Why FlightCar Will Transform the Way You Travel

By Robert Firpo-Cappiello
January 27, 2022
FlightCar SFO station
Courtesy FlightCar

"Imagine that next time you drive to the airport, you don't have to pay for parking and at the end of your trip your car will be returned to you freshly cleaned." FlightCar CEO Rujul Zaparde sure got my attention when he posed that travel scenario to me the other day.

If you’re like me, one of the most stressful parts of air travel is the drive to the airport, the hassle of finding long-term parking, the inevitable-yet-somehow-always-shocking expense, and the prospect of having to do the whole thing again after the return trip. FlightCar, launched by Zaparde in 2013, is taking the sting out of airport parking and sweetening the prospect of renting a car (when was the last time you actually looked forward to picking up a rental car?).

Inspired in part by sharing-economy models such as Airbnb, FlightCar makes sharing cars more convenient than you might have thought possible, adding up to a win-win for both car owners and car renters:

Car owners save on parking fees and even make a little extra money. Instead of parking your car at the airport when you fly, FlightCar allows you to list your car online in advance of an upcoming trip. Travelers planning to visit your town can browse listings and book your car. Instead of parking at the airport, you drop off your car at a FlightCar station, where staff shuttle you on a quick ride to the airport. For each day that a visitor to your town rents your car, you’ll receive some money. At the end of your trip, you’ll return to a clean car with a full tank of gas.

Car renters get a way cooler set of wheels. Prospective car renters can see what type of vehicles are available that match their dates of travel and their needs, and they enjoy a unique car for their visit. Renters can contact FlightCar at any point for assistance, and when it's time to return the car to a FlightCar station before the flight home, renters get a quick shuttle ride to the airport.

On top of the potential savings, I’m impressed by how FlightCar has been relentlessly improving its already efficient and enjoyable customer experience by building a sharing community online, taking customer questions and suggestions seriously, and offering clear and transparent information on pricing, insurance, and rental policies. And the FlightCar app, available for iOS and Android, offers its own seamless, intuitive experience.

FlightCar is currently available at 12 major U.S. airports, including Newark, Washington D.C., Los Angeles, San Francisco, Denver, and others, with more coming soon.

Learn more (and take the FlightCar app for a spin!) at

Keep reading
Product Reviews

Rental cars: Hertz changes its loyalty program

Hertz, America's largest car rental company, has switched from its #1 Awards loyalty program to a new rewards system called Gold Plus rewards. Unlike with Avis's program, points can be redeemed for free car rentals without blackout dates. Unlike with Avis's and National's programs, points don't expire as long as you rent a car or cash in points every two-year period. It's free to sign up, and Hertz is offering a 500-point sign-up bonus, redeemable for one free weekend day rental. Even more intriguing, I think, is that Hertz is waiving its usual annual fee for its #1 Club Gold service, which offers expedited service to members. The #1 Club Gold service lets you skip the rental car counters at 40 major airport locations and have expedited service at more than a thousand other locations. It's free, instead of having to pay the first year of the $60 membership fee, for new members joining through September 30, 2011. Check out the Hertz loyalty program website for details. MORE FROM BUDGET TRAVEL Book a trip you saw on TV Bookworms rejoice! Harry Potter takes over London and New York The 10 Most Travel-Inspiring Films of the Year

Product Reviews

Which travel rewards program has the most valuable points?

A new study does the math on the value of points for major travel loyalty programs. Long story short: You'll be especially happy if you've been amassing points with Starwood or Southwest. NextAdvisor, a site that specializes in analyzing and comparing consumer products, recently took a close look at the value of travel reward points. To figure out a monetary value for points, NextAdvisor rounded up what travelers would have to pay out of pocket for various hotel stays and flights, and then compared to those prices to the number of points required for redemption to grant the traveler those same hotel stays or flights free of charge. Not all travel companies are represented (InterContinental Priority Club anybody?). But based on the eight brands in the mix -- American, Continental, Delta, Hilton, Marriott, Southwest, Starwood, United -- the awards for most valuable points go to Starwood Preferred Guest (for hotel points) and Southwest Rapid Rewards (for airline points). Accoring to NextAdvisor's math, when points are redeemed for hotel stays, each Starwood loyalty point is worth $0.021 (a little more than two pennies), which soundly beats Hilton (value of $0.005 per point) and Marriott ($0.008). In terms of flights, Southwest's points are most valuable ($0.017 per point), with United coming in second ($0.011). What's the point about all of these point values? The takeaway is that some points are much more valuable, and therefore much more worthy of piling up, than others. MORE FROM BUDGET TRAVEL: Get discounted travel by buying gift cards Are you more loyal to hotel rewards or frequent flier programs? The Breakdown on 8 Membership Programs

Product Reviews

Sign-up bonuses juice up dining miles cards

To whet your appetite for earning miles (without flying!), several major airlines are offering sign-up bonuses this fall for their mileage dining programs. Your favorite restaurant might offer from 1 to 10 miles for every dollar you spend. But are those miles enough to justify the logistical hassle of signing up and dining at designated restaurants? The value of these programs depends on 1) taking advantage of some of the current sign-up bonuses; 2) having at least one participating restaurant near where you live and that you might dine at every other month; and 3) using the mile activity as a way to keep your frequent flier accounts active. One of the biggest things to change in the past year for these programs has been the development of smartphone apps. Now, instead of having to bring along a clunky, quickly outdated paper directory of participating restaurants, you can get a real-time list of what spots will earn you miles. Another change in recent years has been consolidation in the industry, with only one company Rewards Network, running all of the major programs. This change has allowed programs to become simplified and standardized. If a restaurant participates in the program for United, it probably also does for Delta, too, and you can use the same downloadable app for your smart phone to figure it out. If you have more than one dining card, you can double up on your rewards. Here's the lowdown on how these programs work: It's free to sign up for a dining card that gives airline credit every time you use it. Rewards Network, for instance, will (typically) give you three United miles for every mile you spend at a restaurant. At a value of about a penny a mile, that credit amounts to a 5 percent rebate on a family of four's typical restaurant check. Compared with some charge-cards, that's a decent mileage payoff. No wonder more than 3 million travelers are enrolled in these programs. All the dining programs work in a similar way. You sign up online for free at the sites (see the list, below), punching in your frequent flier number and registering a debit or credit card (American Express, Discover, MasterCard, Visa.) Use the card to pay your bill (including food, beverage, tax and tip) at a participating restaurant, and then miles will be automatically credited to your frequent flier account. No need to tell the waiter. As I mentioned, sign-up bonuses can juice up your earnings. To use United as an example again because it's so large, its dining program currently offers 1,000 mile bonus for signing up and spending at least $50 at a participating restaurant by the end of the year. These are the sweetest bonuses being offered now: Alaska Airlines Bonus: Earn an additional 500 miles if you spend $25 at a participating restaurant within a month of signing up. Delta Bonus: Earn 1,000 miles if you spend $25 at a participating restaurants within a month of signing up. Southwest Rapid Rewards Dining Bonus: Spend $25 at participating restaurants within two months of signing up and you'll receive 300 points United Bonus: Earn 1,000 miles extra for signing up and spending at least $50 at a participating restaurant by the end of the year. US Airways Bonus: Earn 1,000 points if you spend $25 or more on two different occasions between now and the end of the year at participating restaurants. Another perk of dining cards: It's a no-sweat way to keep your frequent flier mileage accounts active and prevent the qualifying miles you earn by actually flying from expiring after the typical 18-month span. (Miles will usually be deleted if an account is stagnant for 18 months.) The first step in deciding if the programs are worth it to you is to see if local restaurants that you love participate. It's understandable to be suspicious that restaurants must be bad to have to throw 5 miles per dollar at you to eat at them. But because of the recession many eateries are becoming more competitive. You can always ask a waiter, of course, to see if the restaurant participates. Or you can download a free app to find participating restaurants. The largest dining club program, Rewards Network is a good example to use, as the major airlines United/Continental, American, Delta, Southwest, and US Airways all belong. Find a participating restaurant by downloading one of these free apps, Blackberry, iPhone/iPad, Android There are some annoying downsides to the programs, though: One is that you can often only earn credit once per month (or a similar limit) at any one restaurant. The other is that, if you're not careful in the e-mail preferences you fill out, you could be blitzed with messages from participating restaurants. If you block the e-mails, however, you could get only one mile per $1 spent—or worse, maybe even nothing, as my colleague Brad Tuttle reported a while ago. The things a budget-conscious traveler has to put up with these days! Have these dining cards worked for you? Share your thoughts in the comments! MORE FROM BUDGET TRAVEL: Southwest Waters Down Its Rapid Rewards Program Ads on Boarding Passes: Are Airlines Sharing Your Info? How Do You Use a Cell Phone Boarding Pass at the Metal Detector?

Product Reviews

Travel: Google cheap flights faster with new fare search

Google launched its Google Travel product, Flight Search, this afternoon. You can now search for flight schedules and fares by typing in a request in the main Google box or by going to (The news was first reported by Search Engine Watch.) At first glance, Kayak, Bing, and other metasearch sites are still far more helpful than Google, in my opinion. For now, Google only displays flight results for major U.S. cities and only for round-trip economy-class flights. In the main Google search box, you could enter "flights to CHI" (without the quotation marks). Google would figure out your hometown, based on where you're searching from, and list flights from your nearest major airport to Chicago. You could also search on "flights from san francisco to minneapolis." If you did that, a new "Flights" filter would appear in the left-hand column, next to things like "Video" and "News." (See image at the top of this post for an example.) If you clicked on "Flights" you would get to see a map of the US and a few simple drop-down choices to narrow down your search. Do you want nonstop flights? A specific time for your outbound flight? Once you find a fare you like, Google will shoot you over to the airline's site, for booking. Google has only begun to display fares, of course. If the past is any guide, the search giant will probably become more competitive and innovative in displaying fares as the months go on. Google is using ITA Software—a company it bought (as we reported in April)—to power its flight search. Budget Travel's editor in chief Nina Willdorf has previously praised ITA Software as "the best flight search tool you've never heard of," so all Budget Travel editors are optimistic about what Google might do next with this powerful software. Google hopes that flight search boosts its popularity with people who use the Internet to look up information. While nearly two out of three searches are still done on the famous site, the percentage of searches done on Google has been declining for a couple of years as rivals, like Facebook, gain popularity, new data shows. VERY MUCH RELATED INFORMATION FROM BUDGET TRAVEL: The best flight search tool you've never heard of 10 most useful travel websites of 2011 Sign-up bonuses juice up dining miles cards