Several new apps allow users to order a driver to ferry them to transit hubs in their own cars, drop them off, then return their vehicles home—all for less than the price of an Uber.
Off-site airport parking is broken. In a perfect world, travelers would never have to endure sketchy locations, exorbitant pricing, or lots so big they deserve their own zip code. They would not have to wait for glacially paced shuttle buses. They would simply park their cars at their terminals, and their vehicles would vanish.
Now, something sort of like that is actually possible. A number of new apps and services allow business travelers, vacationers, and families to book a courteous, professionally dressed driver who will arrive at their house, drive them in their own car to the airport (or other transit hub), and then return the car to their driveway or home garage (or to a trusted designee.)
“Customers will use our service to go to the airport for a variety of reasons,” says Alexa Milkovich, V.P. of Marketing for BeMyDD, the largest U.S. player in this nascent space. (DD stands for Designated Driver.) “It saves time, it allows their car to be at home safe and sound, and in most cases, it saves money. For those traveling for a long weekend, or for the whole week, parking fees can really add up.”
These companies offer a wide range of practices. WeDriveYourCarService advertises VIP event access and concierge service for reservations at restaurants and events. IDriveYourCar offers full- or part-time business chauffeurs and transportation for the differently-abled or infirm. Others operate only in specific markets, like YourCarOurDriver (Orange County, California) and MarksDrivers (Westchester County, New York). All offer pricing that undercuts Uber and black cars, and provide coverage in suburban or exurban locations underserved by car services and ride-sharing apps.
Since customers are riding in their own vehicles, the experience is comfortingly familiar. They already know the radio presets and Bluetooth systems. Their Altoids and sunglasses are in the glove compartment. But by not having to navigate traffic themselves, they’ve removed one of the many stressors that come with air travel, and can instead use the transit time to make plans or finish work.
All of these companies rigorously screen and randomly drug-test their drivers, and require them to carry their own insurance in addition to the protection they receive under blanket commercial policies. Drivers hold doors, warm up or cool down the car’s cabin before the trip, and carry themselves like chauffeurs. If you’ve had great service from a driver, these services allow you to request him or her by name. As bonuses for making referrals to specific drivers, passengers can accrue loyalty benefits and receive frequent-use discounts.
If you don’t like driving in unfamiliar cities, you can hire a local driver to meet you curbside to take you to your rental and later drop you back at the airport when you depart. (No more off-site lots or shuttles!) This can be especially useful if your trip includes, say, a wine tour or a boozy business dinner. Rather than hire a car and driver for the entire trip, you can just hire a driver for the portions you don’t want to (or shouldn’t) drive yourself.
Even if you’re not traveling, there are reasons to use these services. If you have a night out planned, you can have your driver come by to pick you up, pick up your friends, and then wait around while you eat, drink, and party. Some of these services can even arrange for child transportation: picking kids up from school, taking them to sports and activities, driving them to the movies and the like.
Milkovich recalls one BeMyDD customer who asked his driver to pick him up at a bar. Instead of waiting, though, the caller decided to drive to another bar himself and got arrested. His driver came to the rescue, bailing him out of jail, retrieving his car from the impound lot, and driving him home. That kind of heroism isn’t officially part of the job description for drivers, but it helps demonstrate the advantages of having someone on call to take over whenever you need an assist.