Honest Review: Fair car leasing

Honest Review: Fair car leasing

I decided to write a review of Fair because it was actually really hard to fully understand how the entire Fair game played out. And I hope my review would also help others when they encounter similar questions like mine.

tl; dr

  • If you need a car for 3?12 months, give it a try maybe.
  • It?s not going to be cheap, but it provides flexibility.
  • You may encounter questions during the process, calling them directly is the best way to get questions resolved.
  • Fair is not as simple as traditional rental car company, customers would need to be prepared to do their own due diligence on various of occasions.
  • If you think this article is helpful, you can use my referral code AVT7CAA8 to get $100 off of your start payment.

All begin with Canvas

Image for postCanvas swapping car for me because of mechanical issue. Great service!

In the past years, I have been using Canvas for my short term needs of a car for various occasions. They provided five-star services and I was in love with them. Last month, just when I needed a car for another 3 months, the sad news came: Canvas was acquired by Fair, and is no longer in the market.

The reason why I?d like to bring up Canvas is: Canvas will be used as a benchmark/bottomline to evaluate pros & cons to the following story. As I may be spoiled by Canvas, I admit I have high expectations on other similar services as well. If you have never experienced Canvas, Great! then maybe Fair won?t seem as bad to you 🙂

Why Fair?

Since my go-to option was vanished, I had to look into other options. Fair wasn?t my first choice because it seems more expansive than Canvas for my use case. But in the end, Fair still has the better deal compare to the traditional rental companies like Hertz or Budget (which would cost you about $1000+ monthly with an entry level SUV).

I also looked up a few local short-term rental car companies around bay area. Some did have lower price, but the cars they offered seem to be unreliable and old.

As a result, I decided to give Fair a shot, even though there were many bad reviews online which got me really worried. And that?s why I want to log and share my experience here, so other people can also reference this if you are also skeptical about this Fair thing.

What?s Fair?

If you go to Fair?s website, it?s clearly a car leasing service which has thousands of car you can browse and lease from.

However, based on the research I did (disclaimer, I could be wrong), they are actually not a rental car company, but a Finance company (Their name is actually ?Fair Financial Corp.?).

Here?s how Fair work:

  1. Some car dealerships have used cars for sale, and maybe some of the cars are hard to sell. Having those cars sit in the lot just adds inventory & depreciation costs.
  2. Fair would work with the dealers, put those cars on Fair?s site with a converted monthly fee structure.
  3. If you decide to get the car from Fair?s app, Fair will buy the car from the dealer, and lease it to you.
  4. When you return the car, Fair will get the car back, and maybe sell it or do something about it afterwards.
  5. As long as: fees collected by user + price selling after return> Price buying from dealer, then Fair gets profit.

So in a sense, Fair owns the vehicle and managing the financial part of the lease, but they don?t really care about the vehicle condition or how it?s maintained. And that?s actually where the blind spots are.

Decide which car I?d like

When you go to the app, you?d see thousands of cars on them. Typically you can find a car that you like, by the year and the type (since the stocks are actually from many many local dealerships near you). Price is definitely something to consider, and it varies by people, but also location was bothering me when I was browsing them.

Unlike Canvas did delivery to your door step, Yes you?d need you pick up your Fair car yourself, at the local dealership. I did see a few good cars in app, but they are way too far from me to Uber there and pick up. That sort of limits my selection.

You?ll probably notice that there are very limited information about the car, some even don?t have real pictures on it. All you know is the car type, year and mileage. You don?t get any CarFax reports, You don?t know if the car was crushed before, and Yes you have to decide which you car you like in app before actually seeing the car.

Fair claims that they have this ?3-day free return policy?, which should ease the worrisome above. But I still don?t feel good about it since I need to pay this pick up/return effort if I don?t like the car, and who knows what are the other troubles I have to go through if I really want to return, with only very limited information in app. This scared me for a while.

Anyways, I don?t have any better choice at the time, so with all the speculations I had, I still started the booking process in the lousy app.

Tips: You?ll get the vin number in app. Usually if you search the vin number in google, you?ll see the actual listing from the dealership?s website, which would expose more information to you, some including Carfax reports.. etc.

Things happened before picking up the car

Let?s talk about the timeline first. Since Fair works with the dealerships, the cars you see in app don?t always reflect their true availability. So what would happen is:

  1. You decide which car you want, with no guarantee and backup plan (-1 point). And you wait.
  2. Fair contacted the dealer to double-check if the car is still available. Sometimes car just got sold since dealers are also listing the cars for sale on their site.
  3. If the car is still available, great! Fair/dealer will hold the car for you, and you have to complete the final paperwork in 48 hours. If the car is unavailable, I guess you?d just have to do the car searching again and happily accepting the fact that you wasted your time.
  4. Once you finish the final paperwork and sign the contract, you can schedule the pick up time, but you are also entering the 3-day free return period. i.e the 3-day starts from signing, NOT when you actually ?pick up? the car. You can schedule the pick up anytime you want, but the clock starts ticking even when you sign the lease at night(-1 point). For example, if you pick up your car 3 days after you sign the lease, you basically lost the ability to do a free return.
  5. What?s happening on me was: I signed the lease on Tuesday 11 am, and picked up the car on Tuesday 6 pm, I thought I can return the car for free before Friday 6pm, but Fair actually told me that my last chance of free return is end of day Thursday.

Beware of the 3-day free return rules.

Signing experience

Fair chooses to be in mobile-app only for many reasons, and I guess one of them is to expose as fewer information they can, and have better control on customer behaviors.

When I was trying to use the app to sign the contract, many pain points I?ve gone through, including:

  • There are more steps than I expected.
  • Many information is only shown in one screen, and cannot be referenced/modified in-app later. You?d probably want to make sure you screenshot all the important massages and make sure the information you submitted is correct.
  • Fair did credit-hard-pull on me.

I am the type of person that would like to figure out all the details upfront, so I don?t get scammed or into trouble later. During the signing process, there were so many questions popped out my head, and I really wish they could explain it better in app or even in there FAQ section. It feels like the app flow is only optimized for the main use case, and for others like free-return, having your own insurance..etc, they try to hide something so that the friction is higher for you to ?not do?.

For example, when I was trying to add my insurance to the app, there was a note that I have to put ? Fair Titling Trust? as lessee on my insurance policy. But that was the only time it showed up. This is not included in the FAQ nor any other places I can find in the app after I signed the lease. I eventually had to send an email in to make sure I was doing the right thing.

Picking up my car

As soon as I signed my lease contract, I left work early that day and wanted to check the vehicle out asap. Not because I was very excited, but because I was unsure if this would really work out, and I needed to fully utilize the 3-day free return thing.

When I arrive at the dealership, I saw the car is waiting for me there. It looked nice, and with a little test drive, it?s also pretty smooth. The car itself is beyond my expectation.

The check-in process was fast and easy. You checked in with the staff there, and provide your driver?s license (and proof of insurance, if you are using your own insurance policy like me). And the staff/sales rep handed me two keys, that?s it!?

Downside of fast and easy is lack of information provided. I think the lady should have done more things proactively, like walk through the car with me, make sure I understand the terms and the car, rather than me asking like a student. But again, I think this really varies by the dealership you go, as they are just local sales rep and not Fair?s trained employee. As in, they don?t really care your Fair experiences at all.

A few things I needed to proactively did are (and I encourage all of you to do):

  • Do a full visual inspection on interior and exterior. Take photos. Fair (maybe intentionally) didn?t tell you to do that but please do that for yourself. I spotted a few dents and I sent photos to Fair soon after as proof. (In Canvas? case, it?s actually the delivery person would do this for me)
  • My car is still under factor warranty, so I am not too worried about the things under the hood. Ask about the warranty status for your car. Maybe take the car to a 3rd party shop if your car does not comes with warranty and you are worried.
  • Check mileage and take photo. In my case, the mileage was off by 300 miles from the app read, and I also have to send a photo of this to Fair as proof. Note that Fair does charge you extra if you drive more than 10000 miles/year, so every mil counts.
  • Ask for registration/documentation. The lady gave me a temporary one, and said DMV would send me an official one in 45 days.
  • Ask as many question about the car as you can. History, driver?s manual, anything weird while you can. Remember you can only do free return in 3 days, so make sure you have all your doubts answered before leaving the dealership.

And there you go! Now you can enjoy the ride (with peace of mind?).

Customer support

One thing really disappointed me is the customer service. Like I said, I really like to figure out all the detail before making a move, so not getting all my questions answered is like killing me.

There are few ways to get your questions answered by Fair:

Email: Really useless, they only respond in 48 hours, and in my experience it really takes more than a day. So say if you are in between these 3 day free return situation, you?ll likely only get response after you lost your free return chance. But it?s the only way to get your photos on file, so still send email if you want to leave proofs that you can reference later to protect yourself.

In-app Chat: Also quite useless. There are usually wait time and the agents re not knowledgeable enough in many topics. Their response are also very slow. I used to like the chat support better but lack of knowledge and engagement really hurts here. I think the char agent are probability some call center overseas and are not very well-trained.

Phone: Phone is usually my last resort because 1) long wait time (and I cannot do other things at the same time) 2) business hour only. That was why I didn?t make phone calls at the very beginning, as I hate waiting. However at the last day of my 3-day-free-return, I really needed to make some quick decision, so I just called. Surprisingly, the wait time wasn?t that bad (about 5 min), and the agent on the phone was nice and helpful. I wish I would have just called in for all my questions started from the beginning, so I don?t waste time worrying about stuff.

Pricing + insurance

Fair is pretty transparent on the pricing, but there are still some parts that are elective and could be hidden fee to you based on your expectation.

Here?s the breakdowns of the fees that you will/may be paying, and I will be using my car as an example here (2018 VW Tiguan w/ 30k miles), all tax included:

  • initiation fee: This is like a down payment, my fee was about $1070, but I get a $100 off promo code.
  • Monthly fee: ~$380
  • Excessive wear/tear (optional): This is like an extra insurance on the exterior of the car. I just want to get a peace of mind, so I still got it. Costs me about ~$40/month

Speaking of insurance: I don?t know if it?s fair to include insurance into this pricing part. But in fact Canvas?s price was to include the full insurance, and that makes things a lot easier and simpler. For Fair, you can either get insurance from them or use your own policy. In my case, originally Fair showed me about $110/m for the insurance before I decided to get the car. I guess the number is just ballpark on everyone. During the signing process the price lowered down to $80/m (probably because of my age/record). However, I called my own insurance (AAA) and they quote me even lower at about $60/m. So I eventually decided to go with my own insurance, which also allows people within my household to be covered by insurance. (I don?t know if you can add authorized driver using Fair?s insurance. Again, gray spot that was never mentioned anywhere.)

That brings my total cost of getting this car for 4 months to:

($970 + ($380 + $40) * 4) /4 = $662.5 a month (+ $60 insurance)

This is definitely more than I?d expected but seems reasonable, considering the flexibility which Fair provided. Canvas would be cheaper for 4 months lease (around $550/m including insurance), but that?s based on a price for a 2015 Escape, so I guess I am paying a bit more now to get a better car?

Summary

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This might be just the first half of my review since I only got the car for less a a month. I?d probably write another review when I return the car.

My overall comments so far are:

  • The app tries to be simple but also hides many details (that who knows when those missing details will come back and bite you). I guess in my experience, I feel like I may be worrying too much, as the end result doesn?t seem bad. But still not a product that?ll give me peace of mind. I always need to pay extra caution and ask extra questions to be satisfied. I personally feel that getting a (used) car is a complicated/big deal, and trying to simplify it like this may not be a good idea.
  • The car that I am getting is good. Even tho I only known it was a rental car before, but I don?t care much since I?d be returning it back in months. Reason of the car being good is mostly contributed by the year of the car. A 2018 car would probably be fine in terms of its function and reliability. So would suggest other to get a newer car with Fair.
  • Cost wise, I think the sweet spots in term of leasing length are around 4?12 month, as you can even out the initiation fee, and having the flexibility of short term rental. if it?s less than 3 months, probably traditional rental car company is better due to high initiation fee. If you plan to own it for more than a year, can probably consider buying a used car or even leasing from car dealership for longer term.

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