It seems a little flippant to talk about international travel right at the moment, given all that is going on in the world. But the following story comes from a time, late last year in fact, when we could travel.
We decided to put it together for you, to give you something to think about when you can travel again. Also, as a bit of an escape from the current lockdowns, shutdowns and lockouts around the world.
Cast your mind back, then, to October 2019…
CarAdvice was attending the annual SEMA show, as we tend to do each year, to take a look at the latest and greatest in the automotive aftermarket world.
Above: one of the many highly modified, race-ready Supras on display at last year's SEMA
Like CES, SEMA is also becoming a big deal for the manufacturers, and there’s always a bunch of cool stuff to take in. We usually shoot video while we’re there, and in 2019 we had our freelance crew along for the event.
You fly into LA and can then either catch a connection out to Las Vegas (as we’ve done a few times) or hire a car and drive out (as we prefer to do). A day or two in LA to acclimatise to the time zone, cruise the PCH, and generally relax before heading out to Vegas for SEMA is always a good idea. Oh, and eat some burgers. Do that, too.
If you do want to drive, though, you’re usually left in a massive line with everyone else picking up a hire car, which is the reality of LAX, one of the busiest airports in the world. Further, more often than not, you’ll end up with a pretty boring hire car.
We get asked all the time whether there is a way of accessing something interesting without spending a bomb, and truth be told, if we’re not there to review a new model, we hire a car just like everyone else. I’ve had tiny hatchbacks, a few Nissan Altimas, a six-cylinder Mustang, a few base-model Kia SUVs and a Camry. Plenty of excitement there.
Enter the Turo app, which refers to itself as ‘the world’s largest car-sharing app’.
First up, then, it was actually our crafty video crew who discovered the Turo app, so I have to credit them with a clever find and admit to having never heard of it before this trip. I’d usually head to one of the main rental car companies and book online without giving it a second thought.
Our drive started about 30 minutes from LAX, and then we headed into downtown Los Angeles for a quick meal before the drive out to Vegas. Me in my hired Altima, and the camera crew in a Hemi Challenger. Talk about the short straw…
Believe it or not, our Hemi Challenger only cost us USD$60 per day. Opt for the level-two insurance like we did, and you get a USD$500 excess and a USD$167 service charge.
Once you're signed into the Turo app and you've provided your photo ID and bank card details, the owner will contact you with the pick-up location.
Our Challenger's owner even offered to bring the car to the airport, but that adds between USD$50–$80 to the price and a taxi might be cheaper, so do your research there. Then again, being picked up directly from the airport lessens any potential hassles, especially if you’ve never flown into an airport like LAX before.
Finding a V8 Challenger was tricky for our crew, but there were plenty of V6s on offer. No surprise there, but a bit of sleuthing and searching turned up a Hemi V8.
According to our crew, the optional Mopar exhaust fitted to our hire car was ‘mega’. Given I was following it in what sounded like a vacuum cleaner, ask me and I’ll tell you it was just loud and obnoxious.
We spent the first day cruising around Venice, Santa Monica and Hollywood, before we headed to Vegas via Barstow – and the odd burger joint, of course. We told the owner ahead of time that we wanted to capture some dry lake bed imagery and video, and he was fine with that, so long as we cleaned the car before we returned it. Yes, it got dusty...
The whole Turo experience – especially given we were first-timers – was excellent. Communication is easy, you can pay for extra mileage, and the onus is on you to take the car back clean and as you found it, but that's the same as any other rental really.
When you're heading home, simply tee up a return time with the owner, and do what you did to collect the car, in reverse. It's all extremely easy and fast.
While the Turo experience won't work for everyone, it offers a really interesting point of difference to the regular rental experience through the big names you'd be familiar with. I've rented cars all over the world with Avis, Hertz, Budget, Europcar, Dollar, Enterprise and others, and the experience has always been positive.
It's not so easy to find a V8 muscle car, though.
So, we can't travel right now, but it's good to reminisce about when we could, in this case, SEMA 2019. As I write this, I’ve just received an email announcing SEMA 2020 being cancelled – evidence of how serious large gatherings are in the US.
Once we start to travel again, though, if you're heading to the States and you want to drive something a little different, do what our camera crew did and check out Turo.
Photos and video footage by Capture Factory, edit by CarAdvice