03/08/2012 08:48 am ET Updated Mar 08, 2012

Getaround, RelayRides: Lend Your Car To A Stranger

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In the United States, there is one car for every 1.2 people. And buying a car is often one of the largest expenses we'll make in our lifetimes. Yet, we leave our cars parked and unused 92 percent of time.

Enter peer-to-peer car sharing, which allows car owners to pocket some extra cash by lending their idle cars to strangers.

Companies like RelayRides and Getaround have created online social networks that put car owners in touch with those needing wheels.

Car rentals run between $5 and $15 an hour. Car owners pocket about two-thirds of that money after the company deducts for service fees and insurance.

These companies are still fairly new, but they're expanding quickly.

This week, RelayRides went national-- making their service available to anyone over the age of 21 with a clean driving record, according to Slate. Renters obtain keys to the cars either by meeting with the car's owner face-to-face or by picking keys up from a lockbox. The company says their average renter pockets $250 per month through car rentals, according to TechCrunch.

Getaround is a bit more limited: It currently serves San Francisco and San Diego in California as well as Austin, Texas and Portland, Oregon. With Getaround, renters can install a keyless entry system that allows renters to open the car with a smart phone.

We love the start-up nature of these companies, which saves the renter from filling out the endless amount paperwork required by traditional car rentals. Of course, the downside is that you're renting a car to a stranger.

Both companies, however, have insurance policies that cover your car during the rental period. If your car is damaged while it's being used, the renter is responsible for paying a $500 deductible.

UPDATE: This story has been updated to reflect that Getaround offers service in Austin, Texas and Portland, Oregon.

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