DAVE MATTINGLY, HOST:
Perhaps you've heard of the company Air BnB. People rent out their house or apartment short term to visitors who might otherwise stay in a hotel. This year, the car became the new frontier for sharing services. Companies like Uber now help you find someone to drive you where you need to go. Another service lets you rent out our own car, like a Zipcar while you're at work.
In the coming year, you may hear about a company called FlightCar. NPR's Chris Arnold reports.
CHRIS ARNOLD, BYLINE: The idea behind FlightCar is this. Instead of paying to park your car at the airport, if you bring it to FlightCar, you can park for free and they'll try to rent the car out to other people while you're away so you and the company can some make money from the rental.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: (Unintelligible) the car. If someone does end up renting you car, you're going to get an email saying, you know, hey, your car's been rented. So when they return the car, I'm going to pull out all your pictures and confirm that the car is exactly the way you left it.
CONSTANCE MUSSELLS: Thank you.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Awesome.
ARNOLD: Constance Mussells from Rhode Island has just pulled into the FlightCar parking lot near Boston's Logan Airport. She's heading to Florida for vacation and she's dropping off her 2002 Mercedes station wagon.
MUSSELLS: I'm going away for a couple of weeks and then I went online and I found this and so I thought I'd give it a shot.
ARNOLD: And so you just saw this online and thought, well, hey, rather than spend 20 bucks a day, maybe I'll make 10 or 20 bucks a day.
ARNOLD: One of the co-founders of FlightCar is Kevin Petrovic, and here's the only-in-America part of the story. Petrovic is just 19 years old. He's from New Jersey. He got into Princeton, but deferred enrollment to launch this company. Then pretty quickly Petrovic and his business partner, who is also 19 years old, managed to raise around $6 million from some venture capitalists in Silicon Valley.
KEVIN PETROVIC: There's really no fundraising climate quite like the San Francisco Bay Area. It's just unequaled anywhere in the world. So that's why we went there, and that's why we raised most of the money there as well. Because that's really where people sort of, I would say, are crazy enough to, you know, dump massive amounts of money into this kind of thing and hope it works.
ARNOLD: So far, FlightCar is operating at three airports - Boston, San Francisco and Los Angeles. It's run into a legal skirmish in San Francisco. After you drop your car off at FlightCar, a black Town Car taxi takes you to the airport for free and the airport there wants FlightCar to pay for drop-off rights.
The company is fighting that because it needs to keep costs as low as possible. Unlike Airbnb, where you might spend more than $1,000 to rent a house or an apartment, with renting a car there's a lot less money involved.
PETROVIC: We're not making money. It's not profitable, but we're working on it. Obviously, to be profitable, especially in an industry like the rental industry, it's difficult. A lot of things you can only accomplish at scale, but you know, we're working towards all those things.
ARNOLD: Meanwhile, Petrovic says at the San Francisco location they're doing 70 or 80 transactions a day. And over Thanksgiving, the company had 300 cars parked or rented there.
PETROVIC: So that was really cool. Definitely, you know, a lot of cars there, a lot of people are loving the service.
ARNOLD: In Boston, Jen Chaplin is just getting off a flight and picking up a Toyota Corolla to rent. She went online and she says picked FlightCar because of the price. Looks like a pretty nice Toyota Corolla. How much are you paying to rent it?
JEN CHAPLIN: $200 for 10 days.
ARNOLD: That is pretty good.
ARNOLD: Twenty bucks a day.
CHAPLIN: Right. Can't be beat.
ARNOLD: So the only question remaining is can FlightCar actually make money renting cars that cheap while paying the car owners and dealing with all the other expenses? Which, by the way, includes a car wash. They'll give your car back to you all vacuumed and scrubbed down. Chris Arnold, NPR News, Boston.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.