Hire, unlock and drive off a Mercedes in London without speaking to a human being

Virtuo

Hiring a car can be a pain – you have to queue, fill in reams of paperwork, and sometimes you don’t even get the model you originally chose. Virtuo is a car hire company that’s hoping to change that, letting you hire a luxury car without ever speaking to another person. All you need is your phone.

It seems tailor-made for Londoners, and after success in Belgium and France, the company has brought a fleet of Mercedes A-Class cars to the UK.

Escape planning

There are other mobile-only transport apps around, like HyerCar, which lets you unlock a stranger's car and hop behind the wheel, but Virtuo is more like a traditional car hire company, with luxury cars and rentals longer than a day.

“We think that everyone deserves a good experience, without the friction that you usually encounter when using a car rental company,” co-founder Karim Kaddoura told TechRadar.

“There are a lot of motoring services in London, but even though there are many ways to commute, there are few ways to escape for several days. The best way to do that is by owning a car. People who want to rent a car find that it can be a difficult experience, so we saw there was a need for Virtuo." 

After installing the app, you’ll be asked to register your details and scan your documents with your phone’s camera (in this UK, this is your driving license and DVLA check), then book your car.

The choice is limited (you can have a Mercedes A-Class or, er, a different Mercedes A-Class) but this does mean you're guaranteed to get the one you've booked. Virtuo will soon be adding a small SUV as well.

Unlock, check and go

On rental day, you’ll download a virtual key for the whole duration of the rental, and receive information showing you exactly where to find the car, which you unlock using your phone’s Bluetooth.

Once the car’s unlocked, you’ll be prompted to do a damage report. The app shows you photos of any damage, and if you spot any more, you can declare it and upload a picture. The whole process only takes a few minutes – then you’re ready to drive away.

You can return a car any time you like – even in the middle of the night. Virtuo works with various car cleaning companies, and trains their staff to inspect the cars and use an app to report any damage.

“The reception has been above expectations,” says Kaddoura. “We appeal to a lot of people who have been waiting for that solution, and we were featured as App of the Day on the UK App Store, so it’s been a very good reception, even though we’ve only been live 10 days.”

You can get a discount on your first rental using the voucher code WELCOMELONDON.