Earlier this month, Louis Lidji steered his gleaming late-model Hyundai Sonata to a marked spot deep within the labyrinth of the Red parking ramp at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport.
Lidji parked his car, snapped a few photos of its interior and exterior with his phone, locked the doors and caught a ride back to his home in Eagan. A few hours later, someone he didn’t know arrived at MSP, picked up the Sonata after Lidji, unlocked it remotely using his phone and drove it off the lot — just like any other car rental.
But unlike the usual drill with Hertz, Budget or Enterprise, this is a new way of leasing a car through a service called Turo that MSP officials are embracing — at least for now.
Often called the “Airbnb of car rentals,” Turo is a peer-to-peer car-sharing service that connects owners of personal vehicles to customers through its app or website. San Francisco-based Turo and other car-sharing services such as Getaround, Maven and HyreCar are part of a sharing economy that has exploded over the past two decades.
Airports would seem a natural fit for this emerging service, but many across the country have been slow, or even downright resistant, to welcome Turo.
Lidji, a mortgage banker who works from home, figured he could make money by using the Turo platform to rent his 2020 Sonata, which would otherwise have sat in his garage.
“It’s been really great,” Lidji said. “The car is not going to get used; I don’t need it to get to work. Financially, [Turo rentals] have pretty much paid for the car since I started.”
Founded in 2010, Turo is now available in 5,500 cities in the United States, Canada and United Kingdom, with a “community” of 14 million users and hosts. Airports serve as popular rental portals, but aren’t the only location where vehicle handoffs occur.
Officials at MSP say they knew Turo had been quietly operating at the airport since 2017 on an ad hoc basis, but without paying any concession or access fees like those forked over by traditional rental car companies.
At the time, a lawyer from the Metropolitan Airports Commission (MAC), which operates MSP, sent a letter to Turo Chief Executive Officer Andre Haddad calling for the company to “cease and desist” operations unless it paid appropriate fees and submitted reports regarding its operations. The missive threatened legal action if Turo failed to comply.
By the spring of 2020, the commission asked MAC staff to investigate Turo’s presence at MSP, and an audit commenced …….