Getaround, a car rental marketplace that makes it dead simple to rent your car or take a spin in a total stranger’s, officially launched today. And as TechCrunch Disrupt judge Chris Sacca noted during the startup’s presentation today, it’s the sort of well-executed idea that simply makes you say “holy shit.”
Getaround first started generating buzz late last year, but with its official launch the company has seemingly responded to every criticism it initially faced. It’s launching an iPhone app that will let you easily locate, rent, and open cars in its marketplace — which communicates with an even more impressive car-kit, that’s easy enough for anyone to install.
Most importantly, the company has partnered Berkshire Hathaway to provide insurance while your car is being rented. Berkshire provides full collision, comprehensive and liability coverage for every car in Getaround’s marketplace.
The company said that it structured everything so that there’s no risk to the owner. Getaround’s insurance doesn’t affect your current car insurance at all, and it only kicks in when the car is being rented.
“There are over 250 million personal vehicles in the U.S and they sit idle an average of 22 hours each day,” Getaround co-founder Sam Zaid said. That means there’s huge potential for the company to take off if it can assure users it’s trustworthy.
The service works much like Zipcar, except the owner is in charge of the availability of their car. Renters can see when particular cars are available, and submit a request to rent it via the web or mobile app. Once the owner approves it, the renter can easily open the car using their iPhone (and I assume other phones in the future).
Getaround takes a 40 percent commission from rental proceeds — but 60 percent certainly isn’t a bad return when your car could be alternatively sitting in the driveway doing nothing.
The service also has plenty of advantages over the competition. Rental prices, which are set by the car owners, are generally cheaper than Zipcar or traditional car rental companies. Getaround also doesn’t have the problem with expanding like Zipcar does, since it doesn’t have to worry about deploying and maintaining a fleet of cars. It’s also just as useful in less densely populated areas as it is in cities.
RelayRides, another car-sharing startup in Boston, offers a very similar service, but at this point it seems like Getaround is pushing to build a more social marketplace.
San Francisco-based Getaround was founded in 2009 and so far has raised $1.5 million in funding.
Full disclosure: I own some Zipcar stock.