Everything You Need to Know About Car Subscription Services

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For a monthly fee, a car subscription allows you to enjoy driving one or multiple vehicles without any of the responsibilities associated with ownership.
Car subscriptions usually offer multiple tiers but they’re mostly for luxury vehicles. Overall, they can be pricey but they’re worth considering if you value flexibility, novelty, and having someone else handle your maintenance.
If you’re considering giving a car subscription service a try, the car insurance comparison shopping and broker app Jerry has compiled everything you need to know. Read on to learn more about car subscriptions and which one might work best for you.
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What is subscribing to a car?

A car subscription service is kind of like renting a car, but for a longer time.
You pay a monthly fee to borrow a car, which is owned and maintained by the company. You select a vehicle and enjoy driving it until you want to swap it for a new one in their fleet.
The cars are not usually brand new but they’re typically less than three years old. However, subscribing to a premium program guarantees excellent condition.
The length of your subscription period will depend on the company, but it could range from 30 days to 24 months. Each company has different rules about how often you can swap vehicles. They might allow two swaps per month or one swap per six-month period, for example.
Your subscription comes with a mileage limit, which is built into your fee. You pay a per-mile rate if you exceed the agreed-upon limit. Some programs don’t have mileage limits, or you can pay for unlimited miles.
When your term is over, you simply return the vehicle to the company (or rather, a concierge comes to pick up the vehicle). You might be responsible for damages, but wear and tear and a thorough cleaning is usually covered by the company.

What companies offer car subscriptions?

Most car subscriptions are offered through car manufacturers or startups.
Depending on your location, not all models or subscription packages are available everywhere. Typically each company offers multiple tiers, with options for premium or additional features.

Car manufacturers that offer subscriptions

Subscription serviceAverage monthly costWhere it’s available
Access by BMW$2000Nationally
Audi Select$1395Dallas-Fort Worth
Canvas by Ford and Lincoln$379-$1125Nationally
Porsche Passport$3100Atlanta
Care by Volvo$600-$750Nationally

Startups that offer car subscriptions

Subscription serviceAverage monthly costWhere it’s available
Flexdrive$400-$1000Parts of GA, NJ, PA, TX
Less$400-$3000Bay Area
Drive Flow$900-$1600Raleigh and Winston Salem
Borrow$450-$1500LA area
Carma$500Detroit, Chicago, and Columbus

What is included in a car subscription?

First, you’ll usually have to pay an annual membership fee or a “start fee” to launch your subscription. Then, you’ll pay an ongoing monthly fee.
What’s covered will depend on the particular company, but generally your fee includes some insurance coverage, taxes, maintenance, roadside assistance, full detail washes between switches, repairs, oil changes, and more.
Many companies offer some level of insurance, but you should also consider getting a non-owner policy if you drive frequently but don’t own a vehicle. The free Jerry app can help you get fast quotes and great savings if you’re looking for insurance.

Pros and Cons

Pros of car subscriptions

Flexibility: You can change up your ride without leasing or buying a new vehicle. Some subscription terms are short as one month.
Convenience: You can do the research, enrollment, and booking entirely online or via an app. Usually, the company will deliver the car to your doorstep. How’s that for convenience?
Less hassle: You don’t have to worry about oil changes or flat tires with a car subscription. Instead, the company is responsible for maintenance.
Cost savings: In the long run, a car subscription might save you money. There aren’t down payments (like you have to pay to lease or buy a car), and you won’t be paying for any maintenance costs.
More credit-friendly: People with poor credit may have better luck with a car subscription services than traditional financing. There’s still a credit check as part of the application process for most companies, but it may not be as cumbersome as with a financier.
No negotiating: Don’t worry about paying too much. Car subscriptions come with set fees, so you can relax knowing that you’re paying the same as everyone else.

Cons of car subscriptions

Not an investment: The money you spend on a car subscription will go into the company’s pocket and not toward an asset you will eventually own.
Restrictions on usage: You’re not totally free to drive a subscription car however you like. Some rules apply, like mileage and geographic limitations.
Data and privacy concerns: Most companies use vehicle tracking to ensure the safety and location of their vehicles. If you’re not comfortable with this, don’t get a car subscription.
Preference for single model: If you prefer to drive one model—not switch between different ones—then a car subscription may not be worth the price for you.
Set prices: If you enjoy negotiating and finding a bargain, you won’t be able to cut a deal with a car subscription company. Prices are set in stone.
Pet restrictions: Most companies have rules about transporting pets. Your furry friend will need to be in a carrier, unless it’s a service animal.
Additional drivers require approval: It’s not as easy to share driving duties when you have a subscription car. Most companies require additional drivers to be approved, unless it’s an emergency situation.
Insurance coverage: The company will offer you insurance, but the coverage may differ from your current policy. It’s important to make sure you’re comfortable with the level of coverage on offer.
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Average costs of car subscriptions

There’s usually a start or membership fee, which is a non-refundable payment of several hundred dollars. On top of this, you’ll pay a regular monthly (sometimes weekly) all-inclusive fee. The monthly cost typically falls between $650 and $2,000.
So, a car subscription service could cost you between $8,000 and $25,000 per year, depending on the company and the model you select.

Is a car subscription cheaper than buying or leasing?

It’s a bit like comparing apples and oranges.
The right financial choice depends on your preferences and goals. The point of buying or leasing is car ownership. On the other hand, the goal with car subscription is to enjoy driving without the burden of an owner’s responsibilities.
When choosing between a car subscription or leasing, know that costs can be comparable but your obligations will be very different.
Overall, car subscriptions tend to be more expensive than the average lease. Volvo is the only company with a monthly subscription fee that is less than the typical monthly lease price.
Key Takeaway Evaluate your financial situation before deciding between leasing and enrolling in a subscription service.

Car share vs. car subscriptions

Car shares are intended for very short trips, comparable to rentals. For example, you book a car share for a few hours to drive to the grocery store, or for a few days to drive to the coast with friends.
On the other hand, car subscriptions are a way to enjoy premium vehicles for months or years at a time, without the obligation to pay for maintenance. Everything is included in a monthly all-inclusive fee. You can switch vehicles according to the limits of your plan, and usually the vehicle is delivered to you by a concierge.

How does insurance work with car subscriptions?

Sometimes, insurance is included in your subscription fee. Other times, it’s not.
You may have the option to bring your own coverage, but you’ll need to check with the company.
Either way, coverage may differ from what you’re used to so make sure to read the fine print. If you’re deciding which type of insurance to get, try Jerry. Jerry is an end-to-end car insurance broker app that is 100% free to use and finds the cheapest rates for your ideal coverage level.
Jerry only works with reputable companies, so you don’t have to worry about ending up with a bogus policy.
Plus, before every renewal period, Jerry sends you quotes to make sure you’re always getting the lowest price on your car insurance.

Who should consider a car subscription?

If you have no interest in owning your own vehicle right now, but you still want the pleasure of driving a car that’s in excellent condition, then a car subscription could be for you.
You should consider a car subscription if you like the flexibility of switching vehicles and the freedom of not doing maintenance. For a slightly higher monthly cost than a lease, you could enjoy driving nearly-new cars while someone else takes care of the annoying stuff.
Car subscriptions are not a good choice for people who want to own their own car. Similarly, if you are struggling financially or don’t drive very often, a car subscription is not a good solution.
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How do I enroll?

Most companies will start by reviewing your driving history and pulling a credit check. Once you make it through this approval stage, you may purchase your subscription.
To complete your enrollment, you need to select a tier. This includes your mileage allotment, the length of your subscription, and how many vehicle swaps are permitted. Then, you can download the app, set up payments, and select your first vehicle.
Your vehicle will be delivered by concierge, in most cases, and you’ll be all set to enjoy hassle-free driving for the duration of your subscription.

Frequently asked questions

What kind of cars are available?

There are lots of different models available to you, but normally you’ll be choosing from newer, high-end vehicles. If you go with Borrow in Los Angeles, you’ll choose from a selection of electric vehicles.

Can I cross state lines?

Usually, yes. Most companies prohibit the crossing of international borders, so you’ll have to stick to the continental United States (unless you enroll in Care By Volvo).
What’s more important to consider is the mileage limit. At the beginning of your subscription, you will sign an agreement for a set number of miles. Some programs offer an option for unlimited mileage. You must stick to the mileage limit or pay an overage fine.

How long can I use a car with a subscription?

It depends on the company and term you choose. With Volvo, for example, you select a vehicle and drive that vehicle exclusively for 24 months. Some terms are as short as 30 days.
If you’re looking to streamline your driving experience, make sure you don’t forget about insurance.
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