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Posted by Tito Hamze in Review, Sunol Group Media, Technology

FlightCar: A Transformation in Rental Transportation

When you turn 16, you can get your driving permit. When you turn 18, you can smoke. When you turn 21, you can drink and when you turn 25, you can rent a car. You have to wait the longest to do the most unexciting privilege of renting a car. I recently had to travel to the east coast for work and this is the story of how I used a legacy vendor of rental cars Dollar Rent-A-Car and comparing it to using the new FlightCar service

Uber and Lyft have been revolutionizing the transportation industry, Airbnb has flipped the hotel industry upside down and now, FlightCar is completely disrupting the rental car industry. I think it’s awesome. The rental car industry has been doing the same thing for years with little change, no innovation and with the same few incumbents pretty much holding a monopoly over the business. The first time I heard about FlightCar I thought it was an amazing idea. I finally got to try the service and I was very pleased.

The way that FlightCar works is basically people who have to travel and need a place to park their car go to FlightCar and they park their car. Now, while the owner is out and about traveling, the car is rented out to customers. The owner of the car gets $.20 a mile when the car is driven. They get transportation to and from the airport in a black car. When they return, they get their car back, washed and with a full tank of gas.

Online Experience

With Dollar rental car it was very old school. You pretty much pick the category of car that you want and then when you get to the rental location, they give you whichever car they have available in that category. You don’t know exactly what car you are getting until you get it. Then, you choose an insurance package and enter payment information. What confused me most is that I purchased insurance online, but then when I got to the rental car location they told me that I should never buy insurance online, because it was not given by the rental company. Why it was an option on their online checkout, I have no clue.FlightCar Website

With FlightCar it was a whole different deal. You can tell when you are on the website that they really put time and effort into their design and the entire rental experience. What I found amazing was that the car that I picked to rent online was the exact car that was given to me at the FlightCar location.  Also, picking the insurance was very straightforward. With only 3 options I could choose, it was reasonable and simple. Lastly the payment was simple and quick.

 In the Real World Experience

The first place that I had to pick up a rental car from was Dollar rent-a-car at LaGuardia airport in New York. When I picked up the car, even though I had already purchased online in advance, it literally took me around 25-30 minutes to figure out all the details and sign my life away on about 9 to 10 different documents.

Overall, it was quite cumbersome and time consuming. When I got to Dollar, they told me not to pay for the insurance offered online on their website…Why?. On the other hand, with FlightCar when I arrived in Boston, it was quick and simple. It was only a matter of arriving, showing them my credit card information and drivers license and everything was done on an iPad right in front of me. The whole rental experience at FlightCar took maybe five minutes at most.FlightCar Boston

Returning the car at both locations was about the same experience. The only difference was that Dollar Rental was located at the airport and FlightCar was located at a location near the airport. Usually after getting to the FlightCar location, you get dropped off by a black car at the airport, but this time, somebody else was getting dropped off, so one of the employees simply took us to the airport in the car that we had rented. Not sure how often that happens, but it must happen every once in a while if they have so many rentals going out. Given that FlightCar is 30%-50% cheaper then the traditional service, it wasn’t that big of a deal.

I had some time to talk to the driver while he was dropping us off at the airport and he said that all the rental car companies are against FlightCar. It is true, there are lawsuits currently in process with the company, but he told me there was good news and that the other companies shouldn’t worry. “FlightCar is not a rental car company we’re a parking company,” he said smiling.

Another interesting fact he told me was that at the Boston location during the holidays, FlightCar had about 150 cars that were rented out at once and still the lot was full. The economics of this business are amazing. There is always a supply of cars for rental and they don’t have all the overhead of the other rental companies. Overall the situation is a win for all involved.

 Recommendations:

First Recommendation: Create an iPhone app that shows the nearest gas stations to the FlightCar location so that vehicle can be refueled before returning car. It should be very easy and straightforward and they could possibly partner with the local gas stations. No need to hassle with searching on Google maps.

Second Recommendation: Since customers are renting out personal vehicles who live in area, if they have parking permits or anything associated with that vehicle that can also be rented as an add-on, I would be willing to pay extra for that. Street Parking in Boston is hard to find and if there happens to be a car that has the correct permit for an area that I’m staying in, I would want it. Including that permit information in the car description would be ideal, plus maybe an up-sell.

Third Recommendation: An EZpass or Fastpass rental for tolls and bridges. This is essential to travelers, especially if they aren’t from the area.

I enjoyed using FlightCar because I enjoy using anything related to a sharing economy. Waste not, want not. If we are all using the resources we have to their fullest, then we can all get what we need for the cheapest possible cost. When the experience of using these new services like FlightCar is simple and with more benefits then the traditional way of doing things, I’m all for it. FlightCar has a bright future ahead of it and I am a happy customer.

Here is a referral code if you decide to sign your car up or rent a car with FlightCar: GYHQ

*I did not get paid by any company to use or try this service.

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