You Can Now Park For Free At The Airport, If You Let Strangers Drive Your Car

Airport parking will soon be free for drivers willing to let strangers use their cars while they are on vacation.

That’s the gist of a new program from car sharing service RelayRides, which is working with airports around the country to operate special parking lots where its users can leave their cars, which will then be rented out to drivers who are flying in.

The program launches at San Francisco International Airport August 9, with “many” other airports to follow, according to spokesperson Steve Webb.

Under the original system, the owner of a car and the renter connect online and set the details of the rental. RelayRides sets grounds rules, provides insurance, and collects a 40% commission from the price of the rental. We tried the service earlier this year, and were really impressed with how it works.

In the airport parking scheme, the owner is not involved with the renting of the car. If it’s used while he or she is on a trip, all of the money goes to RelayRides (which sets the price). If not, parking is still free. Either way, a car wash is included.

This is a step in a new direction for the company, which will operate the parking lots. That involves hiring human attendants, a fresh logistical challenge for a service that previously just connected users online.

It’s no side project: RelayRides expects airport parking rentals to provide 50% of its revenues in the next six to eight months, Webb says.

As with all its rentals, RelayRides provides insurance, so if a car is damaged, the owner isn’t stuck with the bill. Big growth in membership (500% since it launched nationwide last year) has helped it negotiate with insurers and drive costs down, though it’s not changing the 40% commission yet.

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