How Do Car Subscription Services Work?
Learn More About This Alternative to Traditional Leasing
Traditionally, if you want to drive a vehicle and do not want to borrow one from a friend, the only available options are to buy a new vehicle, buy a used vehicle, lease a vehicle, or rent a car. Buying a car is expensive, and you will need to shop for car insurance on top of that. Leasing is a more convenient option, but you will be committed to concrete terms: how long you will have use of the vehicle, how many miles you can drive it per year, and what sort of insurance you’ll have are all dictated by the lease without much room for flexibility.
However, there is an alternative option: car subscription services. A car subscription is a monthly plan that grants you access to a range of vehicles for a flat fee. Compared to a traditional lease, most car subscription services have much more flexibility. You have more choices as to the make and model of your vehicle and can often swap it out for a different one if you grow tired of it. You will also have more flexibility over how long you will need the vehicle, from a few days to a year.
What Do Car Subscription Services Include?
Some car subscription services offer more flexibility than others, and many are simply a customized lease option and will seem familiar to anyone who has leased a vehicle before.
Your monthly fee covers not only the use of your vehicle but also insurance, maintenance costs (precisely what will vary by plan), and often roadside assistance. Fuel is not covered.
Pros and Cons of a Car Subscription Service
No long term-commitment to a particular car.
Vehicle insurance and maintenance costs are covered.
You maybe able to swap out your car for a new one for a small fee, even on short notice.
More expensive than monthly payments on a comparable used vehicle.
Not as many options for vehicles to choose from as there would be if buying, leasing, or renting.
Most plans are pretty inflexible with your mileage limit; you'll be charged steep fees if you exceed your allotment.
The most significant benefit of a car subscription service is that you can drive around a vehicle of your choosing without having to commit to it long-term. You get freedom and flexibility when it comes to what you drive, and changing your mind is pretty easy. A flat monthly fee covers use of the car, insurance, and maintenance, so you know exactly what you'll be paying.
Compared to a monthly payment on a loan or lease, car subscription services are more expensive, and you never build equity in your car. There may also be fine print regarding pets or smoking. Because most car subscriptions are run by car manufacturers, your choice of car is limited to what the manufacturer wants to get out onto the market. Most plans are also pretty inflexible with your mileage limit.
What Car Subscription Services Are There?
Most car subscription services are still focused on a small regional area and typically are run by car manufacturers.
Care by Volvo
The only car subscription service available from coast to coast is Care by Volvo. You can choose from five different models (three SUVs, a crossover, and a sedan):
- V60 Cross Country
Prices start at $700 per month. To use the service, first you'll select your preferred model, interior and styling options. Then Volvo will confirm your insurance eligibility and run your credit; if all goes well, they'll schedule home delivery of your car. After a year, if you're ready to try something new, you can upgrade to the latest model of the car you have, or choose a different model.
Although Care by Volvo is regarded as a nationwide program, the following states are excluded: Florida, Hawaii, Mississippi, North Carolina, North Dakota, New York, South Dakota, and Texas.
Your monthly price includes both premium insurance and wear and tear coverage, and you are allowed to drive up to 15,000 miles per year.
Access by BMW
Access by BMW is available only in Nashville. Access is a true subscription service—you can choose a vehicle through their app and it will be delivered to you with a full tank of gas.
There is a one-time activation fee, but no month-to-month commitment, and you can cancel at any time. Their concierge service can match you with the right car for your needs if you're unsure, and you can keep the car as long as you want, although they may ask for it back after a while in order to perform routine maintenance. Fees range from $998 to $2,699 per month depending on membership tier. All tiers include $1 million in liability insurance and taxes, maintenance, and upkeep.
Audi Select, located in Dallas/Fort-Worth, offers two membership tiers: Core, with monthly fees of $995, and Premium, at $1,495 per month. Core offers a selection of four models and Premium offers eight. Maintenance, insurance, and unlimited mileage are included.
Perks include two days of complimentary car rental for travel, up two free swaps per month, and concierge cleaning and delivery service. You can keep a car for 180 days before a swap is required.
Lexus Complete Subscription
If you'd like to switch cars every month, Lexus Complete Subscription encourages it. The service, available in the Bellevue and Tacoma areas in Washington, costs $995 per month plus fees and taxes (other programs include these costs in their pricing).
You can choose from four models, which Lexus says are generally within the latest two model years. Insurance is included (up to $500,000 in liability), as is maintenance.
The Mercedes-Benz Collection subscription promises a Benz for every occasion, offering 10 different models at the lowest membership tier, from sedans to coupes to vans. The three tiers of its membership model begin at $1,095 for the Signature plan and go up to $2,995 for the Premier plan.
Each plan includes liability insurance, maintenance, and roadside assistance, plus a concierge to clean and deliver your car when requested. You can also upgrade your current vehicle to another model for an additional daily fee.
Nissan joins the luxury brands with its Nissan Switch subscription service, offering concierge service and no long-term commitment on its month-to-month membership. The service is available only in the Houston area.
Two pricing levels cover many different models, with the lower tier offering the Altima, Rogue, Pathfinder, and Frontier, and the higher tier offering those cars plus the LEAF, Maximo, Murano, Armada, Titan, and 370Z.
You can drive the GT-R, too, but it'll cost an extra $100 per day.
The two pricing tiers are $699 and $899 per month, respectively, and both require a $495 activation fee. Those costs include maintenance, insurance (with a $1,000 deductible), and access to new or prior model year cars from the available fleet.
If you don't want to be tied down to one brand, there are services such as Subscribe With Enterprise that offer a variety of cars or trucks on a monthly basis. You can swap vehicles four times a month with insurance, maintenance, and roadside assistance included. Where other services provide an app to schedule and select your car, Enterprise asks you to call to arrange for a swap. The service is available in Minnesota, Missouri, and Nevada, and costs $1,499 per month with a $250 enrollment fee.
You can choose sedans, SUVs, or pickup trucks from brands such as Chevy, Nissan, Toyota, Ford, and Jeep.
Fair offers 40 makes and models you can choose from. You can shop by monthly payment and there's no long-term commitment. For rideshare drivers, there's the option to pay weekly. Pick up your selection at the dealer, or in some cases have it delivered. Prices start as low as $255 per month not including insurance, which can be added at checkout. The service is available only in California and Florida.
While traditional leases offer loaded brand-new cars (at a significant premium) for a set period of time, Fair offers used cars to drive as long as you want. You won't own the car when you're done, and there's no option to buy, either.
For short-term electric car subscriptions, consider Borrow. You can get an electric vehicle for three, six, or nine months with complimentary maintenance, roadside assistance, and charging credits. Pricing is as low as $199 per month for the two-seater Smart car on a nine-month term, or as high as $1,499 per month for a Tesla Model S for three months.
Insurance is not included, but Borrow will work with you to secure it. There's also a $50 cleaning fee when you return your car, and a reservation fee of $25. Mileage is limited to 1,200 a month, and you can't use a Borrow car for rideshares.