Your guide to car subscription services, including insurance details, helpful tips, and more.
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Many people have fond memories of buying their first car. Perhaps you saved money in high school for your first vehicle, or maybe it served as a post-college introduction to adulthood. But what if buying a new car was no longer treated as a rite of passage?
A few new companies — including an increasing number of auto manufacturers — have developed a subscription model that caters to consumers less concerned with ownership and more interested in convenience. And it’s not just coastal Millenials getting on board. Cities like Atlanta, Dallas, and Nashville have played host to such services, with new cities jumping aboard frequently.
A vehicle subscription service allows drivers to get behind the wheel with more flexibility than some lease or purchase options. Subscription services vary widely in their offerings and structure. Some are similar to traditional leases, while others allow regular vehicle swaps. Many manufacturers, for instance, offer customers the chance to drive a different luxury car each week.
Most services offer several different vehicle types, ranging from SUVs to electric vehicles. Most companies offer their subscription services through a mobile app, emphasizing ease of use as a major selling point. Convenience is key, as the service is aimed at changing an industry that has more or less stayed the same for decades.
Vehicle subscription fees vary from one company to another. In general, car subscription services cost more than do traditional leases, though some companies may come close. The cost comes down to a variety of elements, including the variety of car you wish to drive and how far you want to drive it. Many services are subject to mileage limits, for instance, though you can sometimes pay more for a higher mileage allowance.
Monthly payments for car subscription services range from below $500 to upward of $3,000. Most subscription programs include fees in their upfront monthly costs. This typically covers insurance, roadside assistance, taxes, and general maintenance. Most companies also have an initial enrollment fee, hovering around $500. This is similar to the down payment you pay when leasing a vehicle.
The potential benefits of car subscription services start with flexibility. Not being locked into a multi-year lease appeals to many drivers. Most vehicle subscription services allow customers to cancel at any time, with leases starting at just one month in many cases. If you need a car for a short period of time, a subscription could be a great idea.
Ownership may not be important to some drivers, and the ability to swap cars on a regular basis could be appealing. Vehicle subscription services provide an array of vehicles from which to choose. You also don’t have to worry about maintenance, which is typically covered under the subscription plan. The monthly subscription fee often includes a number of perks, including routine maintenance, roadside assistance, and —in some cases — auto insurance.
Car subscriptions aren’t right for everyone. Most subscription contracts come with fairly strict mileage limitations, leaving high-mileage drivers out of luck. Driving the car in a different country is also out of the question, and some companies also restrict the number of drivers.
Remember that the car is not technically yours. You’ll need to consider the condition of the car when you relinquish it. Smoking is not allowed in subscription vehicles and chauffering pets may be disallowed as well. For a more comprehensive understanding of what car subscription services allow, consult your company’s terms and conditions page.
In general, vehicle subscription companies roll the cost of car insurance into the monthly fee. This is especially true of manufacturer-run services. Some third-party vehicle subscription plans require you to provide your own car insurance. This is detailed in the company-by-company overviews below.
Vehicle subscription services are still relatively new. Services available a few years ago aren’t necessarily the most popular options at present. The market is rapidly expanding, with more and more automakers—like Porsche and Audi—moving into the space.
The Swedish automaker has aggressively expanded its subscription model in recent years. It offers a 24-month subscription plan, putting it closer to the realm of traditional leases. However, Volvo allows members to upgrade to a new vehicle after 12 months.
Mileage limits: 15,000 miles per year.
Cost: Prices start at $700/month (taxes and fees excluded)
Care by Volvo insurance
Porsche Passport offers a variety of options, including unlimited “flips” from vehicle to vehicle. You can keep the car as long as you want. Month-to-month memberships are available with no obligation to continue. Porsche Passport offers three membership tiers.
Mileage limits: 2,000 miles per month (including rollover miles)
Cost (prices in USD):
Membership tier pricing is as follows:
Porsche Passport insurance
Approved drivers are covered by Porsche Passport’s insurance policy, with the following coverage limits:
Mercedes-Benz Collection offers access to a variety of high-end models. According to the Mercedes-Benz website, when you’re ready to change cars, a concierge will bring your new vehicle right to you. There are different membership tiers available, each with their own vehicle options. Most members of the program “flip” into a new vehicle a few times a month, ensuring that you never tire of your ride.
Mileage limits: none
Cost: $495 activation fee
Membership tiers are priced as follows (varies by city):
Mercedes-Benz Collection insurance
Like other higher-end vehicle manufacturers, Access by BMW offers members unlimited vehicle swaps. The service is month-to-month requires only a 30-day commitment.
Mileage limits: 2,000/month
Cost: $575 activation fee
Membership tiers are as follows:
Access by BMW insurance
Audi Select follows a similar model to Porsche, allowing members to switch between a variety of vehicles. Audi's membership offers flexible month-to-month terms.
Mileage limits: none
Membership tiers are priced as follows:
Audi Select insurance
While automakers have increased their presence in the subscription market, many other companies offer similar services.
Flexdrive partners with local dealerships to offer flexible leasing options. The company offers subscription periods of between 7 and 28 days, with the option to renew afterward.
Mileage limits: Varies by market
Costs: Starts at $400, up to $1,000
Flexdrive provides insurance to customers. Its limits are not listed.
This service, based in Los Angeles, provides a number of electric cars to members for three-, six-, nine-month terms. Unlike services provided by car manufacturers, Borrow is a pick-up service that requires you to go to the company’s headquarters in West Hollywood.
Mileage limits: 1,200/month
Costs: Monthly rates depend on the duration of your monthly term:
Borrow and car insurance
The service does not include car insurance. The company does, however, work closely with a number of carriers who can provide car insurance quotes before your subscription begins.
Fair works with local auto dealerships to offer a flexible driving model, allowing drivers to keep their vehicles for as long as they need. It acquired Ford’s subscription service, Canvas, in 2019. Fair also partners with Uber to provide rideshare-ready vehicles starting at $130/week (after a $500 start-up payment).
Mileage Limits: 10,000
Cost: Starts as low as $175/month
Fair car insurance
Insurance is not automatically rolled into your monthly payment. However, the company does offer “Fair insurance” in some states, which covers the basic minimum liability requirements for your state. If you opt for insurance through a third-party, Fair requires you to carry full coverage (comprehensive and collision).
Mobiliti is a flexible option for drivers, offering contracts as short as one month. Every month you get the option to exchange your vehicle. The company works closely with dealerships to provide vehicles. The minimum subscription is one month and can stretch beyond 12 months.
Mileage limits: The company does have limits, though they are not listed.
Cost: The company requires a $499 security deposit. Cost varies by vehicle and mileage package and runs from $450 to $1,400 per month.
Whether or not vehicle subscription services will work for you depends on a number of factors. Do you value the flexibility afforded by being able to drive a different vehicle each month? Do you require unlimited mileage? Is the service even available in your area?If you want to routinely swap one luxury vehicle for another—and monthly fees aren’t your biggest concern—a service like Porsche Passport could be great. If you are looking for something long-term but flexible, Care by Volvo might be just the thing.
Regardless of whether you purchase a car, opt for a lease, or utilize a vehicle subscription service, many of the same car insurance principles apply. Before you get behind the wheel, make sure you're covered. For subscription plans that require you to find your own insurance policy, The Zebra can help by streamlining your search for quotes from leading insurance companies.
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