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Along for the ride with "ingenious" startup

Clark Behind The Headlines

From HLN's Money Expert Clark Howard

There is a new startup company, and I don’t know if it’s going to make it or not, but it’s kind of an ingenious idea. It’s called Relay Rides.

This company has taken a page from the playbook of Zipcar, where you can rent rights to use a car as you need it. This has been extremely popular in college towns and in big, congested cities.

The concept behind Relay Rides is peer-to-peer car sharing. As you ride around, you notice most cars aren’t on the road. Most cars are parked and not in use. While a car isn’t in use, you’re paying for insurance, you’re paying every day for a loan on the car – there’s just a long list of expenses that go with a car when it’s not operating.

The idea of Relay Rides is that you’d put your car into a rental pool that people could use as they need a car. So you’re kind of running your own one-person, one-car rental agency under the umbrella of Relay Rides.

The question that comes up immediately in my mind is, what happens if someone uses your car and wrecks it? Well, Relay Rides has a supplemental insurance policy for $1 million that’s supposed to provide an umbrella on top of your own coverage in the event somebody wrecks your car.

The other issue: what if someone trashes your car, just treats it like a rolling garbage can? That’s kind of like being a landlord and having a tenant who messes up your place. The upside is, the rental income you can earn over the course of a month is up to $600 or $700 – just depends on how much you make your vehicle available.

Now, if you read this and it excites you, understand that you are a complete pioneer, and if the venture goes down the toilet, you could lose any money you’ve paid to get involved.

But I bring this up as a most unusual possibility. I put this in the same category as car wrapping, which a lot of people got excited about in the late 90s. There was a time when car wrapping was the #1 search on my website. It was the thing. All these entrepreneurial startups were going to pay you a monthly fee to allow them to wrap your car with advertising. And although it’s become a big business for small businesses, the idea of you as an individual getting paid for it didn’t pan out.

The question with Relay Rides is, can you set up what is essentially a rental car agency to compete against the big guys? That’s a tough uphill climb. But I love the thought behind it, if it pans out.

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