I Don't Own A Car, But I Can Borrow One From A Stranger Whenever I Want Thanks To An App

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getaround app searching

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As a New Yorker, it doesn't make much sense for me to own a car. Everything I want is easily accessible by train. Plus, most of my needs - groceries, coffee, bars - are within walking distance of my apartment.

It's not like that in San Francisco, where I 've been living the past few months. There's a public transportation system, but it stinks. Taking Uber cars everywhere can get expensive. And a lot of my business is outside the city, visiting tech companies and sources in cities like Palo Alto, Mountain View, and Cupertino. There's no easy way to get to those places unless you have a car. (Yes, there's the Caltrain, which shoots from San Francisco south through the peninsula, but I've heard far too many nightmarish stories to even consider taking it.)

A colleague told me about Getaround, an app that lets you rent a car on demand. (You can reserve one ahead of time too). It's sort of like Zipcar. You fire up the app, find a car near you, and rent it by the hour. When you're finished, you park the car on the street or a designated parking lot.

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But the difference between Getaround and Zipcar is you're only renting other people's cars, not vehicles owned by the company. Those who put their cars up for sharing get a cut of each rental fee too. Getaround is just the platform that makes the sharing possible. Renters don't have to worry either. Getaround insures each rental and renters are responsible for parking tickets and other traffic violations.

It works too. I've used Getaround several times over the last few months, and every experience has been flawless. After plugging in my drivers license and credit card information, all I have to do is find a car near me and hop in. It's just as seamless as Zipcar, but since you're borrowing other people's vehicles, there are far more convenient pickup locations. I've never had to walk more than a few block to pick up a Getaround car. Plus, you don't have to pay a membership fee like you do with Zipcar.

Getaround is only available in a handful of cities - San Francisco, Chicago, Portland, Austin, and San Diego. Here's a quick look at how it works:

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You can get a car on demand, or search for the times you need it. You can also filter searches by price, car type, and more.

getaround filter search for cars

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The map populates with all the cars that meet your search criteria. Tap one of the purple pins to view more details.

getaround search map

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These two cars were parked in a garage near my office. I went with the Prius.

getaround car search map

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After I reserved the car, the owner sent me a nice text message.

getaround text message from owner

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When it's time for your trip, you use the "Connect Key" so the app can talk to the car. Every Getaround car is equipped with a wireless system that lets you unlock it through the app.

getaround trip screen app

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The app uses GPS to locate the car you rented.

getaround app locating car

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After the app finds the car, you can unlock it. You lock it again after your trip.

car unlocked getaround app

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There's the car! It's unlocked and ready to go.

getaround car prius in garage

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Getaround car owners keep the key in this little pouch in the visor. Easy.

getaround car key pouch

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Some Getaround owners really take care of renters. This Prius had a Lightning cable charger for iPhone and a regular USB charging cord for Android phones. There was also a mount for my iPhone. I've taken some Getaround cars that had mints and bottles of water.

getaround car interior iphone mount

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That's it! Getaround automatically charges your credit card for the price quoted when you reserve the vehicle. If you need extra time, you can extend your trip through the app. Most people require you to fill up the tank with gas before you're trip is over. I recommend choosing a Prius or other hybrid whenever possible since they don't use much gas.

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