By on January 18, 2018

General Motors launched its Maven rideshare service in 2016 with the goal of providing renters with a taste of its vehicles, while also bringing in a little extra revenue. The service offers a wide array of vehicles ranging from small hatchbacks like the Chevrolet Spark to large SUVs like the Tahoe.

The service is available in many larger cities across the country and, since I was visiting Detroit for the auto show, I decided to give it a try to see what a potential renter might encounter. I signed up for the app and rented a couple of vehicles without notifying GM in order to experience the vehicles just as the general public would.

The vehicles were far worse than I expected.

I chose an early flight to Detroit since it was the only direct one from my smaller airport, meaning I would be arriving a few hours before the rest of the TTAC crew and would have to haul my luggage to breakfast and then hold onto it until the afternoon. Uber and Lyft were available from the airport to downtown Detroit for around $30, but I would still be left with my luggage. Renting a car for the day was surprisingly similar in cost, but I would have to return it to the airport the next morning.

Luckily, I remembered that Maven was available in Detroit, and that its rental rates started at $6 per hour and allowed for one-way trips into the city.

Signing up for the free app took only a few minutes and required entering my driver’s license and credit card information. Although Maven’s notice states it can take up 48 hours for an account to be approved, I received an email in just a few short minutes telling me I was approved to rent. I pulled up the app and saw there were a couple of cars available at the airport that could be had as a one-way rental before being dropped off near the Renaissance Center. I picked the Chevy Spark for $6 per hour and hopped on the shuttle to take me over to the QuikPark lot where it was located.

After the shuttle dropped me off a few feet from the Maven section, I pulled out my phone and tapped “unlock” in the Maven app to open it up. I placed my luggage in the trunk and popped the front door open to start it up.

Upon entering the vehicle I noticed that the interior was fairly dirty, but it wasn’t enough to cause me to cancel the reservation. The windshield and rear glass had a buildup of salt and dirt I had to clean off. It was at that point I discovered there was no windshield washer fluid in the car at all. Maven also provides Wi-Fi and charging cords in all of its cars, but the micro-USB cord in this Spark was snapped off.

Thankfully, the Spark was decently optioned and had heated seats, which helped to deal with the frigid Michigan temperatures. I pulled out of the QuikPark planning to stop at a gas station to clean off the glass and use the included fuel card to add a little fuel, since it only had about a quarter of tank. Adding fuel was not a huge deal — it is covered under the service and Maven will even reimburse you if you forget to use the included card.

I pulled out onto the highway, and, as I looked over at the passenger-side mirror in order to merge, I noticed it shaking and finally just falling off. I pulled over at the nearest exit and hit the OnStar button to call Maven customer service.

The call was quickly answered by a Maven representative who was extremely apologetic about the situation and told me that she would refund the charge for the trip immediately while giving me a few options for a replacement vehicle. Since I was ready to eat breakfast, I chose the option of returning the Spark back to the QuikPark and choosing another vehicle. I fastened the mirror back to the car in the best possible fashion and headed back. The rep told me to call her back directly once the Spark was parked so she could help me finish cancelling the original trip.

She was probably the brightest part of the whole experience, given how friendly and apologetic she was.

Once the original trip was cancelled, I booked another one and chose a Malibu that was parked beside the Spark. I thoroughly inspected the whole exterior of the Malibu to make sure there wouldn’t be any issues and threw my bags into the back seat. Once inside the car, I noticed the Malibu was also dirty, and had some mysterious white spots on the passenger seat.

Since the driver’s side was fairly clean, I decided to press on. The windshield of the Malibu was in worse condition than the Spark’s, but once again there was no windshield washer fluid to be found. I stopped at the closest gas station and cleaned the glass before heading to breakfast.

After my meal, I got in touch with Chris Tonn so he could meet me at Maven’s drop-off garage on Larned Street. I saw the Maven sign at the entrance for Level Two and used the included card to pop the ramp, but spent a few minutes trying to find the designated drop-off area as there was no directional sign. Checking back in the app, I saw that it showed Level One, so I drove back out on the street so I could re-enter and cut to the left in order to find the right level.

Once parked, I hit “End Trip” in the app and completed the survey, stating that the car was dirty inside. A receipt showed up in my email a few seconds later stating that I had been charged $14.42 for my 102-minute rental period.

In the end, Maven worked out to be most convenient and inexpensive option for my situation. I had a place to store my bags while I ate breakfast and was able to enter the city on my own time, all for half the price of a Lyft or Uber. It’s unfortunate the cars were in such poor condition, as the app and its representative are excellent. Hopefully GM steps up its maintenance efforts on these cars in the future, because it seem like it could be a decent option for short trips.

[Images: Bozi Tatarevic/The Truth About Cars]

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43 Comments on “Rental Review – Mishaps With Maven...”

  • avatar

    This is the problem with short term rentals, especially ones that aren’t inspected before and after the trip. People will abuse and trash them without any guilty conscience whatsoever. I’m surprised it wasn’t worse, to be honest.

    For ~$15, I’d have put up with it too.

    • 0 avatar

      The entire industry is obsessed with the autonomous car sharing idea. This is the future they have in store for us – trashed cars being passed around with no oversight by any sort of company staff.

      Rental cars get abused enough right now, and that is with someone at a rental office to receive the car and hopefully shame the driver into keeping it clean.

      Really for these rideshare companies to succeed they are going to need some sort of staff that chase these cars down and make sure they are ready to rent.

    • 0 avatar

      Living in the DC metro area, I signed up for ZipCar for occasion uses.

      I can tell you those cars are always clean, full of gas, and everything works. There are also 5 dedicated Zip Car parking spaces within 2 blocks of my building so availability is rarely an issue.

  • avatar

    I’ve used Reach Now in Seattle (BMW vehicles) and overall it was good. The only WTF I ever had was arriving to an i3 once and the battery was essentially dead. Had to walk almost a mile to the next available vehicle.

    Surprised they are this dirty. I suspect the mirror on the Spark was damage from the last driver who did their best Sgt. Schultz imitation walking away.

    That said, it’s on GM to make sure the vehicles are maintained and cleaned. In an area like Detroit (clean) during the wintertime, I can see how they can present challenges. No excuse for no wiper fluid.

  • avatar

    “Mysterious white spots”…I’d have gotten back in the Spark and taken my chances.

  • avatar

    At those prices, with fuel included, one wonders if they’re even covering the cost depreciation.

  • avatar

    How is insurance covered with this service?

  • avatar

    Seems risky for GM is they are using this as a means of getting people to try out their cars, which I expect is the case as it is hard to see how this is a profitable business. Even if it isn’t a design fault of the car itself, a lot of people are going to say “typical GM shit” when the find the car dirty, without washer fluid, or with broken bits and pieces.

  • avatar

    So you booked and paid for a budget minded rental, and you want Hertz style service? One of the main reasons these are so inexpensive is because there isn’t a lot of overhead or personnel to pay to wash your precious windows or vacume the car every two hours. If the car is too dirty to get i to, then request a different one, or pay more and have the car of your rental dreams.

    In other words, you get what you pay for.

    • 0 avatar

      Agree with your view on the value for the customer, but don’t understand how this works for The General.

      Either on the basic financials of the program, or the impressions given to potential car buyers. Then again I was educated in mechanical engineering, not financial engineering.

    • 0 avatar

      The cleanliness was not a huge issue but not having washer fluid when the windshield is completely coated is. I’ve rented from various rideshare services and understand that the cars won’t be vacuumed or wiped down but I expect them to be safe.

      • 0 avatar

        It’s probably not even the iron triangle of nearby, affordable, and competent having to pick two – there’s no human who exists at that price point, and this service appeals to the same price-optimization brilliance that has ensured that an airline can’t stay in business by giving you three extra inches of legroom standard.

        Are you sure the woman on the phone wasn’t an AI?

        Welcome to the automated future; the man who wanted a tip would have done you a solid, but he’s long since been made redundant.

      • 0 avatar

        Did you check to see if the washer fluid was actually empty? This time of year washers can just be frozen up if cheap fluid was put in the reservoir.

    • 0 avatar

      I hope you don’t mean the service “Hurts” gave us. We had a reservation several weeks in advance. When we arrived at the location the clerk was attending to another customer. For at least 15 minutes, without any “I’ll be with you in a moment”. The SO and I started to get nervous and sure enough the vehicle that we had reserved “Would be there in a while.”. Some time later and still nothing we inquired again and the clerk, who seemed to be having a difficult time staying awake and wanted to be anywhere else, fiddled with the computer for some time and offered that we could drive 15 miles to another Hurts location and there ‘might’ be a vehicle there.
      The SO got on her phone and we went a few blocks to Avis where they had what we wanted and we were on the road in less than 10 minutes.
      Good service for a walk in.
      No Hertz Hurts again. That was second bad experience. They are trying to get to Enterprise service level which is slightly below whale shit.

  • avatar

    The idea of the service is a good one, but as you have pointed out, execution needs some more controls around quality.

    In Chicago I checked out the Maven parked cars, and they were all downtown. One could not do a similar and useful airport run with Maven there.

    I don’t think there were any airport cars in LA, either.

  • avatar

    Dumb question: How does the gas card know that I actually put fuel in the rental car? Could I use their card to fill up my own car? I could “rent” their car for an hour in my own town, fill up my car with their card, and return their car. All for $6?

    What am I missing with the fuel card?

    • 0 avatar

      Lol good point. I was kinda wondering that myself. I guess since they have your credit card, they could charge you IF it was discovered. Again, I don’t see how they’d know.

    • 0 avatar

      OnStar monitoring, which I’m assuming is all setup. I can check from my mobile device at any time the state of my vehicle including amount of fuel in tank, tire pressure, etc. etc.

      The app would know vehicle pickup, and OnStar could check the state of the vehicle at that point, driver would never even know, it’s invisible. If there is a fuel card transaction, the record of the transaction could trigger another check via OnStar (also invisible) and could take an educated guess (gas is around $3 a gallon, they spent $15 so gallons should go up around 5 gallons).

      I don’t know if that is how it is done, but it wouldn’t be hard to configure on the backend. OnStar can do a full OBDII scan, including GM CANBUS codes on demand.

  • avatar

    I wonder if Carfax would show previous owner of these as “rental agency” (i.e., someone like Hertz) on their reports.

    If so, I pity the fool who buys one.

    Also, I wonder how the agency accounts for damage – if the thing’s rented five times a day, how they figure out who caused damage to the car?

    • 0 avatar

      Wouldn’t any other car sharing service have the same issue? ZipCar, Car2Go, ReachNow, etc. etc. Vehicles are rented multiple times a day, check-in and check-out is all customer driven. How do they know who damaged what when?

      I would speculate for smaller things like torn off wing mirrors, they just eat it (or hope for the 90% of society that is honest) and for the larger stuff, oh they’ll know, especially if another vehicle is involved.

    • 0 avatar

      I’ve not examined too many Carfaxes but it seemed as if they were somewhat hiding fleet. If DMV and Title records are public information they should be showing me everything but I seem to recall none of that being available, just the transaction info and mileage.

    • 0 avatar

      All these car sharing services are counting on the customer to report damages. The customer does because they know that if the present renter does not report what they find, the next person might do so. Ever go to a Sabarro or other kind of chain restaurant at a rest stop and wonder why the sign says “Meal is free if cashier does not give a receipt”? That makes the public police the system and prevent employee theft. We use a Zip type system at work and everybody checks the car before they leave so they don’t get blamed for any damage caused by the previous user. Gas card use requires a driver ID and requests the odometer reading. So, if somebody has a buddy that stops by with a gas can, it is pretty easy to see who stole the gas.

  • avatar

    Actually the site is saying you can get a Tahoe for $14/hour and $8/hour for GM’s resale challenged Regal and ATS sedans. Hooning for S&G might be fun for $16. Home Depot would charge me $39 for two hours with their stake bed, I could have a Tahoe to move something quickly for $28. My phone is too f’d up to DL and install the app, and Our Lord 3800 forbid I can browse the fricking website, but depending on inventory and germ tolerance level, could be interesting.

  • avatar

    I wonder if the issue here is that GM hasn’t put together a great system, or just that Detroit isn’t the right market for a car sharing service (too sprawled, not dense enough?). I’ve never had a problem with Car2Go’s cleanliness, but they have plenty of units, and seem to have a fairly active team to clean and reposition them.

  • avatar

    Rentals are returned to the rental agency, where the cars (have the opportunity to be) are cleaned.

    In my experience, people are more careful and ‘cleaner’ when they get into a clean car, than when they get into a messy or dirty one.

    The Mavens aren’t returned to an agency. So they won’t get cleaned. Not only will they get dirtier with each renter, but the renters themselves will be less than caring because they get a dirty/filthy car, compounding the situation.

    There doesn’t appear to be any provision in the “ride-sharing” model cleaning the cars, and people in general are not inclined to leave things cleaner than they found them.

    Maybe an innovative name might be “Cheap and Dirty Car Share”

    Very informative article, thanks!

  • avatar

    Do Maven include a customer check card for you know, your own 5 minute pre/post circle check. Pop the hood visual all fluids. Turn on lights and hazards. Walk 360 checking bulbs and body damage & tires. Operate wipers. Check trunk has a spare?

    Post trip check is just a 360 walk round for any new damage in your absence.

    Easy to do heads up.

  • avatar

    I’m curious if there is an area in the app to indicate if the vehicle needs attention such as broken bits, busted mirrors, needs a good wash or other general maintenance which allows Maven to remove it from service until the issues can be addressed. Perhaps a procedure through OnStar to press and summon an agent to asses similar to those found in public restrooms “if this vehicle requires attention press to notify management”. I’d be curious to try a ridesharing service such as this to try out vehicles (normal caveats applying).

  • avatar

    The model is a little flawed. For a $14 rental, they’re not going to clean the car every time. So how often should they clean it? And where? I imagine there’s some sort of process here but unless you’re the first one in the car after it’s cleaned, there is no way to control for the condition of the vehicle when you pick it up. And maybe that’s fine because the service was convenient and it was only $14. But the flaw is with the portion of GM’s stated goal to give drivers a taste of their vehicles. The condition of these vehicles doesn’t put them in a good light. Your “taste” of the vehicle was a bad one and this can’t be a good thing. I’ve always thought that fleet sales to rental companies can be good for automakers as long as the cars are solid and the presentation is good. This doesn’t seem to be the case with Maven, which seems odd given that the manufacturer is behind it.

  • avatar

    I’ve been wanting to try out a Chevy Bolt for a few days to see if I could live with it, and no regular-joe car rental place has them. Renting one hourly from Maven for that long would be exceedingly expensive. But it turns out they have a special program for rideshare drivers, Maven Gig, that actually is reasonably priced. And I am technically an Uber/Lyft driver. So for months now I’ve logged in weekly to see if there’s ever a Bolt available. Nope. Perhaps in part because of the free recharging card that comes with a Maven Gig Bolt, an (actual working) Uber driver snaps up every Bolt the minute it becomes available. But if you want a Chevy Trax…boy howdy, it’s always easy to find a Trax to rent.

  • avatar

    As a Michigan resident, I would agree that it’s down right impossible to keep a car clean for more than 2 minutes in the winter, so I wouldn’t necessarily hold that against GM. Last time I rented a car from a regular agency I had barely pulled off the lot before running through a puddle of slush and salt.

    As for the payback on this, I imagine it isn’t as expensive for them as the previous comments proposed. Their “cost” for the vehicle is far less than invoice… that’s what a dealer pays them and that includes profit for GM. They don’t have to pay retail incentives on these and, at the end of Maven duty, they have a nice used car to sell to dealers as future CPO cars. Frankly, these aren’t cars that are killing it in sales, so they move some iron that would otherwise be sitting in inventory.

    On the other hand, these also aren’t cars that are going to convince young hip urban 20-something car-sharing intenders that GM brands are the ones they want to get excited about when they do eventually change lifestyles and want to buy something of their own.

  • avatar

    FOR THE RECORD MAVEN IS THE WORST. I’m in LA all the time frm NYC and their customer service is intolerable. I showed up 4 times and there were problems to initiate my time-sensitive trips. twice my reserved cars were not there, once couldn’t get out of parking lot, assigned gate dsnt work, another time the car app wouldn’t allow pre-trip inspection. Also, returned car and their parking spot was taken after looking around to get a spot and sort it all out. they overcharged me $50 for a late fee. then the customer agent in so many words told me I complain too much.. ‘ll be using Zip Car from now on.

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