The Ride Guide to Fair

  • Christian Wardlaw has 25 years of experience serving in automotive editorial leadership roles with Autobytel, Edmunds, J.D. Power, and Tribune Publishing. A married father of four, Chris is based in the Los Angeles suburbs and believes fuel cell electric vehicles will power the future.

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The idea behind Fair is simple: Freedom. Freedom from haggling with a dealership over price, freedom from long-term lease or loan contracts, freedom to easily get rid of a car in just a matter of days, and freedom to change vehicles to fit your lifestyle.

Fair isn’t like renting a car, which is expensive. It isn’t like buying a car, either, because you don’t own the vehicle. It’s more like leasing a car, except that you’re not stuck in a contract, which gives you freedom.

With Fair, everything is handled via smartphone app. From pre-qualification (to make sure you’ll be able to make the monthly payments) to signing the final paperwork, you conduct the entire transaction on your phone. The only reason to go to the dealership is to take delivery of the car, maintain the car, and return the car.

Routine maintenance is included in the deal, along with 24-hour roadside assistance and a limited warranty. Oil and filter changes, tire rotations, and multi-point inspections are free. Everything else comes out of your pocket, including replacement tires, which is a significant consideration given that Fair vehicles are used, not new.

You can add insurance coverage if you prefer the simplicity of having everything rolled into a single monthly payment. If you’re planning to drive more than 10,000 miles per year you can buy extra miles up front, and Fair will reimburse you for what you don’t use. You can also get excess wear and tear protection against dings, dents, worn tires, and more.

If you think this sounds pretty good, read on for an explanation of how Fair works, and my impressions of the service.

How Fair Works

Fair website homepage
Using Fair, you can get qualified for a deal, find a car that fits your budget, sign the paperwork, and make a deal – right from your smartphone.

After you download the Fair app to your smartphone, you’ll create an account.

During this process, Fair will request a scan of your driver’s license in order to perform what it calls a “soft” credit check to establish your eligibility and recommend a monthly payment price range. It is not necessary to do this until you’re ready to obtain a vehicle, so if you simply want to explore the app and learn more about how Fair works, you can skip this step.

If you don’t have a credit history, Fair says this is not a problem. With a driver’s license, bank account, and a regular income, you can probably get a car.

Shopping for cars is easy. Fair provides several filters to whittle down the selection, allowing you to shop by vehicle category, make, and model. You can adjust the payment range and sort vehicles by monthly payment, too.

New cars are not a part of Fair’s vehicle inventory. You can choose from a variety of used cars, many of which are certified pre-owned vehicles. All Fair vehicles are less than six years old and have fewer than 70,000 miles on them.

Prices are non-negotiable. The monthly payment includes routine maintenance, 24-hour roadside assistance, and a limited warranty.

A “Start Payment” is required when you sign the paperwork and is similar to a down payment with a traditional loan or lease. You can adjust the amount of the Start Payment, decreasing it in exchange for a higher monthly payment or increasing it to get a lower monthly payment. The minimum Start Payment is $500.

Once you’ve decided on a vehicle, you’ll place an order, link your bank account to the Fair app, authorize the deal’s Start Payment, set up monthly automatic payments, and sign the agreement right on your smartphone. After that, Fair will help to arrange delivery of the vehicle at the dealership, and off you’ll drive. Some cars can even be delivered to you, and are marked that way in the app.

You don’t test drive a Fair vehicle before you sign the agreement. Instead, Fair offers a 3-day/100-mile No Risk Return Policy on every one of its vehicles. If, within those parameters, you decide you don’t want the car, simply return it and get a refund of your Start Payment.

Fair also offers a price guarantee that states that you won’t find a lower monthly payment with a “comparable” 36-month loan for the same vehicle with the same services. If you do, the company says it will match the deal. This Fair Price Guarantee sounds more impressive than it is because short-term loans have high monthly payments, making it easy for Fair to offer what is effectively a meaningless guarantee.

Monthly payments are due at the end of each use period, not at the beginning. When you decide that you don’t want the car anymore, or that you want a different car, simply get in touch with Fair and the company will arrange a return within five days. Your final payment will be pro-rated for the number of days you used the vehicle before turning it in.

If you like using Fair and want to switch vehicles, it is important to remember that you’ll need to make another Start Payment when moving from one car to the next, which does eliminate some of the freedom you have with the service.

Using the Fair App

Fair search results shown on desktop
Fair offers a number of different ways to shop for vehicles, but the app needs improvement (desktop view is shown).

From a car shopping perspective, Fair’s app needs some work in terms of design and functionality.

For example, the light, clean aesthetic and use of colorized studio imagery give Fair a modern, professional, and cohesive appearance, but at the same time use of a sans-serif font, small typography, and gray text for parts of the information presents a real challenge for people without perfect eyesight.

Searching for vehicles is easy, but some of the filters are less than optimal. For instance, both trucks and SUVs are hot sellers, but Fair lumps them all together in a “Trucks & SUV” filter, making it harder to find what really interests you.

Use the “Green” filter and in addition to hybrid, plug-in hybrid, and electric vehicles you’ll need to wade through a bunch of cheap little econoboxes that are fuel-efficient but are not what a green-vehicle shopper is seeking. This is especially frustrating if you sort the search results by monthly payment.

You can’t limit vehicle search to a specific radius from your zip code, which means you might find a great deal only to discover that the car is 400 miles away (like I did). Fair allows you to search by dealer but presents the list of dealerships in alphanumeric order rather than by proximity to your zip code, which is useless. You cannot use the search function to find a specific dealership, either.

Once you get a list of vehicles that interest you, the app lists them in an unspecified order. I searched for Mazda MX-5 Miatas, and the results were not in order of price, mileage, or geographic proximity to my zip code. The car closest to me, available just a few miles from home, was the fourth vehicle on the list behind others that were more expensive, had more miles on them, and were at dealerships farther away.

Vehicle descriptions on the search results page don’t tell you the trim level, or whether the vehicle has 2-wheel or 4-wheel drive. In some cases, the search result will claim that the paint color isn’t specified even though it is clearly listed in the ad for the car.

You also cannot sort search results by mileage, or by fuel-economy rating, or, as is desirable when it comes to a sports car like a Miata, transmission type. As a father, I’d also want to search for vehicles by safety ratings in order to ensure that the people I love most are protected best.

Add these filter limitations to regularly encountered bugs with the Fair app, and using it can be rather frustrating. But, with time and effort, I am certain the company can overcome these issues and make the app more useful.

Is Fair Actually Fair?

Mazda Miata ad on Fair
Fair’s monthly payment for this Mazda Miata is appealing, but you still might want to buy the car if you plan to keep it for a while.

Generally speaking, Fair is intriguing. Essentially, it simplifies an aspect of your life that is sometimes complex. It also offers flexibility when your life requires it, such as when you have a baby, or get a promotion, or get laid off.

But is Fair actually fair?

Let’s take a look at a Miata I found on the app. Using Fair, I’d make a $1,352 Start Payment and then pay $338 per month for the car shown in the photo above (taxes included).

The Fair Price Guarantee says that I won’t get a better deal by financing this car with a 36-month loan, and the company is right. According to Bankrate, used car loans are available at a 4.75% annualized percentage rate (APR). Financing this Miata for 36 months at the price listed on the windshield would mean a monthly payment of $599 – and would not include free maintenance (my AAA insurance policy includes roadside assistance).

However, if I got a 60-month loan, the payment is $376, which is much closer to Fair’s monthly outlay. And I could haggle with the dealer to get the price down, further erasing the Fair advantage. Also, most people drive more than 10,000 miles per year, and buying those extra miles up front causes Fair payment inflation.

Lastly, at the end of the 5-year loan, this Miata would still be worth thousands of dollars, whereas with Fair I’d have nothing of value after that same period of time.

Except freedom from car ownership, of course.

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About the Author

  • Christian Wardlaw has 25 years of experience serving in automotive editorial leadership roles with Autobytel, Edmunds, J.D. Power, and Tribune Publishing. A married father of four, Chris is based in the Los Angeles suburbs and believes fuel cell electric vehicles will power the future.

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