San Francisco-based Relay Rides is set to upend the car rental industry using this one simple premise: In exchange for free airport parking, participating drivers must allow their car to be rented out during their time away. To reassure nervous owners, insurance, a car wash, and a full tank of gas are all included. The service begins later this month with a small parking lot at the San Francisco International Airport that holds 30 cars. Airports at Newark, Los Angeles, and Chicago may be included in a future expansion, according to spokesman Steve Webb.
What’s the Big Idea?
Originally, Relay Rides simply connected owners and renters online, and airports were included as possible pickup locations. As a direct service provider, it’s adding yet another option to an increasingly flexible business. Besides traditional car rental companies, notes writer Yuliya Chernova, government and private parking lot operators should be nervous as well: Free parking could take a nice chunk out of the nearly $3 billion pot of annual revenue earned by airport parking lots in the US and Canada.