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Silvercar Rental Review & Experience
Today’s post comes from PDX Deals Guy who has previously written about using the Amex Fine Hotels & Resorts program in Las Vegas, Ticket Reselling and how to earn up to 2.625% with the Bank Americard Travel Visa. You can follow him on Twitter and look for the latest deals on his website.
I had my first two experiences renting from Silvercar last month and wanted to pass along some details. The first rental was a one-day rental from Chicago (O’Hare) in early December, followed by a three-day rental in Denver in mid-December. As I’ll show later, I was able to take advantage of the new renter $25 bonus for both rentals (my wife was the renter on the second trip), but I wasn’t able to fully maximize the coupons do to the length of my rental.
Picking Up the Car
As with any fairly new company worth its salt, Silvercar relies heavily upon technology to improve efficiency and hopefully improve the user experience. Where that first really shows up is before you even pick up your car. As soon as your flight lands, you can fire up the Silvercar app on your smartphone and hit the “pick me up” button. The app will give you directions on where to proceed, which will vary depending on the airport. It will also provide you with contact information, via phone or text message, to stay in communication with Silvercar throughout your rental.
I preferred the pick up experience in Chicago, as I was promptly picked up right at the airport curb by an employee in a Silvercar. She was very friendly and started showing me the features of the car, as well as answering all my questions. (I was surprised to learn that they have between 80-100 cars in Chicago, depending on the season. Not bad scale for a fairly recent startup!) She drove me to a fairly close-by location where I got to choose from one of 6 or so identical cars. (Tough choice! Although she did point me to the newest cars and mine had less than 3000 miles.)
In Denver the experience wasn’t quite as great. Silvercar contracts at DEN with an off-site parking lot operator (Canopy Airport Parking). This means waiting for a shuttle bus, and the experience simply felt less refined than in Chicago (and there was a bit of a wait at drop-off too). I guess the main takeaway is that the experience is going to vary from city to city.
Once you get to your car, the employee has you scan your car with your smartphone app. This unlocks the car and begins a simple rental process. You go through a few quick steps on the phone, which are effectively a slimmed down version of a typical car rental experience, such as accepting or waiving insurance coverage.
The Car and Rental Features
Silvercar is simple and fantastic when it comes the the car. You will get a new model, silver Audi A4. But where the rental really shines is in the list of included (“free”) features, which I found to be mostly great or at least as-advertised:
Navigation/GPS – Probably the nicest thing about this is having the Silvercar location pre-programmed into the navigation favorites to make returning the car really simple. That said, as a heavy Google Maps and Waze user, I found that I did not like Audi’s directions compared to my apps, especially in Chicago.
Free Wi-Fi – In case the employee forgets to tell you, the password is “SILVERCAR” (you can always text or call them to ask if you forget). That said, once you get connected, it was a pretty disappointing experience for me in both cities. The car has a 3G connection (not sure which carrier) that was next to worthless. I was soon off wi-fi and relying upon my phone’s LTE data plan.
Satellite Radio (and Bluetooth) – Not much to say about the satellite radio, other than it’s nice standard feature. The sound system was good, and connecting my smartphone to the car via bluetooth for both phone calls and media/entertainment features (a separate process for both) was fairly straightforward and worked well.
Fair Toll Tracking – This was very nice, especially in Chicago. Silvercar has a toll payment device installed in all of its cars and does not charge any markup on the tolls. In fact, you get the benefit of lower fees on such toll devices, compared to the “cash” rate most tourists usually pay.
Fair Fuel Plan – This is another nice feature. You may optionally choose to return the car with the fuel gauge at any level. Silvercar fills the tank and only charges you a fair local rate (not some big markup per gallon), plus a flat $5 fee (unless you return the tank full). In my experiences, both the amount of gas I was charged for and the price-per-gallon seemed very fair.
All Wheel Drive – This is the one feature not really highlighted on Silvercar’s own website that I think can be a big differentiator. While I was fortunate to avoid bad weather in Chicago, our Denver trip was to take advantage of our newfound Hyatt Diamond status and a visit to the Park Hyatt Beaver Creek resort in Vail. Having AWD turned out to be a very nice feature driving in the mountains and it also came in handy during a snowstorm during our return to Denver on departure day.
While my first rental was only a one-day rental and didn’t take advantage of the 2-day $75 off deal, I did find the rate to be reasonable, especially using the 15% off code and after the $25 sign-up bonus I got using Shawn’s referral code SCOOMER. While it doesn’t show on my email receipt, I received an email within minutes of returning my rental telling me that I had received a $25 PayPal payment as a first-time renter. Here is my one-day rental receipt, which includes a 1 day charge, a number of tolls, fuel and all taxes. All of those items are itemized on the receipt you receive.
On the second rental, I was able to take advantage of both the $25 first-time renter incentive (my wife’s first rental!) and the $75 off the 2-day rental promotion. While I had to pay full price for the third day of the rental, I still found the overall rate to be very competitive, especially for getting an AWD rental vehicle in Denver.
One final note related to pricing. As I always do with car rentals, I waived all insurance coverage and paid for the rental entirely with my Chase Sapphire Preferred card, given its primary insurance coverage. Before the trips I checked the Sapphire Preferred’s auto rental documentation, and based upon my understanding of said documentation, an Audi A4 is NOT considered a luxury vehicle that would be disqualified from coverage.
While the pickup process may vary between airports, I found both rentals to be very good overall experiences. Certainly without the discounts, Silvercar is a bit of a premium experience, but it may be worth it on occasion. That said, without getting into a detailed competitive pricing breakdown, there were both cheaper and more expensive options from the traditional major car rental companies in both Chicago and Denver. Thus, for me, Silvercar has definitely earned a spot for consideration in the car rental equation on my upcoming trips. I likely won’t pay a big premium if discounts aren’t available in the future, but if the price difference is within a small margin, or if a rental will make good use of a standard Silvercar feature (such as AWD in snowy weather), I’ll look forward to my next experience.
Please share your Silvercar experiences or questions in the comments!
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