Technology has made it easier than ever for young startups to disrupt the business models of older companies. On balance this is a good thing – disruption introduces new competitors and forces older companies to adapt and innovate. And I can’t think of a part of the travel industry that has been more in need of disruption than car rentals.
And as I recently found out by renting from them in San Francisco, that much needed disruption has finally arrived in the form of Silvercar.
Their concept is deceptively simple: They rent their fleet of Audi A4s for a reasonable price and in a growing number of cities across the United States. Once your account is set up (at your first rental) you arrive at the Silvercar location and use a built-in QR reader in their app to unlock the vehicle and begin the rental.
The cars themselves are really nice – all new model (2013 and 2014) Audi A4s. Each car is full of the goodies you’d expect in an Audi – GPS, satellite radio, Bluetooth pairing with your phone, and a luxurious, leather-filled interior. Even cooler: Every car is also a Wifi hotspot!
But the best part of the experience is less tangible - you just don’t feel like you’re driving a rental car. No more Chevy Impalas for this guy.
Silvercar’s attention to other details was also very good. At SFO their facility isn’t located at the main rental car center, but the app gives very specific directions to follow, and even prepares a text message for you to send to Silvercar staff to alert them of your arrival.
If Silvercar keeps expanding into new markets, Avis, Hertz and the others are going to start to feel it. After all, good service and an innovative product are the greatest threats to disrupt a stale industry. Next time you find yourself shopping for a rental car, treat yourself to an Audi.