FlightCar finds savvy way to save on airport parking

February 16, 2013 12:00:00 AM PST
Parking at the airport is never cheap and neither is renting a car. A Bay Area startup recently launched with the aim of cutting both prices down to size. FlightCar could help you save money, if you're willing to share.

Despite the unhappy expression on his face, one airline passenger we saw isn't being carjacked, he's paying for parking at the San Francisco International Airport. He's unhappy because it costs $33 a day to park close to the airport, or $18 to park far away. But how about parking for free? The catch is you have to let someone else drive your car while you're gone.

Andy Tran is a valet for a new service called FlightCar. Like any valet, he parks cars, but Tran also does something else. He rents those cars to out-of-town visitors at prices far below what Hertz or Avis would charge.

"Our pricing strategy is to just be the cheapest, so take whatever you see and likely the FlightCar price is going to be 20 to 50 percent off of that," said Shri Ganeshram, the FlightCar co-founder.

Ganeshram says he co-founded FlightCar because the time seemed right.

"Like Airbnb which allows people to list their house and rent it out, doing well, I think people have started to become more open to sharing," said Ganeshram.

It's just in San Francisco for now, but could soon be in other big cities, if it keeps getting reviews like this:

"I think it's actually a great idea. I mean I talked to some people about it, and they all said, 'Yeah, why didn't somebody thought about that earlier?'" said Derek Broker, a FlightCar customer.

Broker and his friend, Matt Brennek, are visiting from Germany and they have to watch their pennies.

"I think it's a very good and cheap opportunity especially for younger guys like us to rent a car," said Brennek.

Now, FlightCar is a startup, so money's a little tight, and believe it or not, the CEO's car is really old. This is a car they would never rent out to the public because they say they require cars that are made in this century, have less than 150,000 miles, and don't have any parts held on by duct tape.

"If the car has several layers of cosmetic damage, then we obviously can't take that, because no one wants to be seen driving around in a trashed car," said Ganeshram.

But if your car qualifies, you can earn a $10 gas card each time it's rented out, and they'll wash it for you when they return it. If it's a nice car, you'll earn more gas credit, and you'll make Tran happy.

"I think today I think there'll be a BMW, but I don't know if I'll get a chance to drive that one, it's a 5 series," said Tran.


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