Weekday rental of selfdrive car to work (ZoomCommute)-Pros and Cons

Do you spend a lot on cab everyday to reach work and reach home? Wish you had a car at your disposal all day during week days? If your answer is a YES then you might want to consider the option of renting a self drive car for the weekdays, at reduced rental rates.
There’re many self drive car and bike rental companies in India now and their main business is undoubtedly on weekends. This is because primary target for rental companies are working class, who aren’t too rich to buy a car (or don’t feel the need for a car) but have an active weekend lifestyle for which a vehicle is usually necessary. During weekdays, most vehicles will remain idle. In order to maximize utilization, many self drive rental companies are working out a weekday rental model- an office goer can rent a bike or car from Monday to Friday for a fixed amount, instead of buying a car/bike for himself or having to depend on Uber/Ola/Office bus.

How does weekday self drive rentals work?
In Zoomcar’s example, called Zoom Commute, you get to collect the car on Sunday evening 8 PM and need to return it on Friday evening 8 PM, effectively 5 days. You pay Rs 3000 and can use the car for 150 kms (30kms a day). If you wish to use 300 kms you’ve to pay more. All other regular self drive rental terms and conditions apply.

In case of Revv, you get the car for 4.5 days- from Monday 8 AM till Friday 8 PM, for a monthly rent of 10000+18% tax + fuel extra for Alto800, more for other cars.

How can this weekday rental be so cheap given that we pay almost same amount for just 1 day during weekend?
  • Weekday is low demand time, so any money is better than No money for the rental agencies. If not for this scheme mostly car would have stayed idle in a garage.
  • Usage is highly limited. During regular weekend rental, if you book Zoomcar figo for 1 day you get 120kms/240kms/360kms per day. In this weekday rental, usage is limited to 30/60kms per day. So less fuel is needed, more earning from excess km charges if customer drives more
  • This is a new concept rental agencies are experimenting. Hence price is on lower side. If the scheme becomes very popular and demand increases, I am sure rent will go up.
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Factor
Self drive weekday rent
Alternate options (cab/ride share/public or company transport
1
Cost
Fixed Rent, Approx Rs 800+ per day onwards
+ Fuel cost (unless included in rent) + excess km charges/Over speed charges (if applicable)
+ Accident/damage liability risk
Varies depending in on mode, few rupees (bus/train) to few hundred rupees per day (cab)
2
Reliability
High, car/bike at your disposal
Low, have to depend on other modes of transport
3
Risk
High. If vehicle is damaged you’ve to compensate the rental agency- few thousand to several lakhs in worst case
Nil.
4
Convenience
Medium (some paperwork & pickup/delivery involved every Monday n Friday & you’ve to comply with a dozen different rules)
Low- need to wait
5
Status
Relatively high, but black & yellow number plate will give away that it is rental car
Low (if these things matter to you)
Further, if you can team up with 3-4 colleagues who stay nearby and share the expense then this can be a great saving- like 4 of you are sharing, then for 5 days, each has to spend about Rs 750 only in case of Zoomcar 1 week/150km Figo example.

What are the things I should keep in mind while signing up for weekday self drive rentals?
1. Pickup & Drop: How far is the pickup/drop centre from your home/office? Is it convenient/economical to go there & collect/drop off your car twice every week? Friday evening is a peak time for rental agencies- don’t expect a VIP treatment. Are you fine waiting 15-20 minutes if the fleet executives are busy with other customers? If pickup/drop is offered is it cost effective?
Also the timing matters: You may have a meeting at 10 AM on Monday morning- do you want to be waiting at rental agency at 8.30 AM for your car and then risk running late to office?

2. Usage limit: What is the allowed usage limit? Is it adequate for your usage? (include some buffer for possible additional travel besides home-office run). Also an unfortunate thing is that if you use less than you’re allowed (let us say you fall sick and couldn’t go to office for 2 days) you don’t get a penny back, but if you exceed you’ve to pay per km. If you had a heavy usage then you’ll be left with a dilemma- should still use this rented car, pay Rs 12 per km and spend on fuel (in non zoomcar cases) or simply hail an OLA for Rs 7 per km? If you’ve to hail cab for the fear of excess km charges then what is the whole point of renting the self drive car for a week?

3. Accident liability: All self drive car/bikes come with a risk that you'll have to compensate the rental agency in case of any damage to the car. The risk of worst case scenario (maximum amount you may have to pay) varies depending on which agency you’re renting from and their terms and conditions. In case of Zoomcar it is up to 10000 Rs worst case. In case of Royal Brothers it is as high as 25% of car/bike’s value - a few lakhs at the minimum for cars. However good driver you may be, there is a very high chance of some damage like dents and scratches when you drive in Indian cities, so do factor a buffer for any damage penalty you may have to pay. Besides financial damage there could be running around to police station/court cases etc depending on nature of accident and 3rd party liability. Of course this won't happen every time you rent but a remote possibility exists. If you can’t take this risk, you’re better off hailing a chauffeur driven cab.

4. Speed limits: Almost all companies have speed limit- usually 100-120kmph. Crossing this will attract penalty. If you’ve to pay the penalty 2-3 times per week, then all your savings go for a toss. But speed limit may not be a concern in cities as you can’t go too fast anyway, unless your route to office includes some empty straight roads (say sealink etc)

5. Delay charges/late delivery: What happens if you’re expecting your car to be delivered on Monday morning but customer who rented the car for the weekend hasn’t returned it yet. Will the rental agency provide a replacement car or you’ve to wait? What happens if you’re late leaving work on Friday while rental agency has got a booking for the weekend starting Friday evening? Will you have to pay a penalty? Check the fine print for these scenarios before signing up. Else you'll regret.

6. Will you get same car every week or different one? You might have to paste office/apartment complex parking sticker on the car. If your car changes every week, this can be an unnecessary running around.

7. Fuel: What is the fuel policy? No worries w.r.t Zoomcar-their rental includes fuel. But can’t be said the same for other companies- Most companies claim they will give full tank and you’ve to return full tank, but in practicality, you will get empty tank or half tank and staff will ask you to fill up as per your need. It is hard to predict exact quantity of fuel needed for the week and in all probability, you will end up returning the car with some extra fuel. (If you fill less they will ask you to pay, if it is more, no refund). Factor this loss.

8. Cost vs convenience: In all probability taking a bus/train/ride share will be cheaper than renting self drive cars. In Zoomcar’s example, 3000 Rs for 5 days is Rs 600 per day. Factoring some buffer for excess km charges or accident damage and cost involved in pickup & delivery, let us assume an expense of Rs 800 per day, for 30-35 kms usage. How much would a cab ride/share would cost? How much monthly EMI will be if you’re to buy a car altogether? Still you might prefer to rent for the convenience of having a car at your disposal and not having any headache of maintenance/ ownership. This trade off between cost, benefit and risk you’ve to analyze and decide carefully.

9. Tax: Zoomcar and ONN Bike display rental amount includes GST. Other agencies may charge GST separately over the amount shown in initial stages. Factor this while comparing.

10. Is your daily commute predictable? If you have a fixed time and route then you can plan your usage and rent. If it is very unpredictable- some day just 10 kms, another day 100, may involve going to nearby cities etc then you can’t plan your weekday rental that has fixed time, usage limit etc.

Is there similar option available for bikes?
Yes. ONN Bikes, Royal Brothers and other agencies are also working on similar propositions. Pay less, rent for weekday and give the bike back in time for our weekend bookings. Economics will be different and so will terms and conditions. For example, ONN Bike can give you a decent 150 cc commuter bike for a week for Rs 2000 (works out to Rs 400 per day), Fuel extra. This amount seems a bit high given that for another 1000 you can get a car, but ONN Bike scheme gets you massive 960 kms usage limit. (May be they can reduce usage limit and offer a cheaper rental since office goers may not need that many kms in a week). Other bike rental firms are also working on similar proposals, so that bikes don’t lie idle during weekdays.
How does the long term economics work out?
Does it make sense to keep renting forever? How much you will end up spending in say 6 months, if you continue to rent a car on self drive instead of buying one? In Zoomcar’s example, if you’re renting for 6 months, you will be paying about 3000 per week * 4 * 6 = 72000 in rent + fuel cost. No maintenance worries or depreciation risk but for any weekend use you’ve to spend extra. If you’re in a city for very short term – say 3-6 months this might be good deal than having to worry about buying and transferring the car to another state or selling it off for a loss. Clearly it is not a permanent solution to buying a car or bike- if you calculate expense for an year or two, odds shift favorably towards a BUY decision instead of rent.

Revv has a similar concept called Switch, in which you can rent cars on a monthly scheme. Switch has its own drawbacks which I have detailed in this earlier post, it also seems expensive compared to Zoom (around 20k a month for Swift (4.5 days a week* 4 weeks) + fuel extra compared to 12k with Zoom. But there are other variables like usage limit etc, so do your math.
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