RelayRides, Out to Be the Community-Powered Zipcar, Hits the Ground With Pilot Rental Program

6/22/10Follow @xconomy

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sign up for the service online, and also rent wheels on a mobile version of the site.

Car-owners set their own rates for borrowers (with some guidance provided by RelayRides), but Clark says the rates typically fall 10 percent to 20 percent lower than the costs of Zipcar. The system has capped the maximum price range for rentals at $15 an hour, but Clark says the pricing system could provide an interesting play of supply and demand. Top travel times could hike prices on the RelayRides fleet. But these spikes could also push the community to rally and enlist more vehicles.

“We’ll see if what we learned in freshman year economics comes true,” he says.

The company has a handful of cars that are ready for renting, and several dozen that are in the enrollment process. Car owners take about a 65 percent cut of the cost of each rental of their car. RelayRides puts 20 percent toward the cost of insurance, and keeps 15 percent as its profit margin. Car owners in the system can earn between $2,500 and $7,500 per year, depending on the quality of their cars and the frequency they rent.

So what happens if you’re a car owner and you need your wheels for yourself? The RelayRides system allows you to indicate exactly when your car is out of the rotation for customers, and reflects when renters have paid to take your car out for a spin.

The company has attracted vehicle owners and renters with word-of-mouth and on-the-ground marketing initially, but Clark sees the fleet of RelayRides cars organically gaining momentum in the future. Car owners will encourage others to enlist their vehicles to attract more customers to the system, and a larger fleet of vehicles in more locations will further attract greater customer traffic, he says. He also notes that so far a well-maintained crop of cars has shown up, with a Porsche as the first vehicle enrolled. (Oh, and they almost got a white stretch limo, but the owner backed out.)

Clark has been working on RelayRides since November 2008, and has enlisted David Brook, founder of the first U.S. commercial car-sharing service in 1998, as the startup’s chief operating officer. The biggest speed bump … Next Page »

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