Spent a trip to Las Vegas in May $51 per day (plus taxes and fees) to get a car from the Alamo for three full days by canceling and rebooking multiple times through major auto companies. The challenge with this trip was that we would have six adults and a lot of driving to do, visiting Yellowstone National Park and other wilderness areas. Either we need one very big car – picture a minivan going through the Rocky Mountains – or two. Listed are SUVs or pickup trucks that could fit us all for around $400 a day—plus outrageous gas prices.
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That’s when I decided to consider Turo, a peer-to-peer car sharing app. Friends had mixed experiences, from incontinence to literal deception. With that in mind, I decided to give it a try.
The first thing my family decided to rent was two cars, but I still wanted an SUV to store luggage and manage the terrain of Montana and Wyoming. Options ranged from Teslas to pickup trucks.
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You have located Bozeman, Mont. , as our site, limited my search to “All Star” hosts and started saving listings just like I do on Airbnb. I wanted to make sure we had a clean, comfortable car and a host with a history of positive reviews – I’ve heard complaints from car owners who canceled the ride right before the trip. I also made sure to scrap the list for free so I could change if needed; Most rentals I’ve seen have had this. I picked a 2018 Buick Encore for $99 a day from a host with a five star rating and over 20 reviews. Compare this to nearly $300 a day for sedans at car rental sites.
I created my account, where I had to add my driver’s license information. I booked my car and paid $636.78 for five days, which included the daily rate, trip fee ($10.54/day) and minimum protection plan ($17.82/day). Then I waited for my hosts to accept my reservation which only took a few hours.
There were other options to consider when considering cost: Some hosts charge for drop-offs, including at the airport, around $35 to $50, and some have mileage limits. Our rentals covered 1,000 miles and charge 50 cents per mile thereafter. I thought that was more than enough, but soon I learned how much you drive in the Yellowstone area. The jeep my brother rented through Turu had unlimited miles but cost about $10 extra per night.
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For younger drivers, there are other considerations. Some hosts will not rent to people under 30 – which is not an issue for us – or include additional security checks for young drivers. You must be 18 years or older to rent from a peer host and at least 21 years to rent from businesses that rent on the Platform. If you are under 25 years old, you will pay a minimum “Young Driver” fee of at least $30 per day. It’s $50 if you are 18 to 20 years old.
You can add items like bear spray (a necessity in Montana), camping gear, coolers, and child safety seats for a variety of costs. You can also prepay for refueling, which ranged greatly depending on the vehicle.
Your car insurance often covers your car when you rent a car. But since this was my first time using the Turo, and I was renting a car for a person versus a company, I was nervous to turn down all kinds of insurance. Additionally, Montana is wild, as we know from the recent Yellowstone floods. Weather, rocks, and animals can all cause damage.
Turo has three levels of plans: initial, standard, and minimum, which cost from 100 percent to 18 percent of your trip plan and limit damage liability from $0 to $3,000. I opted for Minimum Protection, which costs less than $18 per day.
While our host advertised free airport pickup, I was surprised to learn that Turo may charge its own fee for this service. In Bozeman, Turo charges renters 10 percent of their airport pick-up transaction. Since the airport was not specified as my pick-up location, this fee was not on my radar. In my brother’s case, he paid $35 for delivery and over $60 for the “airport fee”.
When I asked Turo about the airport fee, the company told me it’s applicable at some airports when Turo is allowed, but not all, and the cost depends on the city. The fee appears before you check out when you have a designated airport to your pick-up location. So it’s another cost to consider when comparing rental companies to Turo.
Since I was carrying the car without the host present, he asked me if I could upload a picture of my license for “trip photos” to my account a few days before the trip. Because my brother was picking up at the airport, his host asked for flight information.
We’ve calculated the cost of dropping the car off at the airport and decided it’s best for Uber to get to the pickup location. It was a $35 trip, but the trip allowed us to talk with our driver about the Bozeman boom and nearby towns and the residents were priced out as a result. And the Uber ride was a lot cheaper than the $95 my brother paid in pickup and airport fees.
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The car was parked on a street in a neighborhood about 20 minutes from the airport. It was very clean and as expected – no extraneous decorations or smells. I packed a charging cable, which I know wasn’t included from previous experience, and connected to Apple CarPlay. And we were out.
The little SUV was just what we needed for the hours we spent driving around Yellowstone with four adults for five days. We had no issues and had no reason to communicate with our host during our rental.
The day before our flight ended I got an alert I can request an extension of our trip; We didn’t need this but it was nice to have the option. After a few hours, my host texted him with delivery instructions – leave the car where we took it with the keys inside and then send him a message.
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The car was covered in mud from driving around Yellowstone, and I asked my host if he wanted to wash it. I was motivated by this show: I realized I lost track of miles, and we were probably over 1,000 miles. I had hoped this gesture of goodwill would prevent us from being charged. My host said you don’t have to worry about that because they wash cars between the tenants. There’s no extra mileage charge for us anyway, but next time, I’ll remember to set the odometer.
As I queued in front of a car rental desk at Chicago’s Midway Airport last week, I dreamed of Toro. The line was long, plus you have to deal with the entirety of the car rental agent’s words, which seem to take a long time: Want insurance? Want to pay up front for refueling? Do you want to upgrade? It’s the last thing you want to deal with after a long flight.
Overall, my Turo experience was affordable, easy to pick up and drop off, and not unlike an Airbnb booking.