live|work second Early Adopter review looks at WhipCar, the world’s first P2P car rental service.
WhipCar is the world’s first P2P car rental service. To you and me, it is a website that makes it possible and easy to rent our car to our neighbours or, for us to rent theirs.
Launched in April last year, WhipCar is a great example of what Rachel Botsman calls collaborative consumption, it is right in the heart of what WIRED magazine calls the trust economy, and what Lisa Gansky describes as the future of business, where access trumps ownership.
We should fess up and also admit that WhipCar has recently asked live|work’s Ben Reason to be their designer in residence – so this review may be a bit biased.
How it works
Car owners put their cars available to rent on WhipCar . They set their own price and availabilities, which can be by the hour/day/month. You can search for cars near your home (or close to your holiday destination) and, once you have signed up and your licence checked by the DVLA you can rent directly from the car owner. Make a booking, pick the keys up, check the car and off you go – like a rental company except that you are renting your neighbour’s car and not from a car fleet, and in the street around the corner rather than in a scruffy lot behind a railway station.
The clever bit is that all rentals via WhipCar are covered by a fully comprehensive insurance policy that sits on top of the owner’s existing policy for the duration of the rental, be it three hours or five days. WhipCar also handles all the money and any issues that may arise.
It’s a great proposition for car owners. If your car is idle at any time it could be making you money to contribute to paying off the cost of owning your car, or to household expenses, or even treating yourself. Owners we have met have ranged from those offsetting their costs to some making a profit from their family car.
It is also great for those of us who have avoided the finance offer and remain car-free. We have interviewed customers who find a car around the corner from their home they can regularly use, but also a Mercedes for a wedding – the convenience and the flexibility are really compelling. People also seem to like the idea that the money is going to their neighbours.
What’s not so good?
It is still early days for WhipCar, but an issue that will be an ongoing challenge for their model is the matching of supply to demand. Some owners will have listed their car and not received any bookings. WhipCar will need these members to be patient and to help attract local drivers to the service. Finding a way to enable car owners to ‘sell’ their car locally and grow the market is a challenge we are looking at now.
As we said at the beginning, we may be biased, but we do think that this is a great model and hope that we can make the difference by making the proposition and experience for customers just as great.
What is both exciting and a big challenge is that renting a car to a neighbour is a totally new behaviour, and requires some hurdles to be jumped. How do I market my own car without becoming a pest to my friends? How do we replace the feeling of car ownership with an access mentality?
Wish us luck!