Last updated on
As you know, we’re big fans of the sharing economy. We started with Couchsurfing then Airbnb and Home Exchange, and now our latest one has been Car & Away, which is essentially Airbnb for rental cars. Like with most sharing economy situations, it’s a win-win for everyone – you get to earn money from renting out your car when you’re on holiday, and those hiring the car get to enjoy cheaper prices than regular rental companies.
We’re converts and will now be factoring this in to all our trips away. Here’s a guide and review about how it all works.
We were sponsored by Car & Away to try the service during our recent trip to the USA. The staff we interacted with didn’t know we were bloggers, so we were essentially mystery shoppers. And all opinions, as always, are of course my own.
What is Car & Away?
Car & Away is currently available at Bristol and Gatwick airports. The owner of the car parks their car with the Car & Away team, just outside the airport entrance, and then Car & Away rent the car out, earning the owner money while they’re abroad. Car & Away list the exact cars on their website, so the renters know exactly what car they’ll be getting.
Does it cost anything?
Yes. The owner has to pay for airport parking with Car & Away. With luck, your car will be rented out enough to cover the cost of the parking, and you’ll end up with a profit at the end. Also, the parking with Car & Away is normally cheaper and closer to the airport than the other parking options available (for example, a week in January currently costs £39.99 and the nearest option in price is £53.99). Plus your car is completely valeted before it’s returned to you, and the drop-off/collection point is just a 3-minute walk from the terminal.
Are you guaranteed to earn money?
No. It depends on how often your car is rented out. There is a risk that it won’t be rented at all, so you may end up paying for the parking in full. But, as we said, car parking is often cheaper with Car & Away, so you can save money by booking with them anyway. And you’ll also get a free valet and RAC check.
Where can I use Car & Away?
Currently Car & Away is offered at Gatwick and Bristol Airports.
How do I use Car & Away?
It’s pretty simple to use. You sign up for an account and then book your parking with Car & Away. You then need to upload all the details of your vehicle, including a photo (the higher quality the better as this is what people will see when deciding whether or not to rent your car) and details of all its features, such as SatNav, aircon etc. You can choose to limit the daily mileage that a renter drives, and you also have to fill in a condition report with any scratches, bumps and whatnot.
What about insurance?
Car & Away arrange the insurance cover for when your car is rented. It works in parallel with your existing insurance, replacing it for the rental period, so you don’t need to do anything at all. In the worst-case scenario that your car is written-off or stolen, Car & Away provide a replacement car until the insurance claim is resolved.
Can anyone use Car & Away?
No. There is a list of eligibility criteria for both the owner and the car. The criteria for the owner includes being over 25, having had your license for at least two years, being fully insured, and not having one of the professions that are excluded by the insurer.
The car has to be less than nine years old, have less than 100,000 miles on the clock, have a valid MOT, be fully insured, not be a company car, not have a replacement value of more than £50,000 and a few more things, which you can read about here.
Who rents Car & Away cars?
All the Car & Away renters have to carefully vetted and meet a range of requirements, including being over 25, having no more than three points on their license, holding a license for at least two years, having no motor offence convictions and so on. Read the full criteria here. Car & Away also put a telematics device in the car so they can monitor how the renter is driving.
Where is the car advertised?
Car & Away cars are listed on the Car & Away website and on Rentalcars.com, which you’ll know is our favourite car rental website. The car registration plate isn’t revealed on the website.
Our experience using Car & Away
Our booking experience
We used Car & Away in Bristol while we were away for just over three weeks in the USA.
The car parking cost £176.99 for 26 days (£6.80 per day). This was the cheapest option available for airport parking at Bristol Airport at the time.
Signing up for an account and adding our car to the website was simple and took about 15 minutes.
Our experience at the airport
We dropped our car off in the Car & Away car parking bay in the multi-storey car park just opposite the airport terminal. This felt positively luxurious as we’re used to dropping the car off at the Silver Parking, which involves catching a shuttle bus to the airport and adds hassle to the journey. Two people met us on arrival (we texted them ahead of time to let them know we were on our way) and did a quick check of the car. This took about five minutes or so, and then we handed over the keys and were off. Because we had driven to the airport with Otis, we had a car seat in the car, which the Car & Away team stored in their office while we were gone (they didn’t rent out the car with the car seat).
What happened while we were away
Before renting out the car, Car & Away valet the car and also do a road worthiness check. Unfortunately, our car failed this check to begin with as the coolant level was too low and the oil level too high. Luckily, they were able to fix both these issues (at no extra cost to us), so the car could still be rented. But it did slightly delay when the car could be listed and therefore rented out.
Picking up our car at the end was the biggest luxury as it meant that our car was right there waiting for us after our long journey back from the States. We didn’t have to get any buses and could drive straight home. The handover took less than five minutes.
How much we saved/earned
In the end, because we initially failed the RAC check, our car was only rented out for one day while we were away, which earned us £44.80.
Car and Away sent us a statement at the end, detailing what we had saved. It said the following:
Parking duration of 25 days
Average Valet parking savings – you saved
Valet cleaning services – you saved
Rental earnings – you earned
Our original parking charge was £176.99, so minus these savings/earnings, we paid a total of £47.
Overall, this is a great deal, even though our car was only rented for one day. Had we not failed the RAC check, our car may have been rented for longer. For example, the average rental duration on Car & Away is five days, with owners earning £30 a day.
However, it’s also important to bear in mind that the savings detailed above rely on you wanting to have your car valeted and to park your car at the airport. For example, we could have got a bus to and from the airport for £29 or a taxi for £80. That said, the bus would have been a hassle with all our luggage and it’s hard to get a taxi with a car seat in Bristol (we’ve been let down on this before with the taxi showing up without a car seat).
One extra bonus in our case was that they uncovered the issue of our coolant being low, which saved us a trip to the garage and the costs associated with that.
Do we recommend Car & Away?
For shorter trips, where the car parking costs just £40 for a week, I would 100% recommend Car & Away as you’d likely pay more than that for a taxi and almost as much for a bus. Plus your car gets valeted and you have the potential to earn money too.
For shorter trips, where the car parking costs are low, I would 100% recommend Car & Away as you’d likely pay more for a taxi or even a bus. Plus your car gets valeted, you get a free roadworthiness check, and you have the potential to earn money too.
For longer trips, I think you have to weigh it up and decide if you’re happy and comfortable with the price of the parking, just in case your car isn’t rented. For us, the convenience of being able to drive ourselves to and from the airport, dropping the car just outside the terminal, and having the car valeted means that we’d be happy to pay up to around £100 for parking. Once higher than that, we’d weigh up our options.
At Gatwick, where Car & Away has been operating for two years, up to 200 people make their cars available to hire through the service each month. In December, they have already rented 67% of cars, with an average earning of £32 / day for owners, with an average rental duration of 5 days.