Friday, January 29, 2016

The Adventures of Silver(car) Surfer

After using Silvercar for the first time during a recent trip to Arizona, I admit without qualification: I have become a fan.

I first wrote about this upstart company approximately a year ago. My interest was piqued largely because my wife and I enjoy modest indulgences when we travel -- like renting a car a couple of notches nicer than the conveyance that occupies our garage – and renting a fully loaded silver Audi A4 could satisfy that desire nicely.

Why, specifically, an Audi A4? Because that is all the company rents: fully loaded, silver Audi A4s, hence the name Silvercar. Instead of counters, lines and paperwork, the company delivers its service using a mobile app and on-site concierge service.

I downloaded the app to my smartphone before departing from our home in Seattle and, because I rely on Wi-Fi availability and do not have a data plan, also brought a hard-copy print-out of our reservation.

The service

Our A4 in Phoenix
Silvercar's customer service was excellent. Many of the company's locations are just far enough away from various airports' main rental car facilities for the company to avoid often-exorbitant airport fees, so the company provides directions via its website and its app that tell customers how to get to each of its 12 locations.

Upon arrival at Phoenix's Sky Harbor International Airport (PHX), a text was waiting for us, telling us to take the bus to the rental car center where our representative would meet us. Art quickly whisked us to our waiting A4 at the Silvercar rental location a block away.

Most renters use the app to unlock their car at the rental location. However, because I don't have a data plan, Art used his smartphone to unlock our car, then sent us on our way after giving us a quick tutorial on the car, the GPS system, the on-board Wi-Fi and offering to synch my phone via the Bluetooth connection. He then gave us bottled water for our journey and bid us farewell.

The car

My wife and I thoroughly enjoyed the additional luxury the Audi provided over the full-size cars we might have obtained from the major rental car companies. The car was comfortable, sure-footed, handled highway speeds easily, and offered excellent acceleration when we needed it. The monetary savings were also impressive. The rate of $64 per day represented a significantly lower cost than the rates advertised by National Car Rental, which offered full-size cars starting at $84 a day all the way up to $127 per day for a luxury sedan.

“We’re successful because we challenge the traditional rental paradigm of high prices, infuriating fees, and subpar rental experiences,” Luke Schneider, Silver’s CEO, told TheTravelPro in 2015.

Silvercar’s rates include a number of amenities for which many traditional rental car companies charge extra, in addition to the Wi-Fi and GPS navigation system. All cars all include SiriusXM satellite radio, and Silvercar also offers "Fair toll tracking" for which customers are charged only for the highway and bridge tolls incurred and not for transponder rental as charged by Hertz and National. At the end of the rental, the customer can elect to pay a "Fair fuel fee" for refueling: the prevailing pump price for fuel used plus a $5 fill-up charge instead of the significant surcharges added by many rental car companies.

Toward the end of our rental, we received another text and advisory via the Sivercar app, advising us of our scheduled return time and offering drop off instructions and directions to the Silvercar center. Upon arrival, another representative checked us in and took us directly back to our terminal in our Audi, saving us the schlep to the rental car center and a wait for the shuttle bus. Very high marks for customer services.

Unfortunately (for many travelers, at least for now) Silvercar only operates at a dozen locations across the U.S. Those include 11 major airports: Austin-Bergstrom International Airport (AUS), Dallas Love Field (DAL), Dallas-Ft. Worth (DFW), Denver (DEN), Ft. Lauderdale (FLL), Las Vegas (LAS), Los Angeles International (LAX), Miami International (MIA), Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport (PHX), and San Francisco International Airport (SFO) as well as an off-airport location in New York City.

If you are traveling to any of these locations and your travel plans involve renting a car, consider Silvercar. If your experience is anything like ours, I'm betting that you too will become a fan.

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



Silvercar provided me with a complimentary two-day rental so that I could experience its cars and service. 

Photo and screen capture by Carl Dombek
Click images to view larger size

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