We’ve all experienced the nightmare of landing at our destination of choice only to be confronted by cramped shuttles, long lines, subpar cars and countless fees and add-ons when renting a car. Major rental companies such as Hertz, Enterprise and Avis have relied on their incumbent status and prime airport locations for far too long and have had little reason to innovate or streamline their offerings, all to the detriment of the customer. Enter Silvercar, the Austin-based car rental company that is looking to shake up the $10 billion airport car rental market by leveraging technology to address the major customer complaints of traditional rental companies.
Silvercar, which bills itself as “the world’s first hassle-free car rental company,” has done this by focusing on simplicity, consistency and transparency. They offer just one vehicle option–a silver Audi A4–priced at a flat rate per day without any hidden fees or add-ons. Every car includes GPS, SiriusXM satellite radio, in-car WiFi and gas refills that are charged at cost plus a reasonable $5 fee. Now at 11 airports, the company connects with users upon landing via their app and sends a driver to the airport for curbside pickup. After a quick stop at the nearby company office, the driver says farewell, the customer scans a QR code on the window and they’re off.
The company has successfully differentiated its offering from that of competitors by focusing on the customer experience and delivering a superior product at a comparable price. The service is especially attractive for frequent business travelers who place a premium on ease of use and access to a high-quality automobile. Their focus on technology, both in-car and integrated into their consumer app, has allowed them to more easily fulfill their customer promise while keeping overhead costs low.
As the company grows, there are obvious areas for expansion beyond their current operations. It would be easy to see them leverage their app to allow for even more immediate on-demand booking, and expanded pick-up locations beyond just airports. There are, of course, logistical hurdles to ensure there are sufficient drivers available for quick pick-ups and drop-offs as the company scales, but this is certainly not an insurmountable issue.
Since launching in 2013, Silvercar has leveraged technology to simplify the airport rental car experience and has markedly demonstrated that there are alternatives to the incumbent rental companies. If nothing else, these legacy companies will need to closely monitor Silvercar’s operations and identify best practices they can then implement into their own businesses. Because as Silvercar expands and reaches a scale where they can offer their superior rental product at an as-good or better price, there will be few reasons for customers to choose an alternative.