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Airbnb for cars: Private owners can rent out cars any day with new entrant Drive lah, in 1-year trial

SINGAPORE — Another car-sharing gig is in town, but this new platform focuses on peer-to-peer sharing of privately owned cars — think Airbnb, but for cars.

Private car owners can make extra money by renting out their cars any day through the new platform Drive lah, which has been given permission to run a one-year trial.

Private car owners can make extra money by renting out their cars any day through the new platform Drive lah, which has been given permission to run a one-year trial.

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SINGAPORE — Another car-sharing gig is in town, but this new platform focuses on peer-to-peer sharing of privately owned cars — think Airbnb, but for cars.

Founded by Dutch entrepreneur Mr Dirk-Jan ter Horst, Drive lah has been granted approval by the Land Transport Authority (LTA) to run a year-long trial to allow private car owners to rent out their vehicles.

The LTA said in a statement to TODAY on Oct 7 that it will review the trial, which is capped at 500 cars, after six months. Mr ter Horst said the trial started on Oct 1.

Currently, LTA's private car rental scheme allows private cars to be rented out only on weekends and public holidays. However, LTA has granted permission for Drive lah to operate on all days, including weekdays.

Just as Airbnb allows private homeowners in some countries (though not Singapore) to generate extra income from short-term rentals, Mr ter Horst said that car owners can cover part of their ownership costs by renting out their vehicles when they would otherwise be sitting in a driveway or parking spot.

Unlike other car-sharing platforms where rental prices are usually fixed, car owners on Drive lah decide the daily rates they wish to charge for the use of their cars — much like the pricing model on Airbnb.

On top of the daily rental price listed by car owners, Drive lah levies a 20 per cent fee on the person renting the vehicle to pay for insurance and operational costs.

Customers who decide to rent these privately owned cars can make bookings through the Drive lah website, and then proceed to contact the owner directly to arrange for pick up.

Such peer-to-peer car sharing services have sprung up in Europe and the United States, with platforms such as Turo and SnappCar gaining traction.


Drive lah has nearly 400 cars on its platform, said Mr ter Horst. He declined to state how many bookings have been made but said that the number of bookings has, on average, doubled each month since June.

Cars are listed islandwide and users can search for cars which may be within 100m of their location, said Mr ter Horst. Users can also search according to car models and price using filters.

The 37-year-old said that he was inspired to start such a service in Singapore after his yearly trips back to Europe, where he would rent a privately-owned car.

“I have rented cars from the traditional (rental) companies and agents… like car-sharing platforms. (One time) I booked this guy's car, like how I book an Airbnb. The car owner picked me up at the airport, I dropped him home… and then I took his car and for two weeks because he didn’t need it and after that, I brought it back (to his place).

“It was a perfect arrangement,” he said.

Dutch national Dirk-Jan ter Horst, who lives in Singapore, founded peer-to-peer car sharing platform Drive lah in September last year. Photo: Cynthia Choo

The experience sparked a thought: “Is this possible in Singapore, and maybe in Asia?”, followed by research of car-sharing models around the world.

Singapore seemed like a perfect place to start. “Singapore is a very innovative country,” he said.

“(The authorities) have a very clear plan of transportation and mobility, and they know that they also want to limit the number of cars on the roads.”

He said the potential social and ecological benefits of car sharing — nudging users away from personal ownership of cars and optimising vehicle use — also spurred him on.

In September last year, Mr ter Horst, who has been living in Singapore for seven years, quit his corporate job to start Drive lah.

He said he has since spent over S$100,000 from his savings to build the web-based platform.

“A lot of time was also spent on getting an insurer aboard,” he added.

Every booking made via Drive lah is “comprehensively insured” on a per trip basis by Tokio Marine Insurance Group, he said. This has no impact on the car owner’s insurance and no-claim discount, which is given to car owners who have not made any claims under their own policy for a year or more.


Amid a host of car-sharing options, he believes that Drive lah is able to differentiate itself based on the convenience of booking cars nearby, its prices and the condition of cars on its platform.

“These are also private cars so the owners are going to take care of their own cars,” he added.

A review system for both renters and owners also encourages good maintenance and use of the vehicles, he said.

On its website, Drive lah promises rentals that are “30 to 40 per cent cheaper” than traditional rental companies.

One Drive lah user TODAY spoke to said that its prices were “better” than other car-sharing platforms which he has used.

Mr Jayden Oh, a 33 year-old assistant finance manager in the hospitality industry said: “I usually compare prices across different platforms such as Smoove and Tribecar… I found that Drive lah offers cheaper rentals and condition of the car is much better.”

He said that he had rented a Hyundai Elantra on his first booking and paid the host S$50 for a day with an additional S$15 for insurance.

This was cheaper than the daily rental of a similar car from TribeCar, which was S$120. Also, TribeCar adds a surcharge for users who wish to drive their cars up to Malaysia or Johor Bahru, said Mr Oh.

He also likes the fact that a renter can communicate directly with the car owner, and vice-versa, if the renter is running late, for example.

Drive lah is currently offering daily rentals whereas other car-sharing operators offer hourly rentals.

Mr ter Horst said that Drive lah is still in its nascent stage but he hopes to provide hourly rentals eventually.


He recognises that there are safety concerns and risks to the sharing model — after all, a booking on Airbnb can go awry when expectations do not meet reality.

Car owners and renters will first be screened by Drive lah’s operations team. Car owners will have to electronically submit their National Registration Identity Card (NRIC) and car details such as vehicle plate number.

Renters need to submit their NRIC and driver’s licence.

For bookings, Drive lah will also hold a S$500 refundable security deposit on renters’ credit cards.

LTA told TODAY that car owners participating in the trial should ensure that their vehicles are properly insured for rental purposes or face a fine of up to S$1,000, or three months’ jail, or both. Those found guilty may also be disqualified from holding or obtaining a driving licence for 12 months, the authority added.

To prevent disputes in the case of scratches or dents, those who rent cars will have to take pictures of the car and these pictures will have to be checked by the car owners before any booking begins and ends via the platform, said Mr ter Horst.

Drive lah is planning to launch an app to facilitate bookings early next year.

He said that even after the year-long trial, he hopes that Drive lah can continue operations.

As to why he named his venture “Drive lah”, the Dutch national replied, with a laugh: “We wanted something local...It sounds Singaporean, right?”

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