Hate the rental-car experience? Silvercar offers an alternative

December 12, 2016

The list of #firstworldproblems is long: spotty wifi. Chunky iPhone updates. Gluten. 

Complaining about those woes seems absurd given the life-or-death issues facing many people on the planet--issues like civil war, famine, and antibiotic-resistant disease. But complain we do, because honestly, who doesn't like to complain?

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One of the most frustrating #firstworldproblems on every traveler's list is car rental. The process of picking up and dropping off rented vehicles has improved over the past decade or so, but only slightly. A new company called Silvercar aims to change that by addressing each of the things that makes renting a car such a chore.

1. Choosing a car:  Silvercar's entire fleet consists of Audi A4s, and yes, they're all silver. Some people might find that limiting; others will appreciate the fact that they know exactly what they're going to be driving for the next however-many days.

Naturally, the price of renting a luxury vehicle at Silvercar is higher than renting a mass-market vehicle of comparable size at another firm: a sample weekend reservation ran us $69 per day, plus fees and a $200 deposit. However, first-timers can rent for $39 per day.

2. Getting to the car: Like many rental companies, Silvercar tends to operate near major airports, and it typically shuttles renters from terminals to lots and back again. However, some locations will arrange to drop off vehicles in short-term parking lots. 

3. The endless paperwork: Because Silvercar's rental process is app-based, there's no paperwork to speak of. Just accept the terms of the rental on the app and head to your car. Keep your phone handy, though--you'll need it to open the vehicle.

4. Paying for tolls and gas: Filling up a rental car before you return it is always a pain--doubly so if you're running late for a flight. If you can't manage it, Silvercar won't hit you with the usual exorbitant pump rates other rental places do; it charges market rate for gas plus a $5 service fee. (Keep in mind, Silvercar uses premium fuel in its cars.) As for tolls, transponders are free and included with every car, though you're still responsible for the actual cost of tolls. 

Silvercar won't do anything to shorten the lines at your favorite cronut shop or improve the short-term memory of forgetful baristas who make your half-caf latte with soy instead of almond. But it's a start.

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