By Ken Hegan for MSN

A new California-based startup, FlightCar, wants to give you free airport parking. Plus when you get back from your holiday, your car will be spotless and you’ll get a $10 gas card.

The only catch? While you sip margaritas on a beach, a stranger drives your fire red 1971 Cadillac Eldorado convertible.

Yep. I’m not making this up. FlightCar invites you to hand your car keys to a stranger, who hands them to another stranger, who then drives your “sweet ride” away.

Hunter 1

On the lookout for huge bats in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas

Basically it’s a matchmaker service for someone flying out of an airport who doesn’t want to pay $30/day for parking, and someone flying into the same airport who’s too lazy to steal a car.

Benefits for the car owner:

Free airport parking, free car wash, free valet, fully insured, and your vehicle is covered for mechanical damage caused by misuse and gonzo driving. Plus you get the satisfaction of knowing that your special bum cheek dents in the driver seat will stay filled while you’re away.

Benefits for the renter:

Save up to 50% on rentals, free insurance, free GPS, 24/7 roadside assistance if you drive like a doctor on an ether binge, and FlightCar offers curbside pickup/dropoff (so you no longer have to ride a shuttle bus to a distant car lot). Plus you get to snoop through the owner’s trunk and glove box, get your fingerprints on everything, and get framed for sick & heinous crimes you didn’t commit.

Alas, FlightCar is currently only available at San Francisco Airport (SFO). Here are the FlightCars available this weekend:

$21/day: 5 cars including a 2008 Toyotal Corolla, 2008 Hyundai Elantra, and 2004 Mazda

$31/day: 6 cars including a 2012 Honda Accord, 2001 BMW 3, 1999 Audi A4, and 1999 Acura RL

$34/day: 3 cars including a 2011 Hyundai Santa Fe and both a 2008 and 2010 Toyota Sienna

$36/day: Volvo S40

Hunter 2In other words: if you already have insurance, FlightCar is slightly cheaper than renting a brand new car from Payless.

Personally, I can’t decide if FlightCar is an ingenious way of sharing resources or a titanic disaster on wheels. Many auto blog commenters are leaning towards ‘disaster’:

“This is the stupidest idea ever created,” writes Meg. “It should die a burning, hellish death ASAP. I’ve worked in several car rental places in the past. Renters have to be the most abusive drivers ever put on this earth. There is no way I would EVER let my car be rented and driven by some unknown person. If I can’t afford the parking, I’d ask a friend or family member to drive me. This will be an EPIC FAIL.”

“And to save even more money,” says ‘flychinook’, “you can keep your dog at an animal-testing laboratory instead of paying for some expensive kennel. Sure, the dog might be dead when you come back from vacation, but think of the money you’ll save!”  

Indeed, think of all the other rental possibilities you’re missing out on. Why stop at renting your car or your home while you’re away? Why not rent out your boat? Or your Rolex? Or your Manolo Blahniks? What if you rented out your flatscreen television, iPhone, birth certificate, medical records, family members, your boyfriend, or your laundry room to meth cooks?

What do you think about FlightCar? Would you let a stranger drive your BMW, just to save a little cash?

— Ken Hegan  

Read more of Ken’s travel stories here

Twitter: @KenHegan

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