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You rent my ride, I’ll rent yours

Thomson Kao’s mother wasn’t thrilled when he decided to rent his 2005 Civic through the new Cambridge car-sharing company.

Thomson Kao’s mother wasn’t thrilled when he decided to rent his 2005 Civic through the new Cambridge car-sharing company. “I think most people are skeptical, but a lot of people say it’s a great idea,” Kao, 25, said. “You have to have a good degree of social trust for this all to work.”

The service allows borrowers to rent cars from neighbors hourly or daily with rates that are roughly 10 to 20 percent cheaper than Zipcar. But the Harvard MBA who founded the company, Shelby Clark, insists he’s not trying to compete with his Cambridge counterpart.

“A lot of our customers are Zipcar customers as well,” the 28-year-old said. “Zipcar is a great company. It’s how I got into the car-sharing service.”

Clark said customers like knowing all but 35 percent of the fee goes into the car owner’s pocket, with 20 percent going toward RelayRides’ $1-million insurance policy.

“People worry that borrowers would not respect their car and not treat it well,” Clark said. “That’s definitely not what we’ve found. Our customers have found it to be a very personal experience.”

Before joining, Kao almost sold his car because he lent it to friends more than he drove it. He earned $200 in the first two weeks alone.

 
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