Wednesday, August 19, 2015

RelayRides - How Am I Doing? (4 Months In)

So my car has been listed on RelayRides for almost four months now.  This time, I'm going to go through how much money I've made so far on RelayRides as well as my expected expenses to give you an idea of where things stand today.  I'm also going to talk about the "new" car I bought!

My experience on RelayRides has been a mixed bag so far.  That being said, I think I'll be sticking with it for a while - I bought another car about a month ago! The reason behind this decision was that I figured I should be able to **hopefully** cover my expenses for the unused vehicle, which would allow me to keep it for a rainy day.  Why, you ask?

Well, I'm a fan of the less practical cars.  Namely, I love the little roadster convertible, the Mazda MX-5 Miata.

 Isn't this just the cutest little car? 

I actually owned one for about three years.  I didn't sell it because I was sick of it, but because I decided to try going car-less.  It was a failed experiment...heat, humidity, hills, rain, and public transportation all make me unhappy!  Thus, I made it about 6 months without a car when I bought my Mazda 3.  At that point, I decided practicality was in order.

Since then, I've gotten married and am now the step-mom to a wonderful 7-year-old little girl.  So, you can see how my cute little roadster could cause some difficulties in transportation!

This time, I decided if my RelayRides experiment went well, I would buy another Miata and rent out the Mazda3, keeping it in case I needed it.  This time, I'd get one used and cheap.

I did just that this July, buying a 2007 Mazda MX-5 Miata with about 72K miles.  And I got it cheap.  As a CPA who is constantly thinking money and savings, this made me very happy.

There was only one problem.  The convertible top was torn!  My husband, being both amazing and super mechanically inclined, solved this and spent an entire day (10+ hours) replacing my top.  This turned an $1,800 expense (the quote I got) into a $700 expense!  (How's that saying go again?  Oh, yeah.  "A dollar saved is a dollar earned.")

My little Miata has been working great since then and I've been loving every second driving it.  Almost makes my hour long commute in Atlanta traffic bearable!

Now, back to RelayRides.  For the gritty details.

How Much Have I Made?
I've only rented the car out six times so far.  Why?  
  1. Until I bought the Miata, I could only rent when I was willing to bike/ride MARTA (awful public transportation of Atlanta) to work.  
  2. I wasn't sure how to rent the car when I couldn't be there for pick-up or drop-off (to hand over the keys). 
  3. I got married in June!
  4.  One of my renters had an unfortunate "incident" (the car was hit or they hit something), which required it being out of commission for two weeks!
That being said, I have made a total of $1,387.75 in the last four months.  This includes regular rental fees, as well as mileage overages, late fees and delivery fees.  Thus, on average, I've made $231 per rental.  Adjusting out the (unusual) overage fees from my first renter, it's an average of $156.25 per rental.  

However, to fully grasp what this means, you have to look at your Net Income.

 Here's a snapshot of the expenses I anticipate each month for my car, assuming it's only used for RelayRides (i.e., no personal gas expense, etc.)

Gasoline                                                            5
Insurance                                                         79
Oil Changes                                                     23
Other/Miscellaneous                                       30

Depreciation                                                  150

TOTAL COSTS                                       $  288

A few notes about the above costs:
  1. They're estimates!
  2. Remember to factor in your depreciation on the car.  Cars go down in value every month.  How much it depreciates will depend on a variety of factors.  I recommend using the car depreciation calculator found at Money-Zine as a starting point. 
  3. Oil changes are expensive on my car (about $70 each).  Factor these in as your renters will use a lot of miles!
  4. Insurance is important.  If anything went seriously wrong, you want good insurance.  I don't want to solely rely on RelayRides.  That, and you're required to have at least the minimum level of insurance to rent through their platform.
So, bringing it full circle, looking at the definition of of Net Income (Gross Revenues less Expenses), I am currently in the black.

Gross Revenues                             $  1,387.75
Expenses ($288 * 4 months)            (1,152.00)
Net Income                                    $      235.75

Clearly, this has not been a "get rich quick" scheme for me.  But, it is paying for my car.  That, and I can write off a lot of expenses, including all the mileage driven by renters.  If you're renting or considering renting your car on RelayRides, talk to your accountant/CPA to ensure you're taking all the appropriate deductions!

Until next time - happy rides!

Friday, May 8, 2015

Wisconsin Marathon - Race Recap

I ran the Wisconsin Marathon last weekend, checking off State #24.  I've enjoyed my races in the Midwest - they're nice and flat!

The race was held in the town of Kenosha, WI, about 45 minutes outside of Milwaukee (just about equidistant from Chicago and Milwaukee), a cute town of about 100K.  Arrival went without a hitch - plane was on time and a nice ride.

As an aside, I'm a huge fan of Southwest Airlines.  Being from Atlanta, I previously flew Delta almost exclusively, but when Southwest announced a companion pass offer for Atlanta residents, I jumped on it!  I have since completed my 3 round trip flights and earned a companion pass for the rest of the year, which will allow my fiance to fly free with me everywhere!

Note:  If you haven't heard about this offer previously, you've probably missed the bandwagon, as the 3 RT flights have to be completed by 5/17.  However, there are tons of blogs I follow that explain how to get the Southwest Companion Pass using credit card offers.  

During our trip we decided to stay close to the MKE airport, since my mom was flying out at a different time - and the hotels in Kenosha were way overpriced due to the race.  We stayed at the Crowne Plaza, taking advantage of Priceline's Express Deals and saving 25% - one of my preferred methods to get hotels now.

We picked up our packets in Kenosha.  The expo was held at the host hotel, right on Lake Michigan.  There were a few vendors there, but it was a fairly small expo.

For food, we tried Captain Mike's Beer and Burger, which had Awesome reviews on Yelp, and lived up to the hype.  Their beer cheese soup was amazing as was the custom designed veggie burger we ordered.

There was a (not insignificant) issue we ran into that mom, would was traveling with me and running the half marathon, lost her bib.  We never were able to figure out where it fell out of her packet...

After racking my brain, I called the race director (unavailable due to the race!), emailed them on FB and finally called the host hotel once I realized packet pick-up was still going on.  They were super helpful and offered to just create a new bib that we could pick up for her on race morning!  Midwestern hospitality.  Loved it.

Slept like a dream in my super comfy bed that night.  It was a beautiful morning for a race - sunny with temperatures starting around 50 degrees and a high of 70.  There wasn't traffic to contend with getting to the race and there was plenty of race parking, either in parking decks or on the streets.  We managed to find street parking.

There were decent sized lines at the porta-potties, but with 30+ minutes to spare, we were fine...definitely always arrive early enough to wait in line for the bathroom!

The race included three race distances: a 5K, half and full marathon.  The half and full started together at 7:30AM, with the 5K starting later.  Much of the course was run right along Lake Michigan - and let me tell you, that cool lake breeze certainly helped as it started to heat up!  The course was run together for the first 12 miles until the full marathon split and continued down the coast.

I ran the first 12 miles with my mom, pushing her pace while tempering mine.  Slowing down had a good affect on me, as I managed to speed up during the 2nd half of the race, and felt GREAT the entire race (super unusual for me!).

It started to feel a little hot by around mile 10, but it wasn't too bad until miles 16-19.5, when we were running without any shade away from the coast.  It was getting tough then, but as soon as we got back to Lake Michigan, that cool breeze cooled me down and cheered me up!

Spectator-wise, there weren't many people out, but the people out were super friendly and supportive.  The two biggest things that need to be improved are:
  1. Need a wave start - there were 3,000 participants in the half and full, and it was one of the most crowded races I've run since there were no wave starts.  The crowding did not thin out after the first mile or two - it was crowded until the half split from the full at mile 12.
  2. Need food on the course!  The only food on the course was PowerGel for the full marathoners at Mile 18!  Half marathoners didn't get anything.  I (only half) joked after the race that when I ate my one PowerGel (which I normally hate!) it was the best thing I had ever tasted since I was so hungry!

Now, for the good part:  the BLING!

Loved our race medal, which was the same for the half and full (different ribbon) and is also a bottle opener!  The shirt was also great - black tech shirt with gender specific sizing (v-neck for the women!) and no sponsor information.  Love it.  

I was very happy with my time, knowing I had pushed the whole way and had a wonderful time.  My chip time was 4:39:17, putting me right in the middle of women and my age group finishers.  It wasn't my best time, but I wasn't expecting to break records.  I just wanted to have a good time, and I did.

For the afterparty there was a sponsoring company giving away tons of awesome cheese and each finisher got a free brat and a free beer (I got 2 free beers since I'm a vegetarian). The weather was amazing and we hung out for a couple of hours listening to the (great) band playing and drinking beer.

This is a good one to do if you're looking to go to Wisconsin!

Overall Rating:  8/10

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Recap of 1st Relay Rides Experience

As I mentioned in my original post about RelayRides, I recently decided to give RelayRides a try again, after a failed attempt a couple of years ago.  My first renter had the vehicle for a week.

So, how did it go?

Well, there were some not so minor problems.

  1. Renter indicated he wanted to extend the rental period for additional days, but never did despite repeated indications he would.
Trying to figure out the plan, since the car wasn't extended, was a nightmare.  Renter did not answer the phone, texts or emails.  I was sure I would be calling the police the next morning.  I finally gave up around 12:30AM.  I left a firm and straightforward (nearly nasty) voicemail on his phone and wrote him in RelayRides to ensure I had something verifiable in the company's records.

The renter finally emailed me at 2:30AM, asking to extend the rental.  I was up at 6:45AM and told him in no uncertain terms that that would not be possible.  Respect and courtesy are absolutely paramount to using RelayRides, and he had done neither of those things.

Funny thing about this was, when I finally spoke to him that morning, he seemed confused as to why I was upset.  I think he was just trying to smooth things over, but it was too little, too late.
 2.   Renter returned the car late. 

Late fees with RelayRides are No Joke.  At the beginning of the rental, I told the renter (and later reminded him!) that I had a flight to catch the morning of the it was important I get the car back on time.  He was late.

 3.  Renter returned the car with an empty tank of gas.

No, not low, just about empty - the car range said only 30 miles to empty!  He called and said he "didn't have a credit card" and "since my bank isn't open yet, I can't fill up the tank."  I caught him in the lie - obviously he has a credit card, otherwise he couldn't rent on RelayRides.  Then he changed the story to be that, of course he had a credit card, he was just waiting on a replacement.

    4.  Renter drove the car >500 miles over the mileage limit.

Mileage limits are set by the owner and can be pretty much whatever you choose.  It's clearly indicated what they are...

Something to keep in mind for anybody that wants to rent out their car or rent a car using RelayRides - Read the policies!!!  

You can access RelayRides owner guide here.  Here are the things I did and highly recommend you do on every trip (which the guide will indicate as well).

Recommendations for Owners
  • Always check the renter's information.
  • Get signed documentation at the beginning AND end of the rental indicating:
    • Condition of car - mark any damage
    • Fuel level
    • Mileage
    • You can find the RelayRides checklist here.
  •  If you don't get signed documentation, IMMEDIATELY take pictures of the aforementioned and add it to the "trip" on RelayRides.  
    • This is how you get reimbursement if the renter does not adhere to the rental agreement
  • Report any damage/late charges/overages to RelayRides within 24 hours of the rental end.
  • Talk to the renter about any additional charges before adding them to the trip.
  • Review the renter.
Once all of that was said and done, I said I would never rent on RelayRides again.  However, I've since had a change of heart.  RelayRides was quick and courteous in dealing with all of the issues I had, and I'll be getting reimbursed for all of the overages (because I had documentation!).  After reporting the issues to RelayRides, the renter has 72 hours to dispute.  The renter did dispute.  I was asked to provide documentation, which I did, so I'm good to go!

Another perk:  RelayRides provides direct deposit every week!  You can see before you even approve a trip how much you'll get paid, and in the case of shorter trips (a week or less) you get paid within a week of the trip end. 

Here's to hoping my next renter will better!

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Completed Races

Below are listed all of the marathons (and beyond!) I've completed so far.

1Walt Disney World Marathon1/8/2012Orlando, FL26.24:33:33
2Country Music Marathon4/28/2012Nashville, TN26.24:20:39
3San Diego Rock 'n' Roll Marathon6/2/2012San Diego, CA26.24:04:15
4Shoreline Oktoberfest Marathon9/29/2012Spring Lake, MI26.25:00:01
5Southern Tennessee Plunge Marathon10/6/2012Winchester, TN26.24:35:49
6Freedom's Run Marathon10/13/2012Shepherdstown, WV26.24:36:58
7Atlanta Marathon10/28/2012Atlanta, GA 26.24:36:38
8Nashville Ultramarathon (50 Mile)11/3/2012Nashville, TN5011:13:56
924 Hours of Hostelity1/19/2013Dahlonega, GA24hr55.4 miles
10Mercedes Marathon2/17/2013Birmingham, AL26.24:30:15
11Georgia Marathon3/17/2013Atlanta, GA 26.24:57:33
12Garmin Marathon in the Land of Oz4/20/2013Olathe, KS26.24:28:16
13King's Mountain Marathon4/27/2013Clover, SC26.25:01:14
14Pittsburgh Marathon5/5/2013Pittsburgh, PA26.24:30:20
15Make it by Midnight Marathon7/13/2013Macon, GA26.25:04:10
16Quad Cities Marathon9/22/2013Moline, IL26.24:28:18
17Silver Comet Marathon10/26/2013Mableton, GA26.24:16:14
18Rock 'n' Roll San Antonio Marathon11/17/2013San Antonio, TX26.24:26:15
19Honolulu Marathon12/14/2013Honolulu, HI26.24:36:37
20Mississippi Blues Marathon1/11/2014Jackson, MS26.24:23:57
21First Light Marathon1/12/2014Mobile, AL26.25:24:48
22Albany Marathon3/1/2014Albany, GA26.24:11:11
23Kentucky Derby Festival Marathon4/19/2014Louisville, KY26.24:32:52
24Blue Ridge Marathon4/26/2014Roanoke, VA26.24:49:29
25Merrill's Mile - 24 Hour7/4/2014Dahlonega, GA24hr64 miles
26Center of the Nation - Montana9/17/2014Baker, MT26.25:42:13
27Center of the Nation - North Dakota9/18/2014Bowman, ND26.26:44:08
28Center of the Nation - South Dakota9/19/2014Belle Fourche, SD26.25:54:34
29Portland Marathon10/5/2014Portland, OR26.24:41:56
30Indianapolis Monumental Marathon11/1/2014Indianapolis, IN26.24:51:02
31Soldier Marathon11/8/2014Columbus, GA26.24:32:37
32Rock 'n' Roll Las Vegas Marathon11/16/2014Las Vegas, NV26.25:02:16
33Mississippi Blues Marathon1/10/2015Jackson, MS26.25:33:21
34Miracle Match 50K1/25/2015Waco, TX50K5:50:20
35Zydeco Marathon3/8/2015Lafayette, LA26.24:46:02

"Car Less" or "Car Free"?

As you may have already read from my last post, I have jumped into the world of renting my car out using RelayRides on Friday, and am now without a car for the upcoming week!

So, how has it been going so far?

Well, it's certainly been an adventure.  For starters, my fiance is still getting used to the idea, and seems at times, a bit surprised and forgets I don't have a car this week.  On Sunday night I set my alarm an extra half hour earlier than usual, and when he asked why, I had to remind him that MARTA (oh, such a joy to ride!) is none too quick.

Nevertheless, I have to say I've found the experience more freeing than anything else.  The weather has been ideal this week, making my 4.5 mile bicycle ride (each way!) to the train station rather stress free.  I have a desk job, so it's fairly important that I'm not drenched in sweat when I arrive.

My commute time is longer now, that is true, but I have the pleasure of knowing I'm actually multitasking while I bike to the train station; I am getting from Point A to Point B, exercising, and reducing my impact on the environment!  Since running and fitness are always top of my mind, this is a significant benefit.  I even decided another way to look at what I'm getting paid is that I'm 1), covering the cost of owning my car each day it's rented out, and 2), I'm getting paid to exercise!

Looking at it like that may not be useful to everyone, but it has helped me, especially since I already make a good living.  I have a steady, full-time job in corporate America and don't actually need the extra money from renting my car out.

So, why do it?

The extra cash is great as is helping to preserve our environment, but neither of those is my driving motivation.  Mainly, I enjoy trying new things, escaping my comfort zone and finding new ways to make money.  Renting out my car is affording me all of those opportunities.

Renting on RelayRides and being Car Free is not new to me.  I experimented with ditching my car entirely for about 5 months a couple of years ago.

While living in Atlanta. 

If you've ever visited Atlanta, you know it's not what you would call a walker or biker's paradise and has some of the worst traffic in the country. In addition to that, according to a new report released by the Metropolitan Policy Program at Brookings Institution, Atlantans also have the longest commute in the country.

Still, this was possible for me for a few reasons:

1.  I lived within 2 miles of work
2.  I had a great support network - family that lived nearby that didn't mind giving me the occasional ride!
3.  I was in the middle of the city.

Still, I gave up the experiment after a few months and bought a new car.  At this point, I don't believe it's practical to live in Atlanta without a car, but going without for occasional stretches of time, now that, I can do.