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Car rentals by owner can save you money, but know the rules before you drive away

Posted at 5:00 AM, Oct 06, 2021

If you're looking for a cheaper car rental, how about renting from an individual owner?

Car sharing businesses are growing, but you need to know the rules because they are not always the same as dealing with traditional car renters.

Amy was in Boston for her daughter's hockey game when her rental car died.

"I turned it and it wouldn't start," Amy says. So she called roadside assistance.

"The first thing I asked was, 'is there a charge?'" Amy said she was told there would be no charge, so she continued.

With most rental car companies, you expect that emergency service would be included.

But Amy rented from Turo, one of a growing number of peer-to-peer car-sharing businesses.

Turo and others have offered a much cheaper way to rent as traditional car rental prices skyrocketed.

And while prices are decreasing now, Amy says she got a bargain paying $313 for what she says would have cost more than $500.

These businesses may offer cheaper prices, but they also offer a different set of rules.

Mileage is usually unlimited with most major car rental businesses. But with Turo, it's up to the owner.

Amy got 800 miles included and would pay per mile after that.

As for roadside assistance, most major companies offer basics for free. With Turo, assistance comes if an owner or renter gets a Turo protection plan.

Amy's roadside mechanic confirmed her diagnosis.

"Yeah, your battery is dead, I'm just going to give you a jump," she says about the encounter with the mechanic.

And while Amy says she was told there would be no charge, that wasn't the case.

"The next morning, I had an alert on my app: you owe $70," she says.

Amy let me know and went to Turo.

They say they take safety very seriously.

Turo says they have "strict requirements on vehicles listed" and the car Amy rented is "currently restricted" until it's inspected.

As for that roadside assistance charge, they didn't comment, but we found details in their policy.

It's something Amy says she was told after questioning the $70 charge.

"Well, there's no charge to send someone to you, but there's a charge to jump your car," she says.

Turo did send Amy an email saying they were taking a "deeper dive" into her issue.

They apologized for her frustration in dealing with the situation and Turo refunded Amy the $70.

She says her persistence was more about being told there would not be a charge, than the charge itself.

Thanks to Turo for coming through.

If you're going with peer-to-peer car rental, know exactly what you're getting.

Question the owner about a protection plan and get what is covered in writing.