Turo Flips Car-Rental Script: Pick the Car, Then the Destination

Turo's summer 2024 update adds features including a new search tool and the ability to reserve now but pay later.
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Turo, one of the world’s largest alternative rental car companies, just announced a significant shift in its business that will likely appeal to travelers for whom the car itself is one of the highlights of the trip.

The peer-to-peer car sharing marketplace launched more than 70 product updates, including changes to how hosts can manage their cars and the ability for travelers to book now and pay later.

These changes come in an era when the state of the rental car industry has been pretty bleak. Since the COVID-19 pandemic, rental car prices have increased faster than the average rate of inflation. And the number of complaints about rental car companies is high compared to other travel service providers.

The American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) Travel Study 2023-2024, which surveyed more than 16,000 customers via email between April 2023 and March 2024, found that 21% of leisure travelers complained to rental car companies about an issue during their trip. That’s higher than the 12% of leisure lodging guests who complained to hotels and the 13% of passengers who complained to airlines.

According to the ACSI study, specific issues plaguing satisfaction rates among rental car companies include vehicle variety, vehicle features, and performance, fees and ease of pick-up process.

Among Turo's changes, the standout is what the company calls “limitless search.” In short, it upends the traditional model of car rentals where travelers first pick a location, date and time to rent, and from there, choose a car from a vague selection of terms like “midsize” or “compact” without really knowing the exact car available.

Instead, Turo puts the car’s make and model front and center. Now, upon landing on Turo’s site or launching the app, users are encouraged to browse all of Turo’s available vehicles without committing to a date or location.

The line of thinking is this: Some travelers choose a destination based on a specific hotel they want to experience. Why not make rental cars a core part of the travel experience rather than an afterthought?

For instance, if someone wanted to drive, say, a Tesla Cybertruck or a Polestar 2, they could browse just those specific vehicles.

(Image courtesy of Turo)

Sure, many of Turo’s vehicles are forgettable sedans and minivans that get you from one place to another without much fanfare. But now Turo presents a version of travel in which the rental car might be one of the most memorable parts of a trip — or the whole reason you take the trip.

“No one goes to a traditional rental car company to browse their fleet of vehicles,” says Tom Wang, Turo’s chief product officer. “But Turo has a unique selection where you can actually rent the exact car you want.”

To complement this, Turo also launched a feature called “Collections” where users can browse cars around the world based on themes, like vintage cars. Users are encouraged to curate their own shareable lists.

(Image courtesy of Turo)

“I might make a movie-themed list of cars,” Wang says. “With that, I could pretend I’m in ‘Back to the Future’ and rent a DeLorean.”

Still, despite significant growth primarily driven by the pandemic-era rental car shortage, according to chief executive officer Andre Haddad, Turo is a relatively small player in rental cars.

Turo posted revenues of $879 million in 2023, which is up about 18% compared to the prior year. Still, that’s small beans relative to the established car rental companies. For example, Avis Budget Group, which is one of the companies that dominates the car rental space, posted a record $12 billion in revenue in 2023.


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