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This Cautionary Tale Has Scared Me Off Renting A Car Through Turo For Good

Here's how a $170 pet cleaning fee is dismissed only to return as a $5,000 estimate for "dashboard scratches."

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Image: Ford

The gig economy has reframed ideas that we probably at one time would’ve viewed with some trepidation — like renting someone else’s car, or renting out your own — as safe, reliable services and business opportunities. Like Turo, which is best described as Airbnb for cars if you’re unfamiliar. Except you’re far more likely to accidentally damage a car than a house or be blamed for damaging one when you really didn’t. Which brings us to today’s cautionary tale, courtesy of Hooniverse contributor William Byrd.

See, Byrd needed a car to ferry his kids back and forth to their various activities back in December, as he wrote in a blog about his ongoing saga with Turo some weeks back. He settled on a Ford Bronco Sport and reported that the whole experience was totally straightforward and frictionless — as he was using the service, anyway. When it was over, the renter accused Byrd of carrying a pet in the vehicle, which Byrd said he didn’t do — the long hair “found” in the vehicle didn’t match the fur of his dog. Byrd explained this and in the exact moment he replied to the earlier message, he was met with a vague rebuttal so quickly it seemed like it was automated.


Again, you should read Byrd’s account for the full story. The long and short of it is he was hit with a $170.78 “cleaning fee” that was eventually dismissed, only to be replaced by a new $500 “damage deposit” fee for “interior damages/scratches” allegedly accumulated during his time with the vehicle, according to the company.


That was some weeks back. Then, just a few days ago, it got worse. A lot worse:

I may not have seen this supposed $5,000 worth of damage in person, but if I had, I might go at it with a dab of Armor All on a microfiber cloth. In fact, the Armor All might not even be necessary there. Maybe the SUV’s owner should try a damp square of Bounty — he might be surprised to learn he can buy like 2,000 rolls for the same price he’s quoting. Better yet, tap water’s free!

I’m sure plenty of people have had positive experiences with Turo, but reading accounts like Byrd’s make me want to avoid the service. You don’t have to look hard to happen upon stories of someone on either the renter or owner side having a pretty miserable time with it. Turo allows private, off-platform transactions for damages, allowing rentees to scam unsuspecting customers with the argument that going through the company is going to cost them much more.


On the flip side, it also allows owners to list cars that are guaranteed to be disqualified for coverage in the event of an accident. Seriously — a host wrote a guide for other hosts that’s pinned to the top of the r/turo subreddit, and I don’t think I’ve ever seen an explainer on Reddit so unabashedly disparaging toward the thing that everyone in that community chooses to engage with. I was fully expecting the last question of the FAQ to be “so why the hell are we doing this anyway????”

We’ve reached out to Turo for a statement on what steps the company’s taken to better handle disputes such as these, and will update this with whatever we learn. In the meantime, we’d love to know: Have you rented a car or rented out your own through Turo? What’s your experience been like?


Update Feb. 8, 2022 at 8:26 a.m. ET: Turo provided the following statement to Jalopnik:

“Turo takes trust and safety very seriously and strongly encourages guests and hosts to use all of the provided trip tools, including taking and uploading pre-trip and post-trip photos, to manage potential claims. While a small percentage of trips on Turo result in damage claims, our team appreciates the sometimes surprising cost to repair damages and works with the host and guest extensively to arrive at a fair and reasonable solution. Turo strives to provide a superior guest experience and is proud to have a net promoter score of 70.”