What is the future of carsharing in Portland? ReachNow is defunct, Car2Go has left the city—so what are Portlanders who need cars supposed to do?
Well, here's the answer: Getaround. The company has been around for a while, launching in San Francisco in 2009 and arriving in Portland in 2012. It's been quietly working in the background as a peer-to-peer carsharing service while ReachNow and Car2Go landed (quite loudly) with their bright Mini Coopers and Smart Cars. But now that those two have left our streets, Getaround has become the holdfast for easy, instant car rentals across the whole city, particularly for those who don't own a car.
Like previous carsharing apps, Getaround's central hub for everything is the app—making the reservation, unlocking the car (no special card or in-person key exchange needed), and ending your trip. But there are also some ways Getaround is a bit of a different model from other carsharing services we've had in Portland. For one, the cars available are entirely those that belong to people who decide to join Getaround's fleet. In that sense, Getaround is more akin to AirBnB where it's a peer-to-peer rental service. It's also different in that you are really intended to use the cars for roundtrip journeys, since cars always need to come back to the owner at the end of a trip. Getaround trips are also much more affordable—depending on the car you reserve, rates can go as low as $6 an hour with insurance included (compare that to the $15 an hour Car2Go would charge).
Using the app can take some getting used to, so here are some tips to get going:
1. Have a (vague) game plan for your trip.
The first thing to know about Getaround is that you want to have a game plan when you make your reservation. This is not to say that you need to know a week in advance exactly what you'll need a car for (although, if you already know you're going to take a trip to the coast next weekend, might as well reserve your spot, right?). In fact, you can rent cars pretty instantly from the app, finding ones in your area that are immediately available. We suggest you plan your trip with a bit of anticipation, though, say 30 minutes before you intend to use the car. That way, the owner of the car will be notified when their car is needed and have it ready for you to grab and go. And likewise, you'll want to estimate how long you'll need the car before you make the reservation, be it thirty minutes, one hour, or a couple of days. If you underestimate how long you need the car, you can always extend the trip during the reservation.
2. Look at the cars available.
When you're making your reservation, the screen will be populated with all the cars you can reserve—and there are a lot. Getaround cars are truly available across all neighborhoods, from down in Sellwood to the outer limits of Columbia Boulevard, and you can find cars that are fit for pretty much anything you need: there are small hybrid sedans for trips that efficiently get you from point A to point B; there are trucks for hauling big things around; there are even a couple of Teslas available, if you're lucky enough to get one.
Those that offer their cars to Getaround put in time to set you up for success, writing bios that let you know everything you need to know about the car, including where to find it and accessories the car has. There are also some cars that are pet friendly, so if you're planning an adventure with your dog, look for the pet friendly symbol when making a reservation. (This is a huge plus, since Car2Go and ReachNow had a strict "no dogs allowed" policy.)
3. Be a gracious guest.
Like in AirBnB, you want to be kind to the host that opened their doors to you. The general policy with Getaround is to leave the car the same as you found it. That means park it back where you found it, clean up anything you brought into the car, and make sure you leave it with a full tank of gas. The car owners on Getaround make an effort to leave the car with a full tank of gas before anyone drives it, so return the courtesy by filling up before you park. You'll be asked to document the gas before and after your trip to confirm the tank is left at the same level, so don't think you can cheat your way out of this. (If you're interested in listing you car, you can visit get.co/sharepdx.)
4. When all else fails, call support.
Of course, there is always the risk of something going wrong—you have technical problems with the app or issues making a reservation. For whatever may go wrong, Getaround has support available 24/7, including roadside assistance. Their support team can be reached by phone or email and are reliable to help you with whatever you need. In the same vein, Getaround has the app set up where you can contact the car owners in case of anything. You can call or text them and they'll be available to help out with what you need.
Getaround does take a bit of adjusting for those who are used to the former carsharing apps. But their business model is definitely onto something when it comes to carsharing: why bring additional cars on the road when there are perfectly good ones sitting idle and ready for use? It's bound to be the next wave of car rentals, so might as well get onboard now.