The car hire industry is one that will be familiar to most people. You book your car from the website, make your way to wherever the nearest depot is, fill out a bunch of forms while trying to avoid ticking boxes for hidden extra charges, then end up with a car that’s probably different from the one your ordered.
I’m pretty sure that no-one has ever enjoyed the car rental process, but a new car hire start-up is hoping to change that.
Whitecar is launching in August, and claims that its model will change the way we think about car hire. The company will be running a fleet of white (naturally) Tesla Model S electric vehicles, and you will be able to have a car delivered to your door at no extra cost if you live within 50 miles of the depot.
Even better, you will be able to leave the car anywhere you like within 50 miles of the depot rather than returning it. Given that the first depot is going to be at Heathrow, that is a big selling point. Going anywhere near Heathrow is like being sucked into a black hole of misery (and it’s only going to get worse if the airport expansion ever goes ahead), so the fact that Whitecar will collect the car from your house or wherever you decide to leave it is a huge bonus.
The company also says that its pricing model will be simple and transparent, which will be a nice change from the usual car hire experience if they can pull it off. The model is based on an American car hire outfit called Silvercar, although the two appear to be unrelated.
White Car is currently running a CrowdCube campaign seek investment in its plans, which involve establishing a total of 20 sites across the UK and Germany within three years.
The novelty of being able to rent the very latest version of the Tesla Model S – which hasn’t even gone on sale in the UK at time of writing – is another clever tactic. As the only genuinely desirable electric car in production today (which no-one is ever likely to say about a Nissan Leaf or Renault Zoe), the Tesla Model S 90D also has a range of 300 miles, meaning that it is a viable option for long-distance driving. At present, rapid-charging facilities in the UK are still pretty thin on the ground compared to the USA, so if you want to rent a Tesla for a week to do a European road trip then it will still involve careful planning. Likewise, if you want to charge a Tesla at home then it’s a slow old process (about 28 hours for a full charge).
On the surface, this new car hire start-up looks promising. Whitecar claims it will be charging a flat rate of £149/day, and a quick check of five rival rental companies for comparable vehicles (Mercedes-Benz E-Class or similar) suggests that its pricing is exceptionally cheap. Will the company be able to maintain this pricing or will we see the costs increasing sharply after launch?
Whitecar has invited The Car Expert to review its service once it is ready to roll out, and I look forward to reporting on whether it is able to deliver on its claims. The car hire sector is certainly ripe for a revolution, so maybe Whitecar will be the company to deliver it.