Carsharing is gaining ground in Maine

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Douglas Mackell was nearing his final stop as an Uber driver in 2019 when one of his passengers introduced him to a new note. – Turo, said the passenger. “I’m taking your Uber to pick up my Turo. “

Turo, Mackell learned, is one of many carsharing apps, such as Getaround, Avail, and Car2Go, that allow car owners to rent their cars online when they’re not using it – essentially airbnb. for cars.

A seasoned concert worker, Mackell knew of an opportunity when he saw it. He bought a new car to continue making deliveries and listed his old car on Turo.

“It absolutely blew up,” said Mackell, of Westbrook. “So I decided to strike while the iron was hot, and in two months I bought four cars.”

Amid a nationwide car rental shortage that has driven travelers to seek cheaper alternatives, ridesharing platforms are on the rise and Maine concert workers are expanding beyond four wheels.

While the majority of carpoolers own fewer than two cars and use ridesharing to get extra cash to pay off car loans or other debts, workers like Mackell, who invest in a mini-fleet of cars, are plunging their funds. toes in a US car rental market that’s estimated at $ 39.9 billion in 2021, according to IbisWorld.com, an industrial research company.

With the recent growth of carsharing, the state of Maine is trying to cope with a multitude of insurance regulations.

On June 27, Governor Janet Mills promulgated a bill updating regulations set out in Maine’s original carsharing legislation in 2019. This first step has been encouraged by concerned car rental companies, such as Hertz and Enterprise, as part of an effort to weaken carpooling platforms in Maine and across the country. But the law left gaps in liability coverage and lacked important protections for consumers.

Updates to the most recent version of the law are based on a national model developed by the country’s major insurance and carsharing companies and adopted by 11 other states. The legislation guarantees coverage for drivers and car owners during the carsharing period and continues to exempt suppliers and car owners from vicarious liability, or from being held financially responsible for the actions of others.

The new law also includes additional consumer protections, such as mandatory record keeping and disclosure, and clarifies the distinction between standard car rental companies and carsharing platforms – a big win for the car industry. carsharing, which now faces similar battles across the nation.

In 2019, the car rental industry argued that carsharing platforms should be defined as car rental companies and subject to similar sales taxes. Turo, the largest carsharing provider in Maine, argued that it is fundamentally different from a car rental company because the carsharing companies don’t actually own any cars and private car owners don’t benefit. not the tax exemptions that car rental companies do.

“Maine has made a decision to regulate the peer-to-peer carsharing industry differently from car rental companies,” said Lou Bertuca, head of government relations at Turo. “More than a dozen states have decided to make the same decision, ensuring that traditional leasing doesn’t dictate the terms of the regulations and trying to stifle the growth of this emerging industry.”

The trade organization that represents the car rental industry, the American Car Rental Association, did not respond to a message from a reporter seeking comment.

The Maine Trial Lawyers Association opposed the new law. The association raised concerns about the vicarious liability exemption and a reduction in required minimum insurance protections from three times the state minimum to just equal to the state minimum, which she saw as favoring car-sharing providers and not consumers in Maine.

“The Maine Trial Lawyers Association is excited about the potential ways that ridesharing programs can benefit Maine residents and the Maine environment,” the association said in a statement. “However, we opposed the recent legislation because it struck down protections for consumers and future victims, in the fledgling two-year law, at their expense and in favor of insurance companies and corporations.”

The association said it plans to pursue legislation to “restore consumer rights and correct legal ambiguities which we believe will create confusion in the courts if not corrected.”

Meanwhile, with the resurgence of summer travel in Maine and car rental prices soaring, carsharing hosts are already seeing a surge in demand.

Portland resident Jeffrey Laverdiere and his 13-year-old son Sam, his primary assistant, currently own and operate a fleet of 15 cars on Turo. According to Laverdière, their cars are reserved until the fall.

Depending on the make, model and year of the car, Laverdière charges between $ 20 and $ 60 per day.

Turo is promoting that its platform offers rentals on average about 20% below the average for car rental companies, but this summer some of the remaining cars in Portland are over $ 100 a day.

With 15 cars, Laverdière charges a lower price and says his listings are about half of what is offered by the local traditional car rental market.

But the money earned with carsharing is not always easy. Hosts who manage fleets have to deal with a heap of auto debt, maintenance costs, and parking. And most importantly, they must have a high tolerance for headaches.

Three years ago, during its fourth rental on Turo, Laverdière’s car was stolen by a drug dealer. Fortunately, after two months, with the help of Turo, Liberty Mutual and a repossession company, he was able to get the car back in good condition.

Now a seasoned carsharing host, Laverdière and his son understand what it takes to successfully manage a carsharing fleet. According to Laverdière, there are three elements to its success:

“You must have a great knowledge of all the support applications to help you track your expenses and deductions, you must have a good tax accountant – don’t try it yourself – and you absolutely must have connections, mechanics. , people who are ready to be flexible and to help you.

Above all, Laverdiere thanks the mechanics at Gorham’s garage who work to keep his fleet serviced and repaired when problems arise.

Laverdière and her son now leave their cars in undisclosed locations across town and allow their guests to collect their cars by accessing a key in locked boxes on the cars.

He said they were making around $ 1,100 per month per car, with around 30-40% spending in the first year, due to extra maintenance to upgrade the cars, and 20% spending by the car. after. Laverdiere said he plans to eventually increase his fleet to 30 cars.

“We are right on the brink of what I consider a tsunami, and I am conservative,” he said.


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