By on January 30, 2015

LATrip2015 001

From now until the end of February, visitors to eight major markets in the United States will be able to rent a 2014 or 2015 Audi A4 2.0T Quattro for fifty-nine dollars a day. If you drive through an automated tollbooth with the car, you’ll be charged the actual amount of the toll charge. If you forget to fill the car up, they’ll fill it for street price plus five bucks. The company is called “Silvercar” and you can get their app on your smartphone in just seconds.

At this point, you can just read the next article, right? Given that an Altima or Fusion from Hertz will run you between $35 and $55 per day at most of those airports, what’s to think about? Either you don’t care what you rent, in which case paying for an Audi seems stupid, or you are anxious to not be seen driving a rental car, in which case paying $59 a day for an Audi instead of $149 a day for a Cheap-class Benzo is beyond obvious.

What? You want to know how it works? Okay. Click the jump.

LA to Barcelona 013

Silvercar works much like FedEx did back in the early days of FedEx, which is to say they emphasize a narrow range of service and attempt to excel within that range. As previously noted, they operate in just eight markets, and they don’t have a conventional airport rental office. This is presented as an upscale feature — your Silvercar concierge will meet you with your car! — but in practice it means taking a shuttle to a parking lot somewhere so Silvercar can avoid airport concession fees. This is about as upscale as it sounds.

LATrip2015 005

My Silvercar experience lasted six days and started at LAX, where I took a shuttle out to a parking lot and met my concierge. He directed me to use my smartphone to scan the QR code on the windshield. Insofar as it as night time, this did not go well. Eventually we settled on using his phone for a light and my phone for a scanner. I mention this to show that the company is still working out some issues, like how do we rent a car to someone when the ball of fire that lights the world is sleeping with Persephone or something like that.

LATrip2015 006

The actual specification of the Silvercar itself is quite fascinating to a former Audi owner such as myself. It’s not a car you can buy in the United States, at least not from a dealer. It has a full suite of infotainment features including a built-in Wi-Fi hotspot and navigation, but it has single-zone climate control. Also, the keyless entry features are disabled, no doubt to prevent various issues at their garage facilities. Some of the cars have Sport aero, others don’t. There are no shift paddles on the wheel, either. However, it’s the single-zone climate that will reliably identify former Silvercars in the used lots of the future.

LA to Barcelona 014

In Silvercar spec, the A4 exudes complete and total acceptability but not much else. The combination of the small engine, Quattro drivertrain, and semi-dim-witted eight-speed automatic isn’t magic, although when you really need to force the issue the Audi will hustle in a way that a four-cylinder Malibu or Sonata simply cannot. Driving this back-to-back with a 2014 Camry SE, I had to wonder where, exactly, the sixty-percent markup was going.

In any kind of race with my Accord V6, this Audi wouldn’t see which way the Honda went. However, a thirty-mile canyon run with The Smoking Tire‘s Matt Farah and his tuned-up Fiesta ST showed that the Audi has absolutely trustworthy chassis behavior. There are few cars out there that I’d want to take to tire-squeal territory on a completely unfamiliar mountain road — but that’s also an indictment of the A4’s relatively low limits. Low, but wide; you can make a few mistakes and the nose-heavy balance will combine with a bit of torque-to-the-rear and fix things pretty well. Under no circumstances will this car behave neutrally. If you want that, go get a Camry and learn to hop off the throttle in midcorner. Seriously.

There’s also the fact that this generation of Audi has been around for eight years now, without much in the way of improvement. While I’m pretty happy with the MMI navigation and audio interface, having used it for two years in my lime-green S5, every passenger I had in the Silvercar was utterly disgusted with the twist-and-press school of entering addresses or searching for music.

Although Silvercar has a return method that is very similar to their pickup method, I chose instead to visit their base of operations near LAX to inspect the facility and see just how fly-by-night it was. The answer: not at all. They had perhaps eighty cars in stock, all of them clean and in outstanding shape. The whole place was quiet and dirt-free. The return process was easy enough, and I suspect they’d have run me to the airport had I asked.

As a way to try-before-you-buy with an Audi A4, Silvercar makes excellent sense. As a limited-scope replacement for a rental car, it makes excellent sense. At full retail price, whatever that price turns out to be, when these Audis have thirty thousand miles on them? At that point, you might want to consider that Camry from Hertz.

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85 Comments on “An Audi A Day, At Fifty-Nine Bucks: Silvercar For Dummies...”


  • avatar

    Make it an RS7 and you’ve got a deal.

    I’m absolutely not interested in ANY car in Audi’s portfolio with the exception of the S7 and RS7.

  • avatar
    John R

    As per usual the Philly area gets snubbed.

  • avatar
    Lie2me

    So, a weirdly spec Audi from an iffy but ok rental operation for yahoos who want to hoon an Audi for $59

    I get it, do not buy a used car from them

    • 0 avatar
      PrincipalDan

      Yeah I was going to ask… Did they lease these vehicles or did Audi agree to buy back the cars in the end and crush them? I can’t see Audi being comfortable with used cars out there that they aren’t willing to sell new in the United States.

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    Intriguing concept, I would want to ensure there are no bogus additional fees though.

  • avatar
    oldowl

    Another alternative to standard URentEms. Sure, why not?
    And you could try a whole variety of vehicles from RelayRides. You rent from owners but the payment is managed online.

    • 0 avatar
      TMA1

      I’d be more interested in ready about RelayRides. I almost reserved a nice looking C-Class for 5 days to drive to Ohio. It would have cost about $200 for 5 days. Owners set their own rates, and gets competitive. The guy asking $60 a day for his Mercedes isn’t going to get a bite when there are 10 similar cars going for under $40 a day.

      • 0 avatar
        oldowl

        I rented an older Jeep Liberty in Colorado recently. I was concerned that I might need 4WD if I wanted to go up-mountain west of Boulder. The rental cost was much, much less than if I had rented a Jeep Wrangler Unlimited from a you-know-who agency. The older Liberty got me around just fine, and the owner was a peach to deal with.

    • 0 avatar
      This Is Dawg

      Alright! RelayRides is showing a 2010 GTR for only $549 in my area! The lowest I can find are 2001-2003 Civics and Camry’s for 22 bucks.

  • avatar

    Perfect future subprime lot fodder for Westlake and Credit Acceptance dealer partners on the ‘wrong side’ of town. $3000, you drive today! Just bring in your soon-to-be-cancelled license, your sister’s insurance policy, and a W2 your friend created for you!

  • avatar
    Don Mynack

    Oh, of course there’s one in Austin, but not in Houston. F*ck those hipsters already.

  • avatar
    FractureCritical

    knowing what base model “premium” spec cars can be had for from local Audi dealers, I’m willing to bet the fleet sale was cost competitive compared to something like a mid-trim Camry.

    one other thing:
    “every passenger I had in the Silvercar was utterly disgusted with the twist-and-press school of entering addresses or searching for music.”

    really? hyperbole much?

  • avatar
    baconator

    This is for people who want to impress people. And I’m sure over some domain, it will. Nothing wrong with the business model.

    But yeah, if you buy cars based on how they drive, there are several sedans better and cheaper than a 4-cylinder A4. Including VW’s own Jetta GLI, on the small-and-sporty end, or Passat 1.8T, on the big-and-squishy end.

    • 0 avatar
      FractureCritical

      as a former owner of both a 2010 Jetta and a 2008 Passat, both of which were better than the current incarnations, I can very confidently inform you that you are sorely mistaken.

    • 0 avatar
      tekdemon

      Not surprised that LA and Miami are launch cities…they’re relatively image obsessed places where people are more likely to care what brand of car they’re seen in. Apparently in LA people will judge your car when you drive to a lunch meeting to the extent where they will literally tell you to go get a nicer car for future meetings-insane.

      But I could see this as being a cheap way of getting around that judgmental bs without having to spend too much

    • 0 avatar
      HerrKaLeun

      this is anecdotal and outdated, but in Germany i drove A4 and Golf back to back and the Audi feels as stable at 160 km/h as the Gold feels at 130 km/h. (Jetta being nothing else than a sedan version of the golf). and in the US there is a decontented Jetta with solid rear axle etc…. so i highly doubt it drives better than an Audi.

      Obviously the advantage of driving stable at 160 km/h (100 mph) isn’t beneficial in the country of 80 mph max. speed limit and constant law enforcement…

  • avatar
    JohnnyFirebird

    Today’s post was brought to you by Silvercar! Silvercar: the car rental company your cat asks for by name.

    I don’t think anything but the TT and R8 has showed me why Audis are worth the premium over Volkswagen.

    • 0 avatar
      matador

      I own an Audi because of quattro. But, trust me, the rest of the luxury is worth it.

      The Audi is nicer appointed, and rides like nothing else.

    • 0 avatar

      The TT, although brilliantly engineered, is at its roots, a Volkswagen. So are the A1 (Polo), A3 (Mk.7 Golf) and Q3 (Mk.6 Golf). The rest of them are longitude-engined and are available with *real*, non-Haldex Quattro, and definitely feel much more upscale than the FWD Volkswagen offerings, and definitely worth a price premium. I say that as someone who drives a Volkswagen.

    • 0 avatar
      asterix

      My first Audi car was an Audi 80. I’m currently on my fourth Audi A8L and have owned a Passat SEL, a Touareg, and a W12 Phaeton. Inasmuch as VW and Audi are basically first cousins, an Audi is not a VW so they shouldn’t be compared. They are built for different audiences.

    • 0 avatar
      rpn453

      I stepped out of a 2011 S4 and into a 2015 Jetta TDI just a few days ago, and I was quite surprised at how much nicer the Audi was. In terms of both interior and chassis, the Audi seemed so solid and substantial, with thick seat leather that could be used to make a durable baseball glove, while the Jetta seemed flimsy and unrefined, with fake leather seat materials that could only be used to make a toy baseball glove for a very small child.

      Not only that, but where are you going to find that smooth, refined, and torquey supercharged V6 with a full-time, rear-biased, fully mechanical Torsen AWD system in a VW?

      The Audis are certainly worth the premium to those who can easily afford it. But they provide no practical advantage over a VW, so most people would be better off spending their money on other things. The Jetta is comfortable, practical transportation. I can see why someone would choose either car.

  • avatar
    Mandalorian

    Unless it’s a Suburban or similar, $55 for a rental car is rediculous especially an intermdiate sedan.

    • 0 avatar
      dtremit

      The thing I don’t get about Silvercar is that, presumably, their customer is renting one of these to impress someone. And presumably, those people to be impressed would need to *fit inside the car.* Not exactly the A4’s strong suit.

      • 0 avatar
        ZCD2.7T

        Just wondering: Have you actually been inside the current A4?

        At 6′ 2″ and 200 lbs, I fit comfortably in the front AND the back of my S4, presuming that those in front are reasonable about sharing legroom. It’s not exactly roomy, but it’s acceptable.

      • 0 avatar
        jmo

        Or business travelers who have a nice car at home and would enjoy a nice one on their every other week trip from EWR to SFO.

      • 0 avatar
        krhodes1

        I find them plenty spacious. :-)

        I rent from them because an A4 is a much nicer drive than what Hertz will usually, but not always, give me for the same money. But I know exactly what I am getting. No rental car roulette, it’s an A4, silver, black interior, every time. Their damage waiver is cheaper than Hertz too.

        It’s not as nice as my BMW, but it is nicer than a 10yo Mazda6.

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      @Mandalorian

      If you think that is true you obviously don’t get out much. It is not remotely unusual for Hertz/Avis/National to charge $90 for an Altima/Camry on a short rental from an airport. Plus taxes fees and damage waiver and you are typically looking at $150 per day for a mid-size snooze mobile. Anything under $75 for the car is a decent deal. Much cheaper on a weekly or weekend rental, but the 1-2-3 day midweeks are killer expensive.

  • avatar
    Mr. Orange

    Aren’t all Malibu’s and Sonata’s equipped with 4 cylinder engines.

    This seems appealing. You don’t have to wait. I like that concept. Some times I’ve rented I had to wait as long as 50 minutes from walking to the counter to them handing me the keys. If they expand to more cities I would consider them.

  • avatar
    Rod Panhard

    And just think, their customers could potentially drive 1 million miles and nobody would die at the wheel!

  • avatar
    jacob_coulter

    I’m sure it’s a terrible business model, but I would love it if a company came along that had a large variety of different rentals for people who wanted to spend some time with a car before they bought it.

    I’m not talking anything exotic, but nicer than standard rental car fare. I would definitely pay $80-$100 a day to say rent a Lexus GS before I bought it.

  • avatar
    jmo

    As someone who has rented a car at various airports every week for years at a time – I don’t think many of the commenters are looking at this business model through the eyes of the bread and butter of the airport car rental business – the business traveler.

    Take a look at any major airport parking lot on a Monday morning – S class, 7 series, A8 A7 Lexus etc. These are all very highly paid people who in many cases control their own budgets. Many may enjoy not having to swap their Panamara for a Kia Sedona for the third week in a row.

    • 0 avatar
      Fred

      As someone in the lower ranks of business (engineering actually) we are instructed to go with Hertz or Enterprise where we get a discount and I’m pretty sure they would not look kindly to any kind of luxury rental. So yea this is a specialized deal, that most likely will evolve as they go along. The only thing I thought was odd is why they got such an odd speced car.

      • 0 avatar
        jmo

        Presumably Silver Car can offer discounts as well and compete on price due to the lack of concession fees.

        Speaking of luxury, I book my own travel and I noticed, depending on the week, that the Marriott can be 289 and the Ritz two doors down was 249. Why? Because so many folks can’t submit a Ritz receipt even if it’s saving th company money.

        I’ve also noticed the same trend in rental cars, the intermediate, full size and premiums are all exactly the same price. Likely because so many corporate travel department insist on the interimediate.

        • 0 avatar
          krhodes1

          At least at DFW, the fees and taxes are the same for SilverCar as for Hertz. Their damage waiver is usually $10/day cheaper though. This may vary by location of course. At DFW they do actually have a small counter inside the rental car center, though I have rarely seen anyone in it. I think it just has a phone to contact them. Their actual site is maybe 2 miles away.

        • 0 avatar

          There’s a lot of truth in that. I can often get much better rates at a Kimpton than at a Marriott, but I’ve been told not to stay at Kimptons because “it looks bad.”

  • avatar
    krhodes1

    I have now done 4 rentals with Silvercar, all at DFW. Some of their cars have the single-zone, some have the dual-zone. I really noticed this, because the first time I got one with the single-zone I thought it did not have heated seats. They are in a different location and the buttons were not lit at night. And it was COLD! Found it the next morning. In Dallas they all seem to be Sportline cars. In Denver they have Q5s available too (ski crowd). At DFW they just leave you a car in the parking lot where the rental shuttle bus drops you off, which is closer than a lot of the regular rental cars. And when you drop off the car they are more than happy to give you a ride directly to your terminal or to your hotel, I have done both. I’ve never gone back to the rental center and had to take the bus to the terminal. They also do not charge a fee if you drop the car off a day or more early like Hertz does. I will often drop the car off the night before, get a ride back to my hotel, then take the hotel shuttle to the terminal. My usual hotel is right around the corner from their location anyway. Saves a day of rental car expense for the car just sitting in the parking lot overnight anyway.

    To date, they have never actually charged me for any tolls in five rentals. Hertz nailed me for a $5.95 per day fee PLUS the toll when their TOW TRUCK took my dead Regal eAssist back to the airport down the tollway. And because it is an outside contractor that handles that billing, there was no getting out of it. They did give me a bunch of Hertz points to shut me up. And it wasn’t my money, so not worth the time to fight it any more than I did.

    I completely agree about the Audi MMI iDrive-esq mess – it is utterly hateful and should be killed with fire. I find it completely unintuitive, like they purposely made it as much unlike iDrive as they could to avoid patent litigation or something. I like how the cars drive, nowhere near as nose-heavy as Audis of old, but still not very entertaining. WAAAAY better than an Altima or Camry to me anyway. Not as fun as a Regal Turbo. I am impressed by the fact that I have had one with 300 miles, and one with 35,000 miles, and they both felt exactly the same. Dim-witted is an understatement when talking about that transmission – they need to hire whoever is doing the tuning for it in BMWs stat. Allegedly it is the very same ZF 8spd. Ultimately the power is way more than adequate, but accessing it is more work than it should be. Fuel economy is very good, low-30s at speed going to OK and back a few times.

    Ultimately, Sixt usually is cheaper and has more interesting cars available, but SilverCar is a nice change of pace for this road warrior.

    • 0 avatar

      I’m curious…what happened to the Regal eAssist that killed it?

      • 0 avatar
        krhodes1

        It would randomly go into “neutral”. I’d be driving along, and all of a sudden the rpms would shoot up, then it would clunk back into gear. When it did it pulling out into fast moving traffic, I parked it and called Hertz to come get the piece of crap. Which amazingly, they put up a HUGE fight about! Wanted me to bring it back to the airport from downtown Dallas. Not a snowballs chance in hell was I driving that car anywhere at that point. They ended up sending me another one on a flatbed, and taking that one back to the airport. Which is how I got nailed for the toll charges. Well, my client did anyway.

        The car was fairly low mileage. Interestingly, for a while I got them all the time, then suddenly they were all gone, and I started getting Maximas. I wonder if it was a widespread problem. No issue with any of the others I had, and I actually like them. Not nearly as fun as the turbo, but still a nice car. Nothing amazing in the gas mileage area, but they did have really smooth stop/start. Just a quiet comfortable car with a surprisingly nice interior and excellent if none-sporting road manners. If you like Saabs, you would like a Regal.

        • 0 avatar
          rentonben

          What you described is a known problem in the 2011 automatic Regals – there’s a TSB for it. A quick swap of the transmission computer (or at least that what the dealership told me, but there’s rumors of a oversized bolt somewhere in the torque converter or something along those lines ) fixed it.

          • 0 avatar
            krhodes1

            This was a ’13. Had very low miles too. But hey, that is why cars come with warranties, once in a while they are broken from the get-go.

        • 0 avatar

          It’s ridiculous of Hertz to put up a fuss about replacing a car that was defective, and then let you get dinged on toll charges. I’d vote with my feet…

          • 0 avatar
            krhodes1

            I did, I now rent exclusively from SilverCar at DFW!

            Hard to say if this was a corporate issue or a location issue. In 20 years of travelling like a madman, I have only had two cars that had to be towed, and a few I have brought back and exchanged for various reasons. Most recently an Altima with a slow tire leak in Cleveland – good thing for TPMS or it surely would have been flat in my hotel parking lot by morning.

  • avatar
    swilliams41

    I have rented from Silvercar at DFW several times and most recently at LAX this past summer. All were great experiences. The DFW cars were regular A-4 with the single climate zone and no rear seat vents. Noticeable in Texas summer when the temp is 105.

    The LAX car was S-Line with dual-zone climate and whatever else S-Line gets. Very nice experience and the A-4 is far nicer than the Camcords I usually get from the big agencies. As for the MMI, no sweat, I like it, I am a gadget freak and work in IT so there’s that. The traffic on the Google Maps nav saved my but in LA traffic.

    Will definatgely continue to rent from Silvercar.

  • avatar
    uihidden

    I have rented from Silvercar twice and have a third reserved for the end of February. Being one the road for work every week, there are markets that you can get rentals for $20/30 per day. However, SFO and Austin are not those markets. Both times I rented from Silvercar it was at a noticeable discount from Enterprise/Hertz/Budget.

    For my upcoming Denver trip, the cheapest 1 day from the majors is $72 on a compact. Or, I can get an A4 for $59. Not a hard choice.

    I’ve had success with Sixt in Seattle and Florida, but the employees tend to fall on the greasy side. Silvercar has been very professional and are incredibly helpful.

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      Interesting, Sixt at ATL has the sweetest bunch of young Southern girls working there you could imagine. All super nice. They need a “skip the counter” program though.

  • avatar
    TybeeJim

    One thing you and other potential renters might want to consider is that yesterday the IIHS announced that the Audi A4 is one of nine vehicles which has no, zero, nil, reported driver fatalities!

    • 0 avatar
      tremorcontrol

      Too bad they don’t get such good scores on the IIHS front overlap test (in fact, the A4 gets a POOR rating). Maybe people just get badly injured but don’t die?:
      http://www.iihs.org/iihs/ratings/vehicle/v/audi/a4

  • avatar

    That appears to be the lower-end infotainment system for the A4, A5 and Q5…and I believe the Q7 as well. I’m not sure if it’s even called MMI. Certainly the graphics look dated versus the fancier system, which has the controls mounted in the center console.

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      The controls are in the center console, you can see the big knob poking out above the cup. There is a volume knob over to the right a bit that you can’t see.

      Looking at Audi USA, it’s the MMI with NAV and iPod integration option. Interestingly, it looks like they come with leather, I figured it was vinyl. But so hard to tell these days. Looks like $41K MSRP for the ones with the dual-zone climate, and Jack it right, they don’t currently offer single-zone. Maybe those are last years? S-line is a zero cost option surprisingly. Pleasantly surprised you can still get AWD with a stick, that is no longer an option at BMW.

      I love the looks of the A4, and it seems like very good value in the class, but I don’t do sedans. Unlike Jack, I do not see it as a nicer car than a previous gen C250, rather much the same but I think it is better looking. I like the Mercedes interior more.

      • 0 avatar
        smartascii

        The last time I played around with BMW’s build-and-price, it was possible to combine AWD and a manual, but only on the 335i sedan. Why they’d federalize the powertrain and only offer it on that car is a mystery to me, but there you go.

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