You Can Now Subscribe to a Car, But Should You?

Considering a car subscription?

Car subscriptions are one of the latest offers available to car shoppers. We’re now used to subscribing to dinners, music, movies, and streaming services (looking at you, Netflix), so why not subscribe to our cars, too?

That’s the thinking, anyway.

What Goes Into a Car Subscription?

Think of the last time you went shopping for a smartphone. You chose a carrier, decided on a phone, added items like extra data along with add-ons like phone insurance, and voila! You had a phone plan complete with a fully functioning smartphone.

Car subscription services follow a similar model. Drivers can sign up for subscription services directly with automakers or with third-party companies, which may have access to cars from several automakers. Many car subscription services currently operate only in select cities, including New York City, Los Angeles, Nashville, San Francisco, Atlanta and Detroit.

Each car subscription service is unique, so here’s an overview of how they work: Shoppers choose an automaker or third-party company to start a subscription with and browse through a selection of available cars. The prices can vary, as a subscription with an everyday car can cost less than one with a luxury vehicle.

Each car comes with essentials like insurance, maintenance and roadside assistance. The add-ons – like the ability to upgrade or swap one’s car – vary depending on the subscription service. Drivers may have to look closely at each program to find one tailored to their needs. For example, people that drive a lot may have to seek out programs with unlimited mileage, and those who need a short-term driving solution would want programs that allow them to create a short subscription.

Is a Car Subscription Right for Me?

Car subscription programs have several benefits. There’s no down payment; instead, each subscription service charges a smaller joining fee. Also, one flat monthly payment conveniently covers the different parts of owning a car. Many programs also offer short-term or flexible subscriptions.

However, these subscriptions can be hard to access if you don’t live in a major city. In addition, some of these subscriptions have a high price point with no lower-price option available. (Imagine if your only option for a smartphone was a new iPhone X.) And for CarGurus shoppers, that flexible pricing is vital: In a recent poll of 1,500 CarGurus shoppers, 30 percent said that flexible pricing was the most important feature for a car subscription service.

If the new world of car subscriptions seems a bit murky, that’s because it is. New players continue to enter the market, and there’s no “industry standard” yet. That’s one of the few roadblocks stopping car subscriptions from becoming widespread.

What do you think – could a car subscription be your next step in car ownership?

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