What You Need to Know About Car Subscription Services

What You Need to Know About Car Subscription Services

In recent years, the number of subscription services for everyday products or activities has been rapidly increasing. Now, consumers have the option to join a car subscription service. Car subscriptions are a relatively new service, intended to function as an alternative to buying or leasing a car. Members of the service can select the car they want to drive and use it for a certain amount of time, with the option to switch cars later on.

The fees will vary according to the car you choose, as well as other factors.

Many Americans use car subscription services for their additional flexibility and convenience. Others, however, may find these services do not meet their needs, preferring a more traditional financing or lease arrangement. Before deciding whether a car subscription service might be right for you, make sure to consider all of the possible pros and cons.

How Car Subscriptions Work

Car subscriptions allow their members access to a selection of vehicles they can choose to drive. If the service is a third-party company, they may partner with a range of dealers. The cars offered might also be pre-owned. Some subscription services are run by car companies such as Volvo or BMW, offering models made only by those manufacturers.

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Generally, you would sign up for the service using an app. Once it has been determined that you have a good driving record, you are able to choose the vehicle you want to drive. The vehicle is typically delivered to you by a driver. If you want a different vehicle, you can switch using the app. There may be a limit on the number of swaps you can make, or you may have to drive one car for a certain length of time before swapping.

The subscription fees cover the use of the car, as well as certain extras. These extras vary depending on the service to which you subscribe. They may include the following:

  • Insurance, although you may have a deductible.
  • Maintenance, which might be scheduled by the service.
  • Roadside assistance.
  • A warranty.
  • A down payment or deposit.

Cost Comparison

The cost of belonging to a vehicle subscription service varies depending on the service. It may be a few hundred dollars a month, or more than a thousand for high-end models or exclusive brands. However, the more affordable options could be appealing to those on a budget.

Consumers who use car subscription services generally see them as a better option than taking out a loan or lease. They cite the fast depreciation of a car, which lowers in value within a short time after the initial purchase. By using a subscription, you do not have to concern yourself with the car’s value.

If you have financed your car purchase, you may want to switch to a different model before you have paid off your first. Some car owners may even trade in one car for another before they have paid off their initial loan, increasing their debt. Subscriptions permit you to trade cars without worrying about additional debt.

Conveniences

Those who use car subscription services often choose to do so because of added convenience. The experience of using different subscription services will mean different benefits for each one. When looking at the overall benefits of a subscription service, however, you might consider the following:

  • You may need to swap vehicle types after a lifestyle change, such as moving from the suburbs to the city. Some services may also permit short term use of different vehicles for purposes such as a vacation.
  • You can simplify your expenses by paying for your vehicle, as well as additions such as insurance, in a single transaction. This will vary depending on the service.
  • Car maintenance may be planned for you. You will not have to worry about arranging it yourself.
  • You can cancel your subscription with relative ease.
  • You can save money simply by driving older cars, as the value of these will have already depreciated.
  • Car enthusiasts have the option to try out a model they would not want to own long-term.

Drawbacks

In a similar manner to the benefits, the drawbacks of a car subscription service vary depending on the type of service you use. Some services may have stricter limitations on the choice of vehicle, for example, or may not include as many added services in their subscription fee. However, there are some general drawbacks to the use of a subscription service that should be considered.

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Car subscription services are a new market, which means they have not been tried and tested for very long. Some might see the sudden increase of these services to be a trend-based reaction and not a sustainable business model. One of the well-known manufacturer subscriptions, Book, ended its services in 2018.

Some find the cost of a car subscription service is no different to what they may pay for a lease or a loan. In some cases, it might even be more. If you plan to use one car for several years, rather than trading it in, you may find a loan could be the more affordable option in the long run. Unlike a subscription service, you will have an asset you can keep. This asset, and its equity, can then be leveraged to your advantage.

Manufacturer Subscriptions

These services are run by the car manufacturers themselves. Unlike third-party subscription services, they do not offer an incentive to those looking for an easily affordable option. However, they may appeal to motor enthusiasts who have an affinity for a particular brand of vehicle. These subscriptions are likely to be over $1,000, and may be two or three times more depending on the level of your subscription. However, for those who want to drive new, luxury cars without committing to one purchase, these services can be a solution.

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By Melanie Henson