The Ford-owned Canvas car subscription service is expanding beyond its home city of San Francisco for the first time. The service is now available in West Los Angeles—more specifically, in an area spanning from Santa Monica east to Culver City.
The service allows users to rent Ford vehicles on a monthly basis, paying a flat fee that bundles insurance, maintenance, and roadside assistance. The fees average $400 to $500 a month. One could easily pay that much every month to lease and insure a car, but Canvas offers the flexibility of renting. Users only have to deal with a car when they need one.
With ride-sharing and car-sharing services offering realistic alternatives to car ownership, subscription services like Canvas give automakers a way to maintain revenue in a possible future of reduced car ownership, not to mention keep customers loyal to their brands. Canvas isn't the first car subscription service, but is the first attached to a mainstream brand. Cadillac and Porsche offer their own subscription services in certain markets, with higher monthly fees of $1,500 and $2,000, respectively. Canvas's Fords may not be as fancy as a Cadillac CT6 or Porsche 911—but, as is the case when purchasing, they are much more affordable.
Canvas is part of a Ford-owned menagerie of mobility services and experiments that also includes the Chariot shuttle service and GoBike bike-sharing service. Under previous CEO Mark Fields, Ford vowed to transform itself from a car company into a mobility company, although so far that effort has yielded mostly pilot projects and services that, like Canvas, only operate in limited markets.
Where it is available, Canvas could be a worthwhile alternative to car ownership. Limited parking makes owning a car more inconvenient for city residents, but those same residents have limited transportation options when they want to leave their cities. Subscription services could fill that niche, but they may not fully supplant car ownership. If you live in a less-urbanized area and drive on a regular basis, it still makes sense to have your own car. At least, for now.