As Oregon gas prices creep toward a daunting $4 a gallon, car share businesses are popping up across Portland faster than you can check your gas tank for leaks. The most recent arrival: RelayRides, a Bay Area-based car share service that allows drivers to rent out their own car, or rent someone else's, for short-term use. And it's not just for grocery shopping or trips to the coast anymore. "Drive something special," RelayRides' website boasts. "Impress your date by showing up in a hot new luxury car."

Adorable reasons to use RelayRides
  • Adorable reasons to use RelayRides

The Google-and-GM-backed company arrives on the heels of Getaround, a similar car share program that announced its Portland extension a mere two weeks ago. And the car-sharing fun doesn't stop there. Getaround and RelayRides competitor Wheelz has its sights on an arrival in Portland by the end of the year.

This expanding market wouldn't be possible without a boost from Salem last summer. The Legislature passed HB 3149, a bill allowing insured car owners to rent out their vehicles without being liable for accidents that would otherwise mar their auto record.

So how do these up-and-coming car sharing businesses compete with the Portland staple Zipcar? All three of the above mentioned companies boast cheaper rates and a larger range of pick-up points across town. Also! Zipcar solely rents out company-owned vehicles, while the other options allow folks to rent out their own rides for personal profit (from $250 to $1,000 a month). And while Zipcar provides cute, classy cars, the newer arrivals offer a grab bag of owner-rented vehicles.

Maybe someone's beater. But maybe, as mentioned earlier, someone's "hot new luxury car."