Photos credit: Derick Yan and Andrew Michael Ory.
Car sharing is officially here to stay, but why must most of the vehicles in the many services be boring? Enter Avants Car-sharing service, a new platform aimed at car enthusiasts instead of the A-to-B commuter.
“Car enthusiasts are always drooling over each other’s cars. But it’s just not practical to buy/sell a ton of cars,” said Adam Cramer, founder of Avants. “This means that most people only get to drive a handful of cars over their entire lifetime!”
The idea is simple, vetted people allow other vetted people to drive their performance machines for a certain amount of time.
“I convinced another Cadillac CTS-V wagon owner to swap with me for a few days,” Cramer said. “He had an automatic and wanted to drive my manual.”
From there the idea has expanded to more members. And, between the many members, there’s quite a selection to choose from. There’s a Ford Focus RS and a Lamborghini Murcielago, an old school NSX, a sleeper 80s Buick Regal estate wagon, a 1923 Ford Model T Bucket Hot Rod, Nissan GT-Rs and a Noble M400, some stock and some tuned.
“I’ve actually shared my car several times with friends in the group,” said Dan Putnam, member of Avants and Woodinville resident. “I think the first person I actually shared my car with was Kevin and [I] drove his Murcielago. We have been friends for a while though, so this wasn’t just a random swap.”
It seems there’s something for everyone in the Avants program. Before people can become members of Avants, their driving record is also checked. Those with a history of chronic bad driving or accidents may not get into the program.
Competition isn’t stiff, but he’s also not alone in the market. Turo is a car rental site that allows people to rent out their rides without the owners or renters really meeting (yes, even performance-oriented vehicles). GetAround is another peer-to-peer car rental/sharing platform, but it isn’t in Seattle yet.
Avants, on the other hand, is here and ready to go and comes with vetted members.
The idea started during a holiday break, when Cramer setup the website and got the other Cadillac owner involved. He’s a fan of unique cars, such as sleepers, and has owned two “heavily-modified” Audi A6, a BMW 540 wagon, and his current (and available to share) Cadillac CTS-V manual wagon and his Audi S6 Avant wagon.
“I have always loved cars,” Cramer said. “I love fast station wagons (preferably with a manual transmission). I love the ‘sleeper’ aspect of them, no one expects them to be fast or handle well.”
Cramer is also the co-founder of Frugal Mechanic, an online shopping comparison tool for comparing prices on auto parts (www.frugalmechanic.com).
While Avants is growing, it hasn’t always been easy. Just like with any business, there’s challenges to starting the service.
“The biggest challenge in the beginning was the chicken/egg problem,” Cramer said. “No one wants to be a guinea pig. It’s inherently risky to the first. Combine that with the fact that I’m asking someone to lend their prized-possession and you’ve got a double-whammy.”
Insurance is handled as though any other friend were driving your car, through the ‘Permissive Use’ clause in many insurance plans. A person who drives your vehicle and gets in an accident would be covered by primary (car’s) or secondary (borrower’s) insurance.
“It’s not like a lot of people think, where you just put your car out there for anyone to drive,” Putnam said. “The people I swap with I’ve gotten to know quite well before I let them drive my car, so it’s not very concerning.”
Avants also reimburses deductibles and has a program to protect against potential insurance premium increases. More information here: https://www.avants.com/how-does-insurance-work
“I understand people’s apprehensions about lending their car out, but people should go to the meets, talk to Adam, and get to know the group and what it’s like before making up their mind,” Putnam said. “I think people initially have the impression it’s a blind car sharing service, but it’s not at all. There’s rules, insurance, driving record checks, and a lot of socializing.”
Even though there had been some bumps and concerns to iron out, people have jumped onto the platform and it’s becoming more successful with every day and every event. Recently, Avants sponsored the Red Square Car Show and hosted another event at DirtFish rally school.
“Events are core to the Avants program, because it gives people that ability to meet owners face to face, which is critical to building trust,” Cramer said. “Think of Avants as a traditional car club that has meets and events, but with the added benefit of being able to swap cars with other members.”
Their next event will be Wednesday, 5/23 at Group 2 Motorsports in Seattle. Find out more about the upcoming event on their Facebook post. If you’d like to learn more about the Avants car-sharing platform, please visit their website at www.avants.com.
“You aren’t going to lend your car out blind and you’re never pressured to lend it out,” Putnam said. “You don’t have to swap at all if you’re really nervous, but you’ll definitely get to go for rides at least in some very amazing cars of all different kinds – exotics, JDM cars, you name it. It’s a really diverse group and great for networking.”