Have you heard of Silvercar? Wondered what sets them apart from traditional car rental companies?
Silvercar has set out to disrupt traditional car rental in the US. They tag themselves as “The World’s First Hassle-Free Car Rental Company”. Also “Car Rental the way it should be” and, a bit blunt but straight to the point, “Car Rental that doesn’t suck”.
This article originally highlighted 18 differences. Since then, Silvercar customers have highlighted 2 more that I hadn't identified. It's now updated to show the 20 differences that I have found.
I wanted to dig deeper and compare what they offer with traditional car rental companies. I've used Avis and Hertz for comparison. Note they are simply representative of traditional car rental companies. All the companies out there offer basically the same service with few exceptions.
If you want to jump straight to any of the 18 differences identified, the links below take you straight to the details.
20 Differences between Silvercar and traditional car rental companies:
- The car you drive.
- No line at the counter.
- No paperwork and nothing to sign.
- No up-sell pressure at the counter.
- Free additional drivers.
- No extra charges for drivers under 25.
- Free roadside assistance.
- Fair fuel policy.
- Free toll tracking.
- Free child seats.
- Free GPS.
- Free SiriusXM Satellite Radio.
- Free Wi-Fi Hotspot in the car.
- Free Ski Racks in Denver.
- Guaranteed Bluetooth Connectivity.
- The Little Things That People Love.
- Discount on your first rental.
- They pay you to recommend them to your friends.
- Pay when you return the car.
- The price.
Before I start I want you to know that this is not a paid piece for Silvercar. They have been very helpful in answering my questions but have not seen or had any input into this article.
Also note that I haven’t used the service myself yet. When are you coming to Boston I asked. They wouldn't tell me, but Amber Soletti, Director of Marketing and Communications said:
The biggest complaint we receive from our customers is that we're not in enough cities. We love that our loyal customers want us everywhere they travel and will continue to aggressively grow the airport car rental business to meet the growing demand and interest we're receiving.
Almost all of the information here can be found on each companies website. Some clarification of charges and procedures were sourced over the phone and via email where required.
I added Silvercar locations to RentalCarReviews.com recently. A number of their customers have already written reviews of their experience. So far, not a single negative review.
For example, Pastor Bernie Anderson penned a fantastic 4.9-star review of Silvercar at Denver International Airport after tweeting his thanks to the company.
This flies in the face of what I’m accustomed to seeing about car rental services in general.
After a couple of weeks of research and comparisons, I am impressed by what they offer travelers. The simplicity of their setup is a breath of fresh air. Finally it seems that a car rental company has not only thought about, but put the needs of the customer first.
And the price? Well, I’ll get to the price.
AN INTRODUCTION TO SILVERCAR
Silvercar launched in 2013. Based in Austin Texas, they have grown to 11 US locations including 10 major airports.
Following the success of a summer pop-up location in Brooklyn, Silvercar last week opened a new location in Manhattan for the fall which is currently scheduled to operate until early January 2016.
We think we have a great concept with The Easy Out in NYC that could have a permanent home in the city. We're evaluating the opportunity and hope to make a bigger announcement in the near future. ~ Amber Soletti, Director of Marketing and Communciations
Silvercar received the award for “Best Mobile Travel Strategy” from EyeForTravel in March 2015. In April, they took top honors at the Austin A-List Awards as one of Austin’s most promising start-ups.
Silvercar consistently maintains a Net Promoter Score (NPS) between 88-90. NPS is a management tool used to gauge the loyalty of a firm’s customer relationships.
That is, how likely is it that a customer will recommend the company to others.
You can find a short video that explains how Net Promoter Scores work here.
Put into perspective, a score of 90 is almost 4 times higher than the average NPS of other car rental companies. It's also almost 3 times higher than the next best score.
To rent a car with Silvercar, you can make a reservation either on their website or via their smartphone app. If you prefer to speak to someone, a 24-hour toll-free number (1-855-359-2227) is also available.
Bookings can be made and guaranteed up to 2 hours before pickup.
Choose the location, date and time you need to pick up and drop off the car. Something I love is their complete transparency over price. You can see the final price including a breakdown of all taxes and fees the moment you enter your rental details. This is right on the home page before you proceed to the next screen.
One click and you're booked. You receive a confirmation email from Silvercar asking you to confirm your email address and set up your profile with your driver's license details, credit card information and any insurance that you need.
After your first rental, preferences like insurance options are saved in your profile making the process is even faster for future bookings.
Each location is a bit different with regards where to pick up the car but they all seem to be convenient. At all locations, you can call or text Silvercar for instructions when you arrive or use the app to let them know that you're on your way. You will then be directed to a meeting point at the airport or asked to take the car rental shuttle to the Car Rental Center. Either way, a Silvercar Concierge will be waiting for you at the designated meeting point in a silver Audi A4.
Once you arrive at the car, you use the app to scan a QR Code on the windscreen which will unlock it. Silvercar Concierges are always available to help familiarize you with the Audi and it's features before you get underway.
No counters, no queues and nothing to sign. In fact, no face to face interaction at all unless you need it in which case a staff member is there to help.
Exact instructions for how to get to your car are in the Notes section on each of the Silvercar location pages on RentalCarReviews.com, listed below:
- Austin Bergstrom International Airport - AUS - Texas – USA
- Chicago O'hare International Airport - ORD - Illinois – USA
- Dallas Fort Worth International Airport - DFW - Texas – USA
- Dallas Love Field Airport - DAL - Texas – USA
- Denver International Airport - DEN - Colorado – USA
- Fort Lauderdale Hollywood International Airport - FLL - Florida – USA
- Los Angeles International Airport - LAX - California - USA
- Miami International Airport - MIA - Florida – USA
- New York City – Manhattan – West 42nd Street – New York - USA
- Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport - PHX - Arizona – USA
- San Francisco International Airport - SFO - California – USA
Time for the comparison with traditional car rental offerings. The Silvercar service is quite different from the normal car rental procedure that we’re all used to. Here’s how it works.
THE 20 DIFFERENCES
Before I start, it might sound in some of these examples like I’m picking on Avis and Hertz but I’m simply using them as examples of major car rental companies. Generally speaking, traditional car rental companies offer similar service and charge for roughly the same things, at roughly the same levels give or take a few dollars.
This one is clear. Instead of a myriad of options from a matchbox on wheels to cars that most of us can only dream of driving, you get a Silver Audi A4. That’s it, nothing to choose from, an Audi every time. No more “choose from what’s left on the lot”. If you have a reservation, you get a premium Audi.
There's no risk of the all too common "I'm sorry but we don't have any left of what you booked at the moment sir/madam. You can wait if you like or I can give you an upgrade." If the car you booked and confirmed is not available, the car rental company should upgrade you free of charge but more often than not they will try to charge you extra for the larger car.
Because it’s a current model Audi A4 you get all the luxury features included. Leather seats for example and Audi Quattro all-wheel drive. This will come in handy when winter arrives in cities like Denver and Chicago.
If you’ve rented from Silvercar previously and don’t need any help from a concierge you can go straight to the car. Use the Silvercar app on your smartphone, scan the QR code on the windscreen to unlock the car and away you go.
Waiting at the counter (sometimes for hours) is one of the most common complaints about car rental. It's definitely the most tweeted about inconvenience facing renters.
It's not an issue for Silvercar customers.
Everything is electronic. You choose the insurance you need when you make the booking and save your preferences in your profile for future rentals. No need to sign anything when you get the car.
The first time you rent, a Silvercar Concierge needs to physically see your credit card and driver’s license to confirm validity but after that first time, never again.
When you drop off the car, a Silvercar Concierge scans the car which ends the rental and generates a final receipt which is automatically emailed to you before you even leave the parking lot.
You haven’t had to line up and there’s nothing to sign so you also get to avoid the cat and mouse game of extra insurance scare tactics and add-ons at the car rental counter.
Since insurance decisions were made when you booked and there are no add-ons to consider, Silvercar customers completely avoid the oft-uncomfortable and intimidating encounter with the car rental rep.
This also removes the risk of you inadvertently signing for something that you didn't want, agree to or perhaps even specifically declined - a common complaint against traditional car rental companies.
Another biggie. All drivers have to be present when the car is picked up. They must have their license on them and be over 22 years of age but that’s it. There are no additional charges for extra drivers.
Avis charges $13 per day per additional driver up to a maximum of $65 and Hertz will ping you $13.50 per day up to a maximum of $94.50 – plus tax of course.
Note that additional drivers are free in California with Avis. Spouses and domestic partners are free with both Avis and Hertz. Your employer or fellow employee if you book under a corporate program are also free with both companies – complicated.
Put simply, if you and a friend both want to drive a traditional rental car it’s going to cost you plenty most of the time. Not with Silvercar.
The minimum age to rent with Silvercar is 22. You can rent from most traditional car rental companies under 25 but they charge you a hefty premium.
If you’re aged between 22 and 24 Silvercar won’t charge you anything extra. Both Avis and Hertz will charge you an extra $27 per day plus tax ($15 per day in Florida with Avis).
This is huge. Renting a car under the age of 25 has long been an expensive exercise. This policy makes Silvercar a viable option for younger drivers.
A renter aged 22-24 can, in fact drive an Audi A4 from Silvercar for the same or less than they can rent a tiny buzz box from the traditional car rental companies. If you are in this dreaded age group for renting, Silvercar may be your cheapest option…plus you get to drive an Audi!
To test the theory, I did the math on a 4 day rental over one of the busiest periods of the year for car rental - Thanksgiving weekend (November 25-29, 2015). Unfortunately Silvercar are already booked out in New York City for that weekend so there are no prices shown for them at that location.
I compared the cheapest cars available from Avis (Ford Fiesta MSRP $14,580) and Hertz (Chevrolet Spark MSRP $12,270) with the Silvercar Audi A4 (MSRP $35,900).
To keep it simple, the prices shown are for a basic rental. That is, no insurance options have been added and the cost of all the things you have to pay for from Avis and Hertz but get for free from Silvercar have not been taken into account. The young driver surcharge is included in the Avis and Hertz prices but not the cost of GPS, SiriusXM radio, Wi-Fi, additional drivers or child seats.
Note - each additional driver aged under 25 with Avis and Hertz will cost you an additional $27 per day plus tax ($15 per day with Avis in Florida) PLUS the additional driver fee. They are free with Silvercar as detailed above.
Also, I have used the Pay on Arrival price for Avis since this is the equivalent product to what Silvercar and Hertz offer. A discount is available if you pay in advance (at the time of booking) with Avis however if you need to cancel there are fees attached - $25 if you cancel more than 6 hours before the pickup time and $100 after that.
I also haven't factored in the first time renters discount available from Silvercar - see Difference #15 for details.
Here are the results including all taxes and fees (prices taken on October 31st, 2015):
As you can see, Silvercar is the cheapest at every location and not by just a little. Once you factor in the first time renters discount of $50 the difference more that covers an extra night on the town.
If you've seen enough and want to dive straight in and get a quote for you can do it here.
Another freebie included in the price that generally comes at an additional cost from other car rental companies.
For example, Avis charges $6.99 per day plus tax for this 'service'.
You have 2 options.
You can fill up the car yourself before you return it and pay nothing. This is the same for everyone including Avis and Hertz – unless you drive less than 75 miles during your rental. Then you have to produce the receipt showing that you filled up the car or they will automatically charge you $13.99….plus tax.
Intriguing new thievery policy from @Hertz: Don't get a receipt from gas station, get double-charged for gas.— daveweigel (@daveweigel) September 18, 2015
Your other option is to return the car with whatever’s left in the tank. Silvercar will refill it and charge you the gas cost plus a very reasonable $5 service fee.
There is one small catch. When you drive an Audi from Silvercar you are required to fill up with premium 89 Octane or higher fuel. If you let them do it, they will charge you the local rate plus $5 but it’s the Premium fuel rate, not standard unleaded.
If you return a traditional rental car less than full, they will charge an exorbitant rate per gallon to refill the car. This is often close to $10 per gallon.
@avis Just dropped off a car in orlando airport but forgot to fill gas. Even with upgrade refill is > $9 gallon? ?— Barry Wise (@BarryWise) August 31, 2015
There is one other option with a traditional car rental company – prepay for a full tank of fuel. The price per gallon is usually competitive with local gas stations. However whatever you leave in the tank when you return the car you donate to the car rental company. They won’t refund you for unused gas left in the tank. This is sometimes not clearly explained or understood by renters.
At Silvercar, toll tracking is free. Unheard of in car rental.
With Silvercar, just get in and drive. When you return the car, Silvercar remotely searches for tolls that you incurred during your rental and charges you for them and nothing more. No transponder fees, no service charges or administration fees, just the tolls you used.
Currently Avis charges $3.95 per day even on days when you don’t go through any toll gates. This caps at a maximum of $16.75 per month PLUS the cost of the tolls. Hertz is even more, $4.95 per day up to a maximum of $24.75 per rental plus tolls.
@Avis I see what you did there. My toll fees were $6.90, yet you found a way to charge me a ~$12 convenience fee as if I had another option.— paul arnhold (@parnhold) October 2, 2015
The photo below clearly shows the charges applied by some other companies. This example was uploaded by user as part of a review of Dollar Rent a Car at Orlando International Airport.
In this case, the total charge for tolls had the customer rented with Silvercar would have been $6.76 but with Dollar, the customer was charged $96.76 including $90 in 'administration fees'.
Child seats are a pain to travel with but necessary for safety and usually under the law.
Most car rental companies have them available but charge you extra for them. Both Avis and Hertz charge $13 per day plus tax.
Not at Silvercar. Free.
Because the Audi A4 has a built-in multimedia navigation system, you get GPS for free when you rent the car. Other traditional car rental companies will charge you between $14 and $17 per day plus tax.
It’s worth remembering that at airports in particular, all the different taxes and fees add up. At the airports where Silvercar operate, the lowest fees are at Miami International Airport at 7.5%. At the other end of the scale is Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport with a whopping 29.4% tax. This means that at PHX, GPS will cost you $21.98 PER DAY after tax with one company (*cough* Hertz) whilst it’s included for free with Silvercar.
Again, it comes with the car by default. A nice luxury that other car rental companies charge $7 or $8 per day plus tax for.
Remember the tax example above….
This is a nice perk if you have a limited data plan (which most of us do these days). Surf the web and download huge email attachments. Passengers can watch videos to their hearts content without having to worry about excess data charges.
I have searched and can’t find any current information about this but you used to be able to rent portable Wi-Fi units at least from Avis in the USA. Both Avis and Hertz offer them in Europe but I’m honestly not sure in the USA. Avis used to offer it for $10.95 per day plus tax but it seems to have disappeared as an option.
Denver International Airport is the main gateway to Colorado's 25 ski areas. These include famous areas like Breckenridge, Aspen, Steamboat, Telluride and Vail.
Ski racks for the rental car usually come at an additional cost. Avis charges $75 plus tax per rental and Hertz charges between $8 and $18 per day depending on your equipment.
During the winter months, Silvercar fit all cars with ski racks as a complimentary service for their customers. This is a substantial saving for snow hounds flying in and driving to their favorite mountain.
Of course, the A4 also has Audi Quattro All Wheel Drive by default providing a safe and secure driving experience in snowy conditions.
Access the media on your phone through the built-in premium sound system. Listen to your own music collection or podcasts (remember the free Wi-Fi). Take advantage of hands-free calling and texting. This is sometimes available from other car rental companies, it just depends on 'what’s left on the lot'. It’s guaranteed in the Audi A4 from Silvercar.
Remember that if you do pair your phone with any car that's not your own, to go into the car’s settings before you give the car back and delete the record of your phone. This will ensure that the next customer or the car's owner doesn’t have access to your phone number and call logs.
Silvercar has already thought about this so their customers don't need to worry about it.
Our Concierges delete personal customer information every time a car is returned. ~Amber Soletti, Director of Marketing and Communications
Silvercar customers rave about some of the seemingly small things that have left a lasting impression.
One customer reported that they will loan you an umbrella for the duration of your trip in rainy conditions. I don't know about you, but I hate traveling with an umbrella. Knowing that the car rental company will lend me one when I arrive is a nice touch.
Another Silvercar user on Instagram contacted me to let me know about something that saved him on a recent rental. Having forgotten his car charger, he found a Silvercar one in the car. So simple and a nice touch.
Silvercar offers first time renters a $50 discount on rentals of 2 or more days. The discount is valid at all locations.
This is $10 off per day for a 5 day rental or $25 for a 2 day rental which is substantial. At their current rates at Fort Lauderdale Airport for example, this discount amounts to 20.4% on a 5-day rental or a whopping 51% on a 2-day rental.
More than 50% off just to try them out is not bad at all. Put in perspective, Hertz will charge you $62 per day for a Chevrolet Spark and Avis the same price for a Ford Fiesta for the same 2-day midweek FLL rental. This makes $24 per day for an Audi A4 look ridiculously cheap in comparison.
Once you set up your profile on the Silvercar website or smartphone app, they provide a code and URL that you can give to your friends. When your friend completes their first rental, Silvercar will put $25 in your PayPal account as thanks for referring a new customer. Not only that, your friend also gets $25 deposited to their PayPal account as well.
Uber and Lyft come to mind as companies that exploded their user base using similar promotions but I can't remember ever seeing a traditional car rental company make an offer like this.
If you'd like to take advantage of this and get $25 back on your first rental, my referral code is DMURDOCH or you can click here.
To be clear, if you do this I will also get $25.
When you pick up the car, Silvercar will take a pre-authorization on your credit card for the amount of the rental plus a very reasonable $200 deposit to cover tolls and fuel in case you incur these charges. It’s only when you return the car that your card is charged.
Most traditional car rental companies will charge your credit card for the full rental when you pick up the car and then process a second payment after you return for extras like tolls and fuel.
Comparing car rental prices is complicated at the best of times, even when you have more than 10 years of experience doing just that as your full-time job. All of the free inclusions that you get from Silvercar make it even more complex when trying to compare apples with apples from a traditional car rental company.
I have compared the price of Silvercar with what Avis and Hertz offer at the 11 locations where Silvercar operates. All prices are accurate as of October 31st, 2015.
There are a few things to know about my rationale before I get to the numbers.
To be overly fair to Avis and Hertz I have used their Full Size cars for comparison. This puts Silvercar at a distinct disadvantage. Their Audi A4 has a MSRP of $35,900 and I’m comparing that to a Ford Fusion from Avis at $22,600 and a Chevrolet Malibu from Hertz at $22,465.
I should really use the Luxury offerings from the other companies, 2 car groups higher. Avis uses a Ford Taurus ($27,055) as their Premium car and a Lincoln MKS ($38,850) in the Luxury class. Hertz has as Premium a Chevrolet Impala ($27,095) and in the Luxury class, a Buick LaCrosse ($31,065). Had I done this however my charts would struggle to fit on the screen!
I have done the comparison using a 4-day rental over Thanksgiving weekend - pick up at 7pm on Wednesday November 25th and drop off at 7pm on November 29th. I have used the Pay on Arrival prices for both Hertz and Avis as these are equivalent products to that offered by Silvercar.
Avis and Hertz both offer discounts at times if you pay in advance (at the time of booking) however if you need to cancel, penalties apply.
For Hertz, if you cancel more than 24 hours before your pickup time, a $50 cancellation fee applies. Cancel within 24 hours and the fee is $100. If you forget to cancel you don't get any refund at all.
Cancellation terms from Avis are not quite as harsh. If you cancel more than 6 hours before your rental you will incur a $25 cancellation fee. If you cancel within the 6 hour window or forget to cancel and don't show up, a $100 cancellation/no-show fee applies.
Note - these cancellation fees only apply if you choose to pay in advance to avail yourself of a discount if offered. There are no cancellation fees attached to any of the prices I have used for Avis or Hertz in the charts below.
Silvercar never imposes any cancellation fees.
I have shown 2 prices for Silvercar. The first factors in the $50 first time renters discount and the second assumes a regular rental for a return customer with no discount. No prices are shown for their New York City location as the are already fully booked over Thanksgiving.
To begin, I looked at a basic rental. This assumes that the renter doesn’t need anything other than the car – no GPS, SiriusXM radio, Wi-Fi, Roadside Assistance, Toll transponder, child seats or additional drivers. Also, no insurance whatsoever. The renter in this example would be relying on their personal auto insurance policy, credit card coverage and/or a third party insurance product purchased elsewhere.
All taxes and fees are included.
Next, I added the cost of some of the additional products and services that Silvercar include for free to the results for Avis and Hertz. Not all of them, that would be ridiculous, at least the results would be.
Of course, not every renter needs everything or would be willing to pay extra for them anyway. Therefore, I added the things that every renter gets from Silvercar and excluded the things that may not be applicable at all for some renters.
Here is what I have included and excluded:
- GPS rental is included.
- SiriusXM Satellite Radio is included.
- Roadside assistance is included.
- Additional drivers are NOT included (free from Silvercar, not free with others).
- Young driver surcharges are NOT included (free from Silvercar, not free with others).
- The cost of child seats are NOT included (free from Silvercar, not free with others).
Finally, I took the results above and added all insurance options for all 3 companies.
In other words, the below chart shows the final price from each company assuming the rental includes GPS, SiriusXM Radio, Roadside assistance and insurance to cover people and property - the car, the driver, the passengers, all of their stuff and other people who may be injured in an accident and all of their stuff as well.
Here are the results of what I would consider to be a complete peace of mind inclusive rental where the renter has absolutely nothing to worry about in case of an accident:
There's not much to say about the results. The charts speak for themselves.
There isn't a single location where the regular price from Silvercar for their premium Audi A4 is higher than a regular Full Size from the other companies.
In a number of cases, Silvercar is less than half the price of either Hertz or Avis. There really is nothing more to say.
Silvercar have introduced a model that is the first truly innovative change that the self-drive car rental industry has seen in as long as I can remember.
Stress points for the consumer from booking through to drop off and everything in between have been virtually eliminated.
The most complained about aspects of renting a car are almost entirely removed under the Silvercar model. It makes sense that their customers seem to be thrilled with the service they are receiving from the company.
Are there complaints against the company? I'm sure there are. Nothing goes to plan 100% of the time. I can tell you though that I monitor a variety of social media channels on a daily basis and I am yet to see a single complaint. A quick look at any other car rental companies Twitter mentions tells an entirely different story.
A few questions arise about the potential long-term success of the company. They have been up and running for more than 2 years now and are still growing but how profitable or sustainable the current model is remains to be seen.
As Silvercar continues to grow its brand awareness, some things may have to change.
There is a limit to the number of cars that can operate out of a particular location. Cars have to be parked, cleaned, re-fuelled.
As locations and fleet sizes hit saturation point I suspect prices will have to increase. Nothing hurts a brand more than having nothing available every time you need to rent a car because they are so popular that they are constantly fully booked.
The obvious answer to this is to manage demand by increasing the price. It's clear that there is plenty of room to do this compared with what other major companies are charging for what is currently an inferior product.
In the meantime, Silvercar customers are benefiting from a premium car and convenient service at an incredibly competitive price.
Personally, I hope they succeed and continue with rapid expansion to new cities and airports in the US, maybe even internationally. It makes me smile that a car rental company is operating with the customer experience front and center.
They have turned the 'squeeze every penny out of every customer' model on its head.
Traditional car rental companies are clearly not competing with Silvercar on price at this stage. Are they worried? I don't know but if Silvercar continues to grow, they should be.
If you've already rented with Silvercar, please share your experience in a review of the location you rented from as well as any #silvershots you may have taken during your travels.
What do you think? Would you rent with Silvercar? Where should they be opening new locations? Do the traditional car rental companies need to adapt and change or should they not be worried? I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments.