Starting next year, some Toyota owners will be able to rent out their cars—which could allow them to "essentially [get] a car for free," according to one CEO involved. Toyota is partnering with Getaround, a startup that assists drivers who want to rent out their cars, to launch a 500-car pilot test of the program in San Francisco in January, CNNMoney reports. Owners of a Toyota Prius or Lexus C200h who live in San Francisco will be eligible for the pilot program, and anyone who rents one of the cars will be able to unlock and start it using a smartphone app thanks to a "smart key box" Toyota developed. If the pilot is a success, Toyota may sell the smart key box, which can be installed on a car's dashboard, to current Toyota owners. (Just Friday, Toyota announced a $10 million investment in Getaround, the Consumerist reports.)
Currently, 20% of cars being rented out on Getaround are Toyotas, and Sam Zaid, the CEO of the company, says the average San Francisco Prius owner makes $500 a month by renting out their car. That involves making it available to rent 75% of the time, but owners can choose when exactly it's available. For example, Forbes reports, a person can rent out their car during the eight hours it would otherwise be parked at an office building. The cost of renting a car via Getaround is typically $5 per hour. "It really empowers people who may not be able to afford" to buy a car otherwise, Zaid says. "The average person in San Francisco can get a new Prius as long they're willing to share it." Under the pilot program, Toyota will allow owners to make lease payments directly from rental earnings, and, for those who purchase after January, will also consider those earnings when looking at whether a driver qualifies to buy the car.