General information on carsharing; the players and the people.

September is one of the best months to visit San Francisco. Little fog and warm days.

My car share earnings in September was similar, a little foggy and warm, but not hot. Here’s how it panned out.

EARNINGS FOR SEPTEMBER 2019 CAR SHARING.

I’m reporting $1,695 in earnings for September on 1.5 vehicles. Remember that my Mustang convertible is a full-time Turo rental whereas my BMW X5 is mostly a weekend rental car.

That was a decrease of 17% from last month. I’ll explain shortly.

Revenue hit a record high of $3,005. Unfortunately, expenses also came in higher than last month at $1,310.

September Profit and Loss

There were two notable events for my September:

  1. A guest incurred a $700 towing and fine. I wrote about that here.
    • This drastically increased my revenue (+18% MoM, month over month)
    • Expenses jumped 152% even though most of that was for reimbursements (tows, fines, tolls, fuel, etc.). Accounting note: Moving forward I’ll itemize ‘reimbursed costs’ by using a different category.
  2. I had the oil changed for both of my vehicles. That total cost was $180.

Utilization for the month was strong. I had 23 rental days for my Mustang which was 2 less than August.

Mileage stayed relatively constant at 3986 miles. The average reservation used only 50% of the allocated miles.

STRATEGY NOTE.

Using last month as a guide I decided to increase my ‘included distance’ to 200 mi/day and 1000 mi/wk. The play here is that this relieves an obstacle from the guest perspective. No need to map out distances before reserving. Guests worry less about exceeding mileage allowances. As the host I can charge a premium.

THE POSITIVES.

The bright spot for September was that average revenue per day increased 58% MoM to $93. This is huge. In other words I was able to slightly increase prices while keeping demand or utilization relatively constant.

The excellent 5-star reviews are crucial for charging a premium over competitors. Reviews should be viewed as ‘social currency’. They shouldn’t be underestimated. It’s a clear path to differentiating yourself in the ‘sea of sameness’.

Are you providing excellent customer service? There are clear best practices when it comes to generating 5-star reviews. I’m happy to connect to discuss strategies for standing out from the crowd.

HOW DID I DO?

I missed my earnings goal by about $800. My excuse: some of my September reservations were confirmed early on when my Mustang didn’t have many reviews. As a result, guest’s locked in low daily rates during this ‘review building time’.

Speaking of reviews, they were strong. I received 10 five-star reviews for September, beating my goal of 8.

I implemented higher mileage limits successfully (so far). The majority of my reservations don’t come close to the trip mileage allowance (mileage utilization is still around 50%).

Zero accidents or claims (other than a towing).

September Comparables

THINGS TO WORK ON.

I haven’t had the time to research adding a third vehicle to my fleet. I want to bump this up in my priority list. Winter is coming. SUV’s are popular in my market with Tahoe just four hours east. In fact, as I write this my X5 is on a trip there.

Depreciation is a major cost center with car sharing. I plan to dedicate more research in this direction. My goal is to incorporate depreciation into these monthly results. Right now you can see that I’m just accounting for cash-in and cash-out.

Eccentric and essential ‘extras’. Alliteration aside, I’m planning to be more thoughtful on the extras that I offer. My goal is to increase extras per reservation. I have a few ideas. Expect a full blog post dedicated to just this topic.

Improve vehicle photography. I think there’s room for improvement with my vehicle pictures. I’m a big believer that great pictures help tremendously. I’d like to incorporate more ‘action’ or ‘lifestyle’ imagery in my photos to create more ‘emotion’ from prospective guests. The effect should be more reservations (and hopefully higher average prices).

Goals for Next Month.

Earnings: $1,500 (guiding lower)

I’m guiding lower since my Mustang has a 16-day reservation next month (October). You might think “that’s great, why are you guiding down?”

The issue is that this reservation was made early-on when my car was new, with few reviews and pricing set low (purposefully). In other words, this guest made out since they locked-in really competitive rates. The good news is that my car will be on the road and generating income for at least 16 days of the month.

High utilization rate: 80%+

I’m expecting to add reservations at the end of October. One advantage of a long reservation is that there’s less turnover. This translates into more time that the vehicle can be generating income. And less labor hours on my end!

IN SUMMARY.

September was a slight down month but strong fundamentals are showing. Those include high utilization, higher average revenue per day and relatively low mileage utilization. The 5-star reviews continue to roll in. My operations and ‘vehicle turnover’ process is working out well.

While I’m guiding lower for October (see my rationale above) I’m confident that Q4 won’t be a major flop due to seasonality. The SUV should help hedge some of that risk. And the fact that convertibles in Northern California should still perform OK. Barring any unexpected snow that is… stay tuned.

If you’re interested in learning more about car sharing and how you can generate monthly income with your automotive assets please get in touch.

If you’re an experienced host and want to reach the next level with your fleet let’s discuss resources available to you.

Until next time.

-j

Parking is a big struggle for me as a Turo car share host. I want to share a recent drop-off fiasco that came with a $700 price tag…

First I’ll share what happened, then I’ll list a few solutions related to Turo parking. 

If you have any additional recommendations please do share. 

Turo parking gone bad

A Turo guest reserved my BMW X5 for a wine tasting trip to Napa.

To set the stage it’s important to note that I was out of town for work.

An hour before the reservation ended I suggested that the guest pay attention to street parking signs. The San Francisco meter maids love giving out tickets, and they’re not cheap…

You can probably guess what happened… 

  • At 8 AM the guest parked street-side with the meters going live at 9 AM. This meter had a two-hour parking limit. 
  • Half the front tire was on a ‘red curb’ and impeding a driveway. Not good. 
My BMW X5 near the red curb

I was monitoring the situation remotely and attempted to warn the guest. Radio silence.

There was no doubt in my mind that I’d come to find a parking ticket (~$75).

It was worse.

An angry San Francisco resident called the police. My car was issued a $110 citation for partially blocking a driveway.

But that’s not all.

It was towed to the San Francisco AutoReturn where it cost $689.25 to get it back (including the citation).

BMW X5 Tow Bill - $689.25
Google reviews for San Francisco AutoReturn
Great reviews for San Francisco AutoReturn…

Who’s responsible?

“Guests are responsible for returning a car that’s parked on the street to a legal parking spot where it’ll be safe from tickets and tows for up to 24 hours after the end of the trip.” 

Turo Support Website

The guest was definitely responsible based on Turo’s policy (see above). Needless to say, it didn’t bring me joy to see a $700 towing bill in addition to the trip cost. I ended up waiving the reimbursement fees (tolls and fuel). 

As a car share host I’m striving for that ‘WOW guest experience’ while earning profits. It’s a side-hustle for a reason, right? My logic is that positive reviews are instrumental to getting reservations which lead to earnings. 

Following? If my guests have a poor experience and fail to submit positive reviews it ultimately dings me.

It’s all about the positive reviews. Keep ‘em rolling in…

Avoiding Turo parking mishaps

Turo parking is a challenge. Good communication and being transparent is key. Here’s some ways hosts can go above and beyond.

Communication

Most of my guests are from out of town. Others don’t live in San Francisco or even a city. They aren’t familiar with street parking signs, parking permit areas, street cleaning schedules, etc. 

It’s good practice to communicate in advance what’s expected in terms of parking. 

I really enjoy StreetSmarts and their automated messaging features. I’ll dig into that in a later blog post. Or just contact me and I’d be happy to explain how StreetSmarts is making my life as a car share host a lot more practical.

Park for guests

Sometimes Turo parking isn’t a stress-free experience.

Imagine having to search endlessly for street parking in order to end a reservation.

If I’m home I’ll offer to physically park the car. That’s the ‘WOW Experience’ that’s rewarded with positive reviews. Hopefully.

Timing is everything

I don’t do this but it’s an option.

Schedule reservations to end after-hours or when parking is plentiful. Maybe it’s during the day when everyone’s at work. Or maybe it’s at night when everyone’s gone home. You get the idea.

Get a garage

I’m lucky to have one garage spot in San Francisco. Dedicated spots in SF range from $200-400 depending on the location, valet, services, etc. Having a garage spot for each car in my fleet is not practical (and not a good business decision). 

Consider this: my Mustang has a utilization rate of 90% (September). It’s only parked and not generating revenue 3 or 4 days out of the month. A monthly dedicated garage pass doesn’t make sense.

Go to suburbia

Demand might drop-off outside the city but Turo parking should be plentiful. Would the neighbors mind? I personally don’t have experience with this.

Turo reimbursement process

The reimbursement process with Turo isn’t difficult. The main thing is emailing receipts. I did this the evening that I retrieved my car on September 11. 

Turo states that “refunds may take up to 10 business days but are often completed within three to five business days.”

I still haven’t received my reimbursement. It’s September 22 as I’m writing this.

Conclusion

The silver lining is that this guest requested to rent my car again despite this experience.

If you’re on the fence about car share hosting don’t worry. Things like this will certainly happen but it’s not a big deal. 

If you’re currently car sharing consider ways to reduce guest frustrations. It will ultimately help you achieve better reviews, more reservations, and higher earnings.

Please get in touch if you want to discuss your situation specifically. 

As always, comments and feedback are welcomed.

Car ownership costs

Before we address a way to reduce car ownership costs let’s first review the situation.

Americans have $1.2 Trillion in auto debt (source). If you’re reading this, there’s a good chance that you might have a monthly car payment. It’s legally required to be insured. When you drive over a nail you’re reminded that maintenance issues happen (in addition to scheduled maintenance like oil changes). If you live in California or another state with high fuel taxes the cost of gas can be astronomical.

It doesn’t stop there. There’s a few additional costs that we don’t usually consider. For example, is the cost of your garage spot included in your monthly apartment rent? If no garage, consider the street parking permit and parking meter fees. Hopefully we don’t get street cleaning tickets or parking violations!

Car Depreciation

The largest cost of car ownership is usually depreciation. When you think of depreciation you might think ‘declining value’ or ‘not worth as much’. This imaginary cost that accountants like to talk about is super important to consider when reviewing the costs to car ownership.

When someone talks about car depreciation they’re referring to a car declining in value over time.

Beware the hidden cost of vehicle depreciation

Car depreciation in the real world.

Three years ago my friend Paige went to a car dealership, signed paperwork and received the keys for a brand new SUV. She drove roughly 12k miles a year and incurred normal wear and tear.

The other day she found herself back at the car dealership. She noticed her same SUV model, a more recent version, had very different styling than her three-year old model. The SUV had better features and smarter technologies. The ‘trade-in value’ for her slightly-aged SUV was way below her original purchase price.

Now Paige understands what depreciation is, first-hand.

Where did depreciation come from?

Depreciation came about formally in the 19th century thanks to railroad companies. Management wanted their accounting books to reflect how ‘used up’ a train was over specific time periods so there were less accounting irregularities or ‘one-offs’. Today it’s everywhere. Jump on any corporate earnings call and you’ll hear about it.

How serious is car depreciation?

“According to current depreciation rates, the value of a new vehicle can drop by more than 20 percent after the first 12 months of ownership. Then, for the next four years, you can expect your car to lose roughly 10 percent of its value annually. This means that a new car can be worth as little as 40 percent of its original purchase price after five years.”

CarFax

Car Payments

Another big cost associated with car ownership is the monthly car payment. If a vehicle is leased or financed there’s a monthly payment. This can be substantial depending on a few factors like:

  • the value of the vehicle
  • how much money you put down
  • cost of money (borrowing), interest rate, residual, etc.
  • how long you financed the vehicle (shorter time periods means higher monthly payments but less overall interest expense)

Making car ownership affordable

Consider becoming a car share host to lower the cost of car ownership.

You’re a good candidate for car share hosting if you:

  • own a vehicle
  • live in a city or near a touristy area
  • have a flexible job
  • are good dealing with people

We walk you through getting started with car share hosting here.

Reducing the costs to own a car with Turo isn’t difficult. It requires a little work but for the most part it’s ‘passive income’. This means that you can still have a primary job and use Turo as your ‘side-gig’. The learning curve with Turo isn’t steep. I’m confident you’ll be up and running in no time.

Hopefully the resources here on Just Car Share can help.

By the way, 52 percent of Turo car share hosts said they use the service to pay off car loans, according to a company survey (source).

Like always, don’t hesitate to get in touch. I’m happy to help out. Seriously.

Goodbye Fogust. Summer is finally here (in San Francisco) and my August earnings for Turo car share hosting are in.

Summer fog in San Francisco
Summer fog in San Francisco

August was a terrific car sharing hosting month for a few reasons:

  • Record monthly earnings
  • No accidents or claims
  • 100% 5-Star Reviews
  • High utilization – Possibly too high (more on that below)

Quick note, my Ford Mustang is a dedicated Turo car share vehicle. My BMW X5 is my primary driver and mostly available on Turo for car sharing on the weekends when I’m not using it.

August Turo Earnings Highlights:

August Earnings: $2,035 

Rental Days: 33

Ford Mustang has 17 lifetime completed trips and 13 reviews 

BMW X5 has 16 lifetime completed trips and 15 reviews

August Turo Recap – Mustang
Days Utilized25
Total Miles3784
Miles Per Day151
Average Miles Used:54%

The Mustang accumulated 25 rental days which is a 81% utilization rate (25/31). That’s high. 

One tweak I’ll make here is to slightly increase my pricing. 

The tricky part is that I won’t immediately see the effect. That’s because the Mustang already has a 96% utilization rate for September. Yes, that’s really high but the point is the new pricing only affects future reservations. That means October at the earliest unless a guest cancels for September.

Understand that your pricing strategy for a new Turo car share vehicle should probably be different in the first month or so until you receive sufficient ‘social-proof’. After sufficient five-star reviews, high utilization rates, etc. you can expect to slightly increase your daily rates. 

August is the third month for my Mustang.

Pricing strategy is very important and an entirely separate blog post.

One last point before reviewing August earnings. The average reservation used only 54% of the allocated miles. After learning this I decided to change my daily distance from 200 to 250 miles. I made the increase after experiencing two consecutive months of roughly 50% reservation mileage utilization. 

I hope this achieves two things: differentiates my car from the others and allows me to command a slight price premium. My theory is that guests stress about mileage limits when making reservations. Can you see yourself mapping out distances before reserving a car?

Going above and beyond the allocated miles incurs a significant cost to the guest. More on this strategy in a future post.

Now I’ll break down my August profit and loss statement for both the Ford Mustang and BMW X5.

Profit and earnings statement - August - Turo

Sidenote: I’m mostly happy using Wave as my accounting software. It’s like Mint.com but for small businesses. And it’s free.

Net Profit, meaning after all my expenses, was $2,035. Keep in mind that this number would be higher if my BMW X5 was a dedicated car share vehicle.

Starting from the top-line, my Turo earnings totaled $2,554. 

Fuel, cleaning, toll and mileage reimbursements totaled $349.61. The bulk of this was from one guest surpassing their trip mileage by 415 miles. 

Keep in mind that Turo keeps 30% of mileage overages (Standard Host Protection Plan).

Expenses, fuel and maintenance costs totaled $183. Sometimes guests fail to replace fuel. It’s frustrating that Turo doesn’t allow hosts to charge an ‘inconvenience fee’. There’s really no incentive for a guest to replace the fuel (other than a host giving a negative review). Be sure to upload the fuel receipt.

Let’s wrap up expenses. I’m slightly embarrassed to admit that I got another parking violation. San Francisco parking police are intense and good at their jobs! What can I say. We’ll chalk this up to the cost of doing business.

My car wash subscription was $39.99. 

Total operating expenses of $335.

Subtracting operating expenses from gross profit leaves $2,035 in net profit for August. A monthly record high!

August Earnings Summary:

August was a record month. I reached a monthly earnings high of $2,035. All of my guests were great. They treated my cars good (no accidents or claims). No mechanical issues.

Positives:

  • Fogust in San Francisco is historically a busy tourist time. My Mustang experienced high utilization (maybe too high). 
  • I gained additional 5-star reviews and completed trips.
  • Record high earnings of $2,035 after expenses with 3800 miles driven.

Things to work on:

  • Pricing strategy since August and September (estimate) utilization is high
  • Research adding another vehicle
  • Monitor higher mileage limits

Forecast:

  • September will be a record earnings month ($2500)
  • Receive 8 five star reviews
  • Purchase another dedicated car for Turo car share hosting 

How did I do?

Are you ready to start generating monthly income? Want to reduce your cost of car ownership? 

I’m happy to provide coaching, guidance and tips (free of charge). Car share hosting is a fun hobby for me. 

Get in touch.

Maybe you heard about carsharing in reference to your car sitting vacant the majority of the time.  Or maybe a friend is using a carsharing platform to rent a car for an upcoming trip?

Before we define carsharing, let’s first discuss the ‘sharing economy.’

You’ve heard of Airbnb, Uber and possibly Turo. These companies are examples of the sharing economy. They act as marketplaces where physical goods or services are shared. 

Most people point to the internet and mobile phones as catalysts for the sharing economy taking off like a rocketship. 

Don’t forget about attitudes, specifically those of Millennials and iGens. Younger people treat physical assets differently than their predecessors. They’re comfortable borrowing, renting, lending and subscribing to items and services.

Do you know Rent the Runway (RtR)? For a monthly fee women can borrow up to 4 pieces of clothing or accessories at a time. Wear it until you’re bored, return it, rinse and repeat. RtR dry cleans and presses each item so it’s fresh and ready to go.

How about TaskRabbit? Is your bathroom sink leaking? Order a TaskRabbit to look at your pipes. Don’t feel like standing in line for the new iPhone? A TaskRabbit will wait for you.

Now let’s talk about money, and how Millennial and iGen’s are priced out relative to their older counterparts. Surveys show they’re slow to form households, marry or have kids. They want to live in urban areas, which boasts the priciest cost of living anywhere. How can they afford it?

The trend of side-hustles and solopreneurs generating additional income, above and beyond their employer W2, is real. The sharing economy helps ‘gig workers’ monetize their time and assets while enabling consumers to benefit by not owning. It’s a win for everyone.

Peer-to-Peer carsharing, which started in 2000 in the US, is part of the sharing economy. An individual hosts their vehicle on a platform or marketplace. Guests reserve the vehicle and are insured by the platform.

Three benefits of carsharing for guests:

  • Unique vehicles – they’re owned by our friends and family, not corporate car rental agencies.
  • Convenient location – pick-up and drop-off near your hotel, point of attraction, your residence, etc.
  • Don’t own – no need to finance, lease or own a vehicle 
  • Environmentally friendly – most vehicles are used only 8% of the time

Three benefits of carsharing for hosts:

  • Monetization – turn that asset with wheels into side income to help cover expenses
  • Be in the car business – do you love cars?
  • Help people – play a role in your guest’s epic trips

As mentioned briefly above, carsharing provides environmental benefits like reducing the amount of cars on the road. Wouldn’t less traffic be nice? 

Could less demand for garages increase housing supply, thereby making housing more affordable?  

Carsharing is just beginning. What do you think it looks like in a few years or a decade?