Car not used much? Rent it out for cash

Peer-to-peer car-sharing platform lets owners lease out vehicles on short-term, daily basis

Entrepreneur Dirk-Jan ter Horst came up with the idea of Drive lah, which was launched in June.
Entrepreneur Dirk-Jan ter Horst came up with the idea of Drive lah, which was launched in June.

If your car is idle most of the time, why not rent it out and make some money?

That's the idea behind peer-to-peer car-sharing platform Drive lah, the quirkily-named brainchild of entrepreneur Dirk-Jan ter Horst, 37.

Currently, rentals are on a short-term, daily basis. Hourly rentals are on the horizon, said the company.

Owners can set parameters such as price, how far the renter can drive it and whether trips to Malaysia are allowed. Owners and renters are verified by the company before any transaction.

Both have insurance cover provided by Tokio Marine Insurance and the owner's no-claim discount will not be affected by accidents, said Drive lah.

The service was launched in June and has garnered over 6,000 users and registered more than 500 cars. A quick check showed a second-generation Honda Jazz going for $42 per day, rising to $380 for a first-generation Mercedes-Benz CLA180.

Some 160 trips have been made, Mr ter Horst said, with the number "more than doubling" each month.

Drive lah hopes to get cars off the road and reduce emissions, said Mr ter Horst.

It was given permission to operate its rental scheme on weekdays after securing a six-month regulatory sandbox licence - which can be extended by another six - from the Ministry of Transport and the Land Transport Authority (LTA).

The Ministry of Trade and Industry's Pro-Enterprise Panel helped to bring the parties together.

Currently, private registered cars can be rented out only on weekends and public holidays, under LTA's Private Car Rental Scheme.

Senior Parliamentary Secretary Tan Wu Meng said Drive lah's sandbox was part of a larger approach to help businesses with new models innovate and grow within Singapore. It's a "learning journey" for everyone when business models are so new they do not fit traditional categories or classifications, Mr Tan said.

"With a sandbox, it's about 'start small, learn fast'. And with this sandbox we look forward to LTA - and agencies together - learning about this new business model."

Transport economist Walter Theseira said companies like Drive lah are unlikely to precipitate a "significant change" in private car ownership, given that they are a niche product even in countries with existing schemes.

Among other things, he noted car owners must be committed to keeping the car in good condition and willing to accept wear and tear, among other things.

"People think it's 'free money' but, in practice, these costs (car wear and tear, etc) mean that it is not such an attractive option for the average private car owner in Singapore, where most car owners are quite well off," Associate Professor Theseira said.

Private tutor Beh Pheng Hwee, 48, who has rented his car out four times on Drive lah, said he has not encountered any problems so far using the platform. One renter even washed his Honda Stream before returning it to him, "cleaner than it was before".

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 16, 2019, with the headline Car not used much? Rent it out for cash. Subscribe