This past weekend I traveled to South Florida for Georgia Tech’s last road game of the season against the University of Miami. I flew into Fort Lauderdale which gave me the opportunity to try out Silvercar, the new car rental company I have read so much about on points and mile blogs. I have already written about about my reservation and how I was able to get a great deal with various stackable discounts. So, how was the experience with this new type of car rental company? Read on.
Picking up the car
When you rent with Silvercar, there are no rental car counters to deal with. In fact, the company says it sees a “future of car rental [as] a world without rental counters, and technology will get us there." To pick up your car, you interact with Silvercar entirely within its mobile app. The app provides specific instructions on where to go so a driver can pick you up. Once you get to the pickup area, the app allows you to text or call to let someone know you are ready. A Silvercar representative soon arrives, not in a typical rental car shuttle bus, but in an Audi A4, a definitely high class impression. Being able to throw luggage into the roomy, empty trunk rather than finding a spot on the luggage rack as you crowd yourself into a shuttle bus was a huge improvement over the typical rental car experience. (Note, you don’t always get to avoid a shuttle bus. In fact, since I came into Terminal 2, the app instructed me to board the rental car shuttle, take it to the rental car center at Terminal 1 and notify Silvercar I was at bus stop #7. Because traffic on the arrivals level at FLL was horrendous, I made the easy walk to the rental car center and avoided the shuttle bus.)
The ride to Silvercar’s office was only a few minutes since the office is located just off airport property. I am not one for random chit-chat and riding alone in a car with a stranger ranks up there with one of my must-avoid things in life. But, I had a nice discussion about…what else…South Florida weather versus the cold elsewhere. The Silvercar facility is one place where the high-end veneer sags a little. I can’t speak for its locations in other cities, but the Fort Lauderdale office is not the polished facility you would expect of a company that only rents Audis. While adjacent to other smaller rental car companies such as Fox and Sixt, the office is located on a very industrial-feeling street. It certainly did not feel unsafe, but it was also not in the center of any significant nightlife activity. Whatever your impression of the area, you are not there long.
Upon arrival, the driver told me to pick out any of the identical A4s backed in and ready to go. She even steered me away form one with some minor body damage and pointed another with the fewest miles. Once I selected a car, I simply scanned the QR code on the windshield with the Silvercar app. The driver hopped into the passenger side to give me a quick tutorial on the A4’s features. I actually did not need this as my personal car is an Audi Q5, but for those not familiar with some of the Audi driver and infotainment controls, this is a nice touch. All said, I was off the lot in about five minutes! A very efficient but personal and high touch experience that I have never received at another rental car company.
If you are unfamiliar with Audis, you are likely going to be very impressed with your rental. Unlike most rental cars I have driven over the years, this one was well loaded. It does not feature every bell and whistle that can be had, but it has far more than your run of the mill Hertz Toyota Camry. Standard on each Silvercar A4:
Google online destinations
SiriusXM satellite radio
The car is not quite as roomy as the standard or full size cars I normally rent, my biggest discomfort being how low to the ground the car felt. Some of this is the result of me being used to an SUV, but this car did feel lower than most rental cars I have driven of late. However, once you are inside, it drives and handles like a charm. Riding with the windows down and sunroof open on a warm South Florida night was a joy. I took the very scenic route to my hotel!
Correcting a problem
Saturday morning, I was up and out early to get breakfast before heading to the game. Not long after pulling out, the low tire pressure indicator flashed on. After getting out and seeing that the affected tire was visibly low, I called Silvercar and was told to swing by the office (I was not far away) and they would put air in the tire. I did and, in a matter of minutes, I was back on the road, TPMS indicator extinguished. I finished my food run, returned to the hotel, got ready and checked out. Not long after leaving the hotel parking for the game, the indicator was back on. I knew from past experience this likely meant that a nail or something similar was causing a pretty rapid leak. I also knew I ran the risk of coming out of the game later that afternoon to a flat tire. Having only given myself an hour to get to Sun Life Stadium and kickoff, I figured I would miss the start of the game. Given how Georgia Tech’s season has been going, I figured that was acceptable.
I headed back to the Silvercar office and informed the attendant that I really needed a replacement car as I did not have time to deal with constantly refilling the tire all weekend. With no debate, not only did he point out a car I could have, he helped carry my luggage from Silver Audi A4 1 to Silver Audi A4 2. I was literally swapped out in about two minutes. I cannot imagine Hertz, Avis or any of the majors handling that situation as quickly or with such customer service!
Returning the car
Returning the car was a piece of cake and essentially the reverse of pickup. I returned to the Silvercar office by the appointed time on my reservation. Since I did not have time to refuel the car (note, because of the engine, Silvercar does ask that you fill up with 89-octane or higher gasoline) I took advantage of the refueling option. Silvercar will refill the car and charge you only for the gas that you use plus a $5 fee. While it always makes more sense to return a car full, the Silvercar approach is far easier on the wallet than paying for a full tank, regardless of how empty the car is upon return. When I arrived at the office, the attendant simply jumped in the car and drove me to the departures curbside at Terminal 2. Front door service, and, again, help with my luggage!
The final bill was as expected based on my reservation. No surprises. My new customer discount is reflected as a credit on the bill. My referral bonus by using a referral code is not reflected on the invoice. Rather, it was deposited to my PayPal account. (If you want to get $25 on a Silvercar rental, please use my referral code, DCOOK4, for your reservation!) Silvercar’s approach to tolls is similar to fuel: you only pay for the actual tolls you incur. There is no daily fee for having a toll charged to the car. In my case, my bill was revised a few days later to include $1.99 for tolls.
The only issue I had with my rental was the TopCashback rebate I was expecting. As I wrote about when I reserved the car, I expected a $20 rebate via the rewards portal. I did use a discount code published at TopCashback.com as the site advised. Unfortunately, according to my TopCashback account page, Silvercar denied the rebate. I did file an inquiry on this, so the issue is outstanding.
Overall, I was very pleased with my Silvercar experience. The customer service was top notch, the car surpassed almost anything I have rented in the past, and all aspects of the rental were efficient. While the company has customer-friendly policies on refueling and tolls, the rental rate is quite high. Granted, for that you are getting a premium car, likely at a lower rate than Hertz or Avis would charge for a car from their luxury collections. I was disappointed that the company may have denied my TopCashback rebate, but this may yet work itself out.
Would I rent from Silvercar again? Absolutely, though perhaps not on every rental if a lower price were available from a competitor. While I enjoy driving a nice rental car, ultimately a rental just needs to get me from Point A to Point B. I have some willingness to pay a premium, but there are limits. That being said, I definitely look forward to seeing how this company evolves and grows. The attendant who picked me up told me they already rent Audi Q5s in ski areas! No word on whether they are silver but Henry Ford built a great business on selling nothing but black cars!
Have you rented with Silvercar? If so, please share your experiences in the comments below.