For three years, Portlanders have been able to bring in extra cash by sharing their personal cars, trucks and vans on Getaround. But until this spring, a car owner had to personally approve every request, forcing reservations to be planned well in advance.
Now, the service has removed that hurdle. Anyone sharing their car on Getaround must obtain a Getaround Connect dashboard device for $99 plus $20 a month, then mark online any time slots the car is available for sharing.
If a Getaround driver sees an available car using the company’s app or website, they can reserve, access and start using it immediately, no approvals or key handoffs needed.
“When we first launched on-demand rentals in San Francisco we quickly realized this was the way people wanted to rent cars,” Getaround spokeswoman Hailley Griffis said in an email. “In order for Getaround to provide a real alternative to car ownership, renters need to know they can reliably get a car, at the drop of a hat, when they need one.”
For people who want to drive Getaround cars, the main downside of the switch is that there are now many fewer cars available, because not too many people have chosen to install and pay for a Connect service. A year ago, Getaround’s website listed hundreds of people around the metro area with cars theoretically available for sharing; today there are just 48.
The lower competition may also drive up the price of a Getaround rental, which tends to be cheaper by the hour than comparable Zipcars and cars2go. (Like those companies, Getaround covers the driver’s insurance, but unlike them it doesn’t cover the driver’s gas.)
However, the new system has also weeded out the dozens of Getaround users who might have signed up years ago and forgotten about it, or who might habitually back out after someone attempted to book their car.
Moreover, the lack of competition may be a big advantage for people who continue to share their cars and trucks on Getaround. It almost certainly means more revenue per shared vehicle.
“Since shifting to instant in San Francisco, owners are earning an average of $500/month,” Griffis wrote.
If you’d like to become a Getaround member (it’s free) or to sign up to share a vehicle (there’s a one-month free trial) you can do both on their website.
Michael Andersen was news editor of BikePortland.org from 2013 to 2016 and still pops up occasionally.