For the joys of travel many obstacles must be endured. Most are trivial and the overcoming of them contributes to the satisfaction of a good trip. One that looms large over most voyages is finding a way to get around in one’s destination. Unless that spot is discreetly walkable or served by excellent public transportation (think Chicago, NYC, Paris, London), that means renting a car. While purveyors are numerous and the booking easily completed on line, finding the car you actually want and securing it once you get there, standing in for an extended grilling at the counter worthy of the stasi, make the whole thing a less than pleasant experience. For the Florida trip I’m currently completing, I stumbled into another way to do this thatI heartily recommend. As an owner of Jeeps since 1990, I love it when I can happen upon one for a rental. Few companies even offer them at all, and for those that do they’re often out of stock for the destination sought. We love a big Jeep Wrangler 4 door whenever we hit Tampa Bay. Popping those roof panels to let in the Florida sunshine and hitting the causeway is a joy. It was actually an experience with one of those rental Wranglers a few years back that convinced us that’s what we wanted for our next car. But trying to make arrangements earlier this month found that the usual suspects didn’t have any Jeeps. It might have been a Google search, but I found a company – Turo (1) – that had plenty of Jeeps around TPA. Turo is what they call a “ride sharing service”, sort of an AirBnB for cars. The website coordinates your interactions, but you make your deals with the actual owners of the vehicles. There were at least 5 Jeep Wranglers displayed on their page that would be available in the time I specified. One was a gen-you-wine soft top, just like the one we own. I clicked that and entered the same sort of queries that any rent-a-car site would ask. Completing them, my car was secured. I received a confirmatory e-mail from the owner with instructions of how to meet up once I hit TPA. It cost a little extra to hook up at the airport. For free I could find my way to the owner’s house. The overall cost was about 20% less than what I’d been paying for similar cars from the big guys. As we touched down, I had some trepidation how’d we complete the exchange. The owner texted me to meet him in the parking garage, and as we walked in, there was our big yellow taxi looking for us. He walked over, shook my hand, pointed out some features on the vehicle, and handed me the keys. No questions, no 20 minute reiteration of everything I’d provided already to some agent behind a screen, no nothing. Yeah, I liked this. Our Wrangler was a beast. The “Hella Yella” paint job would make it easy to find in a parking lot.
The 35X12.50R20 LT tires set it several inches higher above the ground than what we were used to (ours are P225/75R16; R is diameter of wheel, so there’s 4”). It was an automatic, and Kathy loves to grind through the gears on ours, but she adjusted. There were some personal touches, like a collection of little plastic animals on the dashboard, like you just don’t see in rentals from the big guys. It performed flawlessly, not moving much from our driveway as we sat on the porch of our Madeira Beach house until we took it up to Crystal River and the manitees then Ocala for my high school buddy and finally back to TPA. The handoff there was as smooth as the pickup, with me texting the owner on the way and meeting him in the departure zone. It was this exchange that had me most concerned. One thing the big boys do o.k. is the dropoff, usually a painless pull up. Any hitch here and you start to get antsy about missing your flight. Facing our departure from TPA, our owner offered meeting us at departure to minimize our haulage. So here, looks like no problem.
Even before we assured ourselves that start-to-finish Turo was a good deal, we booked another car through them for our California trip in April. Snagged another Jeep Wrangler from several available around San Jose Mineta, the dinkiest airport in the Bay Area. As Bogie says to Claude Rains at the end of Casablanca “I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.” (2)
- Turo. https://turo.com/
- Louis, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship- Casablanca. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DDybg9CNXcM