Lyft launches a car rental service with no mileage limit

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Lyft is getting into car rentals. The ride-hailing company announced Thursday that it’s launching a rental service available in its main smartphone app that will work pretty much just like traditional car rental companies, starting in the San Francisco Bay Area and Los Angeles, California. The company will also provide renters with two $20 ride credits to help cover the cost of taking a Lyft to and from the pickup and drop-off points.

Lyft is trying a couple things at launch beyond those ride credits to lure renters away from incumbents. For one thing, Lyft will allow people as young as 22 to rent, provided they have a valid driver’s license. There are no mileage limits, and Lyft says it will only charge the “local market rate” for gas, meaning renters won’t have to worry about filling up their cars before they drop them off. Cars can be taken for as little as one day or as long as two weeks.

At launch, Lyft is making the Volkswagen Passat sedan and the Volkswagen Atlas SUV available to rent in San Francisco. The Mazda 3 sedan and Mazda CX-5 SUV will be the launch cars in Los Angeles. The company is aggressively pricing the rentals, too, with the Passat in San Francisco available for as little as $35 per day (though Lyft says pricing may change based on things like when people rent).

It’s not clear which specific model year version of the cars Lyft is using, but the company says each one features Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The company also says it will introduce hybrid options into the two fleets “soon.” Lyft says it is also purchasing carbon offsets for “all miles driven” by renters.

Lyft is also offering three different types of optional coverage for the rentals. There’s a tier that covers personal injury and personal property, one that covers damage to the car ($16 per day for the sedans, $25 per day for the SUVs), and a supplemental liability option that provides up to $1 million in coverage against claims made by third parties.

A look at the rental portion of the app in action in San Francisco.

Uber previously dipped into the rental space via a partnership with car-sharing company Getaround, though it shut that program down at the end of 2018. Both Uber and Lyft have also rented and leased cars to drivers on their platforms in the past.

But this is the most full-throated attempt from either company at taking a bite out of the rental car market, which is dominated by just a few players who are already fighting to keep from losing customers to ride-hailing companies in the first place.

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