Grrr . . . Facebook is needed to rent a Getaround car

What do Facebook and car sharing have in common? I wouldn’t have thought anything until I learned that a Facebook account is needed to use the peer-to-peer car-sharing service Getaround.

For the first time in the 15 some years since I gave up a car, I need regular access to a vehicle. And so for the first time ever, I may need to reexamine my resistance to Facebook.

A Pace bus used to get me to Plainfield to visit my mother before the coronavirus struck. Since buses left Chicago after noon and returned in the morning, I stayed overnight. Then the virus prohibited visits. Mom’s residence has started to allow outdoor visits, and I’ve seen her three times, twice taking advantage of my neighbors’ car and once of a ride from my niece.

Last Thursday I attempted a trip to Plainfield by bus and train and discovered that Pace has cut its outbound service to a once-daily bus that arrives too late for a visit at Mom’s residence. The nearest Metra station is a half-hour away, and I don’t want to ask my brother, who lives in Plainfield, for a ride all the time.

Clearly, the limited public transportation options during the coronavirus aren’t going to work for me. I need to drive myself to Plainfield for at least a while.

I considered buying a car again, then decided to look into the car-sharing services Getaround, Turo, and Zipcar.

Getaround looked like the best choice based on rates and auto availability. I was ready to join until I discovered that a Facebook account is required.

Security is the reason, customer service person Regina said in response to my question about why. “We have several authentication checkpoints to verify each member, and because Facebook is one of these checks, we require our renters to have an account at this time. These checkpoints help ensure the trust and safety of our community. We require access to some basic profile information in order to verify your identity.”

Regina was full of assurances that Getaround would protect my privacy and security, but that’s not my concern. Will Facebook protect my privacy and security?

As I’m mulling over the Facebook decision — maybe a topic for the next post — I’ll share my research into the car-sharing services, should you also be a nonowner who needs a car somewhat regularly.

GETAROUND

Getaround is like an Airbnb for car owners. People make their vehicles available at times published on the Getaround website and app. Renters can book by the hour or the day. Rates, set by the owners, are generally lower than Zipcar’s and often better than Turo’s for a daily rental. Getaround adds a small booking fee. Renters pay no membership fee, but there is a one-time fee to run a driver’s license check.

Renters pick up cars at their stated locations and unlock them with a smartphone app. Because renters must refuel the tank to the starting level, they are advised to take a photo of the gas gauge before starting out.

Liability insurance is better than its competitors’, but users may want to upgrade from the free standard insurance to avoid a $3,000 damage fee and charges for roadside assistance. (Renters whose credit cards offer collision damage coverage when car sharing might forego this upgrade, but many credit card companies exclude cars rented through car-sharing services.)

Renters must make sure that returned cars are parked legally for the next 24 hours, so I’d want to rent a car that can be parked in a dedicated space or an uncrowded residential zone.

I have my eye on a 2010 Chevrolet Malibu with garage parking that rents for $21 for five hours, enough time for a round-trip to Plainfield. But there’s the matter of needing a Facebook account . . .

TURO

With Turo’s peer-to-peer car-sharing, owners rent out their cars for a minimum of a day at rates they select. Luxury cars with hefty rates predominate near me. If you live outside the central city, you should have more luck finding a nearby Turo rental for $30 to $40 a day.

Turo has no membership fee but adds at least $15 to each booking. Renters choose from three protection plans that start at $10 for the minimum liability coverage required by the state, a $3,000 damage deductible, and roadside assistance.

Owners and renters agree on how the car keys will be exchanged. Some owners indicate in their web listing that they will deliver the car. As with Getaround, renters must refuel the cars to the pretrip level.

Also as with Getaround, Turo renters must make sure to park returned cars where they’ll be safe from tickets and tows for 24 hours.

ZIPCAR

Zipcar is a commercial service, a subsidiary of Avis. It owns and maintains its cars and sets the rates, so rental prices vary less than with Getaround and Turo. Cars are rented by the hour or the day.

Since Zipcar charges a membership fee ($7/month or $70/year; 40% off membership and $40 credit for AARP members) but provides gas and free roadside assistance, it can be tricky to compare costs, but consumer reviewers say that Zipcar ends up being more expensive than its competitors. “Getaround typically provides consumers the best value, with Turo following closely behind,” Medium.com says. “If you prefer gas included, Zipcar may be your best option, but the cost of gas doesn’t make up for the difference in cost.”

Nevertheless, Zipcar has some advantages. The cars are late models, and renters don’t have to trust that private owners have maintained the cars. Cars are accessed and returned to dedicated spaces in parking lots. Zipcar has many locations downtown and on the North and Near West Sides. Several Zipcars are parked within walking distance of me, so I feel confident that I could find a car even at the last minute. The Zipcar app or the Zipcard unlocks the rental; keys stay in the car.

Free standard insurance includes the state’s minimum liability coverage and damage protection minus a $1,000 deductible. Additional liability coverage may be chosen when booking a reservation. Damage protection may be upgraded by adding a fee to the monthly membership price (again, people should first check with their credit card companies about collision coverage when using car sharing).

Gas is included, but renters are expected to refuel a low tank, paying with a gas card in the car.

 

Calculating for my expected usage, I figure Getaround would be about $200 cheaper than Zipcar over a year. Is it worth $200 to me to avoid Facebook? Before answering yes, I should investigate the possibility of giving Facebook minimal information and being a minimal user. More on that to come.

*****

ANTI-TRUMP COMMENTS: 126TH IN AN ONGOING SERIES

“I think he’s utterly unqualified to help lead a COVID response. His medical degree isn’t even close to infectious diseases and public health, and he has no experience in dealing with public health outbreaks. It’s very clear to me that the president brought on somebody who will just be a mouthpiece for his agenda and a ‘yes’ person.”

— Lawrence Gostin, a Georgetown University law professor who specializes in public health, about Trump’s appointment of Dr. Scott Atlas to his coronavirus task force

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