From Portland Afoot
Personal carsharing, also called peer-to-peer carsharing, is a system that lets car owners rent their idle vehicles to acquaintances or strangers without being present to hand them the keys.
"It's just like Zipcar, except that you're driving somebody else's car," Portland carsharing consultant Dave Brook said in a March 2011 interview. "You're driving a privately owned vehicle that the carsharing company coordinates."
As of October 2011, commercial personal carsharing companies active in the United States included Getaround, operating mostly in the San Francisco area with pilot projects in Portland and San Diego; RelayRides, operating in the Boston and San Francisco areas; and Wheelz, operating at Stanford University and targeting the college market. Spride, another early startup, had partnered with City Carshare, a nonprofit carsharing service in San Francisco.
Another company, Just Share It, was also gathering the names of interested people as of October 2011.
 How it works
Though U.S. companies are experimenting with variations on the personal carsharing model, they share a few basic ideas:
- No need for personal interaction: Cars registered for personal carsharing systems can be accessed without the owner being present.
- Owners set their own prices: With personal carsharing, the owner of a car, not the carsharing company itself, sets the rental price, then receives more than half of the rental revenue, according to Brook. "It provides a lot of flexibility to vehicle owners to earn what they think their car is worth," he said. "And they get to see in the marketplace whether other people agree with them."
One San Francisco-area owner of a $109,000 electric Tesla Roadster, has made a car available on Getaround for $50 an hour, reportedly because the owner "wants as many people to experience it as possible."
 History of personal carsharing
See our full article on the history of personal carsharing to learn about the roots of personal carsharing and the prospect for its coming to Portland.
 Potential advantages
Because the average U.S. car is parked for 22 hours a day, advocates say a robust network of personal carsharing vehicles would simply be a better use of the nation's money.
A traditional carsharing company must have each of its cars active for about 6 hours a day to turn a profit, Brook said.
Personal carsharing, however, allows more vehicles to be available but unused at any given time. This could open new parts of the world -- especially suburbs and small cities -- to carsharing.
"The great benefit of peer-to-peer carsharing is that it's going to allow carsharing to operate in much less dense areas of cities," Brook said. "It changes the economics of the carsharing company -- what it costs to do business."
 Reduced driving
If personal carsharing makes it easier for people to access a car occasionally, they are less likely to own a car, or to own or a second car. Because for car owners many of the costs of driving are fixed, this reduces people's incentive to drive more than they need to.
 Potential disadvantages
In comments beneath a Hacker News thread about Getaround, one person who identified himself as the 7-year proprietor of a rental company listed three concerns about personal carsharing.
"I want to embrace new and innovative models, but this smells of disaster to me," he wrote.
 Rental cars are poorly treated
"Rental cars get treated like crap, whether it's a Buick or a Bentley,' the man wrote. 'Mystery damage' appears in a high percentage of rentals. The customer will, 9 times out of 10, say 'Oh, that was there when I picked the car up.' We solve that problem by having a trained staff member take photographs of the car before and after and have the customer sign a very detailed check-in and check-out report with every inch of the car covered. In the event of a dispute, we are documented up the wazoo. If these transactions are happening person-to-person, how is that documentation being done? It takes at least a few weeks of solid training to get our employees accustomed to having 'the eye' for damage to our cars. I doubt P2P renters are going to train themselves. This, then, opens up every rental experience to a massive potential for liability and dispute, and in the cases where the documentation isn't up to spec, both parties will be left with a very bad taste in their mouths (and potential lawsuits)."
 Insurers may pull out
"Insurance in the car rental world is dicey at best," the man wrote. "Often carriers will provide coverage, but if you've got too many claims (and a business like this is ripe for claims -- see above) then you'll get dropped like a hot potato. And if you get dropped, there aren't many other options. And the few options that exist cost 2x - 10x the price. I've seen this again and again - it's very easy to start and run a car rental company for the first year. Then you have an accident and it comes time for renewal and the story -- and numbers -- change dramatically."
 Cars are lawsuit-prone
"In general, and this is my weakest argument, lots of people try to enter the car rental business because they think of cars as commodities that can be treated like any other piece of equipment," the man wrote. "The problem is that cars are massive rolling accident and lawsuit machines."
 Responses to criticism
Getaround co-founder Jessica Scorpio said her service requires all users to log in with Facebook profiles in order to increase the social pressure to treat a car well.
"If drivers know you have access to their real Facebook profile," co-founder Jessica Scorpio told GigaOm in 2011, "they’ll be more cautious."
 Carsharing companies have already addressed these problems
In a comment on this page, Portland carsharing consultant Dave Brook said all carsharing systems face these problems, and have learned to overcome them.
"I first heard the concerns about dirty cars when carsharing first started in the US in 1998," Brook wrote. "Yes, rental cars are treated that way because that's part of the 'deal'. While it occasionally happens, ask Zipcar, or City Carshare, I-Go Carsharing, PhillyCarshare etc. there are penalties when you return a car dirty and if it happens a couple of times you're out.
"And yes damage is a problem - which one budgets for - just like the rental car company does!
"Finally, the important thing to remember about the insurance for peer to peer carsharing is this: it ISN'T rental car insurance. It's full coverage. Rental car companies make a substantial part of their revenues upselling customers on insurance by raising doubts in customer's minds about whether their insurance is adequate."
The Sightline Institute was an early proponent of personal carsharing, promoting it in several posts on its website:
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