With all of the popularity surrounding Uber’s disruption of the taxi market, it’s surprising that a similar idea hasn’t been tried for rental cars. Until now.
The basic premise is that the current car rental business is burdened with unnecessary paperwork, lines, and confusion with obscure fees and pushy salesmen along the way. Silvercar eliminates all of that frustration, allowing you to reserve, rent, and return the car right from your smartphone.
“For decades it has been a pride-swallowing siege to approach the rental counter, wait in lines, fight off the up-selling of insurance, GPS units and fuel plans, only to find there’s a tired, unappealing car waiting for you when you get out to the lot,” Luke Schneider, Silvercar’s CEO, told Opportunity Lives. “Silvercar changes all of that.”
The most distinguishing feature is the company’s signature car – the silver Audi A4. Because you’re guaranteed the same type of car every time, repeat renters love the familiarity of their Silvercar. No more picking options that read “Ford Focus or similar” – you know exactly what you get, every time.
Schneider said Silvercar began when the founders were “upgraded” to a white minivan on a guys’ golf outing. “With Silvercar you always know what car you’re going to get – a fully-loaded silver Audi A4 with a wi-fi hotspot, satellite radio and in-dash nav included,” he said.
The company is growing quickly, with the biggest publicity coming from word of mouth and referrals. Social media helps too – Silvercar has already surpassed car-rental giant Avis in Facebook likes. Schneider said Silvercar has a Net Promoter Score (which measures the willingness of customers to recommend a product to others) of 5 times the industry average. On average, 1,000 people download the Silvercar mobile app everyday, he said.
I had an opportunity to review Silvercar in Phoenix last weekend (disclaimer – the rental was complimentary in exchange for an unbiased review).
As soon as I landed at the airport, I received a text from Silvercar informing me to check the app for instructions. Right from the app, I was able to text Silvercar notifying them that I was on the airport shuttle to the rental car center (in some airports, you can walk right to the Silvercar center, but in Phoenix, it is around the corner from the main rental car center). As soon as I stepped off the shuttle, a silver Audi pulled up and brought me just around the block to the Silvercar office, where my own silver Audi was waiting in the garage, freshly cleaned.
After scanning a QR code on the windshield with my phone, the doors unlocked and I hopped in. Cesar, a Silvercar employee, gave me a brief but thorough tool on the specs of the car – including in-car Wifi, Sirius XM radio, Bluetooth, and a full navigation system. The best part? They’re all included in the price (which was listed at $49/day). All of the technology worked perfectly, except for the Audi’s navigation system, which had trouble giving accurate directions at times (which admittedly, is no fault of Silvercar). I preferred to use Google Maps from my iPhone via Bluetooth.
Driving the Audi was, quite simply, a joy. Never before have I enjoyed showing off my rental car to friends or going on spontaneous drives around the city. It’s a nice enough car that you feel great driving it, but not too flashy that it sends the wrong signal. Silvercar will likely attract many business clients or people who normally rent luxury cars through the traditional process and prefer the modern efficiency of Silvercar.
Returning the car is a breeze too. I dropped the car off at the Silvercar center (the location is pre-programmed into the GPS) and switched to the passenger seat. A driver dropped me off at the airport in “my” car so that I didn’t have to move my luggage. Within 10 minutes, I received a receipt for the rental via e-mail and the Silvercar app. I returned the car half-empty, but Silvercar’s fueling charge is only $5 plus the market cost of gasoline (no markups per gallon, and no need to choose a “refueling plan” beforehand).
The bottom line? It was the best car rental experience I’ve ever had.