A cluster of comparatively under-the-radar startups have caught our notice: Two let travelers book specific cars on lots rather than broad vehicle categories (like "compact"), two are bringing metasearch to car rentals, and one is a hidden jewel of Hawaii's tech scene.
Startups continued to experiment with fresh takes on the car rental business model in the year since Skift last looked at new travel startups redefining the model for renting cars.
Peer-to-peer car sharing marketplaces, which enable car owners to rent out their cars to travelers and locals, continue to be popular.
Turo, which has raised $101 million to date, Drivy, which has raised 47 million euro ($50 million) to date, OuiCar, which was bought by French giant SNCF in 2015, and Indian brand Zoomcar, which has raised $45 million, are all thriving.
Two of the companies we name-checked a year ago were in that category. FlightCar, a car-sharing service that specializes in airports, was acquired by Mercedes-Benz in summer 2016 and then shut down. Getaround, a car-sharing service, received a $10 million investment from Toyota in October 2016.
But there are more ways to improve on, or outright overturn, the traditional car rental model than through car-sharing. Here are some companies we’re keeping watching.
>>MyTripCar, which offers a “transparent” car rental metasearch, has just received 1.2 million euros ($1.27 million), from Spanish tourism fund Segittur and, previously, by Telefonica’s Open Future division. Launched in 2015, the 16-employee company says it has already facilitated 10,000 car reservations in 44 countries. It has deals with some Alamo, Budget (soon), Thrifty, Sixt’s Fizzr brand (soon), among others.
SkiftTake: MyTripCar’s unique offer is that, as a metasearch site, it shows not only the base fee for renting the car but also analyzes and estimates all hidden additional costs, such as mandatory fees by local governments and surcharges for filling up the fuel tank. Cleverly, it only sells each car rental companies’ insurance and doesn’t compete for upselling business. But MyTripCar needs to sign up more partners, though, to provide an adequate selection to consumers.
>>Skurt, which delivers cars by the day, was another of the companies we spotlighted a year ago. Like FlightCar, it allows travelers to order vehicles to arrive on demand. But unlike FlightCar and similar sharing services, Skurt relies on vehicles from fleets of local and national car rental organizations and dealerships.
Since we wrote about the L.A.-based, rental car service received $1.3 million in seed funding from Santa Monica’s Upfront Ventures and Winklevoss Ventures. It has hired 50 employees and has expanded beyond Los Angeles International Airport to San Diego and Miami.
SkiftTake: What’s particularly intriguing about Skurt’s model, besides being an Uber for rental cars, is that it lets drivers as young as 21 rent a vehicle without paying the fee that national companies require by scanning their license through their phone’s camera. That user interface is something a leap ahead of what traditional car rental companies offer on their mobile apps.
>>Envy.rent, a car rental startup based in Honolulu, only offers car rentals from dealerships. We even offer free car delivery if you’d prefer not to pick up the car from the dealership It’s still small, having processed only about 3,5000 transactions, and sticking to locally owned fleets. It plans to expand next to the continental U.S., Australia, New Zealand, and China. It has raised $1.5 million since its launch in a year ago.
SkiftTake: This startup’s twist is that it lets travelers pick the vehicle of their choice and not merely some car from a broad category. Also, like Skurt, it will send a driver if travelers can’t get to a lot. Adding to its charm, the company’s web design uses fonts, maps, and details that pay a nice homage to Arthur Frommer Budget Travel magazine’s aesthetic, circa 2008.
>>CarHopper, a Miami-based car rental startup, has raised $500,000 since launching in early 2016. Like Envy.rent, CarHopper lets users book specific vehicles from local car rental chains. It then brings allows travelers arrive at a lot, “check in” via the CarHopper app, pick up the keys from the lot, and travel.
SkiftTake: CarHopper’s secret sauce has two ingredients. It runs background checks on prospective renters and does so efficiently, saving the local chains money and assuring that responsible drivers will be driving their vehicles. But without a Zipcar-style experience, it may struggle to appeal to renters. It then brings lets travelers arrive at a lot, has them “check in” via the CarHopper app, then has them pick up the keys from the lot, and then they can go — an extra step relative to what Zipcar and some other companies with mobile keys.
HappyCar, a Germany-based metasearch site, has raised 2.6 million euro ($2.7 million) in funding in a round led by Creathor Venture and with HR Ventures, Capnamic Ventures, NWZ Digital, and TruVenturo participating. It says it has 1,000 providers, with availability across Europe and the US.
SkiftTake: The CEO is Robert Schütze, who is somewhat young and inexperienced, but the rapid rollout beyond Germany to the Netherlands, France, Spain, Italy, and Poland is impressive.
For all of our startup coverage, check out our SkiftSeedlings archives, here.
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Photo credit: New travel startups are coming up with fresh ways for travelers to book car rentals and for companies to manage their inventories. Skurt