Vintage cars are alluring. They represent the simplicity, or
craftsmanship, or louche sleaziness of a bygone era. They are also—and I say
this as the proud owner of four old vehicles—fussy, dangerous, and
excruciatingly unreliable. Not everyone enjoys this kind of constant crapshoot
in their daily drive.
Fortunately, a trio of “sharing economy” apps
allow occasional access to well-maintained classics. DriveShare, Turo,
and Vinty all function like Airbnb, but each has a unique position.
Owners list their vehicles, upload information and images,
set a rental price, and provide guidelines on things such as mileage, security
deposit, and delivery instructions. Users need to meet a minimum age
requirement: For Turo and Vinty it’s 21 with supplemental insurance, 25
without; for DriveShare it’s 30. They must upload their driver’s license, and
in some cases a Social Security number, then await security and safety
screening and verification, which can take as long as 72 hours. Once approved,
users can scroll, click, and finalise the details.
DriveShare is a subsidiary of Michigan classic-car insurance
company Hagerty, which represents hundreds of thousands of vintage vehicle
owners, most of whom use their cars only occasionally. “Many classic cars
spend a lot of time in garages when they could be earning their owner some
revenue,” says Peter Zawadzki, the app’s founder.
“A lot of people want to drive a classic, particularly
for special occasions, but don’t have the resources or time to own, maintain,
and store one themselves.” This creates a win-win, especially because old
cars like to be exercised regularly. It keeps their vital fluids circulating,
their batteries charged, and their components from drying out.
Turo is the giant of the trio, a company founded a
decade ago by a Harvard Business School student that now operates in 5,500
cities with some 350,000 cars. Turo acts mainly as a peer-to-peer option to
Hertz or Alamo Rent a Car, renting newer cars to business travelers or
vacationers, but vintage vehicle offerings give it differentiation and
“It’s not the majority of our business, but it’s
certainly a part that’s very aspirational,” says Chief Executive Officer
Vinty is the small indie. Where the other two apps have
a national profile, the backing of a national insurance company (Liberty Mutual
Group owns a stake in Turo), and a large vehicle pool, Vinty has 1 250
classics that are mainly clustered in Southern California, where the company is
headquartered. This is strategic. Although individual customers are welcome,
the company and its “hosts” derive most of their revenue renting
vehicles for film, TV, and commercial shoots, as well as special occasions such
as weddings or corporate events.
“We tell owners, either you can let someone else drive,
or you can just bring the car for an event and have customers take photos with
them and have them act as a prop,” says company founder Pierre
Lapointe. This ability to act as on-site steward, and not have the car driven
much, is attractive to many fussy old-car owners, for whom their vehicles are
their babies. (DriveShare allows movie/event rentals as well.)
DriveShare and Turo
So what’s it like using these apps? As with all things
involving old cars, the results were unpredictable.
My first rental, a 1990 Jaguar XJ-S from DriveShare, was
flawless. For $200 a day for a three-day rental, the owner met me curbside at
LAX in the white, V-12-powered coupe—a car I’ve pined for previously. We
retreated to a nearby parking lot to go through the vehicle and its quirks and
take some “before” photos, then I was off.
Despite a reputation for abysmal reliability, the Jag was
steadfast. The car started up every time, the AC blew cold, and the suspension
absorbed impacts, physical and emotional, on L.A.’s mean surface streets. The
drive also reinvigorated my search for an XJ-S of my own. Not
surprisingly, this is one of Hagerty’s noted use cases: potential buyers taking
a vintage car out for an extended test-drive prior to considering
I didn’t have time to try out Vinty, but I did get to
experience Turo, renting a bright orange 1969 Ford Bronco. Delivery wasn’t
available, so I picked it up at a lot adjacent to the San Diego airport.
There, I met an attendant from Luso, a company that owns hundreds of cars
and rents them out via the Turo app. I received no instruction about the
Bronco. Having paid my $249 a day for five days (with 350 miles included), I
was just given the keys and set loose.
The Bronco was to be the steed for an adventure to the San
Jacinto Mountains with my friend Lance. Since he’d never driven an old car, I
gave him first dibs. Rainstorms had blanketed the area and seemed to have
affected an electrical connection in the vehicle, because just after
we set out, its horn became almost comically stuck, even when parked. Unable to
locate the horn’s power wire, the situation became untenable. I called the
owner and drove the blaring Ford to a nearby shop.
Since the shop was able to fix the short by the next
morning, Lance and I decided to stick with the Bronco (the owner graciously
offered a new Porsche convertible, but that seemed like cheating).
The truck only broke down three more times.
On the highway at 70 mph, the transfer case popped out of
gear, cutting off power and forcing us to coast into the breakdown lane.
Shortly later, after a fill-up, the Bronco conked out in a fast-food drive-thru
and refused to start for 30 minutes. Then, after shepherding us around the
mountains seamlessly for a couple of days, on the morning of our departure, it
again refused to start. Thinking we might coast downhill to a nearby service
station, we pushed the Bronco through a neighbor’s yard—using a pry bar to move
small boulders. Once it was level, it started. We beelined back to San Diego, and
when I returned the Bronco, the owner was present. I told him about the
mishaps. “Were you parked on a hill today?” he asked. I nodded. “Yeah.
It does that sometimes.” Details like this, I said, could best be provided
Still, the Bronco was undeniably fun, an ideal attention
grabber for a weekend. And the anecdotes—indelible, but never
life-threatening—are already aging into legend. Old cars teach you to enjoy the
lunacy they are always moments away from engendering.
For the less adventurous, each app has protocols for
breakdowns. DriveShare provides roadside assistance through Hagerty’s extant
program and will refund you for any rental that can’t be completed. Turo
would have towed the truck away—through Liberty Mutual’s roadside service—and found
another local vehicle or reimbursed our Uber to the closest available vehicle
(though it wouldn’t have been an old Bronco). Vinty, as a smaller player, is
more hands-off, encouraging the two parties to come up with a rescue plan prior
to the rental.
But if you’re thinking of entrusting your precious baby to
random strangers online, unless there is proven malice or a wreck, any
mechanical issues resulting from a rental end up being the responsibility of
the car’s owner.
“We like to think of it this way,” says Zawadzki. “Revenue
from DriveShare can help car owners offset inevitable maintenance and ownership
expenses related with collector cars.”
I’d been considering renting out one or more of my vintage
vehicles through these services, but having experienced the range of possible
outcomes—and my vehicles’ myriad quirks—I was reconsidering the cost-benefit
analysis. Like Airbnb-ing my beloved but funky lake house, it seemed more
invasive, more of a headache than it was worth, a better deal for the
guest than the host.
Recently classic-car obsessed, but less experienced (and
less jaded), Lance had a slightly different take, one more aligned with the
apps’ mission. “I would definitely rent another vintage car—with you,”
he said. “But I don’t really think I’d want one as my daily driver.”