Turo Review: How Renting Out Our Cars Turned Into a Free Tesla

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This is my review of the Turo peer-to-peer car rental platform, from the owner’s perspective.

Over the last 4 months, my husband and I have managed to leverage underutilized cars in our driveway and the Turo platform to get a free Tesla Model S for our day-to-day driving.

turo review owner

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This Turo review comes from Heather Loree and Joe Fier, an entrepreneurial super couple in San Diego, CA. They have been creating, growing and selling businesses for the last decade side by side.

Heather spends her days running her virtual event planning company, Events with Care. She is releasing her first book in 2018 called The Wedding Hacker: A Budget-Minded Wedding Playbook.

Joe’s company, Evergreen Profits, and podcast, Hustle and Flowchart, keep on the pulse of online marketing, traffic and branding. (I was a guest recently!)

Take it away, Heather!

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Turo is the leader in peer-to-peer car rental in our hometown of San Diego.

Think Airbnb, but for cars.

We first heard about the platform from a friend who was building up a fleet of dream cars and sharing them on Turo to cover the expenses. She was leveraging the platform to enjoy the cars of her dreams with minimal cost.

My husband and I both work from home and had two cars in the driveway that rarely moved.

Before jumping in the deep end and buying a new car to share, we decided to just test renting out one of our existing cars, our 2013 Acura ILX:

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Creating Your Turo Listing

My first step was to set up a detailed profile about the car, add quality photos, and ensure the calendar was set with availability that worked for us.

Your listing should include:

  • High quality pictures of the car inside and out. Pretend like you’re trying to sell it! (Turo offers free professional photography of your car to create a great looking ad.)
  • Your rental rate (you can also opt in for “Automatic pricing” to let Turo adjust your rate based on demand).
  • How many people it can seat.
  • Mileage per gallon estimates.
  • Features of the car, like GPS, automatic transmission, leather seats, and other details renters might care about.

For example, here’s what our profile page currently looks like:

turo listing example

Making Your Listing Stand Out

Turo also allows you to offer “extras” with your rental, just like regular car rental companies. In our listing, we give customers the option to not worry about returning the car full of gas, or to add on car seats for the kids.

turo listing extras

Nick’s Notes: One other profile “hack” I thought was super smart was Heather including her Turo referral link in the description of the car:

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This gives renters $25 off their first booking and earns Heather $25 in Turo credit as well. It could help seal the deal if a renter is deciding between your car and another similar one.

In order to get the car booked often, I wanted to make things affordable and convenient for renters, so I “checked the box” for features like:

  • no delivery fee
  • 24 hour availability for pickup/drop off
  • automatic booking confirmation
  • flexible delivery location

While those features secured more bookings, they also led to 5am pick up/drop offs at the airport, so we had to find a smarter way. More on that below!

Our First Turo Bookings

Once the car was actively listed, it took about two weeks for us to secure our first booking.

For the first few bookings, we would drop the car off and pick the car up from the owners directly.

The hand off process was a little bit of effort and left room for wasted time — especially if the renter’s flight was delayed or their baggage was held up.

As more bookings came in, I quickly realized that the pick ups/drop offs were going to be problematic. In order to maximize this side hustle and to keep our busy schedules on point, we needed to find a more efficient solution.

Automating Turo Drop Offs

I did some research and put together a plan of attack to automate the drop off process at the start of each trip.

I found a magnetic hide-a-key on Amazon and a great remote car tracking device called Automatic. With these two tools in tandem, I gave myself much more flexibility on the car delivery to renters and some security to monitor the car remotely.

Before Each Rental

Before each booking:

  • the car gets cleaned
  • we top off the gas
  • we take new photos for insurance records (more on insurance below)

This process got easier when we signed up for a monthly car wash plan that allowed unlimited washes ($15 per month per car). As a bonus, it happened to be on the route to the airport.

Nick’s Notes: That sounds like a steal for the car washes!

Our Drop Off Process

We park the car in the agreed upon location for pick up within 24 hours. I prefer secured lots that I can pre-pay, but this comes at a cost.

For example, since most of our renters are arriving at the airport, we tell them the car is at one of the airport parking lots nearby. They can walk or take a shuttle there, and we’ve gotten the feedback it’s like a fun scavenger hunt for them.

You can find a free parking spot, which could work equally well and save a few bucks.

The key FOB is locked in the car, and I hide the manual key on the car inside the magnetic combination hide-a-key box.

Meanwhile, the Automatic is tracking the situation second by second, so we can see that the car hasn’t been “picked up” (aka stolen) before the renter has arrived.

Once the renter arrives at the car, I have them provide their ID and a selfie by text to confirm they are the correct renter. I then provide the hide-a-key location and pass code, so they can access the car.

This process has received great feedback from all the renters and it seems our strategy is something other car owners and renters on Turo are demanding.

(In 2019, Turo will be releasing Turo Go which offers a solution for simpler pick ups and drop offs. It will allow renters to access and unlock cars via an app, allowing instant wheels for renter’s ease and for the car owner’s financial gain.)

Other Drop Off Logistics

The drop off and pick ups do require two people.

If we lived closer to the airport or in a city with better public transit, we would certainly be leveraging that in our plan. I could Uber back home but every additional expense cuts into the profit.

So instead, we just turn our drives to the airport into a fun outing by taking a walk by the San Diego Bay or going on a little date night. We’ve turned the inconvenience into inspiration for healthy little breaks from our entrepreneurial pursuits.

Generating Customer Reviews on Turo

Securing reviews is critical to building up your profile and your car(s) profiles on Turo, but currently the company does not do a great job of encouraging reviews.

I do a few things to help generate great reviews, like:

  • little special upgrades for guests
  • small freebies
  • ASKING for the review at the end of the rental

I always find out how many people will be in the party when a booking comes in. When I drop the car before a trip begins, I put a water bottle for each person in the group, as well as a pack of gum and a welcome/thank you note in the car.

These are small, cheap items, but make a big impact as they are not expected.

Additionally, I always offer my advice as a local when in communication with renters.

Most folks I have rented to are vacationers who are coming to San Diego to relax and explore. I have developed some template messages with recommendations angled at couples’, families’, or business travelers’ preferences.

If I have access to a coupon that they can use or a discount link for a attraction they will be visiting, I share it. Anything small things I can do to help their improve trip is worthwhile.

Getting Your Car Back

At the end of the trip, I take photos of the car in front of the renter (unless they are in a huge hurry) and close out their trip. We normally meet at a public place near the airport, do the photos/inspection, and then I’ll drop them off at the terminal.

If they were a good renter, I tell them that and note that I just gave them a 5 star review and I’d really appreciate a great review if they feel inclined.

Since I added this protocol, I’ve received an awesome review for every booking.

Here are some of our recent glowing reviews:

turo customer reviews

Expanding Our “Fleet” on Turo

Since we started on Turo, I’ve added two more cars to our account:

  • A 2017 Subaru Outback
  • A 2014 Tesla Model S

We always keep one car available for our personal use, so managing the schedule across three cars can be a little tricky. I foresee us doubling our earnings by 2019 once all our cars get “seasoned” with 5 star reviews.

The Tesla–our dream car–is the most recent addition to the fleet. We are getting to enjoy driving that car while others pay all the costs.

Having a mini-fleet on Turo has allowed us to enjoy a Tesla that we would not have splurged on otherwise. In the future, we may add an Aston Martin since that would make me the best wife ever : )

How Much Can You Make on Turo?

On their homepage, Turo has a cool little calculator to estimate how much your car might earn on the platform:

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Right now, we’re earning enough to cover all the costs for the three cars each month and I invest only a handful of hours per week. To essentially bring our vehicle costs to zero is pretty cool.

At the moment, I estimate my hourly return on investment at about $80-100 per hour.

Even just a few months into this adventure, our cars are breaking even each month and earnings are on the rise. Turo earnings are covering the auto loans, insurance, and maintenance costs. I project by 2019, we will be stashing aside some sizable profits each month from our Turo rentals.

Here’s how the income and expenses break down for each of the cars.

2014 Acura ILX

This is the first car we listed (active for 4 months on Turo) and has been booked most consistently since it is now the most established with lots of 5 star reviews.

  • Monthly cost of ownership: $350
  • Monthly average earning: $618, booked 20 days

2017 Subaru Outback

This car is newer to the platform and has only been actively listed for 1 month, but has already received a handful of 5 star reviews and has bookings slotted into January 2019.

  • Monthly cost of ownership: $650
  • Monthly average earning: $784, booked 15 days

2014 Tesla Model S

This car is the newest to out “fleet” and we have mostly been driving it ourselves since the other cars are covering most of the expenses and have been booked all the time… and we want to drive this beauty!

  • Monthly cost of ownership: $800
  • Monthly average earnings: $404, booked 4 days

Turo Side Hustle Income Totals

After 4 months on platform with consistently monthly growth:

  • TOTAL COST: $1800
  • TOTAL EARNINGS: $1806

So by letting other people drive our cars a portion of the month, we get to use them for free the rest of the time, including a
“free” Tesla!

How Does Insurance Work with Turo?

If you’re worried about insurance for your car with Turo, you’re not alone! This was definitely a concern for us before we created our first listing.

Turo has several insurance coverage options which allow you to sleep well knowing you are covered if a renter causes damage to the vehicle.

Per their website, “Your car is protected against physical damage, up to its actual cash value, for collision and most “comprehensive” causes, including theft.” The company also provides $1 million in liability insurance.

Hosts have their option of 3 main insurance options: Basic, Standard, and Premium.

turo insurance

How the insurance works is with each step up in coverage, Turo takes a larger percentage of your booking as their fee.

For example, if someone rented your car for a week for $400 and you had the Standard plan, you’d keep 75% of that trip price, or $300.

Benefits of Renting Your Car on Turo

As I mentioned, as our listings gain more reviews in the next few months, I can see this easily going from a “breakeven” side hustle to profitable one.

Still, it’s exciting to use a new platform like Turo to subsidize — and ultimately profit on — the costs of our vehicles.

If your car is anything like ours, it probably sits idle a good chunk of the time, depreciating by the day. Turo presents an opportunity to turn that otherwise idle time into cash.

I also like having the flexibility in when, how, and for how much we list our cars for rent. If you know you’re going to need your car, just block off those dates on the booking calendar.

Overall, we are so happy with our Turo experience and see it as a great side hustle for those who love cars but don’t get too attached (since you do have to share).

With a little creativity and marketing effort, we now have three cars earning their keep.

Conclusion

Nick’s Notes: Turo is an interesting side hustle for sure. I think it’s best for people who live near an airport, who have flexible schedules (for drop offs / pick-ups), and who can go without a car for certain periods of time.

Another reader shared that larger cars tend to do particularly well on Turo. His speculation was that traditional rental companies charge really high rates for those vans and SUVs, and he was able to undercut them while still maintaining a healthy profit margin on his monthly costs of ownership.

If you decide to list your ride on Turo, you might consider adding it to the similar Getaround platform to reach more potential customers.

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