It’s no secret that, aside from high-dollar collector models, cars are a depreciating asset. Worse, you’re paying for your car even when you’re not using it, which is why peer-to-peer car sharing services like RelayRides are growing in popularity.

The concept behind RelayRides is simple: subscribers make their cars available for rental to other RelayRides subscribers, and (assuming all goes as planned) generate supplemental income from their otherwise idle car.

RelayRides checks the driving record of prospective members and provides both car owners and renters with supplemental insurance, but many are still hesitant to turn their cars over to total strangers. Enter OnStar, who’s partnering with RelayRides to make the service both more secure and easier to implement.

Here’s how it works: an owner of an OnStar equipped vehicle logs on to his OnStar account and makes the car available for rental via RelayRides. Once a picture is uploaded, the car can be rented right away by anyone with a RelayRides account.

When the car is rented, the prospective driver need not meet the owner to exchange keys; instead, the renter contacts OnStar via smartphone to unlock the doors of the vehicle. The owner, presumably, must leave a spare key hidden in the car, much to the delight of car thieves everywhere.

Renters get the added peace of mind that OnStar gives, meaning that directions or emergency assistance is just the press of a button away. Owners also benefit from knowing that if their car is stolen, it can be tracked and even disabled by the OnStar service.

According to RelayRides, owners can generate hundreds of dollars per month in supplemental income, assuming they live in an urban environment with a high demand for temporary rental cars. The company claims that each shared car results in up to 13 fewer cars on the road, which leads to less congestion and less pollution.

It’s a win for OnStar, too, since participating owners must maintain an active OnStar subscription. The RelayRides feature may indeed up the number of repeat subscribers, especially in urban markets where the supplemental income can easily offset the monthly OnStar fee.
While most of us are far too particular about our own cars to consider renting them to strangers, we’ll admit that the link to OnStar would give us a bit more peace of mind. What’s your take? Would you rent your car via a service like RelayRides? Does the relationship with OnStar make a difference one way or the other?