Uber took the ride-hailing industry by storm after in 2009. More than a decade later, the company is looking to shake up another industry: car rentals.
The San Francisco-based company first announced the full U.S. rollout of Uber Rent in April. The feature now lets users rent a car on the Uber app from providers like Avis, Hertz and more.
The feature was designed to streamline the rental car process, allowing users to skip the paperwork and access a rental car with the push of a button. Caleb Varner, global head of Uber Rent, told USA TODAY that his team continues to improve the new feature, like adding the ability to have rental cars delivered to users' front door.
“We want this to be super simple,” Varner said. "Our goal is to create an experience that you hit a couple (of) buttons, you get a car, (and) you’re on your way."
How does Uber Rent work?
Users can access rental cars on the Uber app by tapping the rent icon on the Uber app home screen. After entering their destination and dates, the app will showcase available options from dozens of rental car companies.
Prices vary by location, date and booking time, but Varner said the company aims to offer competitive pricing. Users will get 10% back in Uber Cash with Uber Rent bookings for a limited time, which can be used for rides and orders on Uber Eats. There’s also $10 credit on Uber rides to the rental car lots.
Uber Rent is “something particularly for people who are most interested in those credits, who already have a strong use case for Ubers in general,” Varner said. “They see the value in that.”
Varner hopes the app’s new feature opens doors to eliminate personal car ownership. About 8.6% of American households in 2019 did not have access to a vehicle, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
“It’s a really interesting option for those who are interested in getting rid of their personal cars for sustainability reasons or congestion reasons,” Varner said.
Rental car shortage: Ubers may have longer wait times
The rollout comes just in time for the busy summer travel season, which unofficially kicked off during Memorial Day weekend.
“We’re seeing just tremendous rental demand in the U.S. as travel picks up,” Varner said.
That demand has, in part, led to a rental car shortage in some tourist-heavy markets. Varner said it’s rare for users to not have a vehicle available after booking through Uber Rent, but noted that the company was monitoring the shortage.
"What that might mean is a longer wait than initially expected … but we're managing very closely with the rental companies," he said.
Varner added that Uber is also working with car rental companies to find a way to guarantee vehicle availability for users.
We're trying to "understand how we can potentially innovate in that area as well," he said.
What’s next for Uber Rent?
Uber is in the beginning stages of a valet service rollout through Uber Rent, which delivers rental cars directly to customers. When users are finished with the vehicle, a driver will meet them to pick it up.
The system is currently available in Washington, D.C., and is set to continue to launch in new jurisdictions throughout the second half of the year.
Varner called the valet feature the "secret sauce" to Uber Rent.
We're "making rental cars as easy as ordering an Uber," he said. "We think that’s going to be a game-changer."
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Rental car: Uber wants to shake up the industry with Uber Rent