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Lyft eyeing car rentals for longer trips and weekends away

Now that it’s gone public, the pressure is on Lyft to deliver positive results to shareholders through revenue-generating schemes that take on rivals like Uber, which itself started trading on the stock market just last week.

Lyft is best known for its taxi-like ridesharing service, but in more recent times it’s diversified its efforts in a bid to become a multi-modal transportation business that offers city folks not only on-demand car rides, but also short-term bike and scooter rentals.

Now the company is testing car rentals among a select group of customers in its home city of San Francisco. Spotted by Engadget and subsequently confirmed by Lyft, the app-based service offers vehicles for between one day and two weeks, with a single depot used for collection and return. These features set it apart from short-term car-share programs like Zipcar and instead pit Lyft against more traditional firms such as Hertz.

Pricing has been set at $60 a day for a standard sedan and $100 a day for an SUV, though this could change depending on how the trial progresses. Customers are offered $20 discounts on Lyft rides to the rental depot, and extras such as bike racks and tire chains can be reserved for free. The service is using new cars and there’s no mileage limit during the rental period.

In comments confirming that it’s testing car rentals as part of its platform, the company said: “We’re constantly adding multi-modal options so people can use Lyft for any kind of trip. We’ve added bikes, scooters, and public transit information into the app in cities across the country, and we’re currently testing a small-scale rental option for long-distance trips, like a weekend away.”

But the move into car rentals could be tricky for Lyft. Arch-rival Uber, for example, last year partnered with car-sharing service Getaround for a service called Uber Rent that let you hire cars from private owners. Testing for Uber Rent lasted seven months before Uber and Getaround decided to ditch it. While Lyft’s model is different to Uber Rent, such a service would nevertheless have plenty of competition to deal with in the car-rental space. It’s not currently clear how long Lyft intends to run the trial and whether it plans to launch a similar test program in other cities.

In the future, Lyft wants to run its car-based services using autonomous vehicles, but for now it’s evidently keen to look at other ways to grow its business and fulfill its stated ambition to reduce car ownership.

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