FlightCar: Get Paid to Let Strangers Use Your Car

burnt car photo
FlightCar claims to offer a "$1 million guarantee" on your car, in the "rare event that there's damage."
burnt car photo
FlightCar claims to offer a “$1 million guarantee” on your car, in the “rare event that there’s damage.”

As soon as Jamie told me about FlightCar, an image flashed in my head: answering the phone and talking to Nuevo Laredo police, informing us that the burnt out shell of our Hyundai was recovered at the scene of a triple homicide.

But, nefarious drug crimes aside, the idea was tempting: Making money for a car that was, otherwise, just going to sit for a week, unused.

The idea is simple: most people *have* to use a car to get to the airport, but no one can use their car while they’re at their destination. So we end up spending money for our car to be unused. FlightCar bridges that gap by having travelers leaving and airport rent their car to (“approved”) travelers arriving to the airport.

For our test, Jamie went to Portland. $92 flights ($42 after a coupon) for her and our daughter departed, of course, out of O’Hare, and not our beloved (but most expensive in the nation) Madison. In preparation, everything had to be removed, which included all the hand-drawn “I’m bored” notes from road trips past, old coffee mugs, an aux cable (yeah, no Bluetooth for the Hyundai), a pile of rocks and a mini vacuum that plugs into a car power adapter. Leave the registration.

Jamie said the guy was “nice” and “professional” and “not cartel” looking.

Jamie then drove to a Best Western near the airport and met a guy who was housed in a side entrance at the hotel. Okay, this is starting to get shady, but Jamie said the guy was “nice” and “professional” and “not cartel” looking. She handed over the keys, and took the hotel’s shuttle to O’Hare. Bon Voyage!

Upon return, my wife said she was greeted with a hotel shuttle back to the parking lot, and a perfectly clean, non-drug-crime stained version the car she left behind. At this point, nothing else considered, she at least saved approximately $70 – $100 in parking fees.

We’d largely considered the experience a win, when the mail came roughly one week later. Inside, a check was made out to us for approximately $40–our share of the rental fees.

All told, FlightCar is brilliant, but it will definitely scare some. The biggest early criticisms, courtesy of Yelp*, seem to indicate that they’re great for renting to, not great for renting from. But the bigger problem seems to be, as is the case in much of the sharing economy, that there’s not as much customer service as people are accustomed to and that supply doesn’t always meet demand.

Our next step is to try out the service for a longer engagement. FlightCar said renters can make as much as $200 to $500 a month. And then maybe I’ll try the rental service itself.

*To be fair, Yelp reviews are usually written by confused people, and are about as useful as asking your barista which law firm he uses.

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