TORONTO — The AirBnB of car rentals is launching in three Canadian provinces in a limited international expansion as it grapples with the types of insurance headaches that often plague sharing-economy startups.
Turo, which debuted in the U.S. as RelayRides in 2009 and now operates in more than 2,500 cities, facilitates vehicle rentals between car owners wanting some extra cash and strangers needing a ride.
Those hoping to make money from their cars when they're not driving them register them online to rent vehicles to other Turo members.
Turo determines the rental cost of available vehicles each day based on data like the car's market value, location and time of year. The company pockets 25 per cent of the rental fee, which includes a charge for the owner's insurance coverage during the rental.
As of today, people in Alberta, Ontario or Quebec can sign up online to either list their vehicle or rent available cars by the day through Turo.
Turo began in California in 2009 as RelayRides. (Getty Images)
But provincially regulated insurance rules have made a seamless transition north of the border difficult.
This limited launch "was the most expedient way for Turo to bring peer-to-peer sharing to Canada," said Cedric Mathieu, Turo's director of Canada, in an emailed statement.
Turo has partnered with Intact Financial Corporation and Belairdirect to provide insurance for Canadian clients, a move that will make the service more attractive to customers, said CEO Andre Haddad.
Anyone living in or visiting those three provinces — and approved by Turo's verification system, which takes into account driving history — can rent a vehicle. They can choose to opt out of insurance, or to add on basic or premium coverage when renting — at 15 or 40 per cent of the trip's price.
Any claims that arise from a Turo car rental have no impact on the owner's personal insurance, said Stephanie Sorensen, director of external communications and corporate social responsibility for Intact.
But it's not so simple for people looking to rent out their cars, as insurance companies grapple with how to provide coverage.
Currently, only car owners insured by Intact Insurance and Belairdirect who live in those three provinces can list their vehicles on Turo. The insurers have modified their product offerings to permit their customers to do so, said Mathieu.
"Moving forward, we are working with other leading Canadian insurers to modify their terms and conditions to enable their customers to also participate in peer-to-peer car sharing," he said.
The company also plans to move beyond Quebec, Ontario and Alberta, and is "working with each province's unique insurance laws and regulatory framework to make this happen," said Mathieu.
As Turo expands where it operates in Canada, Intact "will offer coverage to other provinces as permitted," she said.
Insurance has been a thorny issue for companies like Turo.
Ride-hailing service Uber has also struggled with insurance for its Canadian operations.
Uber recently temporarily suspended operations in Edmonton and Calgary after the Alberta government announced it would not make insurance available to drivers until the summer, and created other roadblocks, including requiring drivers hold a commercial licence.
Non-automotive services aren't in the clear of insurance woes either.
Airbnb, which allows people to rent a portion or all of their home to travellers, hit a stumbling block when some home owners complained their places were trashed. One Calgary family, for example, were left with $75,000 in damage following a raging house party.
Airbnb, which offers up to $1 million for property damage in certain situations, said it would pay for the repairs.
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