Peer-to-peer car rental company Turo launches in Alberta, Ontario and Quebec

TORONTO – A company that has taken the Airbnb model and adapted it to car rentals launched Tuesday in three provinces, its first foray outside the U.S., though it wrestles with the same insurance headaches that other startups in the so-called sharing economy have faced.

Turo, which debuted as RelayRides in 2009 and now operates in more than 2,500 cities, facilitates vehicle rentals between car owners and anyone needing a ride.

People in Alberta, Ontario and Quebec hoping to make money from their cars register them online to rent them to other Turo members.

Turo determines the rental cost of available vehicles each day based on data like the car’s market value, location and time of year. The company pockets 25 per cent of the rental fee, which includes a charge for the owner’s insurance coverage during the rental.

But provincially regulated insurance rules have made a seamless transition north of the border difficult.

The limited launch Tuesday “was the most expedient way for Turo to bring peer-to-peer sharing to Canada,” said Cedric Mathieu, Turo’s director of Canada, in an emailed statement.

Turo has partnered with Intact Financial Corp. and Belairdirect to provide insurance for Canadian clients, a move that will make the service more attractive to customers, said CEO Andre Haddad.

Anyone living in or visiting Alberta, Ontario and Quebec — and approved by Turo’s verification system, which takes into account driving history — can rent a vehicle. They can choose to opt out of insurance, or add basic or premium coverage when renting — at 15 or 40 per cent of the trip’s price.

Any claims that arise from a Turo car rental have no impact on the owner’s personal insurance, said Stephanie Sorensen, director of external communications and corporate social responsibility for Intact.

But it’s not so simple for people looking to rent out their cars, as insurance companies grapple with how to provide coverage.

Only car owners insured by Intact Insurance and Belairdirect who live in those three provinces can list their vehicles on Turo. The insurers have modified their offerings to allow their customers to rent out their vehicles, said Mathieu.

“Moving forward, we are working with other leading Canadian insurers to modify their terms and conditions to enable their customers to also participate in peer-to-peer car sharing,” he said.

The company also plans to move to other provinces and is “working with each province’s unique insurance laws and regulatory framework to make this happen,” said Mathieu.

The insurance issue is one that has consistently cropped up for companies that have aimed to disrupt more traditional business models.

Ride-hailing service Uber recently temporarily suspended operations in Edmonton and Calgary after the Alberta government announced it would not make insurance available to drivers until the summer and require them to hold a commercial licence.

Airbnb, which allows people to rent a portion or all of their home to travellers, hit a stumbling block when some homeowners complained their places were trashed. One Calgary family, for example, were left with $75,000 in damage following a raging house party.

Airbnb, which offers up to $1 million for property damage in certain situations, said it would pay for the repairs.

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Note to readers: This is a corrected story. A previous version had an incorrect spelling for Airbnb.