Month: December 2016

Why you should try car sharing on your next trip

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When Caroline Lupini needed a rental car for a month, the last place she looked was a car rental company.

Instead, she turned to a sharing site called Turo, which offers medium- to long-term rentals at a discount over the typical rental company rate. Think Airbnb for cars.

For $750, Lupini got a high-mileage 2007 Saturn Ion in Denver — less than half the going car rental company rate. “Overall, it went well,” says Lupini, a photographer from Ann Arbor, Mich.

The sharing economy has changed the way travelers think about accommodations. Driving? Not so much.

A recent survey by Morpace, a market research and consulting firm, found that only one-fourth of all respondents plan to engage in some type of sharing service. Some 75% of respondents plan to buy or lease a vehicle in the next five years, and only slightly fewer, 71%, intend to purchase or lease a new vehicle.

That’s a shame. The latest car-sharing innovations can score you a ride for less, or put you behind the wheel of your favorite vehicle. Most important, they can save you the headache of all the bothersome car rental fees and surcharges.

Turo may be the most established of the peer-to-peer car rental companies, but it’s hardly alone (see below). These rental companies and sharing services meet different needs among car rental customers, and taken together, they have the potential to change the way you drive for the better.

They can save you money, for starters. A one-month, midsize rental in Phoenix from a traditional car rental company, which doesn’t include insurance, will set you back about $940. The Turo price costs $52 less and includes insurance.

“The price of the cars is very comparable — and sometimes much less — than the major car rental agencies, and you can get a much much nicer car for the money,” says Bruce Mesnekoff, general manager for a company that assists students with their college debt.

Mesnekoff cites his most recent rentals, all through Turo. There was the Jaguar F Type convertible ($135 per day), the Mercedes C-class convertible ($103 per day), a Tesla ($225 per day) and — he’s not making this up — a Maserati ($135 per day).

Leo Nguyen, a biochemist from San Francisco, recently rented a 2015 Honda Odyssey through Turo and was impressed by the selection and simplicity. Not only could he select the exact car and model — something traditional car rental companies can’t do — but he didn’t face the hard sells for insurance or upgrades you get when you rent from a traditional car rental company.

“The experience was great,” he says. “I got the car I wanted for a really good price.”

But you give some things up, too. Nguyen warns to look for mileage limits, which some hosts put on their cars. Some monthly Turo cars cap the “free” miles at 1,500 and charge you 75 cents per mile after that, which can add up quickly. Also, after one of his cars was broken into Nguyen discovered that his credit card didn’t cover the damage as it would have for a rental car. Peer-to-peer rental vehicles are excluded from his cardmember coverage.

All of which brings us back to Lupini, the photographer from Michigan. A pebble smacked her Saturn’s windshield, leaving a small chip. Filing a claim through Turo would have meant she’d have to replace the entire windshield.

“I made a deal with the owner to pay him an extra $100,” she says. He fixed it himself. Problem solved.

Well, no one said the system was perfect. But once car sharing takes off, it’s going to be big. Over time, it could bring even more competition to the car rental industry, reduce vehicle ownership and even free up valuable parking space.

Car sharing may not have had its Airbnb moment yet, but just wait. It’s right around the corner.

Cheaper car rental options

• Peer-to-peer car services. Companies such as Turo.com (turo.com) and Getaround(getaround.com) let you rent another person’s car in almost exactly the same way you can rent someone else’s home or apartment through Airbnb. They’re typically less expensive than a car rental company and offer a wide variety of vehicles. For example, Getaround is currently available in 11 cities, including San Francisco, Portland, Ore., Washington, D.C., and Chicago. Its rentals, which start at about $50 a day, include insurance.

• Rental hybrids. Car-sharing services such as Zipcar (zipcar.com), which is owned by Avis Budget Group, and Maven (mavendrive.com), GM’s new car-sharing service, can get you a set of wheels quickly. They’re usually meant for shorter-term rentals in urban areas.

• Check with your rental company. Car rental companies are trying to stay competitive. For example, Hertz offers discounted rates and provides special offers for multiweek and monthly car rentals. (AAA members save $40 on a weekly car rentals now through Jan. 31, for example.)

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Yes, you can get a second passport. Here’s how

Certain frequent travelers can qualify for two U.S.

There are certain situations when it’s annoying to have only one passport. For example, say you have upcoming trips to two countries with little notice and you need to send your passport away for a visa, effectively stopping you from going on your other trip. Or, say you want to visit a country that is on unfriendly terms with other nations, like Israel, but you’re worried the stamp might cause problems when trying to get into other countries in the future.

Too bad you can only have one passport, right? Wrong.

A little-known secret is that, according to Section 51.2(b) of Title 22 of the Code of Federal Regulations (22 CFR), certain frequent travelers actually can qualify for two U.S. passports. It states:

Unless authorized by the Department no person shall bear more than one valid or potentially valid U.S. passport at any one time.

In plain English, there is an exception to the requirement that “no person shall bear or be in possession of more than one valid or potentially valid U.S. passport at any one time.” But who qualifies for an exemption? In short, very frequent travelers, especially those that often visit countries that require visas, who cannot send their passport away for an international visa without essentially grounding them from doing business.

The U.S. government permits people that can prove a heavy travel schedule to have a second passport, typically only valid for two years. This allows them to travel abroad while sending the second passport to an embassy for visa applications.

According to Russ Varecha of RushMyPassport.com, a service that helps people apply for passports:

“A quick rule of thumb to determine if you qualify for a second passport is whether you meet one of the two requirements. Are you planning to visit a country that will deny a visa due to the fact that your passport contains markings or visas showing you traveled to certain other countries? Or do you need a passport for immediate travel because of delays in getting a travel visa or some other foreign governmental process that required you to submit your original passport?”

Lee Abbamonte, the self-proclaimed youngest American to visit every country in the world, says that having a second passport was invaluable in his near-constant travel to far-flung corners of the globe.

To apply for a second passport, complete an online application form (DS-82) and send in the requested documentation to a passport office.