During my trip to the Austin MegaDO last weekend I got a second chance to rent one of the Audi A4s from Silvercar. I still don’t think I need a luxury car on every trip, but I can say it’s a solid concept that I hope will survive as they continue to refine their business model. And as someone who rents infrequently, it just may be worth it rather than trying to maintain elite status with a traditional rental company.
Full disclosure: This three-day rental was complimentary, but I still paid for taxes, fees, insurance, and fuel — a total of about $80. Normally it would cost about $70 per day ($210 for three days) before these additional costs; rates vary. Read to the end to learn how to save on your first rental.
My original review of Silvercar at San Francisco was mixed. They do provide a great car at a competitive price (compared to other luxury rentals) and with a simple service model. I doubt you’ll be able to find many luxury rental cars for $70, as sometimes it can cost $50-75 just to upgrade the car you already paid for with a typical rental agency. However, the use of off-airport locations at some locations can be particularly challenging depending on traffic patterns. At SFO, it set me back 30 minutes because we needed to take US-101 to get to and from the rental lot.
At places like LAX this may be less of an issue because surface streets are available. Dallas-Fort Worth has their Silvercars housed at the same rental car facility as all the other brands — my preference.
Fortunately, Austin was a much better experience than SFO, and the only thing I would have done differently is text Silvercar as I exited the plane so that, hopefully, the car would be waiting for me at the curb instead of the other way around. I did get a welcome message from Silvercar, but since I was unfamiliar with the airport decided not to reply right away until I had arrived at the designated location.
Austin has the off-lot model figured out. If you’re not going to place the cars in the main rental facility, then at least try to find a way to make it as convenient as possible. I don’t think they could pick a better place than the freeway exit. The SFO experience could be improved if they moved the lot, but the real estate market there is a lot less flexible.
I didn’t wait long at the airport curbside, and once I arrived at the lot all I had to do was scan the barcode on the car’s windshield with my phone and then make a right turn out of the lot and onto the highway. When returning the car, I turned left instead of right as I got off the highway and then changed seats after the Concierge checked us in. We got a ride back to the airport without having to move our bags, and they filled up the fuel tank for us, charging the standard pump price plus a $5 refueling fee.
A Better Driving Experience. Period.
During my weekend I got a lot of opportunity to try out the different systems on my Audi A4. The navigation system still has a learning curve, but I’m getting better. I think my problem at this point is not the dial cursor but remembering what the eight control buttons around it do. The bigger problem is that it doesn’t have live traffic information. Several times it recommended routes that the Google Maps app on my iPhone said were very bad ideas with heavy rush-hour traffic. Given this issue and the relative ease of inputting an address into my phone, I would still rather use it for some trips. In some cases, I set up both and followed the phone’s directions until the traffic improved, at which time I switched to the car for the more convenient display.
There’s in-car WiFi, too, but I remain wedded to my iPhone. It’s quick and easy to synch my mobile device with my laptop, and I actually forgot about the in-car WiFi when I was doing some last minute work before one of the events. I would probably resort to the car if I knew I had a lot of data to handle or if Megan wanted to browse the Internet on a longer trip.
What really has me sold on Silvercar is the way it handles. It’s much more comfortable and fun to drive than a regular rental car, especially when you’re pulling up to stay at The Driskill. Is such superior handling necessary? I’m usually happy with a Honda Accord or Toyota Camry from National, but I’ve started paying closer attention to how cars handle now that I’m a regular user of the little Car2Go Smart Cars around Seattle with their weak transmissions and poor handling. Silvercar’s Audis practically predict what you want them to do.
If I were just running errands around the city, I might still prefer the standard rental car. But on this trip I drove an hour and a half out to Hye and Blanco, TX, and on my previous trip I drove three hours north to Windsor, CA. The better handling does help on long drives.
Save $50 on Your First Silvercar
Want to save $50 on your next rental? Silvercar gave me a referral code last month, and when you use it I get $50, too. A few people have already used it since I posted it in the sidebar, but I didn’t want to promote it too heavily until I got another chance to try the service. Just use SMACKENZIE when you make your reservation.