Car ownership can be a bit of a hassle. The dealership purchase process may be difficult, insurance costs often make little sense, and bringing your vehicle to a service center if repairs or maintenance are needed robs valuable time from anyone’s day. As an owner, you may want a compact, efficient car for your city commute but occasionally need something larger for a weekend trip. Enthusiasts (such as yours truly) often want to experience new makes and models more frequently than others. Steer, a Washington, D.C.-based startup aims to meet all of these challenges in a personalized, electrified way.
I spoke with Sonya Harbaugh, Steer’s CEO, and she walked me through the unique subscription model. As countless other elements of our lives move toward an “on demand,” personalized model, Harbaugh and her co-founder, Erica Tsypin, set out to create a hassle-free driving experience that fit such a mold.
The Basics of Steer
Members can choose from one of three plans – Practical, Preferred, and Premier – allowing access to a variety of vehicles based on the tier and associated price point. In a nod to the future, Steer’s entire fleet is battery-powered in some way. Offerings range from traditional hybrids like the Toyota RAV4 Hybrid to full electric vehicles such as the Tesla Model X and Jaguar I-Pace.
Steer is currently Washington, D.C.-based, and offers service within a 25-mile radius of D.C.’s Chinatown neighborhood. Once you have the keys, no mileage restrictions are imposed. Steer allows their cars to be driven anywhere in the continental United States.
Steer’s membership is all-inclusive, so members pay one fixed monthly fee that covers the vehicle, insurance, and any maintenance required. Harbaugh referred to Steer as “high touch,” as members work with a concierge team to handle vehicle swaps and anything else that may arise. Get a nail in a tire or gnarly rock chip to the windshield? Call your concierge and they’ll pick up your car for repairs. You’ll be provided another vehicle that meets your needs – no dealership visit required.
Swapping Cars On Demand
Speaking of vehicle swaps, they’re a perk of Steer’s membership. Those on the least-expensive “Practical” plan are allowed two swaps per month, while “Premier” members may swap cars over and over again. Daily-driving a Chevrolet Bolt but need a large SUV when your family comes to town over Christmas? Call your concierge; they’ll bring you a Toyota Highlander Hybrid. Looking to compare the Jaguar I-Pace, Audi E-Tron and Tesla Model X before making a purchase? Sign up for a Premier membership and sample each as long as you’d like. Your concierge will ensure your preferred radio presets are entered and all personal items moved over to the new vehicle. Unlike a lease, Steer’s plans can be paused or cancelled with no fees.
While some enthusiasts may specifically ask for a Model 3 or E-Tron, for example, Harbaugh was quick to point out that Steer aims to pair members and vehicles based on the member’s defined needs. Experience with electric cars, planned use, length of commute, and ability to charge all influence how Steer will initially pair you up.
Steer’s “Practical Advantage” Plan
The Practical Advantage plan is Steer’s most budget-friendly option, priced at $889 per month. Harbaugh claimed most Practical Advantage members are looking for better fuel economy and an occasional taste of the EV lifestyle. The “fixed monthly cost” model appeals to these members as it’s easy to budget. Harbaugh says many who use this tier live in condos and apartments with no provisions for charging at home, so they are paired with hybrid or plug-in hybrid cars. Some will start with a hybrid and move on to a mainstream EV as they get comfortable with the idea of driving electric.
Moving On Up… to the Premier Performance Plan
Harbaugh indicated most of Steer’s members choose the Premier Performance plan. It costs significantly more than Practical Advantage ($1,689 per month), but premium brand offerings and more full EV availability are the key drivers in upgrading. High earners that span the Millennial and Generation X age groups – 30 to 50 – are Steer’s primary Premier demographic.
Should you only want to drive a Tesla Model 3, Steer offers the “Preferred 3” plan for $1,089 per month. Members using this tier can pay $50 to swap in to a Practical Advantage vehicle at any time.
Trying It Out
Now that I’ve covered the idea behind Steer, it’s time to try it out for myself. I’ve signed up for an account, indicated my preferences, and will be receiving something from their Premier fleet on Monday morning.