FlightCar – a Beachhead for Car Sharing

Despite the extent to which I talk and think about car sharing and other newly possible. web-enabled modes of transportation, the truth is I still don’t use too many of them on a regular basis.  Need to work on that.

It seems as though I need to travel to SF to get the urge to get around town in new ways.  A few months ago, I tried out Scoot’s new battery-powered short-term scooter rental service, which was really fun (and will get much better as battery life improves).

This week, I tried a new one: FlightCar.  FlightCar is a peer-to-peer car sharing service, not unlike RelayRides, Getaround, or Buzzcar.  The twist is that it’s all based around airport trips.  Here’s the idea:

Every day, thousands of people drive to their local airport and park their car in long term parking before they head out of town.  At the exact same time, thousands of people are arriving at that same airport — and guess what, lots of them need cars. Add a little web-based matchmaking, booking, and logistics, and there you go. 

What I like about this approach is that it builds on behavior that people are doing anyway — dropping off and picking up cars at airports.  It’s not a huge stretch to go from there to peer-to-peer renting, especially if the whole experience is really seamless.  There is something about that arrangement that helps overcome the awkwardness that is a factor in lots of peer-to-peer businesses.  Maybe airports is the perfect beachhead for entering the peer-to-peer car sharing business (or maybe not; we’ll see…).

My experience with FlightCar was pretty good.  The online booking was really easy, just like renting a normal car, but with the added bonus of getting to pick out the exact car you’ll be driving (I chose a 1999 Audi A4 with a stick-shift — not a car you’re often likely to rent; my second choice was a mazda miata).

A FlightCar valet met me at the baggage claim (after a bit of wrangling since I was 2 hours early and we were waiting in the wrong place) – I dropped the valet and signed the paperwork, and then Brad, Albert and I set out on our way.

I gotta say, I actually liked it a lot — just like you feel more like a local when you stay in an Airbnb apartment, there is something different about driving a “real” car when you’re traveling.  In this case, it’s a car I’ve always liked, and I don’t get a chance to drive stick that often, so it was definitely more fun than my typical rental.

FlightCar is still working out the kinks in the service, there are a few rough edges in the pick up / drop off experience that they’ re still working out, in this case the car wasn’t washed and was out of gas when I picked it up.  The former will continue to improve I’m sure, and the latter was likely a function of my showing up early.

I feel like with all of these peer-to-peer services, there’s an initial hump you need to get over before you can participate at all.  Something to get you past the “whoa that’s kind of weird” moment that many people have as their first reaction.  Like Airbnb did with their “crash the inauguration” website around the 2009 inauguration.

In this case, I thought FlightCar did a good job of doing that for me.

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Nick Grossman

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