Everything You Need to Know About Using Turo, the Airbnb of Cars

How it works, what's covered, and why I think Turo is a great car-rental agency alternative

Woman looking for car on phone app
Photo: Oscar Wong/Getty Images

If you tried to escape your city on four wheels during the summer of 2021, you might remember that fateful time as the Great Carpocalypse of the coronavirus pandemic. Following a nosedive in demand (thanks, isolation), the rental car industry suddenly changed course post-vaccinations, and the surge in popularity sparked major price hiking. Bureau of Labor Statistics data showed that the cost of car and truck rentals rose by 88 percent from June 2020 to 2021.

Around that time, after spending a few weekends in our "cozy" (read: small) Brooklyn apartment, we felt it was time for a reprieve from the sweatbox that is New York City in the summer. We wanted to take a trip out to the North Fork — drink some wine, shuck some oysters, stay at an adorable bed and breakfast — but we didn't want the hassle of calling and waiting for an Uber or taxi every time we wanted to go anywhere.

We were almost foiled by ridiculous rental car prices: $229 per day at the time, picking up from Newark airport in New Jersey — which would have meant spending an hour and a half traveling west just to pick up a car and drive the opposite direction. Renting a car for three days would have cost us more than a roundtrip flight to Europe.

Refusing to pay "the man" (Avis) that kind of money, I searched for alternatives and came across the car-sharing company Turo. Much like Airbnb but for cars, owners post their vehicles for rent on the platform. Car owners ("hosts") create a profile for their car, set a price and mileage limits, then prospective renters ("guests") search by location and filter by price, rating, type of car, etc., and rent directly from the hosts.

I read multiple accounts of other users' experiences and found mostly positive reviews. Of course, as with using any new service for the first time, we had our reservations: What if the car didn't match the photos or description? What if it was in bad shape? What if we had car trouble during the trip or got into an accident — what was covered and what wasn't? What if we changed our plans and wanted to return the car earlier or later than originally requested?

We decided to give it a go with Turo, and our experience ended up being extremely seamless. Here's what to expect from a Turo vehicle rental based on our experience.

Choosing a Car on Turo

Porsche with top down driving with mountains in background
Courtesy of Turo

With Turo, you get to choose the exact car you drive. You can search for certain brands — even Tesla, Ferrari, and Rolls Royce on the higher end. The company has even compiled its most special vehicles in a section called Wedding getaway cars where you can find a set of wheels to make a grand entrance. In our case, we chose a fuel-efficient Toyota Prius, a car we knew we'd be comfortable with.

Pickup and Dropoff

At the time, Turo was not yet available in New York due to the state's insurance laws — the service launched in New York a year later, in June 2022 — so the closest pickup location we found was right across the state line in Hoboken, New Jersey, a quick subway ride away from Brooklyn. The car was located just a five-minute walk from the subway station — a much more convenient pickup spot for us than the airport, where other rental cars were held.

Pickup was the most seamless process I've experienced with any rental car service. Instead of waiting in line at an airport counter or riding a shuttle to a lot, we met the Turo host in a specified pickup location (likely outside their apartment building), was handed the keys, and went off on our way in minutes. The car was in pristine condition, very clean, and ran super smoothly. We had no problems whatsoever.

Dropoff was equally easy: We messaged our host with our ETA and then again when we were nearby. It took just minutes to hand back the keys, then we were off to the subway.

Car Troubles and Schedule Changes

Choosing a car that has high user reviews is a good way to ensure you likely won't run into issues with cleanliness or the pickup and dropoff process. Reviews will also give you an idea of any quirks the car has (windshield wipers needing to be replaced, air conditioning not being very strong, issues with connecting to bluetooth, etc.) and whether the host is flexible and responsive about schedule changes.

In the event that you have issues with the condition of the car upon pickup, Turo recommends you communicate with your host immediately and contact Turo support, which is available 24/7. If you have an incident while driving, Turo also provides 24-hour roadside assistance to those who purchase a protection plan. If you end up deciding that you want to extend or shorten your trip, just submit a request via the app or through your online Turo account and your host can either accept or deny it, depending on the availability of the car.

Insurance Coverage Through Turo

Many renters these days rely on their credit cards' collision damage waivers to cover them in the event of an accident or theft of a rental car. Most aren't able to do that when renting with Turo because it considers itself a peer-to-peer car-sharing platform, which credit card insurance policies don't usually cover.

You can purchase coverage through Turo, and the company has several pages of resources to help guests understand their personal liability and what their plans cover. Overall, there are three tiers to choose from: premium, standard, and minimum. As with all insurance, the more the plan costs, the less liability you have for covering any potential damages. Through the booking process, you will be given the cost of each plan and an overview of what each covers.

One thing to note: Turo's protection plans do provide third-party liability insurance (i.e. coverage of damage to another person or their property), whereas credit cards usually don't. Those who choose to decline a protection plan are responsible for any damage, liability, and claims that could come from their trip.

Should You Try Turo?

car owner standing with car
Courtesy of Turo

I would highly recommend it to anyone looking to circumvent the high prices at traditional car rental agencies and for overall convenience.

The Pros

As someone who pores over reviews of anything I spend my money on, I appreciated that I could read about the cars and know what to expect from interactions with the host. In the same way Airbnb fosters interaction between hosts and guests, Turo is very much based on this same engagement. In the event of an unforeseen issue, I liked that we had a direct line of communication to the host rather than having to contact a customer service agent.

And whereas traditional car rental companies have locations at airports and some outposts in cities, Turo's cars are scattered all over (across the U.S. as well as more than 50 other countries). Some hosts even offer delivery of the car right to you.

One of the founding principles of Turo, as CEO Andre Haddad explained to Travel + Leisure, was to "provide hosts the platform to tap into their entrepreneurial drive." Just as Airbnb hosts do with extra rooms in their homes and Depop sellers do with clothes, Turo gives people an opportunity to make money on an item they aren't using, and I applaud the company's mission "to put the world's 1.5 billion cars to better use," as Haddad put it. Especially during times when rental car inventory is limited, it makes sense to share cars that are sitting unused — and Turo makes the process feel more like borrowing from a friend.

While the cost of traditional car rental has mellowed out since the Great Carpocalypse of 2021, Turo is still often the more affordable option. The cost of renting a car from Turo varies widely based on the make of the car, your location, and other factors; the cost of our borrowed Toyota Prius in the summer of 2021 was $95 per day.

The Cons

What may scare off some users is that there is no damage coverage outside of Turo's add-on protection plans. Your personal auto insurance likely won't cover you if you're driving a Turo car, and neither will your credit card's collision damage waiver. Of course, you should call your insurance provider or credit card company to make sure you understand what is and isn't covered before making a decision.

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