Imagine stepping off the plane, making your way to the rental car lot, using your smart phone to unlock your car, then driving off the lot.
No garish car rental counters, no queues of frustrated travelers waiting for cars or lines to exit the lot, no attempts to up-sell you with insurance or gas options.
You just get in your car and go.
That’s the pitch from two-year-old Silvercar, which is now operating in 10 locations across the country and growing fast.
As TravelSkills readers know, I’m a fan of smartphone based travel solutions like Uber and HotelTonight— and the Silvercar app falls into this category. You can’t rent a Silvercar if you don’t have the app on your phone.
Last month Silvercar CEO Luke Schneider was in San Francisco on a breezy Tuesday afternoon and we sat down for a chat about his company. (Schneider is a serial entrepreneur and was CTO at Zipcar before it was bought by Avis.)
Here’s what I learned.
1) Silvercar is the largest Audi customer in the US… it adds about 200 new cars to its fleet every quarter and only rents one type of car: a silver four-door Audi A4 sedan. (Another reason I’m interested… I drive an Audi at home.)
2) The company has a higher Net Promoter Score than Apple. You know how companies always ask how likely you are to recommend them to friends or family? A significant 90% of Silvercar customers say they would do so. Based on what I’ve found online, only around 60-80% of Apple customers say that. And in the car rental industry, the average Net Promoter score is a dismal 18%. Check out the company Facebook page where customers eagerly post photos of their Silvercars in exotic or unusual locations like the one below.
3) Silvercar is not expensive. Schneider says that on average, a Silvercar rental runs about 10% less than a Chevy Impala from one of the major rental car companies. Rates range from $59 to $89 per day (plus taxes and fees that vary from airport to airport).
4) All its Audis come with three essential add-ons included in the price: GPS, wi-fi (seriously), and XM radio. Remember, there are no extras in the flat rate. And get this: There are no messy fuel options. When you are done with the car, you park it and leave it. Silvercar takes care of filling it up, and bills you at the local market rate plus a flat $5 fill up fee. (Or you can fill it up on your own to skip the $5 fee.)
5) Most of Silvercar’s customers don’t travel enough to rank among the ultra-elite, super-duper frequent travelers. They are not wedded to frequent flyer programs and partners– Schneider says his customers trend younger, like the experience of flying airlines like Virgin America or JetBlue, stay at Kimpton hotels and shop at Whole Foods. (Well hello, hipster!)
6) Silvercar eschews the new centralized car rental centers popping up at airports all over. Why? Because they require that the rental companies maintain a counter. Silvercar saves money by NOT having a counter and not paying employees to staff it. Remember– with this app, you just walk to your car, scan a bar code with your phone, and you are good to go. The transaction is completely paperless. (And there’s a concierge on the lot to assist with any kinks in the system)
Silvercar is currently available at five out of the six biggest airport car rental markets in the U.S. – Denver (DEN), Los Angeles (LAX), Miami (MIA), Phoenix (PHX), and San Francisco (SFO), as well as Chicago (ORD), Fort Lauderdale (FLL), Dallas (DAL and DFW) and Austin (AUS) with plans to roll out in five additional markets this year. I was hoping Atlanta would be included in that list, but according to Schneider, it could be a while before the world’s busiest airport gets Silvercar.
Have you tried it yet? How was it? Would you? Please leave your comments below.
To get $25 off your first Silvercar rental, just go to the sign-up page. Be sure to type the referral code TravelSkills into the field at the bottom of the page, and we get $25, too! THANKS!