Rented in 60 Seconds

Austin-based Silvercar aims to give you the ultimate car rental experience, all from your phone

Austin-based Silvercar aims to give you the ultimate car rental experience, all from your phone

Silvercar
After conducting market research, Silvercar found that the Audi A4 tested higher than comparable premium cars like BMWs and Mercedes-Benzes. It is the only model that the rental company carries.  Photo courtesy of Silvercar
Luke Schneider Silvercar
CEO Luke Schneider said that Silvercar came about after one too many poor experiences with rental car companies. "All the other parts of the travel industry had updated, and we looked and said, 'Gosh, there's a gaping void in the car rental piece of the industry.'" Photo courtesy of Silvercar
Silvercar
The Silvercar app takes care of every aspect of the rental process. The Audi A4's computer system allows you to connect your phone to the car for wireless calling, navigation and WiFi.  Photo courtesy of Silvercar
Silvercar, Audi A4
Silvercar recently brought over 200 brand new Audi A4s from Germany for their first location at DFW Airport.  Photo courtesy of Silvercar
Silvercar
Luke Schneider Silvercar
Silvercar
Silvercar, Audi A4

It’s no small task, but Luke Schneider wants to revolutionize the rental car game and he’s starting in Dallas.

Schneider is the CEO of Austin-based Silvercar, an app-based rental service that is going live at DFW Airport on January 14. The idea behind the company is to save the customer as much time and effort by putting everything, from renting to unlocking the car to getting the receipt, on your smartphone. Oh, and they only offer one car: silver Audi A4s.

“[Silvercar] came from one too many bad experiences at the rental car counter,” Schneider says. “As travelers, every category from airlines to hotels has seen a substantial amount of innovation over the last 40 years, but car rentals. It’s become so commoditized that it’s all about the upsell and proliferation of car classes.”

Drawing inspiration from companies like Virgin Air, W Hotels and Uber, Silvercar aims to give a consistent experience that accommodates the modern traveler. Their research told Silvercar that the Audi A4 appealed to both sexes and that its underlying operating system allowed for easy integration of the app. Inside each Silvercar, the driver will be able to use Google Earth, Sirius XM radio and a WiFi hotspot for up to eight devices.

“We wanted to offer a premium car that would offer many of the options that business people might already have in their cars back home,” Schneider says. “We also wanted a better experience renting. We’ve done away with so many friction points like dealing with the whole ‘counter culture’ of picking insurance, fuel options, wondering if you’re going to get the car you want.”

 “Our saying is that our service is like a wait staff,” Schneider says. “It’s exactly what you need, only when you need it and seldom necessary. In an ideal experience, you wouldn’t need to speak with anyone.”

Silvercar does have concierges, but it’s entirely possible to never speak to an employee during the whole process. The app allows you to pick your rental period, it scans and unlocks your Silvercar to be used and the return process uses scales to measure how much fuel will be charged to your account.

And for the refueling, Silvercar charges the market average for premium plus a $5 fee instead of hiking up their refuel charges like other rental companies. Schneider says that you should have your receipt, on the app of course, for the whole thing by the time you board your plane.

“Our saying is that our service is like a wait staff,” Schneider says. “It’s exactly what you need, only when you need it and seldom necessary. In an ideal experience, you wouldn’t need to speak with anyone.”

Silvercar is able to keep pricing competitive with other companies’ premium cars by taking a page out of Southwest Airline’s business model. By only carrying the Audi A4, they can keep pricing stable as well as maintain and shift capacity. Schneider says that Silvercar should cost about $90 per day, perhaps more depending on the situation.

“The incumbents offer everything from subcompacts to 12-person vans,” Schneider says. “But their profits are slim to none on those subcompacts and the money is made with upsells or on the vans. We’re staying on one level so we don’t have to subsidize small cars with big cars.”

Based in Austin, Schneider said that DFW was a natural choice to launch Silvercar due to its proximity and willingness to be on the front of technological innovation.

“They’re really on the edge of air travel,” Schneider says. “They ‘got us’ when we pitched Silvercar to them and we ‘got them’ when they talked about providing a tech-abled service to their fliers. Plus, Dallas is one of the biggest rental spots in the country and you have to drive to get around Dallas.”

But Schneider is quick to add that Silvercar aims to be a national brand. They’re currently in negotiations with multiple airports, but he says they must also “win the opener” at DFW. Depending on how things go, Schneider expects Silvercar to open in three or four more airports in 2013. He’s not able to say which ones are in play, but said that tech-savvy areas like Seattle, San Francisco and New York City are high on the list.

“It’s about simplicity and modern traveling,” Schneider says. “It’s a premium car experience — we’re not about renting minivans to families in Orlando."

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The Silvercar app is available for free for iOS and Android