Airport car rentals are a $10 billion business. But until recently, most travelers were stuck with poor customer service and high rates from the incumbent rental car agencies. Y Combinator-backed startup FlightCar wants to offer a much cheaper alternative to those companies in airports around the country, and it’s starting in San Francisco.
FlightCar provides a peer-to-peer marketplace for car rentals at airports, connecting travelers with vehicles at much lower rates than they’d find if they went through one of the incumbent rental car agencies. It’s able to do that because it is renting out cars that would have otherwise been left in long-term parking.
It’s not that different from existing peer-to-peer rental services, except that it specializes in multi-day rentals at airports, whereas companies like RelayRides, Getaround, and Wheelz are focused on short-term rentals in cities. The service has first launched at San Francisco International Airport, with plans to expand to other airports in the future.
For car owners, allowing their vehicles to be rented is not just a way to save on parking, but also to potentially make some money while they’re out of town. While travelers would typically pay about $18 a day to keep their car in Long Term Parking, FlightCar lets users keep their car at the company’s lot — provided that they are willing to let the startup rent out their cars while they’re gone.
FlightCar provides a valet service when travelers are at the airport and ready to drop their cars off. It also brings the car to them when they’ve arrived back in their place of origin.
Cars must have been made since 1999 and have less than 150,000 miles to be listed on the site. The startup pays the owners of luxury and larger cars $10 gas cards for each day the car is rented.
To set travelers at ease, FlightCar has a $1 million liability policy with collision and theft coverage while they’re gone. There’s also the added bonus that FlightCar cleans the vehicles both before they’ve been rented and afterward.
During its initial trial, FlightCar was seeking to partner with airport parking lot owners to keep its cars. But for the SFO launch, it’s decided instead to open on its own lot and shuttle rental cars back and forth.
The service soft-launched at SFO on February 5, and the company is looking to increase inventory. In just a few weeks, the company has already rented more than 100 cars, without heavy investment in marketing the service.
FlightCar is part of the most recent Y Combinator class, and SV Angel has also invested. The company was founded by Shri Ganesham, Rujul Zaparde, and Kevin Petrovic. The three originally incubated the idea through Cincinatti-based startup accelerator The Brandery, before the team was accepted to YC.