Below is our recent interview with Reece Griffin, CEO of MirrorTrip:
Q: Could you provide our readers with a brief introduction to MirrorTrip?
A: A world first for inter-city one-way travel: MirrorTrip is a car rental solution that securely connects you to people with similar travel plans — turning one-way trips into a round trip so that you can avoid drop-off fees.
It’s a new form of mobility we call ‘ride switching.’ You can think of it as traditional car rental, meets the sharing economy, meets social networking.
Q: Reece, how did you get the idea for MirrorTrip?
A: It was my summer vacation in Europe 2016. My wife and I travelled through the south of France, and the south of Spain. I like to rent cars when I visit new places, as it allows for a more flexible itinerary, and you have a lot more control over what you see along the way. The ideal trip would have been to start in Paris, drive out to the coast and hug the Mediterranean all the way down to Granada in the south of Spain picking a new beach every couple of days; however I knew from previous experience driving the Pacific Northwest of the US & Canada that this would come with a hefty one-way drop-off fee (more than 1,000 Euros extra for the drop-off fee to perform this trip).
So instead we combined driving with flying, and flew between Paris and Madrid, and made two separate rental-car loops based out of both of those cities. It was still pretty nice, but a little more backtracking than I’d have liked. The initial idea dawned on me on the way back to Madrid (after 4,000km of driving!). Having a software development background I was instantly excited, especially to realize that this solution had never been attempted before — and even more so after reading the blog comments of hundreds of commiserators all with the same problem. So when I returned home, I pitched the idea to my colleagues who are the co-owners of a digital agency called tbadigital.com and we used our software know how to craft a solution in collaboration with Hertz and file for an international patent.
Q: Can you tell us how MirrorTrip works?
A: MirrorTrip matches people driving in opositte directions. We have special agreements in place with companies like Hertz that allow us to rent their vehicles at competitive rates, and because of our matching software we are able to avoid the typically expensive one-way drop-off fees so we don’t have to pass them on to our customers.
People can post their trips on our website, so that others can find them and match with them. A match happens when two drivers want to drive in opposite directions, and one driver’s desired pickup date is close to the other driver’s drop-off date (or vice versa). Once you’ve found a potential match, MirrorTrip provides you with a private collaboration area where you can both agree on the times of day you’d like to pick up and drop off. This includes a secure payment platform that accepts payments upfront from both drivers. MirrorTrip acts as an escrow so you don’t have to share financial or personal details with the other driver — then we make one consolidated payment to the rental car company. We are integrated with the rental companies in a way (using software APIs) that allows us to do this. Because the trips are prepaid we are able to guarantee your trip, so even if one of the drivers has to cancel, the other is unaffected.
After that, the experience reads very much like a traditional car rental. You turn up, show your driver’s license, get in the car and drive. You can leverage any existing insurance coverage you already have, buy it at the desk, or get it at a discount through our website when you first book the trip. So if we booked you through Hertz for example, you would pick the car up at Hertz in Vancouver, BC, drive it to Hertz’s location in Calgary, AB and leave it there. The other driver would then drive it from Calgary back to Vancouver, picking the car up at one Hertz location and dropping it back at the original location. You both get to experience the Canadian Rockies at your own leisure, and no one pays a drop-off fee.
Q: What makes you stand out from other car rental companies?
A: Being first movers in this space mostly. However technically speaking, we’re a platform and not a rental company. It is possible that in the future we’ll accept other rental companies into our platform — thus we provide for each other rather than compete against each other.
Our closest natural competitors are probably bus, and carpool ridesharing. We’d like to think that we stand out from these in many different ways. We’re cost competitive with both of them, especially if there is more than one person in your travelling party (e.g. a $50 per day car split four ways with your friends and/or family is almost always going to be cheaper than the bus or what’s typically paid on carpool platforms). MirrorTrip is also more flexible in terms of departure and arrival times; because you don’t have to be going in the same direction at the same time as other people, it means you can leave any time of day, and take as long as you like so long as your adjoining date with the other driver is roughly similar.
Finally, with MirrorTrip, you don’t have to compromise on baggage allowances, tolerance to pets or odours, willingness to make small talk, what stops you make, or the personal safety of you or your traveling party.
Q: What are your plans for the future?
A: Geographic expansion. We’re currently in a pilot in Western Canada that launched in January. We think this is a great place to start; Greyhound Bus recently withdrew from Western Canada, and there are also typically high one-way drop-off fees for car rentals here. We’re using this opportunity to work out the kinks, and hone the customer segments that best identify with us.
We’re currently finalizing our patent in US, Canada, Europe, China, and India. Personally, I can’t wait to make it back to Europe where this all started and I think the concept will play out very well there. The European customs union allows for great, free-flowing international road travel. However, European travellers still face high one-way drop-off fees. A problem that we’d love to solve in that part of the world.
The likes of car sharing clubs such as Zipcar and car2go are interesting as well, as they start to expand their networks. When they become geographically ubiquitous I think ultimately they will start to run into the same fleet symmetry problems that traditional car rental companies have been experiencing for years. There’s evidence of this happening already in some regions. So I expect there will be opportunities to work with companies like this in the future too.