Silvercar is a new rental car company reinventing the model of how renting a car works. I had the opportunity to try them out for the first time recently and have concluded that there are several things rental car companies can learn from Silvercar.
1. Simplify options during the reservations process.
Silvercar has ONE type of car – Audi A4. They come in ONE color – silver. While some options are no doubt good for the large companies (SUVs, minivans, sedans, convertibles), some of them have dozens of vehicle makes and models within their fleets.
Silvercar has easy to understand option selections in their reservation screen. There are not rows of boxes to check for various add-ons and insurance products. Cars are standardized and renters can choose to self-insure through their normal auto liability policy. Or Silvercar offers insurance which is clearly outlined.
Simplification of options makes it easier for consumers to plan and comparison shop.
2. Picking up a car should be easy.
There is no waiting in line to see an agent with Silvercar. The rental suite is sleek and streamlined – there are iPad kiosks for onsite reservations but Silvercar concierges are not obtrusive.
First time renters visit with the concierge briefly to have their drivers license and credit card checked – but after the first rental, renters are free to go straight to the cars and drive way. Concierges are available however to help with any questions at any time and make certain that drivers have the appropriate application downloaded to their smart phone to access the cars.
Drivers head out to the row of Silvercars and select any car on the lot. Because cars are identical, there is no jockeying with other renters to get the “best” car. When a car is selected, the renter scans a windshield QR code using the Silvercar app. The app will prompt the renter to answer three short questions to accept the car. A few seconds after that, the doors automatically unlock and the trunk pops open!
3. Provide information to travelers that makes driving safer and more comfortable.
Once you have unlocked your Audi A4, the first thing you’ll notice is a dashboard placard that explain key features to the driver such as where to adjust the seat positions and mirrors, how to connect a cell phone to the car via Bluetooth, and what steps to follow if you want to use the build-in navigation or satellite radio.
Too often I rent cars and cannot figure out their features. Worse, sometimes the car’s operating manual can be difficult to find (I’ve located them in the trunk or backseat pockets) or missing altogether. I find nothing scarier than trying to figure out how to operate a critical feature of a car after I’ve taken possession of it. Silvercar simplifies that. Every car company should provide something similar.
4. Standardize features.
All of the Audi A4s in Silvercar’s fleet have the same features – leather seats, onboard navigation and satellite radio, toll tags – all the bells and whistles. I’ve driven rental cars from some major companies that vary widely. Even the same make and model can, from week to week, be radically different. That degree of unpredictability can be stressful. Silvercar takes that away.
Standardization presumably makes fleet maintenance easier as well (the Southwest Airlines approach). If employees are ONLY cleaning and servicing one type of car, they can more quickly identify and address discrepancies.
I’d love to see standardization across the fleets of the major rental car companies.
5. Let renters leave smiling.
It’s hard not to smile for the duration of the time you are driving your Silvercar. I enjoyed the smooth ride and quick pickup of the vehicle and had to remind myself that I was not on an open raceway! I was actually sad to return it – enough so that I took a webinar from the front seat in a parking lot near the airport in an attempt to prolong my time in the drivers seat.
When I pulled in the rental lot, all I had to do was turn the car off, collect my belongings, and walk away. No noting mileage or fuel levels. No tracking down an associate to hand over the keys. I saw no employees anywhere around the return lot – but a mere minute later as I was walking to the shuttle, my receipt arrived in my box.
Silvercar leaves no room for surprises either. Refueling can be a gamble with most car rental companies. With Silvercar, refueling is a flat $5 service charge plus the actual local cost of fuel to top off the car. No surprises like with some big car companies!
I went into my trial rental a bit skeptical as I’m so used to the normal rental experience, but I emerged a raving fan. While I will still use National Car Rental primarily for my corporate rentals (with Hertz as a backup where National cannot serve me), I am definitely going to be working more Silvercar rentals into my mix when I have same-city rentals out of the airports that Silvercar covers. I enjoyed this rental too much to not do it again!
Want to try out Silvercar? Right now they are at seven US airports – Dallas/Fort Worth International, Dallas Love Field, Austin Bergstrom, San Francisco International, Los Angeles International, Phoenix Sky Harbor, and Miami International. They will come to Denver International in August. And at the rate they are growing, I won’t be surprised to see them in several more cities in the coming months.
I’ve arranged a special introductory offer for Jetsetter’s Homestead readers. You can use my special code – JETSETTERS-FTD – which will give $50 off a two-day rental for first time renters. You can check out Silvercar for yourself – I’d love to hear what you think!
(Full disclosure – I receive an affiliate commission on any rentals booked using my code or links.)