Ever felt like going for a drive, but you didn’t have your car around?
Well, too bad if you’re in India; there are no short-term, mainstream car rental services here. It took two Americans to arrive at our shores and get shocked with this news for Zoomcar to be born. So what exactly is Zoomcar? It’s an app (and a website) that facilitates affordable car rentals. Think Uber, but for driving a car.
The app won’t win any beauty contests, but it is pretty functional. Like Uber, the main commodity isn’t the app itself, but the service you get through the app. Unlike Uber, there is almost no interaction with any human being throughout the entire process. It is all very cool, but more on that later. The moment you open the app, you have to choose a date and time for picking up the car and dropping it. Minimum rental period is an hour and the maximum is 10 days. Minimum billing is for four hours, though. The range of available cars is slim but decent. You can rent a Ford Figo (₹80 per hour), Honda City (₹110 per hour), Toyota Fortuner (₹210 per hour) and Mercedes Benz CLA (₹250 per hour). Pick the car, pay the tariff plus a refundable security deposit of ₹5000, upload your driving licence within the app and you are good to go.
Zoomcar has car pick-up points strewn throughout the city. Ours was a mere 2km away from home. Twenty minutes before your ride starts, the app does something very cool. A previously grey button lights up. This button says... UNLOCK. Touch the button and, yep, good guess, your car (Honda City, in our case) unlocks. It feels very James-Bond-y, Elon-Musk-y, the first time you do it. The app has a car checklist that needs to be filled before you can zoom off: fuel, AUX cable, medical kit, etc.
Speaking of fuel, every Zoomcar vehicle you rent comes with a full tank. If you run out of fuel, they’ll reimburse the cost of additional fuel. The tariff includes insurance, fuel and any possible roadside assistance. Sounds too good to be true? Hold on to your horses. There is an hourly/daily/weekly cap on the number of kilometres that are covered by them. For short-term bookings, it’s 10km per hour. So if you book for 12 hours like we did, Zoomcar will cover only 120km. Do more and it will cost you per additional kilometre. Same for dropping the car off late. Sounds fair to us.
The app also strictly warns you about smoking, drinking and overspeeding (over 125kmph) in the car. There are strict fines associated with all three. We found out the hard way. On the Mumbai-Pune Expressway, our City drifted slowly over 130kmph (by mistake!) for two minutes. When our security deposit came back a week later, it had ₹500 less. Lesson learnt.
Short-term car rentals have been around for decades outside India and it is about time we had one reputable service. Zoomcar is in Delhi, Mumbai, Pune, Chennai, Bengaluru and Hyderabad. Now the only thing we are waiting for are other big players to jump in so a price war starts. We’ve been eyeing that Mercedes CLA for a while.