Bottom line: Gig work is an incredibly popular way to earn some extra income, but it is becoming increasingly more complex and risky. Side hustles used to consist of menial tasks like delivering pizzas a few nights a week, bagging groceries, babysitting, or mowing lawns for some extra money. These days, aspiring entrepreneurs are leveraging technology platforms for more sophisticated ventures like renting out homes and automobiles, and putting themselves at great financial risk to do so.
The idea of renting out a spare vehicle has attracted thousands to sites like Turo or Getaround and for many, it works as intended. Others envision going toe to toe with car rental giants like Enterprise or Hertz and start amassing large fleets of vehicles to build their empire, only to realize that issues compound at scale.
The Wall Street Journal recently ran a story on the subject and stumbled across multiple horror stories. One vehicle owner said they had to retrieve a stolen car that was driven up the West Coast and abandoned at the Canadian border. Another said their Maserati was crashed into a wall and totaled, while a third owner spoke about a vehicle involved in a shooting.
Renters also have to contend with expenses like cleaning, insurance, and maintenance / repairs, all of which eat into revenue. There is also the risk associated with financing for those who are leveraging credit to build their rental fleets.
Dan Hurlbert, who used Turo to rent out high-end vehicles, grew tired of the service after about a year and tens of thousands of dollars in losses. "Turo makes you think it's going to be all sunshine and rainbows, and it just isn't," he said. "When the reality of it sets in, you're like, 'This sucks.'"
Chris Mullins, a Turo user that rents out his Polaris Slingshot four to six times per month for about $100 a day, said he is breaking even after factoring in his monthly note and the cost of upkeep. Down the road, however, he believes there is potential to come out ahead once more people learn about the service.