The company is shooting for more than 100 more by March.
“Like anything, you start from zero awareness and it builds over time,” Steve Gutmann, Getaround’s Portland-based representative, said this month. “Anybody who’s been sort of watching the company can see that we’ve been pretty focused on building supply.”
Getaround matches and insures people who need to rent a car by the hour with people willing to rent out their private cars – essentially turning any private car into a Zipcar, complete with freestanding insurance coverage for the renter.
A Facebook account is also required, for the company to track each member’s account.
Technically, the service can be used anywhere in the U.S. The service can be used in several other U.S. cities. But there’s a catch: Getaround hasn’t widely distributed the electronic “carkit” dashboard boxes that allow keyless entry by anyone with web access, removing the need for renter and owner to arrange a key handoff.
In Portland, however, a federal study of carsharing behavior has subsidized the distribution of more than 200 carkits, which will be used by academics affiliated with Portland-based OTREC to track driver behavior in shared vehicles. Getaround is hoping to sign up about 100 more study participants by March in order to fulfill the study’s requirements. The company provides a free carkit and pays up to $200 to people who sign their cars up for the study and rent it at least five times in six months.
That’s in addition to owners’ revenue from the car rentals. Car owners set their desired price – usually $6 to $10 per hour, not counting a $1 booking fee – and pocket 60 percent of the revenue. Getaround takes the rest to cover insurance and overhead.
So with federal funds kickstarting Getaround’s growth, has usage taken off? It’s hard to say. The company doesn’t disclose usage figures. And unlike Car2go, whose flashy blue-and-white vehicles serve as their own advertising on the road, Getaround hasn’t yet tried to decorate its cars.
Gutmann said the company’s priority so far has been to get people to offer to share their cars rather than to get renters to actually use them.
“The emphasis has been on increasing the number of cars – increasing liquidity in the marketplace,” he said. “At a certain point, the focus will shift over to generating more demand.”
One challenge for the startup: so far, the vast majority of Getaround cars are based in the same part of central Portland that’s already well-served by Car2go and Zipcar. Getaround’s competitive advantage lies in the suburbs, where commercial carsharing is unprofitable and other carsharing services are completely absent – but where you still might need to walk a mile to the nearest Getaround vehicle.
You can register your own vehicle, sign up for the $200 study, or become a Getaround member for free on Getaround’s website.