Car-sharing service SnappCar is taking off in Denmark and Sweden, allowing the carless to get around easily, cheaply and reliably and giving car owners an extra source of revenue from a vehicle that spends most of its time unused. Most easily described as ‘Airbnb for cars’, SnappCar is a pretty straightforward concept. Vehicle owners list their cars on the service at whatever price they think is reasonable and those in need of a temporary set of wheels simply open the app, see what’s available and then book it and arrange a pick-up. The whole process takes just a few taps in the app. It's as easy as streaming a film or ordering takeout.
The service, which has a 4.5 star rating on Trustpilot, is seen as an environmentally-friendly alternative to private car ownership and currently has nearly 50,000 available vehicles and around 400,000 renters. But SnappCar doesn’t present itself as always being the best option. In fact, it encourages those who just need to make a 20-minute ride across town to take a taxi or public transport instead and suggests that traditional car hire services are still the way to go for rentals of 10 days or longer.
Photo: Grégoire Demont
For people like Grégoire Demont, a Frenchman living in Stockholm, it’s that happy medium where SnappCar comes in. Demont doesn’t own a car but he does own a boat that he keeps moored at Bullandö Marina around 40 kilometres east of Stockholm. Reaching the boat from his home in Södermalm isn’t easy without a car, especially when he’s lugging around the things he’ll need out on the water. So he often uses SnappCar to rent a vehicle for a few hours or a full day.
“I could get there by public transport but it takes well over an hour and departure times are a bit limited, so it’s not very convenient. Using SnappCar makes it really easy and allows me to come back basically whenever I want,” he says.
Demont says the service is perfect for when he wants to take an impromptu boat ride. If the weekend rolls around and he feels the urge to get out on the water, he’ll often open the SnappCar app late on Friday evening and book a car for Saturday morning.
“It’s very convenient. With a traditional car hire agency, you have to either book a few days in advance or be willing to pay very high prices for the types of last-minute bookings I do. With SnappCar, I usually contact a handful of car owners through the app and someone gets back to me with a solution within 15 minutes,” he says.
Since moving to Sweden in 2017 for work, Demont estimates he’s used SnappCar around 20 times. Although most trips are to shuttle back and forth to his boat, he’s also used the service to check out his new surroundings, including a trip to Gotland in which he rented a car to drive on to the ferry and then explored the island on his own terms.
Because the service is built upon a network of privately-owned vehicles, there is a wide variety of makes and models at different price points. Demont says the type of car isn’t terribly important to him. What he’s looking for is flexibility and availability. He’s usually able to find an available car within a kilometer or so from his home and the pick-up procedure, which involves either meeting the owner to collect the keys or using keyless technology to access the car through the app, is always smooth and easy. The whole process is made more reassuring for both parties by knowing that the vehicle is covered by insurance, including 24/7 roadside support, during the rental period.
“Generally, the owner is there waiting for me. It’s usually a pretty brief meeting where we check out the condition of the car and how much petrol is in the tank, but there are a few owners that I’ve rented from on multiple occasions that I’ve built a little bit of a relationship with,” he says.
Although Demont cites convenience as the biggest selling point, he also says he feels good about being a part of the sharing economy.
“It’s about using the thing you need when you need it rather than owning it,” he says. “Right now, it doesn’t make sense for me to have a car that I’d just use once a month. But if I decide one day that I need a car more frequently, I might buy my own and if I do, I would definitely put it on SnappCar.”
This article was produced by The Local Creative Studio and sponsored by SnappCar.