D. Gilson is a writer and author of essays, poetry, and scholarship that explore the relationship between popular culture, literature, sexuality, and memoir. His latest book is Jesus Freak, with Will Stockton, part of Bloomsbury’s 33 1/3 Series. His other books include I Will Say This Exactly One Time and Crush. His first chapbook, Catch & Release, won the 2012 Robin Becker Prize from Seve...

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Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has appeared on legaladvice.com, themanifest.com, and vice.com.

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Reviewed by Jeffrey Johnson
Insurance Lawyer

UPDATED: Jan 19, 2021

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RelayRides now offers OnStar Connectivity.
RelayRides now offers OnStar Connectivity. (© General Motors)

Did you know that there are services that allow you to rent your car to others? Commonly called “car sharing,” rentals between private individuals facilitated by third parties are a growing option for those who don’t own cars as well as for drivers who want to earn some extra money from automobiles that sit unused most of the time.

It’s estimated that there are about 26 different car sharing programs within the United States. Between them, there are more than a half million users who share thousands of cars.

RelayRides, headquartered in San Francisco but with owners that rent their cars dotted across the United States is perhaps the most newsworthy of car sharing services. They allow owners with automobiles under 12 years old and fewer than 120,000 miles to participate in their car sharing service.

Beyond those two requirements, the company also expects cars to have a fair market value of $50,000 or less. RelayRide allows drivers to set their own hourly rates which are usually $5 to $12 per hour and takes 35% of the revenues. Owners receive 60 percent of the reservation fee, 100 percent of any gas and excess mileage charges and 50 percent of policy violation fines as well.

We say most newsworthy, because RelayRides just announced a partnership with General Motors to utilize the OnStar system to rent out their idle vehicles through the RelayRides marketplace. RelayRides’ renters can unlock reserved OnStar-enabled cars simply by using their smart phones.

RelayRides is the first third-party developer to integrate with GM OnStar’s proprietary application program interface (API) that will be available to other developers later this summer.

OnStar’s connectivity solution provides RelayRides’ members with increased security, reliability and accessibility. And as a bonus, owners of OnStar enabled vehicles can rent out their cars without having to meet and hand over their keys to the renter. OnStar locks and unlocks cars remotely. So it’s convenient for renters as well, since they can use their smartphone to get access to the car.

“General Motors, through OnStar, and RelayRides have joined forces to create an entirely new mobility solution for U.S. drivers interested in more affordable, sustainable and collaborative automobile options,” said Nick Pudar vice president OnStar Strategy and New Business Development. “Our exclusive relationship with RelayRides provides an exciting new choice: the first automobiles to run on collaborative consumption.”

However, before you utilize any of these services, we suggest that you consider the positives and the negatives

Positive Aspects of Renting Your Car

What are the positive aspects of renting your car via a ride sharing service? They include:

  • Renters are normally pre-screened, including a full background and DMV check before they’re allowed to participate.
  • Some companies install anti-theft technology that monitors where vehicles are located. In the case of RelayRides as described above, GM’s OnStar is used.
  • You can meet the renter in person to exchange keys if you wish to conduct your own personal screening before letting them drive away in your car.
  • Because your personal insurance policy won’t pay if your car is wrecked during the rental, it’s standard that most of the car sharing services provide comprehensive and collision coverage to protect your investment.
  • Income stream. There are car owners that earn up to $900 a month just from car sharing rentals.

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Negative Aspects of Renting Your Car

While there are quite a few positives to participating in a car sharing program, there are some potential negatives you should think about, including:

  • Owners are responsible for increased maintenance and must ensure their car meets state inspection guidelines. Your car must be kept clean and well maintained at all times.
  • If your car is totaled or stolen as a result of the car sharing program, it’s possible you’ll miss out on it for an extended period of time.
  • You might be responsible for responding to reservation requests and renter e-mails, as well as other scheduling chores.
  • Insurers might revoke your coverage if they learn you’re participating in car sharing. We discussed RelayRides earlier with two insurers, Progressive and USAA. Progressive was fine with policyholders participating, while USAA took a more firm stance indicating they’d consider canceling a policy.