Los Angeles, May 25 : The sight of a hitchhiker on the curb trying to hail some charitable driver could be a thing of the past as the practice of car sharing grows.
As a result of the recent economic crisis, the US has seen a wide range of companies ready to convert any and every car into a rental vehicle and provide its proprietor with extra income, while offering clients much lower prices than what a taxi or a rent-a-car like Avis or Hertz would charge.
Companies like Sidecar and Lyft, operating in cities like San Francisco, Los Angeles, Seattle, Chicago, Boston and Washington, put drivers of private vehicles in touch with potential car sharers.
Zimride is the alternative for longer distances. Car owners publish their destination and travel schedule with Zimride, which fixes them up with passengers with whom to share the ride, conversation and costs. The price per seat for a trip of 350 km is around $20.
But for those just looking to make a little money and are not particularly interested in meeting people, companies like RelayRides, Just Share It, Getaround and FlightCar rent out cars when their owners aren't using them, if only for an hour.
Getaround, for example, rents an Audi A4 to drive around San Francisco for $9 plus gasoline. Of the rent, the company keeps 40 percent.
Unlike rivals that just serve as intermediaries, FlightCar invests in logistics and profits from the cars that fill airport parking lots.
"We're the first to do this," Rujul Zaparde, cofounder of this company that operates in San Francisco and Boston, said.
FlightCar offers free parking in its lot for cars that travelers leave before taking their flight, and pays the owners if someone rents them during their absence. Owners also get transport to and from the airport terminal and have their cars cleaned free.