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Renting your car to strangers

Website offers new car-sharing concept

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ORLANDO, Fla.(KPRC) Handing your car keys over to a complete stranger may not seem like a great idea at first pass, but dozens of Central Floridians are doing it-- and making good money.

[WEB EXTRA: Relay Rides | Relay Rides Insurance]

It's all because of car renters like Veronica Wilburn, who decided to think outside the box while she was planning her family's recent vacation to the Sunshine State.

Instead of using a traditional car rental company like Enterprise or Hertz, Wilburn decided to rent a car from an individual owner.

"I was looking for a convertible because I just thought it would be fun to drive to Florida with the top down," Wilburn said.

Wilburn booked her car rental through RelayRides.com, a San Francisco-based company introducing customers to the concept of "car-sharing." Owners rent out their personal vehicles to strangers for days, sometimes weeks.

"You can get a better car," Wilburn said. "Not only at a better rate, but you can get better features, a car that's got more gadgets."

The site works much like a traditional rental car company. But here in Orlando, the list of cars includes standard vehicles and top-of-the-line models like Range Rovers and Jaguars.

Customers enter the dates they need and submit a request. But one big difference between Relay and other rental companies is the car a customer picks out is the same car they drive.

Steve Webb, from RelayRides, said car-sharing makes perfect sense economically.

"The average car is sitting idle around 92 percent of the time, and that's costing you on average around $250 a month," Webb said. "Rather than you making money for your car, your car is actually making money for you."

That's exactly why Juan Sebastian Saettone said he starting renting out his Infiniti SUV.

"Within one week's time, my car payment is made," said Saettone.

So, just how does Relay Rides stack up to traditional rental car companies in terms of price?

On Enterprise's website, an intermediate car like a Toyota Corolla is $59 a day.

With Hertz, a similar car is about $50 a day.

On Relay Rides, you can get Saettone's Infiniti FX35 for the same price.

Saettone said each owner sets the price, as well as mileage limits and things like how full the gas tank should be upon return.

"When you do rent out to a renter, the application keeps 25 percent of the rental fee, so 75 percent goes to the actual car owner," said Saettone. "You can charge for additional things such as pickup or delivery that are added on to the total cost. Then, we ask anybody who rents the car to return it in the same condition. Everything is verified strictly through the app, so we take a couple photos at the point of pickup, where the mileage is at and what the gas tank is reading and then the condition of the car. We submit that at the beginning of their period of rent and at the time that they return, we do the same where we take photos fo the front of the car, the back of the car, the mileage and the gas and everything matches up. As far as mileage, anything over is about an additional .75 a mile."

Relay Rides claims all renters are pre-screened before being allowed to rent vehicles. The company also offers 24-hour roadside assistance for renters, and covers the owner's vehicles with a $1 million insurance policy in case of an accident.

But keep in mind, if you're renting out, your regular auto insurance policy may not cover any damages totaling more than that. That's because in many cases, renting out your car is considered a commercial use. Some insurance companies offer separate insurance policies for those who rent out their cars or drive for ride-sharing services.

If you're the one renting the car, you can purchase extra protection through Relay Rides if you want, but their insurance may not cover any medical expenses or underinsured or uninsured motorist coverage.

So insurance experts recommend you check out your policy before you book to make sure you know how you're covered.

Still, Saettone says for him, it's a no-brainer.

"If it's going unused, it's not making you money, it's costing you money," said Saettone. "So for me, now, I've turned it into a way where my car is making me money and paying for itself and I'm only without it for a short period of time."


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