When I first heard about this new rental car service I was very skeptical. How could you actually get a free rental car? Or, even more suspicious, how could you get a rental car for only a few dollars? Free might be easy to explain due to some sort of promotion, but how could a business operate by only charging a few dollars?
Well, it’s true, but there’s a catch. Transfercar, a New Zealand-based company, is moving into the U.S. market. The idea is simple, you visit their website, book a one-way car rental for a specified date, and only pay a few dollars or nothing at all. And they are starting on the west coast with big expansion plans for the rest of the country.
How can this work? How can they just give away rental cars? Well, the company is making use of rental cars from many of the big rental car agencies that are underutilized and need to be repositioned. Normally these large companies must pay to have their cars driven or shipped via rail or truck to different destinations where demand for cars is higher. And that’s where you, the smart traveler comes in. You relocate the car for them, benefiting you and them at the same time, and getting a fun road trip out of it. Many of the reservation prices are free, while others are around $5. You pay for fuel, and you get where you’re going, and the rental agency doesn’t have to pay big bucks to put that car on a train.
Many different types of cars are available. If you want to go camping, you can rent an RV or small motorhome. If you’re looking for a quick drive, you can grab a compact fuel efficient vehicle. Family trip? How about a sedan. A few searches on their website revealed that most car types and sizes are available over a fairly wide range of dates.
Is something this great too good to be true? Like we mentioned before, Transfercar states that there are a few rules and caveats.
As with most car rentals, you will pay for fuel yourself and must return the car with a full tank. (However, as a promotion, Transfercar is offering some of the rentals with fuel credits.)
Second, since these are essentially relocation trips, all rentals are one way. You must pick up the car at the origin and deliver it to the destination. This includes the specific rental car office, not just anywhere in the city or a location more convenient to you.
Third, you often have a limited amount of time to drive the car, such as one day or even several days, but not more or you could pay a fee. Also, the dates are set, you must pick up the car by a specific date and then drive it over the next day or so to the destination. There is often not a great deal of wiggle room in the dates.
Next, if you don’t show up for your reservation, you could pay a fee.
Finally, you could end up paying more than the low advertised rate for the car if you need extra insurance, or if the rental company decides to throw on something extra.
Despite these caveats, I think the idea for this service is terrific. Many travelers are planning one way trips and need a cheap way to get around without paying the hundreds of dollars that a rental car normally costs. In some places, this service could even be a competitor to airline or bus travel if the distance between the two cities isn’t far. Imagine the time it takes you to go to the airport, stumble through security, wait at your gate, actually fly, then find your bags and arrive at your destination. We all know airline travel actually takes a lot longer than the flight time. Sometimes you spend more time at the airport than in the air. Between two relatively close cities, why not just drive? Especially when the price is only a few dollars plus gas, and the time it takes is the same as flying.
We’ll be watching this one, and so should you. I’m excited about the possibilities here for road trippers, business travelers, and families alike.
For more information and to rent a car, visit transfercarus.com.
Bryan has visited exactly one more country than his wife, and she won’t let him forget it! Also an avid photographer, he enjoys entrenching himself within the local culture in order to learn more about the people of a place. He is the co-founder of Budget Your Trip and loves a good adventure, an exotic meal, or a passionate conversation about global events.