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FlightCar: Get Paid to Park at an Airport?

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I love the new sharing economy. Don't know what that is? It's websites that allow you lend and trade something that you have excess of for straight cash homey. For example, if you have a spare room in your house, you can list it on Air BNB and get some money. It's a win-win, the person renting the space out gets a little mortgage help and the person staying at the place typically saves money from hotel prices. The room that was going to waste isn't wasted any longer.

I recently wrote about a dog boarding service, DogVacay that does something similar with dog owners taking on other dogs for extra cash. Last week, I used it with my dog and the young lady had a small business set up around it.

On that trip, my wife and I decided to try a sharing website called FlightCar. Here's how it works. It's like typical airport parking except it is free. Why free? Because they'll be able to rent out your car to someone else while you are gone. If they actually rent out your car, you make a little money (depending on the car and how old it is). If they don't, well, you got free parking. Genius, right? They take care of cleaning and insurance. There are some larger questions like the hit you take in the value of your car once it has been in an accident (even if repaired).

Parking around Login airport in Boston can set you back around $15 a day, so for our 5-day trip, this was going to save us $75 even if no one rented our car. We were driving a clunker, so we only stood to get another $10 for the entire trip if it rented. I'm all-in for saving $75 and getting a cleaned car out of it.

When we left the house, our GPS had us at FlightCar's destination at around 4:50PM, but by the time we got there, we were bumped right against the 6:15 check-in time that FlightCar gave us for our flight. Traffic and accidents were not in our favor. We pulled into the FlightCar location at 6:14, except for the fact that there was no FlightCar there. The address was some dead-end street and nothing resembling any kind of parking lot was there. We called FlightCar to get further directions. No answer, just leave a number. My wife called again, this time trying the emergency roadside assistance line - we were desperate as we our flight was leaving soon. No answer, just leave a number.

Tensions rose, I'm fairly sure we accused of FlightCar for all that is wrong or will ever be wrong with the world. We gave up on FlightCar and headed back to the terminal to park. The fastest parking I could find was in their premium parking area. On most days, it would have been really fast, but since it was so close to the terminal each car needed to be inspected. There was only car in front of us, which was fortunate. What was unfortunate is that the young lady couldn't open her trunk for the inspectors. It seemed to have gotten stuck. It was at this point that my wife had to comment on her apparent lack of intelligence. Being the eternal optimist, I tried to focus on her incredible aesthetic qualities. After a few minutes, it seemed like the inspectors either gave up or fell for those qualities as they never got the trunk open (not sure how she was going to get luggage out to fly, that will forever be a mystery).

The premium parking area was $27 a day. FlightCar had gone from saving us money to costing us money. The wild-goose chase left our flight in doubt and it was the last of the evening (Virgin America doesn't have that many flights to SFO a day). With baby in his stroller and all our luggage we managed to rush to the counter with literally one minute to spare... until the "good" news hit. Our flight had been delayed two hours due to clean up work of the plane from the crash the week before. I don't know if anyone had been so happy to see their flight delayed. We had enough time to go move our car to cheaper parking, and at least save about $35. Little did we know that this delay would still cost us money, but that's a story for another day, maybe later this week.

FlightCar did call us back and confirmed that we had the right address, but were in the wrong place. Maybe it was a problem with Magellan's GPS data. If so, the only thing I can really be upset with FlightCar about was not manning their phones. We've decided that we may give them another shot at some point. If we do, we'll give ourselves even more time and check the address with Google and Bing Maps to ensure we are going to the right place.

Posted on July 22, 2013.

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4 Responses to “FlightCar: Get Paid to Park at an Airport?”

  1. Whoa, that was a lot of stress! I’ve been panicked by not being able to find the rental car return place with just minutes to spare for getting to the gate on time.

    Maybe if we had a clunker that no one would want to rent I’d try it. My husband does most of the work on our vehicles and is very picky about anyone else driving them. No way he would go for this.

    Better luck next time! Hope it works out for you!

  2. Tommy Z says:

    Nice to see an article on this! I heard about this company on the Peter Schiff Radio show (SchiffRadio.com) just a few days ago. It’s a great concept assuming the government doesn’t try to shut it down.

  3. Lazy Man says:

    Maggie,

    I had a friend tell me I was officially crazy for thinking about it. I said I was officially insane for 3000 other reasons. He agreed and said that’s the one he’s picking to use this week though. I figure if people are letting strangers live with them via AirBnB and it’s successful, this has at least as much or more chance.

    Tommy Z,

    I think the rental car companies will want them to play on a level playing field an pay applicable airport taxes for being a rental car company. That seems reasonably fair to me.

  4. James P says:

    Kinda like relayrides for airports… I used FlightCar a few weeks ago and left our car at SFO for 2 weeks. Great experience and would definitely rent out our car through Flight Car again!

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