© Jacob Erpf

TripCar – The Airbnb for Cars

The original concept for Airbnb is pretty well known by now: a person rents out their own home over the platform and has the opportunity to earn a bit of money while away. If the concept works with lodging, then why not try it with cars? This is a question that three (former) students of the Technical University of Munich also asked themselves – and founding TripCar was their answer; the self-appointed Airbnb for cars.

More than enough available: parked cars at an airport (© TripCar)

Driving to the airport with your own car and leaving it in a parking garage for a few days might be convenient – but also expensive.  The standard parking fees at the Munich Airport run €19/day. Basically, your car just sits there in a parking spot for days where it takes up space, costs money and is not used. On the whole, it is not very effective. The time has come for an intelligent solution. Much like the one offered by TripCar, the self-appointed Airbnb for cars.

TripCar was started by three young founders who met while studying at the Technical University of Munich: Fabien Rozzi (28), David Gölz (25) and Nilson Silva (32). Together, they participated in a business plan seminar at UnternehmerTUM, which they won with their business idea for an Airbnb for cars. That proved to be motivation enough to follow up on the idea.

TripCar: park for free and earn money

TripCar unites supply with demand (© TripCar)

TripCar works like this: customers arrive with their own car and park it at the airport for free. While they are away, they offer their car to other travelers as a rental car on the platform. The advantage for car owners: they no longer have to pay expensive parking fees, and can earn a little money while they are gone. The advantage for those renting from TripCar: they pay up to 50% less than for a standard car rental.  It sounds like a definite win-win situation.

Of course, there have still been challenges for the young company to overcome. A particular challenge was being able to convince an insurance company of their idea. Fabien from TripCar commented:

“A privately owned car is still sacred to German drivers, which is why it is extremely important to gain our customers’ trust by offering good insurance. Insurance companies have not had much experience with car-sharing models, which makes them more reserved. With a lot of patience, however, we were able to win over one of the largest German insurance companies. Now every car is 100% insured with us. Our insurance covers any damage caused during the rental period and a person’s own car insurance remains unaffected.”

In addition to 100% insurance coverage, TripCar hopes to persuade car owners with their full-coverage service: the entire arrangement is performed on the platform. That includes transportation of the car owner to their terminal, checking the rental agreement, handing over keys and verifying the condition of the car. Every car will also be cleaned for free before being returned to its owner.

The concept of an Airbnb for cars is not actually new: FlightCar from San Francisco has been on the market for a few years and operates in 12 locations in the US. The business model was so successful that Daimler took over the company for an estimated 100 million dollars. Still, there is no need to reinvent the wheel:

“Just because someone had the same idea on a different continent does not mean that it cannot also be implemented in Europe. In Germany, we’re the first.”

was Fabien’s confident stance on the matter.

The vision: making mobility more of an experience

TripCar is not currently active on the market, as it is still in the planning stage. The young startup plans to start operating in the beginning of 2017. Until they officially launch, the founders are not holding back with their idea, but are instead actively showcasing it. One of many examples of their persuasive talents is the “Elevator Pitch” in Stuttgart, where they took third place.

3rd place at the Elevator Pitch (© TripCar)

The entrepreneurs view their chances for turning their business model into a successful business as positive. The market already exists with 100,000 cars being parked at Europe’s largest airports. The demand for rental cars is also promising: at the Munich Airport alone, revenue in the tens of millions is generated annually. They are also convinced that “sharing economy” will continue to spread and that the consumer behavior of many individuals will change in the long term. The young founders always keep their eyes firmly on their vision, as Fabien clarified:

“Companies like Uber, Airbnb and Blablacar have established themselves. By offering the highest quality of service, we want to be the largest marketplace that makes it possible for travelers to share their cars. We firmly hold onto our vision of making mobility even more of an experience.”

We look forward to finding out if Germans are prepared to rent out their favorite member of the family — their car — for a short period of time. After all, they are already letting “strangers” stay in their homes — so the odds are looking good.

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Regina Bruckschlögl

Nach eigenen Startup-Erfahrungen blickt sie als Redakteurin von Munich Startup nun aus einer anderen Perspektive auf die Münchner Startup-Szene – und entdeckt dabei jeden Tag, wie vielfältig das Münchner Ökosystem ist. Startup Stories, die erzählt werden wollen!

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