One of our DWA! contributors shares his experience with the rental game using TURO.
By Eric Horton
Like everyone that participated in DWA’s Coastal Range Rally 2017, I’m still basking in the afterglow of one of the best weekends I can remember. An amazing tribe of passionate enthusiasts with interesting cars ranging from a pissed off 3 cyl Turbo subcompact to one of Zuffenhausen’s finest modern creations.
I’m still trying to acquire my own #CWASOO (car with a sense of occasion) but I desperately wanted in on the experience so I researched renting a proper sporting auto. Basically there were two options – Club Sportiva or Turo. Club Sportiva has a nice fleet including a 2017 Miata and Lotus Elise all the way up to a 488 GTB. I really wanted to drive a Porsche so I checked to see what was available on Turo. If you haven’t heard of Turo, well it’s basically Air BnB for cars. It’s easy to filter your search to get specific so I punched in Porsche & Manual transmission in my location. 3 cars were listed that met those requirements. A 997.1 base, a 997.1 S and a 2017 718 Boxster. The prices as well as the allotted daily mileage vary and are determined by the owners. Ultimately my choice came down to budget. The 718 cost more per day but had a 200-mile per day limit vs. only 100 on the others. I estimated the mileage of the event, did the math and the 718 came out on top.
Once I was vetted – they check your driving record etc. – it was very simple to reserve the car using the App and only took a couple of minutes to complete the transaction.
So after a couple of months of anticipation, the big weekend arrives. The owner of the 718 was very cool and flexible regarding pick up time etc. We texted back and forth, made a plan and that was it. I arrived at the owner’s house and the car was clean with a full tank. I told him I was about to embark on the ultimate 3-day back roads tour of Central California with some friends and frankly he was very jealous. I hop in to get familiar with the car and take a look at the odometer. 2750 miles. Seriously Dude? You are going to hand me the keys of your barely broken in Porsche? I just had to ask him why… He said it’s a fun weekend toy for him and if he rents the car once or twice a month it basically makes the payment. I couldn’t help but think of the stories of people renting Shelby GT350s from Hertz in the mid 60’s, racing them on the weekend and returning them on Monday. They were known as Rent-a-Racers!
On the way home it starts dumping rain as I’m headed over the hill back to the coast and after seeing one car flipped on it’s roof and another slammed into the median I wonder if I checked the right box on the insurance coverage… Turo provides coverage but only in the case of a catastrophic event if you decline to “upgrade”. For an extra $100 I got a max out of pocket deductible of $3000. If I had bucked up for the Premium package ($300 I believe) the max deductible would’ve been only $500. Fortunately people headed south kept it cool and I arrived home safely.
Pulling into the Starbucks parking lot in Carmel the next morning gets the heart rate going! Tons of amazing machines! I quickly try to assess where I might fit into the pack… Rented car, highly capable but unfamiliar and new to me, wet, unmaintained roads all have me feeling excited but cautious. Fortunately I tuck in behind Phil and his stunning Cayman GT4 – FYI - Flat 6 sounds > than Turbocharged Flat 4 - We hang a right off of Carmel Valley road and the fun begins. My worries succumb to the heavy stoke and concentration required to smoothly navigate the twisties. We are driving spiritedly but well in control. Feeling great! Things get hotter after the first gas stop as I attempt to move up the pecking order a bit and slot in behind Ruben, Jono and Ben in the modded 993. On a wide-open stretch I take the bait and we go deep into triple digits and hit my max speed of the trip (with the top down!) Yeehaw! Car was totally stable but that was plenty of speed for me. Box checked. Ruben and Jono drop us but pretty quickly. Then we roll up on Lane in the 944. So it’s Lane, Ben, me, Eric in the sleeper 500e and Ryan in the e46 M3. I’m glad Lane was at the front and had knowledge of the road and (limited power). Excellent 7/10ths pace that required full engagement but was just this side of responsible.
After the impromptu roadside car show at the next intersection we had a mellower segment following Warren in the e30 to the lunch stop. Frankly I needed a breather.
After the last gas stop of the day we had another excellent segment. I slotted in behind Ruben, Ryan, Patrick in the hotrod 996 and Jason in his hopped up Focus ST. Perfect, fast but sane pace. Got stalled out by some slow traffic in the outskirts of Paso so we made a spontaneous stop at a Winery to end the first day in civilized fashion.
End of Day 1 – Feeling stoked! Car performed flawlessly, I drove within my personal limits and the car was intact!
The morning of day 2 - Having a bit more insight into the pace of various drivers I tried to find the prime spot – tail end of the fast group! Once again, I had no knowledge of the route and was very happy to follow. After a fast drag race out of Paso we hit one of the highlights of the weekend. The smoothest pavement of the entire journey and a beautifully undulating, no centerline, roller coaster of a road! Varun in the blue 996 C4S had a great pace going but things started to get a bit dicey for me with Jono in the orange beast getting antsy up my tail pipe. He made quick work of Varun and me. Then the fellow in the Hot Rod Miata made the sketchiest pass of the weekend on me and followed it up with another one on Varun into a tight lefthander. I kind of freaked out and really had to question if I had made the right decision taking a rental car on this trip. It just got beyond my comfort level so as quickly as I could, I pulled out of line and drifted back to where I could run my own pace. Just too much to risk. I don’t think I could’ve handled it if I had wrecked this poor guys brand new Porsche… On the long sweeping roads out to the next meet up spot I found a nice groove that was fast but comfortable. I caught up with Joshy Robots and we had a great mellow pace out to the Lake. Stress level under control.
Just as I was starting to get psyched for the next segment, Varun grabs my attention to point out the angry looking bulge on my right front sidewall. Damn it! Honestly, I can’t recall an incident that would’ve caused that to happen. It certainly could’ve happened on Day 1 and I just didn’t notice. Regardless, that put an end to the spirited driving in the 718. I consulted with every expert in the pack and the consensus was – keep a chill pace, don’t hit any big holes in the exact spot as the weakened sidewall and keep the lateral G loads down to minimum. I tried to call various Porsche dealers and tire stores to see if they happened to have the exact tire available but it was Saturday and service departments were closed and no tire store stocked this semi exotic tire. Double Damn it!
So I limped the 718 to the lunch stop in Orcutt and then onto Santa Barbara where I swapped it with my Dad’s original owner 1963 Volvo 544. Driving the Volvo salvaged the later half of day 2 and the morning of Day 3 for me.
So after the final meet up at Cold Spring’s Tavern on Day 3, I cruised the 718 back North. It was pretty stressful driving on a damaged tire but I kept it cool and arrived back at the owner’s house safe and on time. I had plenty of miles to think about my strategy with the owner and ultimately I just told him the straight story. We had an amazing 3 days of driving on the best back roads in California! I showed him the tire and a gnarly chip in the windshield and said “sorry Dude!” Not sure how the tire got damaged and we were on a lot of wet roads with serious debris so must’ve had a rock fly off of a car in front of me and hit the windshield. Fortunately he didn’t freak out and he really appreciated the honesty and the fact that I was willing to take responsibility for the damage. I think it was Jono who shared a good perspective on the situation – He said I just needed to consider the tire and window expenses as “Fun Tax”.
The Sharing Economy is only going to work if people use the honor system. I easily could’ve dropped off the car and been on my way but I believe in Karma and I like to sleep at night… So we worked it out like gentleman, shook hands and wrote each other great reviews. He texted me later and said he’d be happy to rent to me again.
So… Would I Turo again? I guess I would but there is definitely a greater sense of responsibility when using Turo compared to renting a Camry from Avis. I think the experience depends so much on the people involved. I was fortunate and had a cool owner. He was lucky in that I took responsibility for the damage to the car and made it right with him. If you read the Turo agreement it’s a bit murky when it comes to things like chips in windows. Frankly, Turo feels a bit like a tinderbox. So many things could go wrong and when you have 300hp under your right foot it’s pretty hard to not take advantage. I can easily imagine how disputes between owners and renters could ruin the experience. If the honor system fails and conflicts arise that can’t be resolved then the concept falls apart.
Ultimately if I want to continue to do these types of events I’ve got to find my own ride but driving the 718 was a pretty sweet option that made the experience a lot more fun than rolling in my daily driver Mk 6 GTI. It was like the best test drive ever! For an event like the CRR2017 a car of this size and power output was absolutely ideal. Might not have the style points of a Lufgekuhlt 911 but it was so utterly engaging, safe and capable on the challenging roads. Has me thinking Cayman S…
Also… It wasn’t cheap!
Turo by the numbers:
Daily fee: $248 x 3 = $744
Basic Insurance Upgrade = $111.60
Turo Fee = $74.40
Extra Mileage Fee = .75 x 309 miles = $231.75
Pirelli Tire and Windshield Repair = $384.50
Total = $1,546.25
Happy driving y’all!
Eric Horton is a regular participant in DWA! shenanigans, designs cool stuff everyday and is an all around nice guy.