RelayRides connects people who need cars with people who own cars, and are comfortable renting them to strangers. Founder Shelby Clark says the "peer-to-peer" nature of the service eliminates the need to go to an airport or other centralized location to find a car that someone may need for only a few hours.
"When you find something that meets your needs, you request a reservation from the car owner. The car owner will get that request and respond within the hour. Once the car owner approves the reservation, you can coordinate with them a time to exchange the keys."
Clark says RelayRides is working on a smartphone app that would allow renters of certain cars gain access without the owner having to be there. Rates average around 8 dollars an hour. The price can easily double for large trucks, vans, or luxury vehicles. Clark started RelayRides in Boston in the summer of 2010, and expanded it to San Francisco a few months later.
"Since then, we've had literally thousands of people from all over the country, as well as lots of people from Houston, who have already come to the website and signed up -- even though we weren't in their area. So, they've sorta pre-registered. We're going back to those people and encouraging them to come to the website and create their profile for their car now."
When RelayRides went national Monday morning, there were no cars yet available for peer-to-peer rentals in Houston. Clark says the goal is to get at least 50 to 100 cars in the local system. Clark says car owners make an average of $250 a month letting people use their cars. And if the car is wrecked or stolen, it's covered by a million-dollar insurance policy.