A Look at Turo and How You Can Make Money With Your Car
As someone who works at home and has a spouse who does the same, there are plenty of times when our car sits lonely outside of our apartment. Sure we’ve been known to take the occasional road trip and, of course, have errands to run, but there have been times when I’ve wondered if we would be better off renting our car out when we weren’t using it. I had actually heard about this concept before but hadn’t really come across a particular company that facilitated it. That was until a friend pointed me toward Turo.
Looking at Turo, I was pretty intrigued by what I found. Personally I was a bit surprised to find that there were several vehicles available in my relatively small city of Springfield, Missouri. What’s more, some of the vehicles have been on multiple trips, suggesting there is a market for the service even out here in the Ozarks.
So what exactly is Turo and how can you utilize it to make extra income? Let’s take a closer look at this peer to peer car rental platform.
How does Turo work?
The easiest way to explain Turo is that it’s essentially Airbnb for cars. One could also call it RVShare or Outdoorsy but for cars instead of recreational vehicles. In either case the basic idea is that hosts can list their vehicles on the platform to have drivers rent.
With that framework, here’s how the service works from each end of the transaction:
The process of booking a car with Turo seems fairly straightforward. First, you can search for available vehicles in the area of your destination and select the days you’ll need to rent a car for. From here you can sort by price, filter vehicles that don’t offer delivery, or get more granular by searching for specific makes/models or other factors.
While the search page will show you a single photo of each vehicle along with the host’s average rating, the vehicle’s rental price per day, and more, you can click any of these listings for much more info. In most cases you’ll not only find several additional photos in a listing but will also find important stats such as the vehicle’s average MPG, the type of gas required for the vehicle (midgrade, premium, etc.), the number of seats, the type of transmission, and more. You’ll also find the host’s policies for the vehicle, such as mileage limits, delivery fees, pet and smoking fees, and any extras offered.
Once you’re ready to book, there is one more major step you’ll need to take: set up a Turo profile. Like many sites these days, you can register with Turo by entering an e-mail address or by linking your Facebook account. From there you’ll also need to confirm your mobile phone number, add your driver’s license information, enter an address, and verify your email address. You’ll also need to upload a photo of yourself either from your device or via Facebook. I assume this is akin to Lyft or Uber where the host will use this photo to verify your identity when you pick up the car (I also presume Turo compares this to your license photo as part of their vetting process).
When finishing up your Turo booking, you may notice a few other fees listed in addition to the base day rate depending on what options you chose. For example, here you’ll see any delivery charge you’ve selected. Additionally Turo charges a Trip Fee that they say “helps us run the platform and provide services like 24/7 customer support to you.” According to the site’s FAQ, this amount can be up to 25% of the Trip Price. However, in the rental I was looking at, the Trip Fee was only about 10% of the day rate. There are also other fees you may incur such as Young Driver Fees (for those aged 21 to 24), but you can read up on that one and others here.
On top of that you may also be charged a deposit. Just like at a hotel this amount will be refunded to you assuming you return the vehicle in good condition and obeyed all the owner rules, but protects the host in the event you choose to ignore things like smoking policies or otherwise cause damage to their vehicle.
Admittedly I didn’t complete an actual Turo rental myself but, from what I’ve read on the site, the host has eight hours to accept your rental request before it expires. Hopefully they’ll respond faster than that and there are listings that offer instant booking as well. Then, just meet your host at the designated spot at the established time to begin your trip.
With that basic overview of how Turo works from the renter’s side, we’re going to spend the rest of this article focusing on what it means to be a Turo host. First, it should be noted that listing your car on Turo is free, with no monthly fees or upfront costs. Instead the site will take a cut of your rental rate, although you’ll retain 60% to 85% of your rate depending on the protection plan you choose.
As a Turo host, you’ll be responsible for managing your listing, answering renter questions, and approving bookings. This includes the ability to set pricing, availability, policies, and more. Once again, if you’re familiar with Airbnb, Turo is the same idea, but you’re renting your vehicle instead of your home.
There are a few restrictions to note regarding who can be a Turo host and what cars are eligible to be listed. For example, hosts must be at least 21 to rent cars in the U.S. and will be asked to provide info, such as the last four digits of their Social Security number. As for cars, they can not be older than 12 years old (unless being listed as a “specialty” or “classic” car), have more than 130,000 miles, or have a value of more than $150,000. There may also be restrictions if your vehicle is leased. Plus, hosts will need to adhere to Turo’s maintenance requirements in order to list their vehicles on the platform.
How much can you make with Turo?
That is the real question, isn’t it? Of course it’s also that hardest to answer offhand. That said Turo does offer a helpful “Carculator” that can generate some estimates based on your car’s make, model, and location. While the number of cities you can choose from for that last step are limited, you can also select “US Average” or “Canada Average” if you fall outside one of the specific markets.
Being curious about what our vehicle could fetch, when I originally wrote this review in 2019, I entered the info for our 2010 Ford Focus and chose the “US Average” for location. At the time, Turo estimated that we could rent our car for a rate of $33 a day and book it more than 15 days a month. That would mean monthly net earnings of $380 or $25 a day. On top of that, if we were to offer delivery on the vehicle, those figures rise to 17 days of bookings for a net of $428 a month.
More recently, I entered the same info for the 2010 Ford Focus. Interestingly, the site now estimates that the car would net $24 a day and be booked 20.5 days per month, for a total of $485 a month — climbing to an estimated 22.4 booking days and $506 per month if we offered delivery. Since we no longer have that car, I also decided to look up what Turo thought we could rent our 2015 Lexus CT200h for. As one might expect, the estimated earnings per day are higher with the Lexus, coming in at $39. Thus, while they anticipate 15 booking days without delivery and 17.3 booking days with delivery, the estimated earnings per month with this vehicle came out to $577 and $668 respectively.
Obviously there are plenty of other factors that will determine how much you can earn with Turo that aren’t accounted for in this tool. For example things like demand are factored in when using the “US Average” option. Furthermore, regardless of your location, your rental availability will also surely have an impact on your earnings. Nevertheless it is interesting to get a rough rental day rate from Turo, as this could be the main factor in whether or not it’s worth it to try listing your car.
Speaking of day rate, now is also a good time to note that Turo gives hosts the option of either utilizing Automatic Pricing or setting a flat rate. When you employ Automatic Pricing, Turo adjusts your rates based on demand, seasonality, and similar factors, thus allowing your listing to remain competitive. Alternatively you can always set your own price and adjust it manually when needed.
Managing your Turo listing
In the time I spent exploring Turo for myself, one thing became abundantly clear: managing your car’s listing is key. This is something that the site’s host resources harp on again and again — and for good reason. Slacking on your listing can lead to a number of problems ranging from lower booking rates to canceled bookings and perhaps penalties. Therefore here are a few things the site says to keep in mind when creating and managing your vehicle listing.
It should come as no surprise that it’s your listing’s photos that will first get potential renters to check out your car.
Among the tips Turo offers regarding photos are:
- Take photos of your car from multiple angles
- Ensure the entire vehicle is visible in the frame
- Include photos of the interior
- Capture images in good lighting
- Make sure other vehicles aren’t present in pictures
- Try to take photos in creative, unique locations
If you’re looking for extra help, Turo actually has a list of “Turo-Approved” photographers. Unfortunately this service may not be available in all areas. If that’s the case for your city, you can always check with friends or even turn to Craigslist to find a photographer who can help you out.
Second to the photos you share is the description and details you provide to prospective renters. Here you’ll not only want to highlight important policies you have for your vehicle (more on that in a second) but also point out any special features your vehicle has. Turo also has some icons you can employ to denote certain amenities and features you may want to take advantage of.
Have you ever had an Airbnb host, Uber driver, or — worst of all — an Uber Eats delivery person cancel a booking on you? If so, you surely know that it’s not a very good feeling. That’s why Turo advises hosts to pay close attention to their availability calendar to ensure that they’re able to honor the rental bookings that come in.
Policies and delivery
One thing that’s great about Turo is that the service allows you to set some of your own policies for your vehicle. This could mean banning smoking, pets, and more — and charging a cleaning fee for those who disobey your rules. There are, of course, some restrictions to the policies and fees you can enforce, but Turo’s host FAQ has some more information on that.
Speaking of your policies, one major decision you’ll need to make about your rental is your delivery policy. Turo allows you to offer set delivery prices to various airports, landmarks, and other locations as well as set a delivery radius. Incidentally they also note that listings that offer free delivery get booked 60% more than those that charge for or don’t offer delivery — just one more thing to think about when you’re setting up your listing.
Last but not least, Turo advises that response time can be a major factor in getting your listing to rank better in searches. Since those looking at your listings will be able to see your Response Rate and Response Time, there’s even more motivation to ensure you’re doing what you can to respond in a timely manner.
How does Turo’s insurance and coverage work?
To be sure, handing over your car to a stranger is certainly not for the faint of heart. Luckily Turo works to ease your fears by providing up to $750,000 in third-party liability insurance from Liberty Mutual as well as other coverage options for your rentals. The platform offers different tiers of coverage that will impact the percentage of the rental fee you’ll retain but could provide you with better peace of mind. In July 2020, Turo overhauled their plans and now features five options, each named for the percentage of the rental fee that the host will retain: 60 Plan, 70 Plan, 75 Plan, 80 Plan, and 85 Plan.
Here’s a look at how Turo’s coverage tiers break down (as of May 2021):
As you can see, there are several things to consider when choosing a coverage option with Turo. For those who plan on renting their car often, the coverage that the 60 Plan option provides may be worth the reduction in income. Meanwhile those who only plan on occasional rental may forgo features like the wear and tear coverage in order to keep a little more of their rental money in their pocket. Like with so many other aspects of life, there’s risk and reward to be balanced when selecting which Turo option is right for you.
Final Thoughts on Turo
To me, the service Turo provides makes a lot of sense. Although I haven’t booked a car, while exploring the site, I found the platform to be easy to use and had a lot of options for finding the perfect vehicle for your needs. As far as pricing goes, it also seems to be in line with what you’d find elsewhere — then again, I’m admittedly not too well versed in rental cars.
Turning to the hosting side of Turo, I have to say that this potential side hustle appeals to me much more than, say, renting a room on Airbnb, driving for Uber, or similar options. My main concern would be the investment of time it would take to clean the car between rentals and maintaining the car properly — especially as someone with next to no mechanical knowledge. But, for someone looking to help pay down their car loan by renting out the vehicle or just increase their income by monetizing something they’re not using, I could definitely see Turo as a helpful tool that’s likely to grow in the coming years.
Also published on Medium.