Tried the Virtuo Car-Rental app for the first time and ran into a problem

Tried the Virtuo Car-Rental app for the first time and ran into a problem

  • I tried Virtuo, an app-based car rental service, for the first time.
  • I rented a Mercedes GLA and enjoyed driving it but had trouble unlocking it with the Virtuo app.
  • I called Virtuo customer service several times but they didn’t seem to help.

Anyone who has stood in a long queue at a car rental counter spends some of the waiting time dreaming of jumping straight into the vehicle and hitting the road.

As someone who rents a lot of cars, I appreciate it when an agency helps me get into my vehicle faster—and that’s part of the draw of app-based rental services, which completely eliminate the queues.

Traditional agencies such as Avis, Hertz, Sixt and Enterprise face competition from app-based services such as Getaround, Zipcar and Virtuo, in a global car rental market that will be worth nearly $127 billion by 2028, according to an estimate.

I used Virtuo, which offers exclusive cars from Tesla and Mercedes, to rent a vehicle in France. I decided on a Mercedes GLA, which cost $580 for seven days.

No early birds

My flight arrived earlier than expected in Nice, so I contacted Virtuo customer service via the app to see if I could collect the car 45 minutes early.

I could not. I was told I would get a text when the car was ready and where it would be, but they couldn’t get it there sooner. So I waited.

Once I got the text, I rushed to the car. The check-in process was simple: I scanned the car for dents and scratches and made sure everything was up to par, and confirmed the same on the app using the AI ​​damage reporting system.

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Then I unlocked the car using the digital key on my app and jumped in. The feeling was different than when I drove the Ferrari for the first time, but it was still exciting.

Unlocking became a problem

Insider's reporter unlocks the car from his phone.

Insider’s reporter unlocks the car with his phone.

Sam Tabahriti/Insider

When I drove from France to Italy, the car never failed to impress me and it ran smoothly.

However, I did have some issues with the app itself.

Virtuo’s digital key requires a Bluetooth connection between the app and the car. One day, when we were getting ready to go to Cannes, we tried to unlock the car. It did not work.

At first I thought it was a problem with my phone so I restarted it – but after about ten minutes of trying I gave up and called customer service.

The Virtuo representative who answered seemed as lost as I was about the problem. For around 20 minutes we were locked out of the car and Virtuo could not help us.

So we logged into my Virtuo account on my partner’s phone and thankfully managed to unlock the car. I assumed it was a one time error. We drove off.

After stopping in the town of Grasse, I tried again to unlock the car with my phone, but it still didn’t work. I could lock it but couldn’t unlock it.

I called customer service and again, they couldn’t figure out what was wrong. So we again used my partner’s phone.

While the car was fun to drive, the unlocking glitches, inflexibility with early arrival and the customer service experience took some of the shine off the journey.

Still, I’ve been using apps like Virtuo for years, and I’d choose them over traditional agencies. They take the hassle out of queuing, sometimes for hours, even when you ordered months ago. Plus, there are no agents trying to upsell cars and overcharge you for insurance.

Although my experience was not perfect, I would use Virtuo again. And hopefully next time I can drive one of the Teslas it offers.

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