FORTUNE

How to rent highflying wheels

Why drive a boring rental when you travel on business? Call a luxury car rental club and pull up to your next meeting in a Lamborghini, reports Fortune's Sue Zesiger Callaway.

By Sue Zesiger Callaway, Fortune

(Fortune Magazine) -- If you're like me, you probably log a lot of miles for business -- and often at the pointy end of the plane, thanks to frequent-flier programs.

So what a rude comedown it is to have to climb into the underpowered, ho-hum rental cars clogging lots across our land. But automotive clubs offer a chance to use those solo days on the road -- no kids in car seats, no spouse to tell you to slow down -- to enjoy some of today's most precious sheet metal.

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The author takes delivery of the Van Horssen Group's Ford GT at the St. Regis in Monarch Beach, Calif.
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The Ferrari F430 Spider
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The Mercedes SL65 AMG

Once you join, the club will deliver your set of wheels to the destination of your choosing (typically a hotel or an office), then whisk it away when you're done.

Such services aren't cheap, but you get Lambos, Porsches, Rolls-Royces, and the like without the hassles and expense of financing, owning, maintaining, or reselling. Here's a look at two of the best clubs out there, both of which ensure your rental car will never be average again.

Gotham Dream Cars

Based in New York City, GDC has been in operation since 2004. Its founder, MIT graduate Noah Lehmann-Haupt, has plans for ongoing expansion of its DreamShare club (GDC also does daily rentals of exotics).

Areas of Coverage: The East Coast from Boston to Washington, D.C.; central and southern Florida

Cars Available: Aston Martin Vanquish and DB9 Volante; Bentley Continental GT, GTC, and Flying Spur; BMW M5; Ferrari F430 and F430 Spider, Ferrari 360 Spider; Lamborghini Gallardo, Gallardo Spyder, Murciélago and Murciélago Roadster; Mercedes SL65 AMG; Porsche 911 GT3.

Costs: There are three levels of membership -- platinum is $9,000 for up to 20 days (which amounts to as little as a $450-a-day rental fee), titanium is $18,000 for 45 days ($400 a day), and elite is $27,000 for 90 days ($300 a day). Rates for cars vary.

How it Works: Just call GDC and tell it what you want, when, and where -- and the company will make it happen. GDC prides itself on being available and flexible -- it even gives members an extra day free on weekend rentals.

Pros: Gotham provides insurance -- liability, comprehensive, and collision -- if you don't have your own. And points never expire. Twenty-four-hour roadside assistance.

Cons: If travel takes you to the West Coast, GDC can't help you -- yet. And you get only 100 miles free per day.

www.gothamdreamcars.com

Van Horssen Group

Based in Phoenix and founded by Ron Van Horssen, VHG launched in 2005. Look for expansion to other regions soon and an ongoing rotation of the latest cars.

Areas of Coverage: Los Angeles, Newport Beach, San Diego, Las Vegas, Palm Springs, Phoenix; cars can be shipped to other parts of the country for a delivery charge.

Cars Available: Aston Martin V8 Vantage Roadster; Bentley Continental GTC; Cadillac Escalade and CTS-V; Corvette Z06; Ferrari F430 Spider; Ford GT; Lamborghini Gallardo Spyder; Maserati Quattroporte; Mini Cooper S JCW GP; Porsche 911 Turbo and 911 GT3; Rolls-Royce Phantom.

Costs: Members pay a one-time, lifetime fee of $2,000; then a basic package is $8,000. Silver costs $15,000, gold $25,000, platinum $40,000.

How it Works: VHG deducts the cost of usage, including tax, from your account. You pay a daily rate plus a half-day charge (which covers delivery, pickup, and detailing). Each car in the fleet has its own use fees; for a Ford GT, for example, a basic member would pay $600 a day, silver $550 a day, gold $510 a day, and platinum $450 a day.

Pros: The range of rates is wide enough to make your dollar go far. Twenty-four-hour roadside assistance.

Cons: A 100-mile-a-day limit, and you must use your credit within 24 months. If you request a specific car for a weekend, there's an extra charge.

www.vanhorssengroup.com  Top of page