Alaskan RED

A lifelong Alaskan learning about the world one backroad at a time

A SilverCar Newbie Experience

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I read a lot of blogs—everything from home décor to tech info—and travel blogs are near the top of my list due in large part to the amount of traveling we do.  An upcoming trip to the Seattle area was proving to be somewhat expensive given that it was summer time and coincided with the recent solar eclipse.  Finding a reasonably priced rental car seemed to be a pipe dream so when I read a blog about the new SilverCar location in Seattle, I was intrigued.

I knew absolutely nothing about SilverCar because they are only in larger US cities and we hadn’t had occasion to fly into any of those recently.  Reading the article and visiting their website turned up these facts:

  • They rent only silver Audi A4s – hence the name.
  • Reservations may be done online or in their app but for pickup you’ll need the app on your smartphone.
  • The cars are equipped with just about everything you need—navigation, Bluetooth, satellite radio, and wi-fi.
  • The price includes all the extras mentioned above as well as an additional driver.
  • If you return the car without filling up, they will charge you the actual receipt price for gas, plus a $5 fee.
  • If you encounter toll roads in your driving, you’ll be charged just those tolls, without another fee for processing.
  • They are usually off site but will pick you up and drop you back to the airport
  • They frequently have discount codes or you can find a referral code from someone who has rented from them in the past.

I already had a car rental set up and I’d used AutoSlash.com to find a decent deal (AutoSlash will continually check the rental car prices for your trip and notify you when it finds something less expensive).  For $329, we had a Nissan Sentra or similar rented for the five days we were going to be in the city.  I had joined the loyalty club so this included an additional driver.

To try SilverCar, I downloaded the app and set up an account then to test it, I logged in on their website and made my reservation.  The price was $369 after using the 30% discount code I’d found searching online. It was an easy choice to pay a little more for all the included options.

On the day of flight, I checked their website for how to pick up the car in Seattle but as it turned out, I didn’t need to.  I received a text from SilverCar telling me they were expecting me and that we would exit baggage claim to hop on the shuttle to the rental car facility.  At that point, I was to text that we were ready for pick up.  We did as instructed and on the shuttle, I opened the app and clicked on “Pick Me Up”.  This generated a text that said I was ready to be picked up.  Note – I missed that I had to click send on that text, likely because husband was talking to me and it was all new.  But once I got it sent, the reply I got was to proceed to the “Off Site Pickup” area at the rental car facility.  The signage for that area is exceedingly poor—SeaTac needs to do a better job with that—but we found it at the end of the facility where cars can pull in.  On this nice sunny day, it was lovely but on a rainy, windy day, you’ll be grateful for the limited shelter provided.

An Audi A4 pulled up after we’d been waiting about five minutes, but I’ll take the blame since I missed pushing send on the text message.  The driver put our luggage in the car (the trunk easily fit our two 21-inch cases, daypack and tote with room to spare) and asked if we’d mind picking up a third passenger who was also waiting which we of course agreed to.  On the short drive to their lot, he went through some of the car’s features including the navigation and phone menu.  There was a hang tag that showed how to shift the car – unlike the shifter in my truck, it’s a little lever that you push forward for reverse or pull back for drive.

At the facility, another agent asked if he had checked our driver’s licenses and when we said he hadn’t, she scanned them.  I’m not sure if this is because we were first time renters or if this happens every time but it only took a moment.  She told me to open the app and scan the car’s tag, located on the driver’s side windshield.  It would scan but it kept saying that the location services on my phone weren’t active even after turning them off and back on and rescanning but while I was trying that, she was processing it manually so we were ready to drive off in less than five minutes.  She told me to try uninstalling and reinstalling the app when we had a moment as she’d heard that fixed the problem.

I took a moment to check out the car – headlights, wipers, cruise – that stuff you need to know before you set off.  The navigation, phone, radio, backup camera and settings are all handled in a large, bright screen mounted in the center of the dash.  It sticks up above the dash a bit but doesn’t interfere with sight lines while driving.  The one thing we couldn’t figure out was how to turn the radio down or off – it’s a small button on the passenger side of the console – but we asked and then we were off!

I’ve never driven an Audi before but it was quite comfortable – or as comfortable as a smaller car can be for someone used to driving full size trucks.  It has enough pep to easily merge onto the freeway and the road noise was minimal.  The sunroof was a great feature as we’ve had a very cold, wet summer in Alaska this year and it was sunny and warm in Seattle.  As is normal on I-5, we encountered some slowdowns but fortunately we didn’t have any complete standstills until we were off on the side streets hitting traffic lights.  I say fortunately, because the Audi has an automatic feature that turns the engine off when its idling and turns it back on when you release the brake.  I HATED that feature and worked through all the different settings to figure out how to turn it off.  More on that later.

When we reached our destination, I couldn’t figure out how to put it in park. No, really – the shifter has Reverse and Drive and pops back to the middle position after you’ve engaged either one, but I couldn’t find Park.  When I turned the car off, it told me that I needed to put it in Park by stepping on the brake and using the Park button.  There is a lever type button flat on the console with a P on it.  Apparently, that is the Parking brake.  Looking closer, I saw the P button on the front side of the shifter, hit that and we were good to go.  The doors automatically unlock when you put it in Park so you know you’ve done it correctly.  (Not sure how I feel about that feature; my truck unlocks the door only when I pull on the handle and the rest remain locked which seems more secure.)  I can’t tell you how many times I pushed the shifter forward to put the car in Park just as I do in my truck before I’d remember to hit that Park button.

As our time in Seattle progressed, there were things I really appreciated about the car.  The peppy engine was great, it’s small enough to park easily, and it got great gas mileage.  But during a half hour stop and go session in Seattle’s notorious traffic one day, I grew to hate the auto shutdown during idle more and more.  I found a button near the bottom of the dash where you can turn that feature off but every time you turn the car off, it resets to the default of auto shutdown. The navigation is solely voice controlled and I had a heck of a time getting it to recognize the address but that may be just a learning curve on how it likes to hear things.  On the upside, the navigation appears both on the screen and as a heads-up display in the center of the dash in front of the driver.  Hubby could see the navigation to be helpful but I could also see it easily, albeit in a smaller form.   I missed the full set of backup cameras my truck has to show exactly where each corner of the car is in relation to the things around it – especially one night when the only spot left in the parking garage was pretty skinny even for an Audi. And a small thing – there is a trunk button on the key fob but it just unlocks the trunk rather than popping open the lid which is so much handier when you have a handful of shopping or luggage.

When it came time to head back to the SilverCar base, we knew where we were going but they thoughtfully program the address into the Favorites so you can easily find the address.  And they texted me that morning with my expected return time and a note to call their concierge if I needed more time.  Once at the facility, they scanned in the car and we boarded a shuttle bus that took us right to the airport, skipping the rental car facility altogether. It could not have been smoother.  I hope that in the future, they may use this option for pickup as well.  I would rather be picked up in a shuttle and taken straight to their lot than have to shuttle to the rental car facility for pick up.

They emailed me a receipt that matched my reservation and included the gas charge.  We’d purposefully left the tank unfilled to see how well that worked.  It showed the ten gallons they’d pumped at $3.49 per gallon, for a total of $34.90 plus a $5 fee.  We noted the gas prices were less expensive away from the airport so if you are looking to save a few bucks, fill it up yourself.  But if you are in a hurry or don’t want to mess with finding a gas station, this is a great convenience option.

And I guess that sums up my SilverCar experience—they make it as convenient as possible for you to rent a car and include all the options so you don’t get nickel and dimed during your rental.  You know exactly what car you’re getting and it’s a first class drive.  Would I rent from them again?  Absolutely!

If you want to try SilverCar, I’d encourage you to search online for “SilverCar discount code”.  You can also use my referral code, WDNZFLIB, to save $25.  Full disclosure – I’ll save the same on my next rental if you use the code but honestly, I’d rent from them anyway.

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