Turo Vs. Traditional Car Rentals: The Pros and Cons of Booking

Turo offers an alternative to traditional rental cars and may be cheaper or more convenient. Here are the pros and cons of Turo rentals.
Sally French
By Sally French 
Updated
Edited by Meg Lee

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Ever considered renting a car from the actual owner? Turo, a peer-to-peer car sharing platform, lets you do just that. The car rental alternative allows you to potentially save money compared to traditional rentals. Plus, it unlocks more potential places to rent cars beyond standard rental car facilities.

But is Turo the right fit for you? Here's your guide to renting a car through Turo, including the pros, the cons — and any potential fees to watch out for.

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What is Turo?

Turo is a peer-to-peer car sharing platform that allows car owners to rent out their own cars to regular people. Consider it a sort of Airbnb for cars.

Peer-to-peer car sharing platforms are growing in popularity. The global car sharing market was worth $2.9 million in value in 2022, and is expected to grow 20% annually from 2023 to 2032, according to January 2024 data from Allied Market Research. That would make the market for car sharing services, including Turo, worth $17.8 million by 2032.

Interest in Turo exploded in the early years of the COVID-19 pandemic, which was an era of high rental car prices due to high demand for roadtrips and limited rental car availability. Skyrocketing rental car prices became one of the biggest pandemic-era travel stories as they hit record highs in July 2021. Given all that, alternative rental car services like Turo were often a lifesaver.

And while rental car prices have eased from their record highs set in the early years of the pandemic, they're still high. Car rental prices in May 2024 are up 34.8% versus May 2019 — the last equivalent month pre-lockdowns in the U.S.

And while Turo car rentals can provide an excellent rental car alternative, it’s not necessarily better. It's also not always cheaper. Here are some of the times you might consider booking with Turo, and what to look sorts of fees and potential pitfalls to look out for if you do:

Turo rental car prices: are they a good or bad deal?

Turo prices are highly variable. Sometimes they can be cheaper than traditional rental cars because car owners set the prices.

A car owner who now works from home and has minimal need for a car during the week might be inclined to make it available on Turo at a low price to make some extra cash or even to get some value out of a car that's otherwise sitting idle.

Many owners offer discounts for longer trips, and some offer discounts to guests who book at least a week in advance.

Beware of extra Turo fees

The total cost to rent on Turo might balloon once extra fees kick in.

A 10-hour rental advertised at $30 per day can easily become twice that. In this example, there’s a mandatory $15 trip fee. Then, Turo adds standard protection for $12 by default (though you can decline damage protection). You might include extras such as a pet fee, child safety seat, unlimited mileage or prepaid refuel.

Here are some examples of Turo fees you may be on the hook for before checking out:

  • Turo trip fee. Turo adds a trip fee at checkout that goes to Turo (not the owner). Fees vary, but in the U.S., trip fees range from 2.5% to 100% of the overall price. 

  • Turo young driver fee. Folks under 24 owe a young driver fee (a minimum of $50 per day if under 21 or $30 per day if under 25 in the U.S.).

  • Miscellaneous extras. You may also owe other fees including airport fees, pickup or return fees, and optional extras like unlimited mileage (many rentals have a mileage cap).

And the fees might not end there, adding to why Turo could be wrong for folks anxious about potentially unknown costs.

  • Reimbursement bills. Hosts can send renters a reimbursement invoice for all sorts of potential situations. That might include fuel replacement, distance overages, failure to return an EV with charge, tickets and tolls, if applicable. 

  • Turo cleaning fees. If you return a car in a condition that violates Turo’s cleaning and disinfection policy, the host can report the issue to the company. If Turo sides with the host, you’ll owe $150 for the cleaning violation plus a 3% processing fee.

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Turo explicitly says that renters “aren’t expected to clean or disinfect the car before returning it,” but there's a gray area between what Turo considers normal wear and tear versus what teeters into violation territory.

“Significant amounts of pet hair” are a violation, as are “major stains or residue,” but “minor food or beverage spills” are OK.

Plenty of renters have documented negative experiences of receiving violation penalties they felt were unjustified, leading to back and forths with customer service to get those fees removed — or just paying the fine.

Your personal or credit card insurance may not apply to Turo

Turo offers three optional protection plans at an additional cost, each with increasingly more insurance coverage: a minimum, standard and premier plan.

Depending on the level of add-on insurance from Turo selected, prices in the U.S. start as low as $10 per rental day. It’s pretty easy to compare and add plans at checkout.

You can decline protection, but you (or possibly your own personal insurance company, if covered) are responsible for all costs related to physical, mechanical, and interior damage, plus administrative claims fees and appraisal costs.

Usually NerdWallet recommends holding a credit card that offers car rental insurance, which provides some level of free protection for rental cars paid for on that card. Some of the best credit cards with car rental insurance benefits even offer primary rental car coverage, so you don’t have to use your personal auto insurance. 

However, when renting on Turo, don’t assume your personal auto insurance policy or credit card coverage works in the same way it applies to traditional rental cars.

Many credit card car rental insurance benefits specifically exclude coverage for peer-to-peer car rental companies, such as Turo.

“Turo is not a rental car company,” according to a post on Turo’s site. “We’re a peer-to-peer car-sharing platform, so credit card companies may provide no coverage for a car booked through Turo.”

Popular credit cards consumers leverage for car rentals

To better understand if Turo is the right fit for your car rental needs, compare its three protection plans with insurance, reimbursement and rewards rate details about credit cards commonly used when renting a car. Options can include:

Cards with auto rental benefits
Chase Sapphire Preferred Credit Card
Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
NerdWallet Rating
Apply now

on Chase's website

Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card
Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card
NerdWallet Rating
The Platinum Card® from American Express
The Platinum Card® from American Express
NerdWallet Rating
Apply now

on American Express' website

Rates & Fees
Chase Sapphire Reserve Credit Card
Chase Sapphire Reserve®
NerdWallet Rating
Apply now

on Chase's website

Annual fee

$95.

$395.

$695.

$550.

Rental car benefits
  • Primary rental car coverage with reimbursement up to the cash value of most rental vehicles.

  • Booking a car rental through Chase Ultimate Rewards® earns 5 points per dollar spent.

  • Redeeming points to book travel through Chase — including renting cars — gives you 25% more value per point.

  • Earn unlimited 10x miles on rental cars booked through Capital One Travel.

  • Auto rental collision damage waiver.

  • Complimentary elite status with Avis, Hertz and National, which entitles the member to upgrades and discounts.

  • Secondary rental car coverage.

  • Other benefits include expansive airport lounge access and hundreds of dollars' worth of travel credits.

  • Terms apply.

  • Primary rental car coverage with reimbursement up to $75,000.

  • Booking a car rental through Chase Ultimate Rewards® earns 10 points per dollar spent.

  • Redeeming points to book travel through Chase — including renting cars — gives you 50% more value per point.

  • Cardholders eligible for special benefits from Avis, National and Silvercar.

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When renting a car with Turo is a smart money move

There are a few situations where renting a car through Turo makes especial sense:

If you can pay for your rental car upfront

Turo has a generous cancellation policy, allowing you to cancel free of charge up to 24 hours before the trip starts. Trips canceled within 24 hours of the start time are typically entitled to a partial refund.

Refunds are issued immediately, though it can take three to five business days to receive the money.

While Turo’s cancellation policy is relatively generous, you still must pay upfront.

In contrast, most rental car companies allow payment at the counter. That’s convenient because if your travel plans change and you can no longer rent the car, you likely won’t be on the hook for a rental car reservation you didn’t show up for (though some do charge a no-show fee).

If Turo is more convenient to your destination

Turo operates in the U.S., Australia, Canada, France and the U.K.

What’s unique about Turo is the range of places you’ll find the vehicles. Traditional rental car companies typically operate in places with a lot of tourists, such as airports, downtowns and hotels. But with Turo, you could very well find a car available from the home next door.

The map’s purple dots indicate available vehicles. You might find one in a location far more convenient than the nearest traditional rental car.

That’s convenient for someone who is usually car-free but wants to rent one every once in a while from a neighbor. Travelers who want a car only for part of their trip might skip the airport rental car and rent a Turo nearby for the days they need it.

But Turo isn’t available in every city. While it’s now available in all 50 states, it wasn’t until June 2022 that Turo launched in New York state. And within each state, Turo is still expanding. Availability is largely contingent upon whether a host is willing to post their car for rent. 

If you need special pickup and drop-off locations or times

When renting from many rental car companies, you’re tied to their operating hours. That’s annoying if your flight lands at 9 p.m. but the rental car company closes at 8.

Many Turo rentals, however, are available for drop-off and pickup 24/7 because of a built-in service called Turo Go. Turo Go allows renters to unlock cars directly from the Turo app, thus never needing to meet the host in person.

Other hosts prefer in-person exchanges. The owner might pick you up at the airport and drive you to your hotel before handing over the keys (typically for an additional fee, though some hosts offer the service for free).

Turo’s delivery service can be especially convenient if you want the car for only a few days or a few hours. 

While the range of pickup options can certainly be a pro, it also adds layers of complication — and it means your next Turo experience won’t be exactly like your last.

Read the pickup and drop-off rules carefully, as they vary by owner. Some cars are parked in facilities requiring a fee to exit. While Turo requires hosts to disclose such fees in their vehicle listing, it’s still one more annoying cost.

While Turo Go can certainly be convenient, you must have Wi-Fi or cellular data to unlock the car at the start of the trip. And you won’t have in-person customer support, which might pose challenges if you run into any problems upon pickup.

For one-way rentals, it’s tricky. You’re not able to book one location for pickup and a different location for return. 

🤓Nerdy Tip

There is a one-way rental workaround where you can request to change your pickup or drop-off location once the trip is booked, but you’d have to work that out with the host — and it’s not guaranteed they’ll accept.

Is renting a car on Turo worth it?

Turo can provide myriad benefits. Especially in big cities, you might find a car in far more convenient locations. Turo Go enables pickup and drop-off at any hour, so you’re not constrained by rental car companies’ operating hours. 

Because much of the rental price goes directly back to the car’s owner, more money stays in local communities. Turo often offers a range of cars, from a tiny Smart Car to electric vehicle rentals to flashy muscle cars.

But renting on Turo also entails high variability. The experience is rarely consistent, nor are the cars (or their owners). A vehicle might have squeaky brakes, and some owners might have higher cleaning standards than others.

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If Turo doesn't have sufficient options, but you're generally enticed by such rental car alternatives, you might also consider Turo's competitors, such as Getaround.

Sometimes Turo is cheaper, but once the fees add up (and you realize your credit card car rental insurance likely won’t kick in), it’s not always as budget-friendly as you might think.

Insurance Benefit: Car Rental Loss & Damage Insurance

  • Car Rental Loss and Damage Insurance can provide coverage up to $75,000 for theft of or damage to most rental vehicles when you use your eligible Card to reserve and pay for the entire eligible vehicle rental and decline the collision damage waiver or similar option offered by the Commercial Car Rental Company. This product provides secondary coverage and does not include liability coverage. Not all vehicle types or rentals are covered. Geographic restrictions apply.

  • Eligibility and Benefit level varies by Card. Terms, Conditions and Limitations Apply.

  • Please visit americanexpress.com/benefitsguide for more details.

  • Underwritten by AMEX Assurance Company. Car Rental Loss or Damage Coverage is offered through American Express Travel Related Services Company, Inc.


How to maximize your rewards

You want a travel credit card that prioritizes what’s important to you. Here are some of the best travel credit cards of 2024:

Cards for Rental Cars from our Partners
Chase Sapphire Preferred Credit Card

on Chase's website

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
5.0
NerdWallet Rating
Rewards rate

1x-5x

5x on travel purchased through Chase Travel℠, 3x on dining, select streaming services and online groceries, 2x on all other travel purchases, 1x on all other purchases.

Points

Intro offer

60,000

Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 when you redeem through Chase Travel℠.

Points
Chase Sapphire Reserve Credit Card

on Chase's website

Chase Sapphire Reserve®
5.0
NerdWallet Rating
Rewards rate

1x-10x

Earn 5x total points on flights and 10x total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Travel℠ immediately after the first $300 is spent on travel purchases annually. Earn 3x points on other travel and dining & 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases.

Points

Intro offer

60,000

Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $900 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Travel℠.

Points
Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card

on Capital One's website

Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card
4.9
NerdWallet Rating
Rewards rate

2x-10x

Earn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel and 5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel, Earn unlimited 2X miles on all other purchases.

Miles

Intro offer

75,000

Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel.

Miles
See more cards for rental cars
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