German carmaker BMW announced last week that it would launch a pilot program which would allow consumers to rent its vehicles by the hour, following the trend toward short-term rentals for drivers in urban areas.
The Wall Street Journal reports that big-city drivers are becoming less numerous even as populations expand, with younger residents especially unlikely to own a vehicle. If such people do need to use a car, they are increasingly likely to turn to services like Zipcar. That company’s model covers cleaning, servicing, and car insurance costs, and BMW will follow suit, according to Reuters.
However, there will also be differences between the two offerings, the news agency reports. One key change is that BMW will charge consumers for their fuel, while Zipcar does not do so. On the other hand, Reuters says, BMW’s service will credit customers for bringing back rented vehicles early. Zipcar requires payment for the full reserved period of use, regardless of whether the car is returned early, according to the news agency.
Currently, BMW’s service is only going to be offered in Munich, though it could quickly become more widespread if it proves successful. The Journal says that the car company’s aim with the new program is to broaden its customer base into non-car owners and improve its brand standing in case rental customers decide to purchase cars of their own.
While most short-term rental services cover insurance costs on their own, consumers should be careful to make sure of this before they get behind the wheel, experts say. However, many car insurance policies cover drivers even while in a rental, though, once again, this is something that should be checked out in advance.