GM owners can make money off their Buicks with Maven car-sharing service

Key Points
  • GM is using its car-sharing service Maven to pilot a new car-sharing service in three Midwest cities.
  • The owner of a Chevrolet Equinox who constantly rents out the vehicle could take home $500 a month, GM said.
  • With the sharing economy, there's growing demand for transportation alternatives.
Cadillac Escalade Platinum
Source: General Motors

The typical American driver spends no more than an hour a day behind the wheel, effectively paying to let that vehicle sit idle most of the time, when they could be making $500 or more a month sharing it with strangers, according to General Motors.

The Detroit automaker is using its car-sharing service Maven to pilot a new peer-to-peer service in three Midwest cities. It allows GM owners to share their Buicks, Chevys and Cadillacs with other GM customers.

Maven already has 150,000 registered subscribers that it serves with a fleet of GM-owned cars, trucks and crossovers. As part of its plan to expand, Maven wants to sign up GM owners with vehicles from the 2015 model year or newer and give its customers access to those, as well, splitting the rental fee.

"It's time to put your car to work," said Julia Steyn, vice president of GM Urban Mobility services and Maven, adding that "your car is one of the most expensive things you own. Sitting idle, it is a wasted asset."

Indeed, considering that data service Edmunds estimates the average new 2018 model went for around $34,000 last month, that's a lot of money tied up in a vehicle you don't use all that much.

With the sharing economy, there's growing demand for transportation alternatives. For some folks, the answer is simply to tap a smartphone app and call for an Uber or some other ride-hailing service. But others prefer to drive themselves, and ride-sharing services provide an alternative to traditional car rental companies for those who might only need a set of wheels for an hour or two.

Chevrolet Bolt electric vehicles (EV) stand on display during the press day of the Seoul Motor Show in Goyang, South Korea
SeongJoon Cho | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Traditionally, car-sharing services like Maven or Car2Go have to set up their own vehicle networks, which is a costly undertaking. Since it was established in 2016, Maven claims to have logged 300 million miles on its factory-owned vehicles.

It's not the first car-sharing service to adopt a peer-to-peer model. That's the foundation of Turo, the San Francisco-based transportation provider that started out as RelayRides in 2010. It now claims to have 4 million registered customers who can access 170,000 vehicles across the country.

That independently operated service offers a broad mix of vehicles owners can choose from for both short- and longer-term rentals, claiming to provide an average 30 percent discount compared with conventional rent-a-car companies like Avis or Hertz. It offers a wide range of new, and even some old vehicles, with prices ranging from $10 all the way up to $250 a day.

Maven says it will only work with owners of Buick, Cadillac, Chevrolet and GMC vehicles from the 2015 model year or newer. Like Turo, it will let owners set pricing, though it will provide a guide based on what similar products are going for.

The GM subsidiary hasn't yet released many details, including how it will reimburse owners. Steyn suggested that an owner of a Chevrolet Equinox who constantly rents the vehicle out could take home $500 or so a month. That figure actually comes in a bit below what Turo claims an owner can make. Considering the base price of a new 2018 Equinox, around $24,000, Turos website suggests "you could earn $14,023 annually." The San Francisco car-sharing service gives owners a 65 to 85 percent cut of the rental fee.

Whatever the final numbers, owners will have to cover things like gas and maintenance. The extra cash could help cover a motorist's monthly car note. And the GM service is suggesting some owners may find the extra cash helps them upgrade the car they buy.

The Chevy Camaro ZL1 introduced at the New York International Car Show at the Javits Center on March 23, 2016 in New York, NY.
Ashlee Espinal | CNBC

Maven will kick in a $1 million insurance plan, as well. But owners will have to accept the idea that they might occasionally find a renter stuck in traffic or simply not back when expected. And there's the reality that owners won't be able to use their own cars to store child seats, beach bags or soccer balls.

In its early years, Turo actually partnered with General Motors' OnStar telematics subsidiary. That relationship ended in 2013. Now, OnStar will be a critical part of the Maven peer-to-peer project. All new GM vehicles sold in the U.S. in recent years have been equipped with OnStar and built-in 4G Wi-Fi.

When a Maven customer is ready to pick up a vehicle, OnStar signals the vehicle to unlock its doors and lets the user turn the car on with the smartphone app. Owners who sign up will have their cars modified to allow the same functionality.

GM has big plans for Maven, the service is expected to start using autonomous versions of GM's Chevrolet Bolt EV as early as 2019.

PSA, the French parent of Peugeot and Citroen, also has launched a car-sharing service out of Los Angeles International Airport. It eventually plans to expand and use LAX as the base for a planned return to the U.S. after a nearly three-decade absence.