Thursday, July 25, 2013
How Hubber's Airport Parking Turns Parking Pain Into Parking Profit
Story by Benjamin F. Kuo
If you travel a lot, or for long periods of time, you know how expensive it is to park your car at the airport. Usually, you pay lots of money to park your car in a dusty airport parking lot, and at the end, all you have is a dirty car, and less money in your pocket. How about if you could, instead of spending money on parking, actually make money? That's the idea behind Hubber (www.drivehubber.com), a brand new startup which recently launched at LAX, which lets you turn your airport parked car into a source of revenue--by letting other travelers like yourself rent those cars out. We spoke with founder and CEO Paul Davis on what the startup is all about.
What is Hubber?
Paul Davis: Hubber is a peer to peer, car rental service which is based at the airport. We looked at the market, and saw that most peer-to-peer car sharing services were city based. Instead, we wanted to look at the area of people going out of town for a duration of time, and people coming in for a duration of time. Matching vehicles leads to huge efficiency and cost savings. That's how we developed the project. So, if a passenger is traveling out of town, they can park with us. Travelers are then able to reserve that car. The outbound traveler gets free parking and a car wash, as well as a cut of the revenue, and the inbound traveler gets a better car than they'd get from a rental car or agency, at a competitive price--without the hassles of traditional car rental.
We bundle in insurance, and provide far more competitive rates than rental car companies. And, you also get things in a car that are inherent to a city you're traveling in. Coming to Los Angeles, lots of people have surfboard racks. In San Francisco, they might have a bike rack. You'll get a car with a sunrroof, and GPS--anything the owner has installed in their car, the renter also has access to. It's much more dynamic, and superior to the traditional business of providing car rentals. We're trying to create a better rental car experience, and serve as an alternative to people who are traveling out of town. Instead of paying to travel, we'd rather pay them.
What's the story behind this?
Paul Davis: I am in the film production business, and get lots of time off. In between jobs, I had leased a ski cabin in Tahoe with a friend. We'd fly up every week or so, and leave our car at the airport. But, we ended up renting a car every time. If a snowstorm came in, we'd have to rent chains for that week. Finding a car was a hassle, and every week it became an issue. The second thing, was we had to to park the car at the airport. It ended up being cheaper to leave a second car in Tahoe than renting a car every time. My other friend, who was sharing the lease with me, often would take the car when I was in town and I wasn't, to cut down on the parking expense. So, basically, they got a free rental car, and I didn't have to pay for parking when they were using it. That's kind of how the whole notion evolved. I didn't see anyone out there doing something like this, and I thought lots of people could take advantage of that, making more efficient use of resources. So, I thought, let's explore this and see if there's something there.
What's the value proposition for an owner of a car to do this?
Paul Davis: Their options are, take a taxi or Uber rountrip to the airport, which will cost you something like $100. Or, instead of that, you could park for ten days at the airport, and pay $150. This way, instad of paying $100 to $150, you get free airport parking, and it's no cost for you to transport yourself to the airport. Your car is washed when you return, fueled when you get back, and you get a cut of the rental, which can range everywhere from $10 to $30 a day, depending on when your car is in use. So, that gets you up to $30 a day, plus a washed and fueled car, saving you a trip to the carwash.
Where is this available now?
Paul Davis: We're in Los Angeles right now, and just opened up a location in LAX. Next on our list is San Francisco. We have a West Coast focus right now, particularly since California, Oregon, and Washington are really favorable to car owners and protect car sharing. Those favorable regulations are what will give us our West Coast expansion. Outside of that, we'll be looking at point-to-point airports, airports which have lots of cross traffic, so that someone leaving a car in LA with us might fly to SFO and rent a car, and vice versa.
Can you talk about the aspect of insurance?
Paul Davis: Insurance is a key component of this. Owners have zero liability. It covers them, including comprehensive and collision. They get the car back in 100 percent the same condition as they left it in, so they have no issues. Renters are also protected. Normally, renters get no liability coverage, and have to pay anywhere from $6.50 to $26.00 a day for liability. Instead, all of that is bundled into our rate, which offers a $500 deductible for collision. It's a far superior rental experience, with zero liability, and nothing at risk.
How is the startup funded so far?
Paul Davis: It's all been internal up to this point, as we've decided to go to market or not.
Did the popularity of other, peer-to-peer services encourage you to start the company?
Paul Davis: It's more inspiration than the concept itself, and this specific market with airports. I've never seen anything like what we're doing. But, I'm a fan of shared resources. I've been in film production, and we'll often shoot out of town, and my responsibility has been to find and rent a place from someone else, get a rental car, and at the same time leave my own car back in Los Angeles. I'd already been doing this on my own before the peer to peer companies, and was bought into the concept of resource sharing. It's not necessarily about saving money over alternatives, but it's getting much better service. It's the same way I look at what we're doing. We're much better than a rental car, in a similar way to how AirBnB is much better than a hotel. I think you end up finding something which is much more personal in the peer-to-peer marketplaces, rather than going the traditional route. All of the companies in this area are trying to promote new ways of doing business, providing more individualized and superior service, for the same price. I think that's why so many companies have embraced others who are doing the same thing.
What's the biggest thing you've learned in launching the service?
Paul Davis: We learn every day. My background is not really in rental cars, so every rental brings up its own challenges. But, we're getting there, and we're focused on building out the Los Angeles market, and expanding aggressively from there. We're going one day at a time.