My last few airport car rentals had been sad affairs: The shuttle bus was on a leisurely schedule, the line for the rental counter cried out for a snake charmer, and the road-weary vehicle I received had features like manual windows that I thought were lost to the mists of time. One recent LAX encounter took a record breaking three hours from landing to airport exit. Things moved a bit faster when I had premium status, but these days I scan the chauffer signs at baggage claim in the empty hope that some mystery benefactor has sent a driver to whisk me away.
While that particular pipedream hasn’t materialized, reality comes pretty close with Silvercar, which lets me book, access and return airport rental cars entirely through a smartphone. The most surprising pleasure: No choice of vehicle. The only car offered is a fully loaded silver Audi A4.
How it Works
The difference between Silvercar and a traditional car rental experience was clear at first click: I downloaded the app to my smartphone, plugged in my rental specifics --- only dates, airport and flight since the car type is a given --- the price came up and I hit a button to book.
On landing I took a shuttle bus to the garage just outside the airport where an employee scanned the windshield QR code with my phone to trigger the rental, gave me a few bottles of chilled mineral water, and at that moment I could have been on my way. But since this was my first Silvercar rental I asked the concierge for some training. He synced my iPhone with the car’s systems via Bluetooth --- not like I’ve never done this before, but so much nicer to have it accomplished correctly the first time --- pointed out the zoned heating, cooling and seat warmers (to preclude the singular humiliation of triggering the windshield wipers when attempting to turn up the air con, which never fails to occur when there’s a colleague in the car) popped up the sun roof, and I was off.
The car’s return was a mirror image: I swung by the garage without the usual detour to fill the gas tank thanks to the reasonably priced Fair Fuel Plan, a concierge scanned the QR code to end the rental and send an electronic receipt, hopped in and drove me to the terminal.
This Audi A4 is sweet: Beyond the cushy leather seats and silky handing of quattro all-wheel drive --- much appreciated when the L.A. rains came --- there are electronic goodies such as the navigation system, mobile Wi-Fi hotspot, SiriusXM satellite radio, and Bluetooth pairing for access to everything live on my iPhone from music to podcasts to hands-free calling.
Beyond the immediately apparent convenience of smartphone reservations, pickup and return, Silvercar is far pleasanter than the usual car rental experience for the absence of upsell. How many times have I finally reached the rental car counter, curious to see which car will actually be available in place of the one I ‘reserved,’ when the pitch begins: “For just $15 more a day we can give you…” No, I really wouldn’t prefer an eight passenger SUV to my compact, thank you. With Silvercar there are no surprise vehicles and everything I could possibly desire is already included.
Between $59 and $99 per day depending upon the pickup airport, with unlimited miles and no charge for additional drivers. The Fair Fuel Plan fills your tank for the local price of premium gas plus a $5 service fee. (Our concierge did the math and told us we’d be better off filling up ourselves if the tank was more than ¾ full.) Check for ‘first time renter’ discounts.
Silvercar rethinks the car rental experience for the Smartphone Age: A completely clickable boutique service without lines, paperwork, and on subsequent rentals, no learning curve behind the wheel. And in the driver’s seat of the stylish Audi A4, I rarely coveted the car in the next lane.
Download the Silvercar app on iPhone or Android.