Silvercar closely resembles what I’d like to see as the future of renting a car: less paperwork, more included services and benefits, and one vehicle model to cut down on complicated rate structures. Done right, it has the potential to save customers a huge amount of money while delivering a better experience. Here’s a look at all the great benefits of renting from Silvercar:
But the fact that their fleet consists of luxury vehicles — the Audi A4 — has always given me this nagging doubt. Are they actually succeeding at providing cost-effective competition to the traditional car rental model? Or do they merely look good when compared to renting a luxury car, something that few people need and which is often overpriced?
I did a non-scientific but methodical survey looking at some mid-week and weekend rental scenarios at all of Silvercar’s airport locations. The results surprised me. In many cases getting a luxury vehicle from Silvercar was cheaper than a typical midsize vehicle from one of the big three: Avis, National, and Hertz. Sometimes Silvercar was even cheaper than a pint-sized economy car!
My survey looked at the five markets where Silvercar currently operates:
- Dallas/Fort Worth (DFW)
- Dallas-Love Field (DAL)
- Austin (AUS)
- San Francisco (SFO)
- Los Angeles (LAX)
There are also rumors that Silvercar will be expanding to Seattle (SEA), Phoenix (PHX), and Denver (DEN) by the end of spring.
I performed two searches in May for the same dates at each airport, including a 4-day rental Monday through Friday (noon to noon) and a 2-day rental Friday through Sunday (6 PM to 6 PM). From each search, I looked at the total cost, including taxes and fees, for the cheapest economy vehicle, a midsize vehicle, a premium vehicle, and a luxury vehicle. Silvercar’s price has been shaded for easy identification. Let’s take a look at the 4-day midweek rental.
These data truly amazed me. Silvercar was the cheapest option in almost every market except Austin, and even there it was only a modest premium over a midsize rental. On a four-day trip, why would you pay $100 more for a less comfortable and less useful car? The GPS and WiFi make it easier to shuttle between meetings and get some last-minute work done in the parking lot. (Yes, I’ve done it.) It makes a better first impression when you arrive. And you’re saving your employer money!
But what about weekend rentals? Does the luxury rental car concept still hold up under different competitive pressures?
If you were looking to splurge on an upgrade during your weekend getaway, Silvercar is not quite as easy to sell. But it beats every other luxury vehicle and usually the premium vehicles, too. It can even be cheaper than the lowest cost economy car (at SFO) or at least very close (at AUS and LAX). And you can’t beat the convenience of letting Silvercar take care of refueling vs. the alternative of searching for a gas station in an unfamiliar city.
Although I only looked at two date ranges, by comparing these data in five markets and across four competing vehicle types, I feel more confident that Silvercar offers a good value to consumers.
Save $75 on Your First Silvercar
Use discount code SMACKENZIE to sign up with Silvercar and we’ll both get a $25 credit after your first rental. Furthermore, use discount code AFF-FTD when you make your booking to save another $50 on your first rental through June 30 (as low as $9 for a one-day rental, plus any mandatory taxes, fees, and surcharges).
No, it’s not a real $75 discount on a single rental, but it does add up to $75 in the end.
Silvercar’s Audi A4 is most like a luxury vehicle, and yet the luxury category was often incredibly overpriced. So I included midsize and premium cars to provide a more realistic example of what a customer would likely reserve. Even then, Silvercar is comparatively less expensive than I had expected. And given the other benefits it provides in the quality of its vehicle and service, I think a modest premium is worth paying in many cases.
Why did I pick Hertz, National, and Avis as the three particular competitors? Silvercar promotes their concierge-level service and mobile app that let you pick up and return a car without paperwork. I think this is great for anyone who’s been frustrated by a long line at the rental car after arriving from an equally exhausting flight.
But a frequent traveler like me already obtains similar benefits by being an elite member with these companies, who then keep your information on file. I think this is the market Silvercar needs to win over if it’s going to be successful. Someone who’s picking the cheapest Budget/Thrifty/Alamo rental car from Hotwire is probably not Silvercar’s target customer.
Other discounts of 10-20% may also be available to frequent customers at the Big Three, but they would apply to the base rate only, which I find can sometimes make up as little as half of the final bill. Also, such a discount would not greatly alter the value of Silvercar relative to much higher priced premium and luxury vehicles.