If you’ve ever aspired to drive a BMW but weren’t quite ready to commit to owning one, there’s a new transportation service that can help fulfill your luxury car driving dreams. ReachNow is a car-sharing service offering a fleet of cars that can be rented and driven within a defined “home area” on a per minute pricing basis. It’s similar to Daimler’s successful Car2Go program, but the difference is that instead of a fleet of small Smart cars, ReachNow lets drivers choose from a fleet of BMW 3 Series sedans, i3s, and Mini Coopers. A newcomer to the Seattle car sharing scene, ReachNow has been a rising transportation option in town and I was recently given the opportunity to take some of their vehicles out for a spin. Check out my review of ReachNow’s service below!
How I Use Alternative Transportation in the City
As a Seattle (Queen Anne) resident for several years now, I have a handful of services that I use to get around the city. My preferred method of getting around is using my own two feet. But thanks to unpredictable Seattle weather and the tools of my trade as a professional photographer, I’m often in need of a vehicle to get around town. As someone who truly loves the act of driving and operating a vehicle, Car2Go has been my favorite service to date, and I much prefer it to taxi-style services like Uber or Lyft. The vehicles are fun to drive and fit into tiny parking spaces. However, they’re not great for carrying big loads of gear or more than two people at a time. Plus, they’re a bit unnerving to drive uphill or in high-speed traffic.
ReachNow offers a nice alternative to Car2Go by giving access to much larger, more powerful vehicles and overall ease of use with a few downsides and trade-offs to consider. First, let’s review the positives.
Where ReachNow Shines
First, let’s review how ReachNow works. Any of their 520 fleet vehicles can be rented for as little as a few minutes to several days (up to 96 hours). No advanced reservations are required, although you can reserve vehicles using the app with up to 30 minutes’ notice. There’s no annual fee to be a ReachNow member (just a one-time registration fee), and you pay by the minute while renting a vehicle. Current rates are $0.41 per minute while driving and $0.30 per minute while parked during paused trips. Parking is free in the Home Area (see below) within residential zones and at parking meters, and the cost of fuel/vehicle charging plus insurance is all included.
Expanded Home Area
While you can treat ReachNow as a car rental service of sorts and take their vehicles out of town for up to 96 hours (4 days) at a time, it’s the most affordable if you stay within the Home Area where you won’t get charged for parking your car and pausing your trip. Currently, the ReachNow Home Area in Seattle is between Northgate and Georgetown, and even includes West Seattle, Northeast Seattle, and the Seattle-Tacoma Airport. Check out the full home area here. ReachNow is also available in Portland, Oregon as of September 19, 2016.
Quick, Intuitive Sign Up
In order to use ReachNow, you first have to register and pay a one-time fee of $39.00 for a lifetime membership. ReachNow also offers frequent discounts and special offers on the signup fee, so check their App or website regularly. The registration process can be done online and can have you certified and ready to go in less than two minutes! All you need to do is:
- Download the ReachNow App from the iTunes Store or Google Play Store.
- Create a profile with a valid email address.
- Scan the front and back of your driver’s license.
- Take a quick snapshot of your profile with the app’s cool built-in camera.
- Verify your phone number by entering a short code sent to you by text message.
After the above steps are done and you agree to the Membership Terms, you’re ready to start renting vehicles!
The App Functions as the Vehicle Key
If you’ve used Uber or any competing car rental service apps, the interface of the ReachNow app will look pretty familiar with the ability to use a map to identify nearby cars available for rental. There are a couple things to note about ReachNow’s app. First, you’ll want to pay attention to the different icons on the map that indicate the three different types of vehicles available. This is important if you have your heart set on a specific vehicle to drive. Another thing to note is that the app serves as a key for unlocking a vehicle. Members do have the option of having a physical key card mailed to them, but it’s completely optional and the ReachNow service can be used with just the mobile app.
Choose from a Variety of Quality Cars
Last year, my partner and I decided to upgrade my college car and were debating between two options: the Pacific Northwest’s favorite Subaru Impreza, or a Mini Cooper. In the end, we loved the fun and sporty Mini, but functionality and practicality made us join the Subaru club. Thanks to ReachNow, we can still have our Mini Cooper fill, or we can please other car driving fantasies by taking the sleek BMW 3 Series sedan or sci-fi i3s electric car for a spin around town. My favorite of the three cars was definitely the BMW 3 Series which is just an overall joy to drive, while my partner loves fulfilling his race car driver dreams with the Mini Cooper.
ReachNow’s fleet of cars in Seattle currently numbers 520 and consists of these specific vehicles to choose from:
- Glacier Silver Metallic BMW 328xi sedans, equipped with all-wheel drive.
- Capparis White BMW i3s, which are electric with range extenders.
- White Silver Metallic and Electric Blue Metallic MINI Cooper vehicles (both 2-door and 4-door versions).
- Digital Blue and Melting Silver MINI Clubman vehicles.
Things to Be Aware Of
While my experience with ReachNow was overall highly positive, there were a few glitches and eyebrow raising scenarios. These mostly had to do with weird functions of the App and getting used to driving a different type of car. Considering Seattle is the first launch city for ReachNow, I think these are natural growing pains that will likely be improved upon in the future.
BMWs are not your average car
One thing to note about the three vehicles available for rental is that they all operate slightly differently. Unlike the Car2Go Smart cars that are relatively straightforward to drive, most BMW vehicles have a more sophisticated interface that can be confusing if you’ve never driven a BMW before. Luckily, ReachNow has considered these differences and provides a laminated card in each vehicle to help you get started, but it can be tricky to find. Personally, it took me almost ten minutes to figure out how to turn on the BMW sedan the first time I entered, and it wasn’t until I had finished my drive that I stumbled upon the laminated card. On the bright side, the interface is very fun and actually quite ergonomic to use once you get the hang of it.
Car Availability Map Disappears When You Have a Rental
After you unlock a ReachNow car, the app’s map no longer displays the concentration of available car rentals. This means that if you’re planning a drive around town and want to make sure there are other ReachNow vehicles in the same vicinity, you need to check the map and plan your trip before hopping into the car.
Expired Vehicle Reservations are Unforgiving
On a test drive, I took a BMW sedan to Georgetown and parked it while eating lunch. Thinking I wouldn’t need more than 30 minutes to eat and realizing there were no other ReachNow cars in the vicinity (see above point on the car availability map), I reserved the vehicle on the app to make sure I could return to it. Naturally, lunch took just a bit longer than 30 minutes, and my reservation expired. Even after verifying that no one else was trying to reserve the car and physically walking to the car to try and unlock it, the app wouldn’t let me take it. I ended up walking almost a mile to another nearby ReachNow car.
Driving BMWs is Addicting
ReachNow should come with a warning: if you’ve never driven a BMW before, this program will make you want to drive one every single day of your life. As the owner of a Subaru Impreza (and Nissan Sentra before that), luxury cars were never something I aspired toward until I actually got behind the wheel of one. Thanks to ReachNow, my life goals reach just a bit higher to include becoming a proud owner of a BMW. Well played Reach Now, well played.
A Day Trip Around Town with ReachNow
Having been a ReachNow member for about a month now, I’ve tapped into the service more times than I initially expected. From running errands around town when my partner is in need of driving our Subaru, to fun date nights and weekend trips around town, ReachNow meets my practical needs while also satiating my desire for fun.
Disclosure: Complimentary driving time was provided by ReachNow for this post. All opinions and photos are mine!