The next frontier Private car rentals a new approach in the peer-to-peer business

Aaron Levy reviews the insurance that covers his yellow Dodge Challenger when he offers it for rent through Turo, a peer-to-peer car rental service. Levy said that he feels comfortable renting out his car because Turo provides insurance during the rental and screens the renters.

Charleston restaurant worker Kevin Perrin doesn’t own the sort of car found in a typical rental fleet, a 2006 Ford Taurus with a cracked windshield. But he’s been able to make money by renting it out through a peer-to-peer business called Turo.

Mount Pleasant resident Aaron Levy, in contrast, owns the sort of car many people wouldn’t let their best friend drive: a 2012 limited-edition, 490-horsepower Dodge Challenger with a manual transmission. He, too, rents his car through Turo.

The 5-year-old San Francisco business, formerly called RelayRides, isn’t well-known in the Charleston area but claims a presence in over 2,500 cities and 300 airports. Turo serves as facilitator and middleman between people interested in renting out their vehicles, and the renters, with a website ( and apps to handle transactions, reviews, roadside assistance and insurance.

The company rebranded itself last month as Turo, announcing that the company had raised $47 million in new funding and had been “redesigned to inspire adventure.”

“Turo’s mission is to put the world’s 1 billion cars to better use,” Turo CEO Andre Haddad said in that announcement.

Perrin typically charges less than $30 a day to rent his 2006 Ford Taurus. One reviewer described the car as “serviceable” — perhaps not the sort of adventure Turo is promoting, but Perrin has done more business than any other Turo member in the Charleston area, renting his car 26 times.

“I would say a majority of them have been tourists,” Perrin said.

Perrin lives on the Charleston peninsula, not far from where the airport shuttle bus stops, and he works downtown, so he doesn’t use the car much. When someone rents his car, Turo collects the information and payment online and verifies the renter’s identity, and Turo’s insurance policy takes the place of Perrin’s during the rental.

Perrin’s role is to confirm that his car is available and arrange to meet the renter where the car is parked. He’ll look at their driver’s license, give them the keys and receive 75 percent of the rental cost.

According to Turo spokesman Steve Webb, the average car owner makes $600 a month, but that’s before any costs for maintenance and extra wear and tear, and no Charleston area Turo member appears to rent frequently enough to earn that much. In Los Angeles and San Francisco, however, Turo has vehicle lots at the airports, where vehicle owners could potentially do lots of regular business.

The company operates in every state except New York, where Webb said the insurance laws are “unique.”

Online, potential Turo renters can see photos of vehicles offered for rent, with prices, availability and reviews. The service is somewhat like better-known Airbnb, which allows people to rent homes and apartments.

While Perrin offers one of the least expensive cars currently advertised for rent in the Charleston area through Turo, there are also luxury cars, pickup trucks and more recent models, including Levy’s bright yellow muscle car.

Levy has been renting his Challenger for between $45 and $60 a day. He said his first Turo customer was a nine-day rental, and he’s had no problems with the clients.

“This is a one-of-a-kind car that I think a lot of people would be hesitant to rent to strangers, but I think Turo does a good job of qualifying people who want to rent,” he said. “I told the last guy who rented it, ‘You’re going to get some looks driving this car, like you’re a hot girl.’ ”

Levy, who owns the recently opened record shop The Vinyl Countdown in Charleston, said he has a second car he can use when there’s a Turo customer for the Challenger.

Turo’s offerings in the Charleston area are limited. For many dates, the company’s website shows fewer than a dozen cars available. In contrast, several hundred vehicles are listed for rent at Los Angeles International Airport, often at low prices, such as less than $20 a day to rent a 2014 Prius C.

“For me, it’s been fantastic,” Levy said. “I’m not getting rich off it, but it’s basically paying some auto payments.”

Reach David Slade at 843-937-5552.

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