Neighbor to Neighbor Car Rentals

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Here’s a truly great business idea. Maybe even the next Craigslist or eBay. Rent your car to a neighbor when you don’t need to use it. You could be earning money from your car.

What a timely idea: over the next few years, as long-awaited electric cars become available, with their high initial costs; many of us are finally going to buy a car again. We know an investment in an EV is the right thing to do for the planet, and over the long term will pay back those initial costs, but how to cover the upfront higher cost?

In London; WhipCar is just opening its virtual doors for business this week. They expect to be able to help participants earn back some of the nearly $8,000 a year it takes to operate a car in London. In San Francisco, serial entrepreneur Sunil Paul is working on the same idea, but he has a small hurdle to overcome first. The law.

First he needs to change auto insurance law here to enable it. That is because under current state laws, individual car owners risk invalidating their insurance if they accept money from others to use their vehicles.

Serial entrepreneur Sunil Paul says his early-stage venture fund, Spring Ventures is backing the idea for Spride, which has yet to create a website or refine the name. What could the costs amount to? Not much. Pretty much just operating a website, checking drivers licenses and driving records online, collecting the payments online, and forwarding (a planned 80% of) them to the renter.

But first things first. Sunil Paul has contacted his congressman, Dave Jones, to introduce a bill to change the law that invalidates your insurance if you accept money to rent your car.The California Assembly will begin hearings on it next week. If it meets with success, he will launch the pilot program in the Bay Area within this year.

Under the pilot program, Paul plans to install a special gizmo in participating vehicles that enables approved renters (ones who have paid the fee online and have had their drivers licenses and driving records checked) to unlock and operate the car using a special key fob. This is the obvious next step from the car-sharing programs like Zip Car, which uses similar technology.

This is the sort of business that is ideal for this post-google-mapping virtual world that we all now inhabit. Why get a ride all the way to the Hertz rental office downtown when you can see that Mary on the corner is advertising her cute VW at just $10 an hour for this afternoon. It will be cinchy returning it too. Just stroll back from the corner once you are done with it. You’ll even get to chat with someone you have never met – yet who has lived within a hundred yards of you for the last 10 years. It seems like a no brainer, right?

In an increasingly resource-constrained world, this kind of ongoing recycling while producing fewer vehicles, but sharing each one among more of us, could be one of the greener ways of the future.

Image: Steve Jurvetson’s Tesla (could this be for rent?)

Source: Wall Street Journal Blogs

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