TransportationCamp: Can Peer-To-Peer Car-Sharing Promote Balanced Mode Choices?

TransportationCamp - Sam Zaid, GetAround

GetAround Founder and CEO Sam Zaid speaking at TransportationCamp West on March 19 in San Francisco. Photo by Matt Nelson.

This weekend I participated in TransportationCamp West, an “unconference” in San Francisco that explored the intersection of urban transportation and technology. This is the first article in a series I’m writing about sessions I attended.

Car-sharing is a great option for some city-dwellers – you get the benefits of having access to a car without having to pay for parking, insurance, or maintenance. The traditional car-sharing model practiced by companies like Zipcar and City CarShare essentially utilizes the collective buying power of its members to purchase and maintain a fleet of automobiles. But what if we could utilize a small portion of the massive fleet of privately-owned vehicles that aren’t be driven at any given moment? Is there a way to harness this resource to help promote more balanced mode choices?

These are the stated goals of several startups competing in the “peer-to-peer car-sharing” space. Car owners can sign up their vehicles and rent them out to other users in their neighborhood or community. The owner sets the rental price for his or her vehicle by the hour, and after taking a small commission from the transaction the car-sharing company pays the owner.

At TransportationCamp we had a panel discussing the implications of peer-to-peer car-sharing with representatives from SprideRelayRides, and GetAround. At the most basic level, this model relieves the company of most duties related to cleaning and maintenance and provides an income-stream for car owners while potentially expanding car-sharing to sparsely-populated neighborhoods and suburbs. It could help encourage a car owner to walk or take transit for some trips if they know their car is out earning them cash – according to GetAround founder Sam Zaid, the top-earner on his service brought home over $970 in a month. There is a direct tangible benefit tied to taking other modes for both parties: for the owner, if you are driving your car it won’t earn you any money – for the renter, if you take the train instead of renting you save money.

Traditional car-sharing services claim more than half-a-million users in the United States, mostly in urban areas and at college campuses – peer-to-peer car-sharing, on the other hand, is still in its infancy and is only available in a handful of cities. It remains to be seen if these services will gain any traction, but they have the potential to expand the idea of car-sharing as an alternative to car ownership and ultimately promote transit, cycling, and walking.

12 thoughts on “TransportationCamp: Can Peer-To-Peer Car-Sharing Promote Balanced Mode Choices?

  1. davidjchurch

    I think this is better than Zipcar if it gets widely adopted because then the cars will be utilized more. Of course there could be a point where it becomes so widely adopted that only a few of the owners are able to make any money…

    1. Steven Vance

      Wide adoption is a long time coming.

      Even if few owners are able to make money, the owners who don’t have their cars rented often are not losing anything from the deal. They still have the car for their use. Perhaps they will eventually sell their car and rent from others.

  2. johnathanw.

    Its cool that we have so many options to move about including this new hype about peer to peer car sharing. Anything new takes time, but with people sharing rather than owning, it should be there soon. My buddy & me were test users for this peer to peer car sharing company called JustShareIt outta San Francisco. They made the process of sharing my car as trust is a big thing for people like me. I read that Oregon is trying the same thing & hope JustShareIt gets their soon to help folks.

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  6. Galpin

    This is actually a great idea, especially for owners who have more than one car and have them just sitting in the garage. The money earned from such a peer to peer program could cover the registration costs and even provide for some nice pocket change. I know some folks in Los Angeles who usually take public transportation but only need access to a car once in awhile for road trips; this program would be great for them.

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  9. David


    Car owners do NOT want to pay a commission to rent their cars out if they do NOT have to. For example, provides FREE listings. This is why websites like Craigslist have become so successful. Car owners also do NOT want to install keycard equipment into their cars that can be hacked by a handheld scanner while the keycard is in someone’s pocket. In addition, these car sharing companies are failing to inform the car owners that they could be liable for manslaughter if their renter gets into an accident due to a defect in the car that could have been uncovered and cured (This is the law).

    When all these companies finally figure it out, the final look of the peer to peer car sharing business model will look more like the eBay model. For example, it will contain both a CLASSIFIED and AUCTION section. Many car models will be in short supply unlike the conventional car rental market. Demand will out pass the supply. Renters will submit bids to rent the cars. The final winning bid will set the rental rate. All other less popular cars will be listed in the classified section.

    There will be peer to peer car lots where people can park their cars for FREE and have them rented out when they are NOT using them (This is a setup for a franchise business model).

    There will be individual car managers who manage and rent out groups of cars for their neighbors in exchange for a fee (Peer-to-Peer Car Brokers).

    There will be landlords that provide space for peer to peer car sharing and they will use that as an incentive to rent out their apartments.

    There will be a master keycard that works with multiple car sharing companies.

    There will be a Virtual Vehicle Rental Sticker (VVRS) attached to the car windshield. The sticker will contain a QR bar code and it will allow renters to scan them with their smartphones to pull up the rental information, book the car and pay for the rental where ever the car is parked.

    There will be a search engine, or a search feature in Google that will consolidate and display a map result showing cars parked in multiple street locations from different car sharing companies and their prices with a link to that website’s booking page.

    There will be car sharing feeds where renters can receive ALERTS when a specific cars are listed near their location to give them a first come first rent option.

    I can go on and on. This is the future to the peer to peer car sharing business model. The FEE model companies like Relayrides and Getaround have employed now will FAIL. Because there will be FREE peer to peer listing sites.


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