Bookings and cancellations: tips for car owners

Bookings and cancellations: tips for car owners

When you rent your car out through Car Next Door, it’s available for Borrowers to book instantly at the times when you’re not using it. This means you don’t have the hassle of having to check and accept bookings - it all happens automatically while you’re getting on with your life.

But for this system to work, Borrowers need to have confidence that their booking is firm and that they will not be left without transport if you suddenly change your plans.

If you’ve been in the habit of jumping in your car and driving, this can take some getting used to. It can be hard to remember to plan and book ahead. And if it turns out that your car is already booked when you realise you want to drive, it can be tempting to tell the Borrower that they’ll need to find some other way to get around.

Here are some tips on:

  • what to do if you realise that you need your car when it’s already been booked;
  • how to avoid unwanted bookings;
  • what happens if you cancel a booking; and
  • the special rules that apply to cancelling long or far-ahead bookings.

Can I choose which bookings to accept?

Car Next Door works on the basis of automatic booking confirmations.

If a borrower books your car at a time when it shows as available, the booking will be confirmed instantly. That’s why it’s vital that you keep your calendar up to date.

We designed Car Next Door around automatic confirmation, rather than booking requests being confirmed only when the Owners accepts, because:

  • having to review and confirm each booking would mean more hassle for Owners; and
  • for Borrowers, having to request bookings and wait for a response would be slow and inconvenient, so there would be fewer bookings overall.

What can I do if someone has booked my car and I need to use it?

As a car owner, you commit to maintaining your availability schedule and making sure your car is available when it is booked.

If you have forgotten to book your car, or have something come up at the last minute and find that it is booked by a Borrower, you have a few options:

  • Rent a car from a Car Next Door member nearby. Let’s say a friend calls and asks you to pick them up from the airport, but your car is booked out for the weekend - you can rent a nearby car for a couple of hours, costing you $15, and still get the $80 earnings from renting your own car out for the weekend.
  • Consider alternative transport. This is what Suze did when her husband (and our co-founder) Will forgot to block out their car, leaving her to get across town with a toddler and a baby. The fun they had on the bus trip made Suze reconsider choosing driving as her first choice for getting around town with kids. (Read Suze’s story about getting around Sydney on public transport)
  • If all else fails and you are absolutely stuck, contact Car Next Door as soon as possible and ask for help with making alternative arrangements for the Borrower. To keep the system running smoothly and fairly, we may need to charge a cancellation fee of up to $100 if you leave a Borrower in the lurch. This goes towards the costs of finding alternative transport for the affected Borrower. The exception is if you get a booking that starts more than a week in advance, or is for more than a week’s duration, in which case you can contact us straight away to cancel and avoid a fee. Scroll down for more detail on this.

What happens if I cancel a booking?

Here’s an example of the frustration that cancelling causes Borrowers when their booking are cancelled. Gavin, a first-time Borrower, said:

“I booked a Suzuki Swift only to be messaged 5 minutes later by the owner that she needed to cancel the booking ... Not ideal first experience. Probably won't try the service again.”

If you cancel a booking, then:

  • the Borrower will be annoyed and unlikely to book your car again - they may even give up on peer-to-peer car-sharing altogether;
  • we will need to find alternative transport for the Borrower. We will try to find them another Car Next Door vehicle, but if this is not possible then we may need to book a taxi or rental car; and
  • we will charge you in order to help compensate the Borrower for the inconvenience and for finding alternative transport (up to $100).

Are there any situations where I can cancel a booking without a fee?

Here’s a tricky situation that Luke raised in the Car Next Door Owners’ Facebook Group:

“95% of my bookings are made within a day or four of the rental, which works fine for me. The problem is that I use my van for my business and I don't know the dates I need it until about a month before. I have now had one clash where someone has booked my van 6 weeks ahead, meaning I will have to make alternative arrangements. Any tips?”

We know that it can be difficult to plan very far in advance. Also, having your car booked out for days on end may be inconvenient.

So, if a Borrower:

  • makes a booking that commences further than 1 week ahead; or
  • books your car for more than seven consecutive days;

and

  • you contact Car Next Door to cancel the booking within 24 hours of receiving the booking;

then you will not be charged a cancellation fee.

How do I avoid people booking my car when I need it myself?

Keep your schedule up to date - at least for the week ahead, and ideally for the next two weeks.

Blocking out big chunks of your calendar way in advance to avoid ‘surprise’ bookings is not a good idea:

  • it’s going to reduce the number of regular borrowers and repeat bookings you get, because when someone ‘adopts’ your car as their go-to vehicle they often like to book in advance to make sure they get their favourite; and
  • it's likely to reduce your chance of getting those longer, one-off bookings that can really boost your income.

Can I cancel a booking of a Borrower who I don't like?

If a Borrower has not followed the rules when borrowing your car in the past, you probably won’t want them booking again. You can give them a 'thumbs down' rating after their booking, which will prevent them from booking your car again.

If there is ever a specific borrower who you don’t want to rent your car to, either use the review system to say that you don't want to rent to them, or contact us directly, rather than simply telling them that their booking is cancelled. If they’re not abiding by our community standards then it’s important that we know about it so that we can cancel their membership.

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