Friday, January 9, 2015

Upstart rental car company challenges status quo

For many of us, upmarket travel includes modest indulgences like renting a car a couple of notches nicer than the conveyance that occupies our garage or carport. Now, an upstart rental car company is promoting driving in luxury and making that luxury a little less expensive – at least for the next few weeks.

Silvercar customer pickup at DFW
The company is called Silvercar and rents only fully loaded, silver Audis. Instead of counters, lines and paperwork, the company delivers its service using a mobile app and on-site concierge service. Further, through the end of January, Silvercar is offering its Audi A4s for $59 per day, which can represent a significant savings over rates charged by competitors like Hertz (NYSE:HTZ) and Avis (NYSE:CAR) and their affiliated companies for full-sized automobiles.

By comparison, the company’s rates for a one-week rental in late February, after the promotion expires, range from $77 to $81 per day, according to Silvercar’s website.

“We’re successful because we challenge the traditional rental paradigm of high prices, infuriating fees, and subpar rental experiences,” Luke Schneider, Silver’s CEO, explained in a statement announcing the temporary rate reduction, which the company said was in response to price increases announced by major brands. “When we see competition increase price—without increasing actual value—we’re happy to show the world we think differently.”

For its part, Hertz cited growing fleet costs as the reason for the price increases announced in December for its Hertz, Thrifty, and Dollar Rent-a-Car brands.

Meanwhile, Silvercar claims its customer satisfaction and loyalty scores are four times the industry average because it “knows what customers want and … how to give it to them.”

Through the end of January, Silvercar customers are “guaranteed to pay just $59 a day for a fully loaded silver Audi A4 in all the markets where Silvercar operates,” the company said. In addition, the company offers Q5 SUVs at its Denver International Airport (DEN) location.

Silvercar’s rates include a number of amenities for which many traditional rental car companies charge extra, including in-car Wi-Fi, in-dash GPS navigation, and SiriusXM satellite radio. Finally, its customers will pay only pump prices for fuel used plus a $5 fill-up charge instead of the significant surcharges added by many rental car companies, and will only pay for bridge or highway tolls incurred without transponder fees, such as those charged by Hertz and National.

The challenge for many of us is that Silvercar currently operates at only eight of the nation’s airports: Austin-Bergstrom International Airport (AUS), Dallas Love Field (DAL), Dallas-Ft. Worth (DFW), DEN, Los Angeles International (LAX), Miami International (MIA), Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport (PHX), and San Francisco International Airport (SFO).

But if you’re traveling to one of those cities – perhaps Phoenix for the SuperBowl – Silvercar could be exactly what you’re seeking. In fact, I may choose to fly into SFO next time we visit family in northern California just so I can rent a Silvercar. Driving an A4 between San Francisco and Lake Tahoe would make the trip just that much more enjoyable.

Visit my main page at TheTravelPro.us for more news, reviews, and personal observations on the world of upmarket travel.



Photo provided by Silvercar
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