After a test run in the city, a local on-demand car rental startup has rebranded and pinned its first stop in North Chesterfield.
Pincars Car Share, formerly called Certified Auto Rentals, relaunched last week at the Element at Stonebridge apartments near Midlothian Turnpike in North Chesterfield.
Founded last year by Coretta Kingston, Pincars is fueled by its app that allows users to locate an available car on their Android phones, make a reservation and rent the vehicle for $15 an hour. The app also lets people lock and unlock the car and access keys kept in the vehicle’s glove box.
Potential renters, particularly those that do not have an Android or smartphone, can also book vehicles on Pincars’ website, Kingston said. An Apple app is in the works and could be released by the end of the year.
New members will pay a one-time $30 application fee, Kingston said. Renters must be at least 21 years old, have a current U.S. driver’s license, and a clean driving record with no major infractions, such as drunk and reckless driving, or vehicular homicide, to be eligible to use the car.
“We do a thorough background check because we clearly don’t want someone that is negligent to be using our vehicles,” Kingston said.
Drivers can take the car anywhere in metro Richmond and across the state, Kingston said, and must return the car to its designated parking spot after their trip.
“They can take the car to Virginia Beach or to the movies down the street, as long as they stay in the state, they’re in good shape to travel,” Kingston said. “That’s the joy of this service.”
Pincars currently has one vehicle available – a 2015 Hyundai Accent – but plans to ramp up its fleet in the coming months by purchasing four new compact cars.
Each car will have liability insurance, which protects the company if the driver wrecks the vehicle, Kingston said. She said drivers can purchase more insurance protection through Pincars’ Damage Waiver Fee program for an additional $3 per hour or $10 for the day.
If the car is not returned to its designated space, Kingston said the company has installed a GPS tracker in the car – allowing Pincars to report it stolen to law enforcement and track its whereabouts.
Kingston launched CARS and Pincasrs in light of changes she saw in the car rental industry, in which she has more than a decade of experience.
“The entire industry as a whole is shifting to meet the immediate convenience needs of the consumer,” Kingston said. “We recognize that there are other players out there, but with Pincars we hope to meet that demand locally.”
In addition to competing in Richmond with traditional rental companies, taxis and Uber, Pincars will face competition from Zipcar, which also sells memberships allowing users access to on-demand cars by the hour.
Zipcar set up shop in Richmond in 2010, targeting VCU and University of Richmond students. The company is owned by rental car goliath Avis Budget Group.
Kingston, who worked for Avis Budget Group most of her career as an independent operator before pursuing her own on-demand car rental business, was aware of the competition.
When she first launched her company late last year, she pinned her business on high traffic commercial destinations – establishing her first car in a designated space in the Main Street Station parking lot in Shockoe Bottom.
Despite seeing a good influx of users in Shockoe Bottom, Kingston realized that in order to further expand her reach to the masses it meant tweaking her business model and following potential users to their residences.
“We had to reach more people,” Kingston said.
After rebranding, Kingston shifted the Main Street parking station location earlier this year, and moved her vehicle just across the Richmond city line into Chesterfield County after striking a deal with Elements at Stonebridge.
“Boyd [Homes] was such a good company to partner with,” Kingston said of the apartment’s builder and owner. “It really fit into my business model of bringing my service to residents that could use them.”
Kingston said she hopes to work with more apartment communities and retail centers across the Richmond area to expand Pincars’ reach. She added she is also looking to make inroads with area universities and colleges as well.
“Eventually, I want to come back to the downtown area and work with other businesses to expand Pincars,” Kingston said.
Over the next three to five years, Kingston said she has her eye on additional expansion into the Hampton Roads and Northern Virginia markets.
“I figured over the next few years, I hope to grow my employment base to about 10 to cover all the territories as we grow,” Kingston said. “Right now there are three of us running this operation in Richmond.”
Year-to-date, Kingston has invested about $20,000 of her own capital in the business. She has also secured a $25,000 micro loan from the Virginia Small Business Financing Authority – capital she said will be used to help market Pincars, cover administrative costs and purchase vehicles.
“The key word here is convenience,” Kingston said. “This service provides that option for people who do not have a vehicle, or simply need to get some place.”