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Getaround vehicles in Portland
Portland-area private vehicles shared for borrowing by members of, February 2012.

Getaround is a commercial personal carsharing company operating in the United States, the first to expand into Portland.

Personal carsharing companies, also known as "peer to peer carsharing" or "social carsharing" companies, essentially turn any car into a Zipcar, letting their owners make money from them when they're not using them. Other personal carsharing companies include Relay Rides, Spride and Wheelz.

Getaround CEO Sam Zaid describes the social component of Getaround's mission as a way to end "car overpopulation" by reducing the need for people to own as many cars while getting the most value out of cars that do exist.

In December 2011, the company announced that it'd received a $1.7 million grant from the Federal Highway Administration's Value Pricing Pilot Program to pay for Carkits, marketing and evaluation of Getaround service in Portland. A pilot program launch on the Portland State University campus Jan. 1, followed by an official citywide launch in February.

"This study will catalyze carsharing at cities across America," Zaid predicted at the Portland launch.


[edit] How it works

getaround tesla
A Getaround-branded Tesla Roadster visits Portland City Hall for Getaround's launch in Portland.
  1. One Getaround member creates an account on Getaround's website, using his or her Facebook account, and lists his or her vehicle or vehicles on the network, including its location, price (by the hour, with an option to set a minimum number of hours) and the times and days it's likely to be available.
  2. Another Getaround member uses Getaround's website or iPhone app to find a nearby Getaround vehicle, then uses the site or app to send the owner a request for that vehicle.
  3. The owner recieves the request via email or text message, and either ignores or approves it.
  4. The borrower shows up at the requested time and either receives a key from the borrower or (if the owner has a Carkit device for keyless entry) enters the car using Getaround's smartphone app. Whenever a borrower is behind the wheel of a Getaround car, Berkshire Hathaway provides an insurance policy for the driver that exactly duplicates the insurance policy of the car owner. Insurance is included in the hourly price of the car, and paid for out of Getaround's share of that price. Gas is typically the borrower's responsibility.
  5. After the rental, the car owner receives 60% of the rental price, with Getaround receiving the other 40% to cover insurance, marketing and administration.

Vehicle owners who have Carkits can opt to approve all requests automatically, essentially skipping step 3. Getaround Marketing Director Jessica Scorpio estimated in February 2011 that the owner of an average Getaround vehicle in the Bay area receives about 2 to 3 requests per week, though the busiest receive more.

[edit] Vehicle requirements

As of February 2011, Getaround's requirements for participating vehicles were:

  • a model year of 1995 or later
  • no more than 150,000 miles on the odometer
  • a valid insurance policy
  • its owner (and the borrower) must have a Facebook account

Getaround has advised owners who hold leases on their cars to verify with their dealer that they're allowed to share their vehicle using Getaround, and said that smokers are required to note, in their car's profile, that the car is owned by a smoker.

"Getaround will send you an insurance certificate showing your coverage when others are driving your car," said Getaround's Portland representative, Steve Gutmann.

Any vehicle can sign up for Getaround and use its website and insurance system to coordinate in-person key swaps. However, having a car that generates meaningful revenue requires both a signficant density of Getaround users in the area and, ultimately, a Carkit that gives Getaround users keyless entry using a smartphone.

Marketing Director Jessica Scorpio said some of the most lucrative Getaround vehicles in the Bay Area had been Tesla Roadsters, which are popular with renters looking to take the luxury all-electric hotrods for a spin. "They can get at least $500 a day and $75 an hour," she said.

[edit] Availability in Portland

At the time of its February 2012 launch, 100 cars were available for sharing in the Portland area, nearly all of them relying on traditional key swaps rather than Carkits. "That's half of Zipcar's fleet" in the city, Getaround founder Jessica Scorpio pointed out at the time.

Scorpio said Feb. 22 that the company would begin installing its first Carkits for the Portland market "as early as next week." Thanks to the federal grant, Scorpio said the Portland area would soon have "more Carkits than the Bay area."

Scorpio said Getaround planned to hire a street team of Portland-area marketers to attend community events and explain how Getaround works.

"It's something that is so obvious that it takes you a little time to just digest it," she said.

[edit] Extra cash rewards for early adopters

Until March 2013, Getaround is offering $200 in cash payments, on top of their revenue from borrowers, to households that share their cars on Getaround and agree to participate in an OTREC study of their habits as Getaround users. Getaround car owners throughout the city are eligible to participate in the study.

Payouts are awarded after the first and fifth rentals completed by the participant.

For instructions on how to participate in the study, see the Portland Carshare Study section of the Getaround FAQ.

[edit] Focus on Lents

Getaround's federal grant covering its Portland launch provided specifically for it to investigate the behavioral effects of personal carsharing in the Lents neighborhood, a commercial district relatively far from the city center.

[edit] Interviews with Getaround users in Mountain View, Calif.

In August 2011, Portland Afoot conducted interviews with a few Getaround users in Mountain View to see how the service was working for them after its first few months.

[edit] Eugene Cordero

Eugene Cordero
The Corderos outside their Getaround-shared vehicle, August 2011.

A meteorologist at San Jose State University, Eugene Cordero said he was a daily bicycle commuter deeply concerned with climate change. He and his wife, a freelance editor, had discussed selling their 2003 Prius entirely but hesitated to make the jump to car-freedom.

Instead, Cordero said he had been overjoyed, in spring 2011, to become one of Getaround's first users, less because they expected much money than because they simply liked the idea. The couple charges $6 per hour, of which they pocket $4.20 and send Getaround $1.80, or $44 per day. (Their 70-30 split has been offered only to the earliest adopters, Cordero said.)

Though the couple has had some repeat business, many users are strangers who show up at the Caltrain station five blocks away. They prefer handing over the key in person -- possible because she works at home -- and aren't sure they'd want to let someone they'd never met use their car.

In their first five months, the couple estimated that they'd shared their car with "10 to 20" people and grossed about $400. They didn't think any of their customers had been female.

Cordero said they'd had no trouble from borrowers other than one who, late to catch a train, handed them $20 rather than filling up the gas tank himself. They saw short trips as the most profitable ones, and were considering raising their hourly rate slightly.

[edit] Brian Klug

Brian Klug
Brian Klug, a freelance programmer and the founder of a Mountain View co-working space, in August 2011.

Brian Klug, who promoted his 2000 Civic with perhaps the funniest carsharing ad in existence, said he, too, had been interested in Getaround more as an interesting idea than a way to make money. Klug, who worked at home or walked, charged $12 per hour (of which he took home 60 percent, or $7.20) but just $38.25 per day.

Instead of keeping Getaround updated with the twists and turns of his schedule, Klug said, "I just say it's available all the time." If someone asks to borrow the car when he needs it, he said, he'll simply decline the request.

Klug said he was pleased with the service as an occasional bit of income that put his underused car to work.

"I like startups, and this one interested me," he said. Klug said he'd grossed "close to $100" over several months.

[edit] Anonymous

A woman who has since removed her vehicle from Getaround said in August 2011 that the service hadn't worked for her at all.

A full-time programmer who spends all her weekdays in an office, she said she'd had several requests to access her SUV, but always during work when she couldn't get home to hand off the keys. The only way personal carsharing would be worthwhile for her, she said, would be if people would take the car on long trips, which few seemed interested in doing.

Because at the basic level, Getaround was free and car owners are welcome to reject any carsharing requests, the woman saw no financial cost to membership, though the need to respond to requests may have become a burden.

[edit] History

Getaround was the first U.S. company to allow anyone to offer personal cars for rental on its platform; other companies restricted access only to users who'd received the keyless entry devices that Getaround refers to as a "Carkit."

[edit] External links

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