The origination of Silvercar began during a golf outing when a group of self-assumed cool guys was upgraded to a Dodge minivan. Their response was to build a company where every rental would be a car fit for cool individuals, resulting in a framework of Silvercar offering tricked-out silver Audi A4s (and only Audi A4s). The phrase "or similar" we see in many rentals doesn't exist at all with Silvercar.
Silvercar's Model Hearkens Back to History
Many of the car rental companies were historically owned by the automobile manufacturers, a convenient form of revenue/car sales as well as getting potential vehicle purchasers into their own cars for a "paid test drive". For much of my driving career, I knew that stopping at Hertz meant I was going to be driving a Ford, most often a Crown Victoria or Mercury Grand Marquis.
Silvercar is likely hemorrhaging cash based upon the current business model and the recent $28 million in fundraising led by Audi. The company's not wholly owned by Audi but as all of the vehicles are manufactured by Audi, their investment in Silvercar is a return to the days when manufacturers had a vested interest in one or more rental car companies.
Given the premium cars and set prices charged by Silvercar, we can surmise that depreciation and car sales at end of rental life probably eats up 20-30 percent of daily revenue given an assumption that most vehicles are rented each day. Off-airport locations help control some expenses while adding new expenses, such as the labor involved in shuttling individual customers.
In a tough industry, we really do hope for the success of Silvercar, as that might encourage the major rental car companies to guarantee specific models in their rental fleets.
I asked AutoSlash founder Jonathan if he would pay for me to test Silvercar for the blog. He didn't say "no" and was curious about the company himself, so I rented a Silvercar the first time I was in a Silvercar city with an open day. Thanks, Jonathan!
Unless there's a sale or the customer is a first-time renter, there is a precise cost for a Silvercar rental. There are no discounts or coupons; the average customer is paying $69 per day plus local taxes and fees. The company does advertise as a premium product. We want customer's to be happy, so we're always willing to search for lower prices on premium and luxury vehicles at other providers.
AutoSlash can almost always find a lower rate for premium and luxury vehicles than the rate offered by Silvercar. Picking a weekday a month from the time of this blog post, we see Silvercar's Audi A4 at Las Vegas for a total of $88.67 -- taxes in Las Vegas are (surprisingly) relatively moderate compared to many major airports!
The base rate at Silvercar is always $69.00 per day (plus tax) unless there's a sale.
On the same date, AutoSlash could place a renter through Enterprise in a premium car, convertible, or luxury car for far less, without the need to take the second shuttle ride to Silvercar (more on that in a bit).
Alternatively, members of National's Emerald Club could book a mid-size and pick the friskiest vehicle available on the aisle for $54.07 total on the same day. And the renters at a company like Enterprise or National would be earning free days while paying less for their rentals!
Review of the Silvercar Android Application
There's no review of the app. While I have the apps for the major car rental companies on my 2-year old LG Android phone, my version of the operating system is deemed insufficient by Silvercar. Reading that the app was highly recommended for my rental, I reached out to their support team via e-mail. Despite telling the company that my phone was unable to download the app due to their programming, Silvercar's response was that I should download the app to make my rental easier.
The Day of Rental
Like many companies at Las Vegas McCarran, Silvercar requires a "double-shuttle". There's first the ride from the airport's baggage claim area to the consolidated rental car facility (McCarran Rent-A-Car Center). The rental car facility isn't truly "consolidated", as many rental companies (including Silvercar) aren't at that facility. A quick phone call to support (second contact) from the consolidated facility and a silver Audi showed up 12 minutes later.
The NU driver looped by 3 times in 12 minutes. Fox and Verve customers still curbside.
The Silvercar rep was cheerful and spoke about features on the way back to Silvercar's office. The Las Vegas location picks renters up in the Audi A4 they will be driving for the day. Back at the site, I switched credit cards for better insurance coverage and we did the walk-around to note any damage. Twenty-eight minutes after arriving at the rental car facility, I was headed for an early lunch.
The double-shuttle situation at Las Vegas does make for a long wait for a car:
All-in-all, expect 45 minutes to get a Silvercar after picking up baggage at Las Vegas.
The car's a dream and a really great one. Although the A4 is clearly a premium car, it's not flashy by Las Vegas standards. However, those who haven't driven the vehicle before might want to spend a few minutes to get acclimated to the technology! There are more features in this vehicle than any other I've ever encountered; it had technology included in the base rate where other firms tend to assess fees.
- Satellite Radio - Included, without bringing my device from home.
- Navigation - Included, without using the phone's data.
- Low-Cost Fuel - Not stopping at the local Chevron would have only cost AutoSlash founder Jonathan another $5 (rather than the punitive $9.99 per gallon charged by many rental companies).
- Internet Hotspot - Included but varied between 3G and 2G. Jonathan requested that I run speed tests (on the internet, not the car) all day; Internet access while on the road keeps the AutoSlash team going, so that's real "need-to-know" stuff. I ran a few speed tests from the laptop and the best result was "good enough to check e-mail".
Rather than spend time learning about all of the features of the car before hitting the road, I adjusted the mirrors and hit the highway with about a dozen stops during the day.
Impeccable even with almost 20,000 miles on the odometer.
I picked up some news headlines from Audi Connect before configuring the WiFi.
The car was accidentally reset by the Silvercar rep, so I made a few helpful modifications.
The Voice Activated Navigation system was like an easy-to-use, functional version of Hertz' NeverLost.
The car itself is graceful and effortless. In downtown Las Vegas, I easily made a U-turn in two lanes of the road where many cars - including my own - would require a third point. Acceleration, comfort, and visibility were all phenomenal in a variety of driving from stop-and-go, city, highway, and sweeping curves through Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area.
While cruising down Interstate 15 at a little more than the posted speed limit of 65 - keeping up with traffic is important - the Audi A4 was pulling a minimal 1,600 RPM. That's little more than idling in many vehicles! The car didn't like driving around 20 mph in traffic (nor do I), and lugged both there and at another point right around 58 mph. With a smooth 7-speed automatic transmission and turbo, it was easy to do a speed other than 58-60 …
And given an unexpected rain in Las Vegas, I decided to test the sure-footedness of the vehicle in an abandoned parking lot I recalled from a previous trip. The A4 corners effortlessly without a bobble and is clearly much more stable than my personal vehicle.
You don't have to take my word for any of this; Car and Driver magazine ranked the A4 as the best entry-level luxury car. Whether a renter could get similar functionality for less than $89 per day is the true question for AutoSlash users.
Out in Red Rock Canyon (or just in the parking lot), the vehicle cuts a sexy profile.
About the Golf Outing
In my mind, the car only failed one of my personal preference tests. If I'm going golfing with friends - the exact Silvercar genesis statement - one of my friends must fit in the seat behind me while I'm driving. While the vehicle might accommodate three golfers (the driver and two friends plus bags) due to seating and trunk space, there's little chance the whole foursome is riding in the same car with gear. In fact, the proverbial Dodge Caravan happens to be exceptionally well suited for a foursome of golfers …
If I'm driving the A4, the passenger behind me is sitting sideways.
An Unattended Return
After a stop for premium gas at a premium price for the premium car, it was back to the SilverCar office. I arrived 3 hours and 14 minutes before closing time to find a locked office. No staff. No key drop. With a $40,000 car.
Third time's the charm contacting Silvercar Support!
The advice, after a wait, was to leave the car unlocked - with the keys in the door-sill - and that an Uber would be arriving shortly to pick me up. That's right - leave the car unlocked in an open parking lot with the keys inside, then just get in a Uber I hadn't paged.
I can't help but wonder what the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department and Silvercar's risk management firm/insurer would think about such advice. Well, I don't have to wonder too much, as I already know the answer. Worried about both fraud and theft, I took a video using my cell phone's camera as the Uber I had not paged drove me away …
Happily, there was a receipt in my Inbox by the time I got back to the hotel. I complained it was poor practice by Silvercar (fourth contact), to which the company responded that my liability ended when I was told via phone (not documented) to leave the car unattended.
Proviso for Potential Renters
In Las Vegas, there are many tourists, potentially inattentive drivers, potentially intoxicated drivers, and areas of heavy traffic (both vehicle and pedestrian). A vehicle like the Audi A4 2.0T is comparatively expensive. Reading rental car company documents every day for AutoSlash, I rented a Silvercar knowing the vehicle would be fully covered by the combination of my personal insurance and credit card rental car coverage. Given the exclusions that are present in many policies, drivers should always be aware of insurance ramifications when selecting a rental car.
Silvercar provides a premium product (an Audi A4) at a premium price. The vehicles are absolutely top notch, while the customer-facing interactions aren't yet refined by dealing with millions of rentals per year like the major rental car firms. Without the problems with the app, wait for the pickup, and unattended return (e.g. "all the non-car components of the rental experience"), I absolutely would drive an A4 again.
In a vacation destination, I want to start my vacation, not wait for an additional shuttle and then worry whether my rental car's going to be stolen after the return. While the representative in Las Vegas was exceptionally nice and helpful, the four support interactions weren't the type of customer-centered responses we expect of ourselves at AutoSlash. It's more than a little sad to feel that a company's blowing you off thrice on a single transaction.
We're not able to help you book with Silvercar but if you do, we're always available to track alternative providers to help you save! We want you to find the best vehicle/cost combination for your rental, even if it's not with AutoSlash. That's what drives us!