posted on November 5th, 2019

From snow cones to a Camaro

Sam is a 22-year-old full-time college student, and an All-Star Host on Turo with a fleet of five cars. But first and foremost, he’s a car guy. “It’s not even just exotics or muscle cars, it’s any kind of car,” he says with a laugh. So you know his love is pure. “I watch car content on YouTube every single day, anything from Vehicle Virgins to Adam LZ.” It was while watching an Adam LZ video that Sam first learned about Turo. “Adam was talking about how he was going to let people rent his new Mustang GT350 on Turo to afford it, that it would offset his car payments, and that really caught my attention.”

The business of love

Sam was intrigued because one of his other main interests is business — which he acquired by way of his now-fiancé, Denise. While other high schoolers might have used flowers to impress their girlfriends, Sam went a lot further. “I started my own snow cone business in high school,” Sam reports. “My girlfriend really loved them and she wanted me to buy a machine.” He started looking at machines, and realized that only the higher-end, commercial models were going to produce a snow cone fit for Denise. So decided he could sell them to pay off the machine. “That was my introduction to the concept of business, and that I could use something I owned to make money.”

After Sam heard about Turo in the video, he fell into a YouTube rabbit hole learning about the marketplace. He and his friends had just bought a giant white board that they wanted to fill with ideas for making money, and this was exactly what he had been looking for. He stayed up all night until he’d clarified a five-step process he wanted to follow for his own Turo business. The very next day he listed his car, and within 30 minutes he had a booking. “The woman who booked it was super nice, and took it for a two or three day trip. I remember going around bragging to my friends that I was making $80 and I wasn’t even doing anything.”

 When cars collide

Sam’s 2018 Hyundai Elantra (Long Beach, CA)

Sam had his car on Turo for about three months before he encountered his worst fear. “The car got into a total loss accident. It was my biggest concern as a host.” But he was also curious, because he’d never gone through a claims process before, and he wanted to see how the situation was handled. “I planned to do an analysis afterward and see if it was still worth it to go back to Turo,” he says. Ultimately, his claim was closed in 30 days, and he was paid out what he felt was a fair market value for his car. Sam was in. “I needed a new car anyway, and I was so pleased with the claims process that I decided to get another one, just to list on Turo. This was going to be mine and Denise’s new snow cone business.”

Sam did some research and risk analysis, and has always been into Hyundai vehicles, so he knew what he wanted to buy. He started with two Elantras — one named Ellie, one named Pearl — and they were booked often, and bringing in money. “I was living less than a mile from school, so most of the time the cars were just sitting in the driveway ready for a trip.” 

Camaro dreams realized

Sam’s 2018 Chevrolet Camaro (Long Beach, CA)

It wasn’t until he was ready for this third car that Sam began to indulge his gearhead sensibility. He’s into muscle, just like his dad and brother growing up, so he wanted to get a V8 Camaro. “But I found out that when you’re a 22-year-old with that kind of car, you have an insane insurance premium.” So he went with a 2018 Camaro RS V6, named Cameron, which still blew his mind. “It’s absolutely insane! I’m in the position to afford this car as a full-time college student, and not pay a single penny for any of it, insurance, maintenance, anything. That’s a really huge thing for me!”

Sam continued to grow his fleet with a couple more cars. He liked the people who were booking from him, and it felt like he was helping out his guests, offering them something they needed and making sure they enjoyed their trips. He and Denise ended up adding a larger Hyundai Tucson named Rhonda, and a small Toyota Yaris, aptly named Frodo.

Sharing the knowledge

Now that Sam is the owner of five popular cars on Turo and has established his own LLC, he’s started his very own course series on YouTube on how to manage and grow a small business with Turo. He wants to teach people that it’s very possible to have a car that pays entirely for itself. “It’s your business and you’re using Turo as a tool, it’s a really great tool, but you still have to make sure that you’re focused on your guest experience and make sure people are driving safe, reliable cars,” he says. 

Sam alongside one of his Hyundais

The next milestone for Sam is to go 100% electric. He loves the Tesla Model 3 and is planning to get one soon. “I’m probably still five or 10 years out from only owning electric cars, but it’s my goal. From a business standpoint, it’s smart because they have so many fewer parts to maintain than a combustion car, and it’s really awesome for the environment. If you’re not doing anything as a business to better the environment, it’s like saying you don’t care about the future.”

If you’re in Long Beach or the Los Angeles area, Sam might have the perfect car for you to cruise Southern California.

Have a car you don’t use all the time? List it on Turo and see how much you could earn. Who knows — your dream car maybe closer than you think.

Kamala Puligandla is a writer and an editorial assistant at Turo. She is always on the hunt for a strange story, a great snack, and the perfect outdoor spot to consume them.