I Tried a Turo Car Rental So You Don’t Have To

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I’m one of those people that always thinks the grass is greener on the other side.  That’s why, even after FINALLY figuring out a rental car strategy for my travels, I had to check out the new player in town.  Turo car rental is a peer-to-peer car rental service — essentially Airbnb for cars. 

I took the plunge on my recent trip to Orange Beach to try it out, primarily out of curiosity. Most of the Turo car rental reviews I’ve seen were overviews of the service, not real-life experiences. It didn’t hurt that I was able to stack a $25 Turo promo code for new users with a $45 Amex offer, bringing my price down considerably!

What is Turo Car Rental?

Turo is basically a marketplace in the sharing economy, a website and app where individuals can list their cars when they don’t need them to make some extra cash.  Other people — like me — can hire these private cars if they’d like to avoid traditional rental companies.

As I see it, there are two main reasons to look into a peer-to-peer marketplace instead of booking through traditional methods:

  1. If you’re looking for something cheaper (either through base rate savings or the fact you won’t be paying huge airport facility fees)
  2. If you’re looking for a solution that traditional companies don’t offer (offsite locations, specialty vehicles, or maybe an owner who allows you to go off-road)

Like Airbnb, every owner sets their own prices and terms, which means you’ll need to do a little digging and sorting to see if there’s something that matches what you’re looking for.

Turo Car Rental Search
Turo is a peer to peer car sharing network with an easy booking interface.

How does Turo work?

Turo works exactly the way you’d think it would: you search for cars at your destination and dates until you find something you like.  Some cars are “instant book”; some require you to send a request to the owner who will manually confirm or deny your request. 

In order to rent through Turo, you’ll need to submit a copy of your driver’s license to have on file and you’ll need proof of auto insurance. Like every other rental company, Turo will try to upsell you additional Liberty Mutual insurance coverage which you can accept or decline. Although I normally decline rental car insurance (and use either my everyday personal policy or free rental car coverage on my credit card), you may want to consider Turo’s options carefully: many personal policies exclude peer-to-peer car sharing which means you’re otherwise uninsured.

The rental itself is handled person to person, without a middleman.  You and the owner will need to arrange in advance when and where to do the exchange. I pre-requested and prepaid a reasonable extra fee to pick-up and drop-off at the airfare instead of taxiing out to their private home.

For the rental itself, you’ll need to download the Turo app, which had a lot of similarities to using Uber or Lyft.  You can communicate with the owner via call or messaging with any concerns or updates.  If you want, you can also (temporarily) enable location-sharing so you can find each other more easily for the hand-off.

Turo Car Rental Location Sharing
Location sharing on the Turo app

All payment is handled through Turo. You have the convenience of paying with your credit card online and the owner doesn’t have to worry about getting paid.

My Personal Experience and Turo Review

Since it was my first time using Turo, I made a special effort to only book with someone who had a large number of positive reviews.  I didn’t want to experiment with someone else who was also a first-time user!

Booking was seamless — I sent in a request and several hours later, it was confirmed for exactly what I had asked for.

Turo Car Rental Confirmation

The day of my rental, the owner messaged me prior to my pick-up, arrived promptly on time with my rental car, and the car was in the same condition it was listed at with a full tank of gas.

What I didn’t realize in advance was that an airport exchange is really not a best case scenario.  Think about it: the owner came curbside at arrivals, but as you probably know, airport staff doesn’t really allow you to linger in the pick-up lanes.  So we were chased off by airport security (and angry drivers who wanted to pick-up their family/friends) as I was trying to get the keys, look over the car for any damage, photograph the car (more on that below), and set up the seat and mirrors for safe driving.

I ended up doing a quick once-over at the curb before stopping at the airport cell phone lot to do a more through look-over.  The owner skedaddled quickly, meaning if there WAS an issue, I would have to contact him through the app rather than discussing things in person.

Thankfully, I had zero issues with the car during my road trip.

Documentation through the Turo App

Most frequent travelers know the rule of thumb with rental cars is to photograph the car’s starting condition (or do a video walk-around) so you’re not charged later for any pre-existing damage.

Turo Car Rental App

Turo is no exception and actually builds in a spot to upload starting and ending photographs within the app so there are no disputes later.  In addition to taking photos of the car itself — exterior and interior — you’ll want photos of the starting/ending fuel, and the starting/ending mileage.  Most cars have a mileage cap associated with them, although for my 4-day rental, a 750-mile allowance was more than adequate for me.

Unlike traditional rental cars, which are usually pretty new and in very good condition, my private rental was a 2014 model year.  This was fine by me but it meant the car had normal wear and tear from several years of use.  Since I wasn’t sure how picky the owner would be, I took pictures of every little scratch or dent to make sure I wouldn’t be liable — things I wouldn’t give a second thought to if I was booking with my regular preferred companies.

For documenting before drop-off, I knew it would be easier to take my final photos before I arrived at the airport curb.  I ended up taking a bunch of pictures at a gas station a mile or two from the airport when I stopped to fill up before turning the car in.  I uploaded a copy of my final gas receipt too, just in case.

Turo App Documentation

Overall, My Turo Experience Was Flawless But I (Probably) Won’t Use Them Again

I have zero complaints with how this transaction worked out. I had a smooth pick-up and drop-off, the owner I worked with was friendly and easy to reach, and the vehicle condition was as expected and well-maintained.

So here’s why I probably won’t use Turo again: I imagine if there were any issues, this would quickly turn into an inconvenient mess.  A simple flight delay — something I’m intimately familiar with — means you’d have to arrange a new pick-up at the last minute, which the owner may or may not have the flexibility to handle.  Or a less punctual owner might not be there at your drop-off time, causing you to figure out where to leave the car so you don’t miss your flight home.

Obviously you could avoid some of these issues by picking up/dropping off at the car owner’s home instead of an airport, although I’m a big believer that your time is valuable (especially while traveling).

Car maintenance issues, which thankfully I didn’t have to deal with, are a whole separate ballgame.  Turo provides a 24-hour roadside assistance hotline, but they don’t share details about how this works.  A car maintenance issue mid-trip might mean you’re left without a vehicle while Turo or the owner handles it — and it was impossible for me to tell how responsibilities (both logistical and financial) are split between the owner, the renter, and Turo itself.

Most Turo reviews leave out these possibilities, instead focusing on only what the ideal scenario looks like.

I would be more willing to work within these trade-offs if the price differential was huge…but for everyday, regular cars, it seemed like you were only saving about $10/day.  There are better deals are when you’re looking to upgrade your vehicle.

So, Who Should Use Turo Instead of a Traditional Car Rental Company?

Anyone who wants to drive a “fun” car. 

Turo Specialty Car Rental
A few listings from Turo Atlanta to help you find the perfect vehicle.

Want to try out a Tesla?  They’ve got those.  Drive with the top down in a Porsche Boxster (really hoping my husband isn’t reading this right now…)?  You might find that, too — along with many other choices, depending on the market you’re in.   Just want something a step up from a Kia?  It might not cost as much as you think.  Since everything is privately listed, you never know what you might find.

Turo might also be a good solution during special events — anytime when regular rental cars are sold out or prices are sky-high.  Some private owners might be smart enough to raise their Turo rates as well, but I’m guessing a lot will totally forget, leaving you an opportunity to pay normal rates during periods of extra demand.

Turo Promo Code and Discounts

Unfortunately, Turo has discontinued their new user discounts, referral discounts and other promo codes for 2021. As you may be aware, there’s a severe shortage of rental cars through traditional avenues (like Hertz or Alamo) and Turo knows that means their own service is also in high demand. I hope that changes again in the future…in the meantime, I wasted a lot of time trying old, invalid codes in hopes that one would work 🙁

Bottom Line

Turo is best for travelers who are able to “go with the flow” a little — you’ll need some schedule wiggle room in case things don’t go to plan and you should be a confident enough traveler that you can handle a hiccup if one comes up (something that most Turo car rental reviews overlook).

I’d also look for a compelling reason to make it worth your while: either a vehicle you’ve been dying to drive or a substantial cost savings.  The bottom-line price can be fantastic — as long as you know what you’re getting into.

More Money-Saving Travel Tips

28 thoughts on “I Tried a Turo Car Rental So You Don’t Have To”

  1. We’ve used TURO and had a fantastic experience. Our contact went out of her way to meet up at our hotel and dropped us off at the airport for our return – above and beyond expectations! Renting a vehicle for six people is at least $100/day – coupons don’t apply. TURO saved us literally $$$. Another comment – some CC will cover TURO as if it were a car rental. Check/call to make sure you have the same coverage and protection for the CC you use. Some CC offer roadside assist, so that is a good backup plan. Great review!

  2. As hosts, Turo takes complete advantage of the car owners. They will never side with the car owner. Requesting reimbursement is a miserable process. If the customer disputes reimbursement, you are screwed. They allow them to get away with unpaid tolls by making the process unbearable to complete. If you request reimbursement for cleaning, Turo will pretend to not see any dirt in the pictures and rule it as “light dirt” that can easily be cleaned. The car can be covered in mud and bugs and they pretend that it’s not dirty. Sadly this is not an exaggeration. Hoping to bring awareness to all social networks so that people interested in hosting their vehicles don’t get exploited. Customer service for hosts is non-existent. Not kidding, go ahead and call the only number they have and request host services and they refer you to online chat that reply’s with generic short sentences every 5-8 minutes (about 45 minutes for a simple question)
    It should be illegal for companies to operate like this. No way to escalate matters or speak to a manager. The names of the representatives are fake and no way to verify.

  3. Chose one of those top star rated Turo renters in Tampa, FL. Booked the car a month in advance, told him we were regular travelers to the area. About 6 hours before pick up he informed me had rented the car to a long term client. What? Then I quickly realized you can’t even post a review unless your rental was complete. That’s why they have such great ratings. All potential renters that got canceled trips cannot be seen or heard. The BBB rates them an “F”

  4. I would like to expose the fraudulent treatment I received by TURO the car sharing company.
    They have defrauded me out of nearly $600 after the vehicle I rented became disabled through no fault of my own on the 3rd day of my 9 day rental which is aproximately $400. I incurred an additional $180 in emergency transportation costs. I lost an entire day of my vacation to get replacement vehicle from a different company which cost about $100 more that my original booking with TURO for a much lesser vehicle. I rented a cool convertible to have my Florida vacation in with my children. Instead we spent a day walking and catching ubers to find ANY available vehicle in the small town we were in.
    I have not been refunded the remainder of my trip or reimbursed for any of my additional costs. There is no price they can pay for the lost day or degraded experience of our trip that I as a single mom saved for an entire year to take.
    The company claims they are entitled to keep the money as I failed to return the vehicle at my expense to the designated drop off location and that I abandoned the vehicle. The vehicle was disabled in a legal parking spot at my vacation rental and I was physically present when the tow truck that TURO called picked the vehicle up. The vehicle was disabled because the key fob had corroded and burnt out internally and there was no other way to gain entry or start the car. Turo claims that because I turned down the offer of a replacement key I am at fault. They offered me a key the morning this happened but were unable to get it to me in time to attend the VERY expensive, non-refundable, scheduled event that we were on our way to. I told them we were going to Uber to our event and that I expected reimbursement and that I would deal with the car when we returned that evening. That evening I was never offered a replacement key I was just told by the TURO representative that they were sending a tow truck.
    The next day I was accused of being at fault for the damaged key, I was charged a cleaning fee for a car I couldn’t even unlock, I was accused of bending a seat by putting my suitcase in the back seat, AND I was accused of smoking in the car. I don’t smoke.
    TURO voided the insurance I paid extra for because they say I violated the terms by abandoning the vehicle. They seem to have decided in my favor about the key and the seat but they charged my credit card $50 for a cleaning fee that was unfair. We did not even drive the vehicle 150 miles total. They gave me the car with 1/8 of a tank of gas and got it back with 3/4 tank.
    I have requested copies of all photos and transcripts of calls and have been completely ignored.
    TURO’s final answer is that I have to pay $200 to go to arbitration!!!
    I have disputed the charges with my credit card company but that will take some time to resolve and does nothing to reimburse my uber costs.
    TURO and this particular host are very dishonest, disorganized and painful to work with. My vacation was basically ruined and $600 is a BIG DEAL to me. My poor kids got drug all around Brevard County FL with their mom in tears trying to get us a car. I will speak out about TURO at every opportunity. Please help me!!

    Thanks!!

    Maria

  5. I had a terrible experience.
    I booked a car through Turo with -Ocean O-
    At pre-rental inspection the tires were worn, the shift knob was broken and the car was dirty and smelly. I cancelled the trip because the car had obvious safety issues.
    I had to call customer support several times to get some help and finally, after ten days, I was told that I would get only a partial refund because they were not able to contact the host.
    F.

  6. Another terrible experience, this time with Turo customer service…

    My friend was trying to unlock his account on Turo, everything was okay until they asked me to send my Driver License, selfie with Myself holding my driver license, my credit card statement, selfie with Myself holding that freaking statement in my hands. It is crazy with this requirements, and the most important is why the hell I had to provide any of my personal information over to Turo, if my friend had issues, not me?? And we never lived together.
    I feel bad for my friend because he spent two weeks trying to unlock his account and at the end it still wasn’t done.
    Since I refused to send my personal information, Turo never unlocked my friends account.
    I’ve never seen this kind of poor and uneducated customer service, even from DMV!

    I am writing this review just so people can understand how ridiculous and poor Turo’s customer service is. With all this nonsense questions and not been able to properly explain why they need all this information.

    Be careful and stay safe!

  7. Turo Car Rental – Never USE! They can & will bill you for random charges even months after you rent from them. Their customer support even replied back to me stating “Further replies will be read, but may not be responded to” AND “good luck to you getting your money back”. I’ll be sticking with the normal car rental agencies from now on.

  8. I would never recommend this ride share company. I use them as a client and my car was returned damaged. When I tried to get my car repaired they did not want to repair it and they minimized the repair to my luxury vehicle. I took them to court and they sent a lawyer in small claims and he lied and said he wasn’t a lawyer. This is a very shady company. If you have a luxury vehicle do not loan your car with them.

  9. Recently joined Turo as a host to rent out my 2014 Lexux RX 450h. I got a lot of interest immediately when offering at major airport. I hoping to make the renters experience great and better than just a car rental. We can offer things like ice chest for tailgating or bike and bike rack or how about surf board or kayak rental or fishing equipment? I’d really love to hear some feedback about how to make this a real sightDOING opportunity and change Becky’s mind about renting again! Come to Baton Rouge/NOLA and experience a piece of southern hospitality 🙂

    1. @Adam, You sound like a tremendous host and if everyone was like you, Turo would be fantastic! I wish you the best of luck and I’ll look you up next time I’m in Louisiana 🙂

  10. The worst service ever. Canceled my reservation without notification. Still have not refunded all my money. You can’t talk to anyone but through messenger and customer service sucks! Biggest rip off ever! Need to be shut down.

  11. Im looking at Turo as renting small car in HI was $35/day last year and due to COVID now it’s $100-$150/day.

      1. UMMM, those are NOT cost savings. We’re all getting charged exorbitant rates this year to rent cars – whether it is Hertz or Turo. I’m looking to rent a car in Anchorage, AK in August and they’re quoting me $395 A DAY with Hertz (for a “manager’s special” – I can’t even get them to guarantee that the car will be big enough for my family (!). Hertz is the ONLY company that will even give me a quote. All the others state that they are sold out. Turo is $200-400 a day. I’m hesitant to rent with Turo though, as they want the full money up front, and I’m concerned after reading all of the negative comments above.

      2. @Alan, Yes, unfortunately the cost of rental cars this year is sky-high (this article does a good job of explaining why). As everyday owners list their cars on Turo, they’ve wisened up to the high rates that agencies are charging and have increased their rates as well.

        I don’t know of a good workaround other than traveling to less-popular destinations. Alaska, Hawaii, and most US National Parks are going to be slammed this year.

  12. Buyer Beware: Turo will not cover the full cost for last minute cancelations. You will be stuck with the difference. It has cost our family an extra $2,000 for our trip because of not one but 2 host that would be considered reputable cancelled on us last minute.

    We booked our cars 6 months in advance. The prices were reasonable and inline with rental car companies but we got to pick our exact color and have a bikini top on the jeep so we could pull it down with the kids and we were supporting local! When choosing a host we made sure to choose people that had multiple trips so they had good reviews and a history of renting.

    As our trip approached we saw horror stories of host canceling and later seeing the cars advertised on social media doe more money. I didn’t worry too much because our first host had been in contact with us regularly with updated covid information. The second host was an LLC and seemed to be a reputable company with multiple cars that all had multiple trips.

    Well the nightmare began 10 days before we left for Oahu. Our host cancelled! We contacted Turo for help securing a car. They were willing to help us find a car but they were not willing to help cover the more than double to price because all the reasonable cars had been rented. They only offered a $200 credit. That still left us coving an additional $800 out of pocket for a car above what we had already paid Turo. I immediately reached out to our second host to confirm that our second car would be available when we arrived in Maui. The response we got was “Yes… all is still good.”

    I was feeling better. If we could just make it to the island all would be ok. All other reservations were confirmed. Well, day 2 of our vacation and 3 days before we left for Maui the nightmare reared it’s ugly head again. Our host on Maui, who confirmed the car was available, cancelled the reservation without any explanation.

    Again we were left scrambling for a car with even less time to figure things out and not to mention we were in the middle of what was supposed to be a fun and relaxing vacation. Again, cars were 2-3x the price we paid compared to when we booked 6 months before our vacation. Again Turo refused to cover the entire cost. They offered again a small credit again leaving my family paying another $800 out of pocket above what we had already paid Turo.

    Are there good renters our there. I am sure there are but do you really want to roll the dice and possibly end up in the same situation? I highly recommend you STAY AWAY FROM TURO!

  13. Buyer beware: My first experience had not been great, talking to anyone at Turo is a challenge and I question their ability to resolve problems. The Covid-19 policy is a lot of talk, the hosts (owners of the car) only have to check a box before the start of the rental and there is no way for them to verify anything.

    My first rental did not go well, we were picking up at the airport, when we got to the car, it was really dirty and smelled of pot. Prior to picking up the car, we got confirmation that the car had been cleaned in line with the covid protocol, the truth was the previous renter had only returned the car hours before and the reality is that had the car not been a complete mess, we would not have been the wiser. Turo policy is that if it is dirty, to contact them right away, they will cancel the rental and help you find an alternative. The challenge with this is twofold, 1) we had just walked to the economy car park, went up to the 6th floor, had two small children, two car seats and luggage. What option did we really have but to take the rental in its state? Unlike a rental company, there is no other car standing by and as I learned after, Turo will only talk with you via chat. What would that experience have been like? 2) It’s not easy (or at least for me) to know the policy and the whole app is set up to prioritize communication with the host and not Turo.

    While the host was very quick to respond and quickly paid for the cleaning of the car. Once we got the car cleaned, it has gone well. However, he also promised a refund for the inconvenience, but would not give it until we closed out the booking by putting in a review. After the review was submitted, he stopped replying and never gave the agreed discount.

    Turo had offered us a $50 credit towards the next rental and got into a negotiation with the host on a discount, which I eventually accepted. Not a great experience. In this case, it was not really any cheaper than a rental company once you factor in the additional insurance (credit cards won’t cover Turo as it is not a rental company) as you cannot really on your credit card and need to make sure you normal car insurance covers you.

    1. @James, That’s a great point that almost everything is handled between the renter and the owner. Turo isn’t much more than a marketplace.

  14. $$ I paid an arm and a leg for my 7 day use. Wasn’t given the ‘mileage’ use, Paying that much, and being unemployed wasn’t worth it, could’ve been way cheaper flying. That’s not even including gas, food & hotels for my travels.

  15. Please don’t use this company. It is a scam.
    I was traveling to Hawaii and rented a truck and paid for my reservation in advance. One hour before I landed the host texted me ” the car is broke”.
    I called host and he said needed new tires and I need to cancel reservation and find new truck.
    I tried to find another truck but none was available.
    Turo offered to rent me the same truck but for $ 4,500. this was $ 3,100 more than I agreed and paid for. They offered to take 20% off the new amount but still $2,200.00 more than agreed upon amount.
    The company knew there were no more trucks andt ripped me off, ruined my vacation.
    Crooks!

    1. @Jennifer, Yes, this is a risk of working with an individual owner. If the car isn’t in working order, there’s no backup vehicle available.

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