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Top-Tier Test Drives

Top-Tier Test Drives

Why Buy An Exotic Car, When You Can Try Out Lots Of Them?

To hear Rob Ferretti, COO of New York’s Gotham Dream Cars, tell it, there are very good reasons why people choose to rent the exotic car of their dreams rather than buy it.

Take, for example, the car enthusiast who buys a $450,000 Lamborghini. Ferretti says that they perhaps “drive it four or five weekends a year, and because there’s a lot of depreciation in exotic cars, sell it after a few years for $275,000. Eventually they’re going to figure out that they don’t need to have the car sitting in the garage. They’re better off renting cars for those weekends. They can be in different vehicles for those drives.”

Renting—rather than owning—the car of your dreams has a practical side, Ferretti says. Renters get an unhurried 24-hour (or much longer) test ride that will help them decide if they really want to take on ownership down the road.

Gotham launched in 2004, when founder Noah Lehmann-Haupt noticed that it was easy to rent a PT Cruiser, but the market fell short if you wanted a Lamborghini or Aston Martin instead. A very fast Lamborghini Huracan Spyder, available in New York, Boston, Las Vegas, San Francisco, and Philadelphia, rents for $1,950 a day from Gotham (more on weekends). A $5,000 security deposit is required.

Today, Gotham customers (if they’re over 21) can head to the racetrack for the $449 Dream Car Dash, where they can hit speeds of more than 100 miles per hour. There’s also the Dream Car Sprint, which allows renters to take a supercar through a specially designed autocross course, and the Dream Car Tour, a convoy of exotic vehicles on a course through country roads and mountain passes, with drivers switching to a new ride every 15 miles.

“People rent exotic cars for the thrill of it,” says Jack Nerad, the editor of DrivingToday.com. And a new approach to access high-end cars is via subscription. Freedom Supercars of Houston and Dallas offers four plans, with 15 to 100 days per year of seat time. Prices start at $1,000 per month and go up to $3,400. Part of the charm is being able to swap vehicles regularly. Available vehicles currently include the Maserati Ghibli S Q4, McLaren 600LT and 675LT, and (for formal occasions) a Rolls-Royce Ghost.

Freedom Supercars displays its fleet against the Houston skyline
Freedom Supercars displays its fleet against the Houston skyline.

Freedom also offers a stunning series of driving tours in the high-end vehicles, to destinations that include Iceland’s Arctic highlands and the Australian Grand Prix.

Chris Smith, a partner in Freedom Supercars, says half of the company’s clientele actually owns an exotic car. “They see membership as a great way to try all the other supercars,” Smith says. “Maybe they own a Ferrari 488 but also want to drive a Lamborghini Huracan or a McLaren 720S. Instead of buying another car, they can drive one of ours and put their money in the market. A downside of ownership is having to bring the car down for servicing, and they’re happy we handle that aspect.”

Freedom has 85 members, with some out-of-staters using the cars when they visit Texas. The company plans a major expansion to other U.S. cities.

High-end fast cars are increasingly becoming available for rent.
High-end fast cars are increasingly becoming available for rent

Meanwhile, South Florida’s FlexWheels subscription service offers such vehicles as the Maserati Quattroporte, the Porsche Macan GTS, and the Audi A7 in a $2,000-a-month Premium Garage plan, delivered to your door.

And the Classic Car Club Manhattan at Pier 76 charges members $180 per month, handing over the keys to “a staggeringly stylish fleet of the world’s most desirable cars to drive and enjoy as if they were their own,” plus a full roster of events. The twist is that Classic’s fleet includes vintage cars, including such valuable gems as a four-door 1964 Lincoln Continental convertible, 1963 Corvette Stingray, and 1968 Dodge Charger—complementing the expected fleet of late-model Ferrari, Lotus, Porsche, Jaguar, and Aston Martin cars.

The New York club is also a place to hang out, with two bars and a professional kitchen that serves three meals a day. There’s a wine club and classic-watch get-togethers, plus member excursions to places like the Catskill Mountains and the Hamptons.

It’s a popular formula, also to be found with variations at Club Sportiva (California and Nevada, also $180 a month) and the Thermal Club (where California track excursions and spa treatments are available, and annual memberships cost $100,000).

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