Mike Raab needed a car. He was moving from Los Angeles to San Francisco for a new job, and his 12-year-old Ford Fusion wasn’t going to survive the trip.
When he tried to lease a car online, he got back vague boilerplate emails from car companies asking him to set up a phone call with a dealer, but no details on how much it would cost. Raab was frustrated. He had grown up in a world where businesses succeeded by being on-demand and easy to use, so why had the process of getting a car remained basically the same for decades?
That’s when Raab discovered Canvas, the month-to-month car subscription service owned by Ford. For a monthly fee, he could get a car plus insurance and routine maintenance. And he could cancel his subscription at any time and turn the car back in. Ten minutes later, Raab had picked out a new Ford Fusion, put in his credit card information, and selected a date for the car to be delivered to his apartment.
“It was a very turnkey process,” Raab said. “It was a night-and-day experience between the two.”
Canvas is one of a number of subscription programs from carmakers, dealerships, and startup companies that have launched in the past year. Some give you a chance to drive luxury models like Porsche and BMW, while others offer a selection of pre-owned cars across a range of brands. But they all are banking on the two things that attracted Raab: a user experience that eliminates all the hassles of car buying and a changing attitude toward ownership.
Who subscribes to a car?
There's still an early-adopter mindset around subscribing to a car. In a recent study, only one out of four people had even heard of car subscription services. And one out of 10 said they'd be open to subscribing instead of buying or leasing their next car. It turns out the type of people most likely to be open to car subscriptions are also those who are aware of and have used car-sharing services (like Car2Go and Zipcar). That group skews male and younger, with incomes between $60-80k. Finally, there's no consensus on subscribing from a carmaker or from a services that includes several brands, survey responders were split nearly evenly between the two.