In Los Angeles, finding fast and inexpensive transportation can be a challenge for many USC students, but with the launch of Wheelz — a car-sharing company that pays car owners to rent their vehicles to other students — university officials predict that student transportation will become less of a chore.
“Wheelz is an additional transportation solution that complements our existing programs,” said Tony Mazza, director of USC Transportation. “This will provide more options to students who currently do not have access to a car as well as a way for car owners to generate income.”
Unlike Zipcar, a specialized agency that rents cars to USC students at hourly rates, Wheelz allows students with cars on campus to rent their vehicles to other students.
Molly Gerth, Wheelz’s public relations director, said students earn on average $200 a month sharing their cars and those Trojans who borrow other students’ vehicles can do so for rates much lower than those of a regular rental car agency.
“It’s a great system because the money goes back to your peers, you save on parking and it helps limit traffic congestion,” Gerth said. “Plus, it’s convenient for students who need cars on short notice.”
Wheelz’s car-sharing system is keyless so students do not have to meet to exchange keys. Wheelz installs a free electronic device inside participating students’ cars so students who rent the car can download a mobile application that automatically unlocks the vehicle upon arriving.
Wheelz Marketing and Communication Director Aaron Platshon said Wheelz has a $1-million insurance policy that protects car owners and drivers from accidents and theft and provides a 24/7 roadside assistance service.
“Although Wheelz drivers have been driving safely and responsibly, we understand accidents do happen and we must be prepared,” Platshon said.
Wheelz first launched at Stanford last September and has since expanded to UC Berkeley, UCLA and now USC.
Devon Graves, a senior majoring in philosophy, said he does not plan to participate in the program.
“There is no way I’d trust random students with my car,” Grave said. “I know [Wheelz has] an insurance policy, but there’s still way too much liability.”
Though Wheelz conducts background checks and links the car-sharing program to Facebook, car-owners cannot choose who rents their vehicle.
“What happens if I rent my car to a guy who has a little too much to drink and spills stuff all over the floor?” Graves said. “Or worse, what happens if he hits someone? I could never live with myself if I rented a car to someone who killed another driver in an accident.”
Bella Urrea, a sophomore majoring in philosophy, politics and law, said she is willing to share her car with other students.
“I would totally do it,” Urrea said. “I have a car on campus and don’t need it every day so I’d be happy to share it with fellow Trojans.”
Urrea said the income she would generate through car-sharing is not the only reason why she would participate in the program.
“It’s the sense of camaraderie. We’re the Trojan Family and I trust that students who borrow my car will treat it with respect just like I would respect their vehicles.”