Have you started going for short drives to nowhere in particular, just for a change in scenery? If so, you’re not alone. According to new survey data from Turo, the peer-to-peer car-sharing platform, 39 percent of its users turned to the automobile just to get out of the house during the COVID-19 lockdown.
The coronavirus pandemic has been blamed for the perilous position in which traditional rental-car companies like Hertz have found themselves. But surprisingly for Turo, things haven’t been quite so bad. Or at least, they weren’t bad for very long.
“Before the pandemic hit, the company—in terms of bookings—was growing by about 50 percent year over year,” said Steve Webb, Turo’s VP of communications. By mid-March, as shelter-in-place orders were issued, things started to drop off to the point that, by early April, the business was looking at a 75-percent decline in year-on-year growth. But within a couple of weeks, that trend started to reverse. “As of last week, we are growing again YoY for the first time since 3/18. In March, we did not think the business would rebound this quickly,” Webb told Ars.
The company decided to survey users (guests in Turo-speak) to get a better idea of why they were renting cars, and it shared the results with Ars. In total, 1,249 users completed the survey, which asked questions like “how are you using cars during the COVID-19 pandemic” and “what motivated you to use Turo?” Some of the answers are probably what you’d expect, but others might be a little surprising. (Survey respondents were not limited to a single answer for each category; instead, they were able to select all that applied.)
Get out of the house
As you might expect, plenty of people (54 percent) replied that they were using cars the same way they did before the pandemic struck, and 29 percent said they were using cars as an alternative to public transport. But 13 percent indicated that they were using a car as a mobile office or place to work, 39 percent also said they took short drives just to get out of the house, and 22 percent were using a car as a personal space.
As for why they decided to rent someone else’s car, the most common response (42 percent) was to drive something fun or unique, followed by “when I traveled to a destination and needed a car” (29 percent) and “to get out of the house” for whatever reason (29 percent). And plenty of Turo users are ready to get back to traveling; 43 percent said they planned to do that for the July 4 weekend, although 32 percent said they had no plans to travel at all.
The final set of questions I found interesting was about different modes of transport that people felt comfortable using. The vast majority—87 percent—said they were comfortable using car-sharing during a pandemic, although, given that the survey was of recent Turo users, perhaps that’s not at all surprising. Forty-two percent said they’d use their own cars, but 41 percent also said they’d feel comfortable flying, even though current air travel numbers in the United States are only around a fifth of what we saw this time last year. By contrast, fewer were ready to take a Lyft or Uber (30 percent) or a traditional rental car (34 percent). But the worst result was for our beleaguered public transport networks: just 14 percent of survey respondents said they were ready to use those.