Anticipating a future trend where personal car ownership gives way to car-sharing, automakers are testing the waters with their own services. These automaker-owned services offer brand-specific vehicles and rely on modern technology, such as smartphones, for making reservations and accessing the cars.
While services such as ZipCar have been around for a while, automakers bring their own vehicle expertise to the market. Consumers can also benefit from brand familiarity, such as knowing how the dashboard electronics work.
Here are four modern services from automakers that make it easy to get in a car. Note that some of these details depend on individual markets, and are subject to change. Check out our handy chart comparing each service at the bottom.
Currently offered only in San Francisco, Audi on Demand offers a decent variety of Audi vehicles, from the compact plug-in hybrid A3 model all the way up to the V10-powered R8. Those needing a small SUV can look to the Q5, or experience a big luxury sedan in the S8.
True to the service's name, when you make a reservation through the app or on the website, a concierge delivers the car. Likewise, at the end of the rental period, the concierge picks it up. Pricing starts at $120 per day, with no hourly rate offered.
BMW ReachNow serves three markets currently: Portland, Seattle and Brooklyn. It offers smaller cars from the BMW Group, ranging from the Mini Cooper up to the BMW X1 compact SUV. It also offers an electric car, the BMW i3, for those who want to experience electric driving.
Making BMW ReachNow a potentially spontaneous service, you merely have to check the app to see if there is an available car nearby. If so, you can reserve it in the app, which then gives you access. To drop off the car, you merely leave it in any legal municipal parking spot, which could even be curbside in front of your house. Pricing begins at 41 cents per minute of driving, which amounts to $24.60 per hour. However, BMW ReachNow includes a series of rate caps beginning at $20 for one hour and up to $350 for five days.
Daimler, the company behind Mercedes-Benz, runs its Car2Go service in seven cities across the country. It only includes three models, all sized for urban markets. Mercedes-Benz' new compacts are represented by the CLA sedan and GLA small SUV, while those who want to have no trouble at all parking can opt for the tiny, two-seat Smart car.
As both Car2Go and BMW's ReachNow run on the same back-end platform from a company called RideCell, there are many similarities to the two services. Cars can be found in public and designated parking spaces within the service area, with the app telling you which cars are available to drive. The app grants access once you make the reservation, and you can leave the car at any legal municipal parking spot. Car2Go also rents at a rate of 41 cents per minute, and offers a day rate of $79.
GM gives renters hourly access to a variety of its brands through Maven, and has aggressively grown its market reach. The service exists in seven markets across the country, from Boston to Los Angeles. It recently added the all-electric Chevrolet Bolt to its fleet, which also counts vehicles ranging from the compact Chevrolet Cruze to the Cadillac Escalade SUV. Maven adjusts its fleet vehicle availability for each market, responding to consumer interest.
The Maven app shows designated parking areas for its vehicles within each service area and lets you know which are available. You use the app not only to reserve a car, but also to unlock it and start the engine. At the end of the reservation period, the car must be returned to a designated parking spot. Maven charges an hourly rate of $8 to $14 depending on the vehicle, and fuel is included.
Automaker sharing services
|Audi on Demand||BMW ReachNow||Daimler Car2Go||GM Maven|
|Registration fee||None||$39 (currently waived)||$5||Currently waived|
|Rental rate||$120 per day and up, based on vehicle||41 cents per minute driving/30 cents per minute parked/Rate caps begin at $20 for one hour||41 cents per minute to $79 per day, based on vehicle||$8 to $14 per hour, based on vehicle|
|Minimum age||25||21||None stated||18|
|Fuel||Not included||Included for first 24 hours||Included||Included|
|Mileage||Zero to one dollar per mile over 200 miles per day, depending on model||45 cents per mile over 200 miles per day||45 cents per mile over 150 miles per day||42 cents per mile over 180 miles per day|
|Drop-off/Pick-up||Concierge delivery and pick-up||Anywhere within service area||Anywhere within service area||Designated parking space|
|Cars - Compacts||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Cars - SUVs||Yes||Yes||No||Yes|
|Cars - Electrics||No||Yes||No||Yes|
|Markets||San Francisco||Seattle, Portland, Brooklyn||New York City, Portland, Columbus, Seattle, Denver, Austin, Washington||Denver, Boston, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Ann Arbor, Washington DC, Chicago|
|Car access type||Key||App||App||App|
*The information on this chart is current at the time of publication.