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What is Turo and how does it work?

Cut out the middle man on car rental.

Published onJune 30, 2023

Turo Host Interaction

Uber and Lyft give us ridesharing services and serve as great taxi replacements, but nothing beats getting in the driver’s seat and enjoying a nice drive. That’s where Turo comes in. The service has become one of the largest players in the car-sharing industry, offering a quick and straightforward way to rent cars in supported markets.

What is Turo?

Turo Andre

Turo is a peer-to-peer car-sharing company. Formerly known as RelayRides, Turo allows car owners to make extra cash by renting out their vehicles while providing a convenient and quick way to rent a car to those needing transportation.

Unlike Uber or Lyft, Turo is not a ride-hailing app but a service more akin to traditional car rental. This makes it ideal for longer journeys you plan in advance — like that upcoming job interview out of town or exploring a new city at your own pace. Many also use it as a great way to test out car models for a day or two before purchasing one. For some, a 15-minute test drive isn’t enough to get a full vehicle experience!

Turo offers something for every taste and budget.

Turo can also be cheaper than traditional car rentals and has hosts who don’t mind renting to drivers under 25. Best of all, Turo offers something for every taste and budget: whether you want a luxury car to enjoy your vacation in style or a cheap but reliable vehicle, Turo has you covered.

Additionally, you can have car experiences most people usually wouldn’t. Turo makes it easy to rent sports cars like Porsches, Corvettes, Teslas, and even Lamborghinis. Of course, prices will go up the more expensive and fancy a vehicle is, but some of you wouldn’t mind paying as low as $700 (quick search in LA) to have a Lambo for a day!

Where is Turo available?

Sadly, Turo isn’t as widely available as other peer-to-peer service apps out there. It’s available in the US, Canada, and the UK. If you’re Canadian, keep in mind that Turo isn’t everywhere in the northern country. You’ll be able to use it in Alberta, British Columbia, Nova Scotia, Ontario, and Quebec.

Signing up for Turo

Are you ready to go for a ride? The initial registration is effortless. After downloading Turo from the Play Store or App Store, you can launch the app and search for available vehicles. Of course, this is to show you what’s available and get you excited. You’ll need to sign up before being able to rent a vehicle. Turo allows you to sign up using your Google or Facebook account, or you could use your email address. iPhone users can also use their Apple accounts.

Finding the right car

Turo Adventure Van

Once you’ve signed up and given Turo all your details, all you need to do to browse the available rental cars near you is enter a city, airport, or address, as well as your travel dates.

Want an environmentally friendly ride to your destination? Then booking a hybrid or electric car is a great option. You can also go for gas-guzzling sports cars or trucks. Turo makes it easy to navigate using filters. Tap on the Filters option and start making your selections.

Turo makes it easy to navigate using filters.

The multiple filters allow you to find just the right vehicle for you — whether it’s a car, SUV, minivan, or truck. Not a fan of manual? Then you can choose vehicles with automatic transmission only. You can also sort by price, the number of seats, and even color. There’s even a dedicated section for green vehicles.

One thing you need to pay attention to is the total miles or distance included. Hosts can limit how many miles or km per day you can drive with their car. If you want to go on a road trip, you will need to calculate your travel distance. Every additional mile will incur a charge unless you request an extension from the app. This makes communication with hosts vital to a good experience. We, therefore, recommend you filter listings to only all-star hosts when you use the app for the first time.

Turo Luxury Vehicle

Turo has three higher-end classes: Business, Deluxe, and Super Deluxe. As the name of the first option suggests, using this filter will display the best cars for business travel. On the other hand, Deluxe and Super Deluxe classes provide exclusive cars for guests aged 25+ and 30+, respectively. You can still rent a Deluxe car even if you are under 25, but that will come at the cost of a $750 refundable deposit.

Suppose you’ve found a Turo car to your liking; an essential step before booking is checking the host’s reviews and rating. As with Airbnb, these are your best indication of whether the person you are renting from is reliable.

At the bottom of every listing, you will also find guidelines written by the host. Read those carefully before proceeding with the booking. Some owners do not allow pets in their vehicles, so if you plan to take your dog to the vet, you might need to look for a different car. No-smoking policies are also very common. However, the most important thing to pay attention to is whether the host wants the car to be refueled and how you need to return/drop off the vehicle. Many will also require you to take photos or videos of the interior and exterior of the car before driving. We recommend you do this anyway, so you won’t be held liable for any pre-existing damage to the car.

How booking and picking up works

Turo Host Interaction 2

Once you’ve found the right car on Turo, it’s time to book. How does renting a stranger’s car through an app work? It might seem complicated at first, but it’s not much of a hassle. It’s similar to Airbnb in many respects.

There are two types of bookings — Book Instantly, which doesn’t require owner approval, and regular booking, which requires the owner to confirm or decline your trip within eight hours. If you are new to Turo, we suggest you opt for a regular booking. Most hosts, especially all-star ones, will reply quickly, so this is the better option unless you are in a real hurry.

When checking out, you will need to select a pickup and return location or have the car delivered to you (this will usually cost you extra). Hosts will list one or various sites that will be free or add an additional charge depending on the distance. For example, a host is likely to list a location in their neighborhood as free, while changing the pickup or drop-off location to the city airport will cost you extra.

Once you’ve chosen the pickup or delivery location, there are five steps you need to complete your Turo booking:

Add extras

Depending on the host, there can be various extras you can purchase for an extra charge. Prepaid refuel, for example, is very common. It allows you to return the car at any fuel level. Some hosts will also offer child safety seats, additional cleaning, etc. We’ve even seen hosts providing fun things like golf clubs.

Choose your Turo Protection Plan

Insurance is unavoidable when it comes to car rentals. Turo allows you to choose from Premier, Standard, or Minimum coverage. You can read more about how it functions here.

Enter your payment info

Finally, you have to add your payment info. Turo accepts most major credit cards, including American Express and Discover cards, as well as Visa and Mastercard debit cards linked to a checking account. You can also use Google Pay in Canada and the US, or take advantage of Apple Pay in any market. The only real exclusion is the use of prepaid or reloadable debit cards, with the only exception being the Revolut Card.

Message the host

Just like Airbnb, you need to write a short message to the car owner, introducing yourself and giving them some basic information about your trip. This is an important step, so don’t be too vague.

Once your booking has been approved, it’s time to pick up your car if you haven’t requested delivery. How that is done differs from host to host. Some will meet you and hand over the keys in person at an agreed time and location. Take this time to ask them questions, especially if you think there were things not mentioned in the guidelines. For example, if eating or drinking in the car is permitted. Make sure to ask where the car documents are located, so you can have them ready in case the police stop you, and so on.

Some hosts have come up with other ingenious methods of handing over the keys to renters. One host on YouTube demonstrated how he puts the keys in lockboxes attached to a fence near the car and then texts renters the combination for them after they send him a photo of their driver’s license and themselves near the car. This is also possible with newer car models that can be locked/unlocked remotely. Whatever the case, make sure you ask your host about it and about returning the vehicle.

Coming up with ingenious methods may no longer be necessary in some cases, thanks to Turo Go — a newer service that makes it possible to unlock cars using the Turo app.

Bonus insurance tip

Money Stock Photo 1
Edgar Cervantes / Android Authority

Call your personal insurance company before renting through Turo. Some will offer full coverage under your normal policy, as for regular rental cars. You can also check if your credit card company provides the same. Although Turo itself states it is unlikely, users online claim that Discover insurance coverage for rental cars includes Turo.

Turo cancellation

Even if everything went smoothly with booking your ride, sometimes unforeseen circumstances can prevent us from traveling. What can you do in this case? If you need to cancel your Turo car rental, you can do so through the app or the company website. You are also advised to message the host/owner as soon as possible and let them know.

You can cancel for free under two circumstances. If you booked 25 or more hours before the trip starts, you can cancel for free 24 hours before the trip. If you booked a vehicle less than 25 hours before the trip begins, you can cancel for free for one hour after booking.

The cancellation fee for trips longer than two days is one day’s trip cost, while journeys shorter than two days will cost you 50% of one day’s trip cost. In either case, you’ll also only get half of any delivery fees back.

What if a host cancels on you? In that case, you will receive a complete refund. Hosts will then be charged a fee, and an automatic review mentioning the cancellation will be generated on their listing. To avoid last-second cancellations from unreliable owners, always check their reviews but also have a plan B just in case. You can also read more about Turo’s cancellation policies here.

Turo vs. traditional rentals

Turo Scenic

If you are still not sure whether Turo is worth it, let’s weigh its positives and negatives vs. those of traditional car rentals.

One of the most significant advantages Turo has is offering rentals to drivers under 21 (but you must be 18 or older, of course). While traditional car rental services in the US usually do so, too, it comes at the cost of paying hefty insurance fees. Turo can also be cheaper if you are not picky about the car model and year. It is ideal for short trips on a budget. Of course, this can change depending on the area you live in, so always be sure to compare prices before shelling out your hard-earned money. Rental car delivery is also a point in Turo’s favor. With most traditional car rental services, you will have to pick up your rental vehicle yourself.

Turo is quick and convenient to use.

Returning the car is where Turo might be at a disadvantage. If you are going on a long one-way trip, say moving to a new city, it is not likely that a private owner will agree to pick up their car hundreds of miles away from where they live without charging a large fee. On the other hand, traditional rental services might have another location at your destination town/city, making it easy to drop off the car once you’re done using it.

Nevertheless, Turo is quick and convenient to use. The peer-to-peer car-sharing company has earned its “Airbnb of cars” moniker. If you haven’t checked it out yet, there’s no better time than now!

Frequently asked questions

The app can certainly be trusted. After all, like Uber and Airbnb, it’s just facilitating matches between owners and renters. Individual owners on the app will have varying degrees of reliability, which is why we recommend filtering listings to only all-star hosts on your first time out.

In general, renting a car through Turo can be more cost-effective than renting from traditional car rental companies, especially for longer rentals or when renting a luxury or specialty vehicle. But it will completely depend on your individual circumstances, so make sure to check all of your options.

If you damage a Turo car during your rental period, you will need to follow the company’s policy for reporting and resolving the damage. This will usually involve contacting the host and Turo’s roadside assistance. Don’t forget to take photos of the damage too.

The most rented car on Turo is the Toyota Corolla.