How Does Turo Work?

Learn about the Turo car-sharing service

A man handing over his keys

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As how we drive changes, how we borrow and rent cars is changing as well. Unlike Uber or Lyft, which are services where the person who drives the car serves as a taxi driver, Turo allows you to borrow other people's cars. So how does Turo work, as a business, and on the customer and employee level?

What Is Turo?

Turo is a sort of car rental service where, instead of buying a fleet of vehicles, people who own their own cars join the service and let people rent their personal vehicle as needed. Some commercial renting operations also use the platform. The company, formerly known as RelayRides, calls it “peer-to-peer car sharing,” but really, what it boils down to is paying somebody for the use of their car for a set period of time.

Turo is only the platform that enables this. The company owns no cars, and doesn't provide you with any sort of lockbox or other method to leave your car somewhere. Instead, it offers a platform to connect you with other people who want to borrow your car, and it offers insurance for your car, up to the full current cash value for collision, and insurance against theft, depending on the insurance package you choose for your vehicle while a Turo user is behind the wheel.

Turo is not an insurance company. Insurance is provided by Liberty Mutual, as of this writing, and is paid for with a percentage of a car's earnings.

How Turo Works

Let's say, for example, you own a pickup truck you only need during the week, and want to use Turo to loan it out on the weekends and put the money towards the payment. You would take a few photos of the truck, fill out the needed details on the site or the Turo app, and set up a calendar of car availability.

A customer on the platform, if they need a truck at that time, would see your vehicle on the Turo app, get in touch with you via the site, and you'd make an arrangement to meet them and give them the key. Turo suggests three options:

  • Meeting a person with the vehicle in a preset radius for your home.
  • Meeting them at a transit station like an airport.
  • Meeting them at your vehicle's location.

Turo is also developing a technology called Turo Go that will allow cars to be unlocked remotely. However, it's only available in a handful of cities at the moment.

The borrower is responsible for all damages, tickets related to their use of the car, and is also required to return the vehicle with the same amount of gas they borrowed it with. Owners, in turn, are expected to pay any tickets related to maintenance and paperwork, such as not having registration in the car, and to keep their car up to Turo's rental standards.

Where Do I Find The Turo App?

Turo has an app available on the Apple App Store and the Google Play Store, and you can also join the service via Turo's website. The app serves both renters and rentees, and offers a messaging platform enabling both parties to get in touch and make arrangements as needed. The app can also be used by the customer to document the condition of the vehicle before taking it on a ride.

Should I Rent A Car Through Turo?

Whether or not you should rent a car from Turo really boils down to whether you think you can get what you need with a better price and better service from Turo than you can from traditional car rental lots.

The main benefit of Turo, at least from a convenience perspective, is it's more likely to have the exact car you're hoping to drive, at a lower price, and it's likely closer to you than your typical car rental. It also offers a degree of flexibility you don't usually find in traditional car rentals.

However, the flip side of that is, “Let the buyer beware.” Sure, the car may look fine and even run well when you first start it, but we all know cars can surprise us with a bad day or stop working all at once, without it being anyone's fault. Turo renters also aren't expected to give the car a nice detailing, or even vacuum the floor mats, before you pick it up; you could very well borrow someone's commuter vehicle. 

Similarly, you'll have to coordinate pick-ups and drop-offs with the owner, who may not be able to meet at your preferred time and place. Always remember that Turo is ultimately just a place to find the car, everything else is up to you and the owner when you rent.

Should I Put My Car on Turo?

Just like the buyer should be careful, so should anyone renting out their car through Turo. In some cases, the service will assist its renters, such as with parking tickets racked up when a renter is behind the wheel. But if, for example, a car comes back with coffee stains on the upholstery the driver claims were already there, you may have to settle that yourself.

Beyond that concern, it really comes down to how much you trust people with the car you want to rent out. There's simply no way to know if you're renting a car you love to somebody who scrolls through Instagram on the highway. There will be some degree of risk even if you only rent to great drivers with clean records; the longer a vehicle is on the road, the higher its chances of being in an accident, simply due to exposure to other drivers.

The final factor to consider is wear and tear. More miles will be added to your car as you rent it out, and you'll need to both stay on top of standard maintenance schedules and handle issues as they come up. You should look closely at the potential costs you'll pay to keep your car in good shape, and see whether it's worth it, before you list. The positive side is you'll meet new people and even make a little money, particularly if you have a second car you don't use often. If that's you, Turo is definitely worth considering.