool way for people to make some money off their idle vehicles (don’t worry, there’s an insurance plan you’re covered with while someone else is driving).

The endgame is that the more people who sign their cars up to get rented, the cheaper these rentals will be, the less parking we’ll need, and the more Philly will Copenhagenize.

This entry was posted in Economy, Land Use, Transportation.