posted on December 2, 2020

When the pandemic hit, Darren D.’s commute shrank from half an hour to just a few steps.

“Our car was sitting in our parkade every day. So when Turo said they were launching in British Columbia, we thought it was a great opportunity for it to pay for itself,” said Darren. “Everyone has to pull their weight, including our car.”

“Most people see their vehicle as a liability, and it is in most cases. For us, we were looking at it and saying, ‘How do we turn our vehicle into an asset?’”

Darren and his partner, Kristen, were already familiar with Turo. They had a positive guest experience during a family trip to Hawaii, so when Turo expanded west, they listed their 2019 Tesla Model 3 and waited for the bookings to roll in. 

For many hosts, sharing a Tesla already gives them a competitive advantage on Turo. Not for BC hosts. Even though BC is Turo’s youngest Canadian market, there are already scores of Teslas available to book. So Darren focused on differentiating his service rather than his product, by creating the best Tesla experience for first-timers.

“People who were booking our car had never rented a Tesla or an electric vehicle, and they were super excited. So I changed our listing description to say that we specialize in helping first-time Tesla drivers, and I think that really puts people at ease. Every other Tesla listing is like, ‘We have all these features!’ and it can be overwhelming.”

“I thought about what people really need to know about driving a Tesla, and it came down to three things: one, here’s how you unlock the car and get in, two, here’s how you put it in drive, and three, here’s how you stop it. It seems silly, but those functionalities are really unique to this car, and I think this approach has helped us attract people who want to drive a Tesla, but don’t feel comfortable. So we try to be welcoming that way.”

“I see myself as an unofficial brand ambassador”

Darren and Kristen have taken added steps to make their listing appealing. Many hosts who book their car go out to Whistler, so they added features like a bike rack. They also throw in hand sanitizer and an umbrella for rainy days. By thinking about everything their guest’s might need, these two hosts can differentiate on service instead of competing on cost.

Focusing on a unique Tesla experience has been enriching both financially and personally, as illustrated by an experience Darren and Kristen had with one guest.

“My last booking was fantastic,” recalls Darren. “I met a family the other day, and the dad didn’t tell the kids that he was getting a Tesla, and I guess they’d been watching Tesla videos. The kids were asking, ‘What kind of car, dad?’ And he’s like, ‘Ah, some sort of Ford. Nothing special.’ When his eldest son saw the car he was like, ‘Oh my God, Dad, this is so exciting!’”

“With the Tesla, you get like a credit card style key. So I hand the key to his oldest son, and I’m like, ‘Are you gonna be driving?’ and he starts laughing and he takes the key, jumps in, and starts playing around. It was fun to experience that. If you were at a car rental center it would be like, ‘Here’s your key, sir. Car’s out in the lot.’”

As one of the first hosts in BC, Darren considers it his responsibility to help new hosts and guests make the most of car sharing. “Almost everyone who has booked a trip with us is doing it for the first time, so I see myself as an unofficial brand ambassador,” he said. “I know that if a guest has a great experience, they’ll likely be back, and that pays it forward for everybody.”

Covering car payments

Darren’s 2019 Tesla Model S

This commitment to customer experience has paid off. Since hosting their first trip in August, Darren and Kristen have covered nearly 100% of their car payment every month. They’ve done so by offering great customer service and following Turo’s sanitation guidelines. While car sharing during a pandemic has its challenges, Darren says it’s possible to offer a personable experience safely.

“I show up in a mask, and I try to gauge the comfort of the guest when I meet them. A lot of times they don’t know how to use the Tesla, so I ask permission to sit in the passenger seat with the door open to show them how to operate it. Some people are like, ‘Yeah, whatever. Jump in. Let’s just figure it out.’ But you have to play to the most conservative in the room in a non-judgemental way. If people want to be extra safe, I understand.”

After three months, Darren calls his Turo phone notifications “the sound of money”. He does what he can to make sure he hears it often by keeping his calendar up to date and shortening his lead times.

“We dropped our Advance notice down low to give ourselves a competitive advantage. We had one booking that came in at one in the morning for an 8:30am trip. We just happened to be up and said, ‘Oh boy. We’re gonna have an early morning.’” 

Of course, Darren credits this flexibility to their recent shift to remote work. Nevertheless, he recommends Turo to all of his friends and family with a car sitting unused in the lot. And he’s got the perfect answer for those who are hesitant about sharing their vehicle. 

“People say, ‘You let other people drive your car?’ and I say, ‘No, I let other people make my car payment.’”

Photos by Ian Kobylanksi. Check out his website here or follow him on Instagram.