It's 2020. We have drones and hoverboards, our , and anything in the world can be delivered to your door with a couple of clicks. Why should we be stuck with buying or leasing as our only means of procuring a car to drive? Hell, nah.
Thankfully, vehicle subscription services are becoming more and more popular. Think of it like any other subscription: Sign up for what you want, cancel it when you're done. Whether from automakers or third-party companies, there are many ways to subscribe to your next new car.
If you're familiar with any vehicle subscription service, it's probably one of these. In essence, you pay a monthly fee to a manufacturer for access to several vehicle models in its lineup. In addition to access, this fee covers the cost of insurance, maintenance and roadside assistance.
Audi's Select vehicle subscription service has two tiers available to prospective members. The new Core Collection tier runs at $995 per month -- that's around $400 cheaper than the other option -- and gives you access to the S3 and S4 sedans, Q5 SUV and the TT. The other tier available is called the Premiere Collection and costs $1,395 per month. It offers more Audi models, as well as more frequent car swaps, two a month in this case.
For your hard-earned money, Audi takes care of insurance, maintenance and roadside assistance. Drivers have unlimited mileage in the vehicles, with the only out-of-pocket expense being fuel. Members also receive two days of service from Silvercar -- an Audi-only rental car company -- and concierge service with pick-up and drop-off of vehicles. If you love the brand with the Four Rings, it's not a bad way to go.
BMW now has a pilot program running in Nashville for its subscription service, Access by BMW. The program is a two-tiered affair and isn't cheap (Porsche has a similar program we cover later in this article). The first tier, which BMW is calling "Legend," will set users back a cool $1,399 per month and gives access to vehicles like the 4 Series, 5 Series and X5 (but not the M models) as well as the excellent M2. Upgrading to the $2,699 M tier and things start to get really interesting with access to the M4 Convertible, M5, M6 Convertible, X5M and X6M.
BMW has also added a new entry-level Icons tier that gives users access to cars like 330i, 330e, i3, X2 and the M240i convertible. It will set you back $1,099 per month but it features all of the same benefits that the more expensive tiers offer like unlimited car swaps.
You can order vehicles through the Access by BMW app, and so far there doesn't appear to be any restriction on vehicle swaps. Your monthly subscription fee includes insurance, and roadside assistance, as you'd expect. The program will be facilitated by local dealers and not by BMW corporate and BMW hasn't given word on if or when it will expand the program beyond Nashville.
Cadillac's service was one of the first OEM subscriptions to be announced when it debuted in January 2017. Initially it was available only in New York City. As the program continued, its service area expanded to drivers in Dallas and Los Angeles, but then Book by Cadillac ceased operations by the end of 2018. However, it's in for a reboot this year, according to comments General Motors Chief Marketing Officer Deborah Wahl made last year.
When it was up and running, it first required a $500 enrollment fee before requiring another $1,800 per month for the service itself. However, the upside was that it offered access to some of Cadillac's best cars, and it allowed you to swap cars up to 18 times per year. Plus, when you were accepted, your spouse could legally drive the car, too. Insurance and concierge service were included in the cost.
Say you wanted an Escalade to drive around during the week, and then you wanted to swap it out for a CTS-V for the weekend. Not a problem. With Book, you'd just fire up the app and make your selection, and a concierge service would drop off your vehicle for you. The deductible for its included insurance was $1,000, and leftover filth in the car (dog hair, weird smells) would incur a $150 fine.
When Book returns, we don't know exactly how it will differ, but look for it to launch in California in the near future.
Genesis is getting into the subscription-style lease game with Spectrum. The program is like a standard lease that rolls in all your maintenance and insurance costs with your monthly payment. Like Lexus' Complete Lease program, you can't necessarily swap cars, but Spectrum does give you access to all of Genesis' product line. The 36-month leases start at $489 per month with $2,699 down for the G70, $569 per month with $3,999 down for the G80 and $909 per month with $5,499 down for the G90.
Spectrum will see a limited release starting with the 45 Genesis dealers in Florida, and it's not totally clear if or when Genesis will expand the program to other markets. Read more in Genesis' announcement here.
Most of the OEM subscription services that we're talking about let you swap cars out whenever you feel like it and cost a boatload of money. Only Care By Volvo locked you into a car for a 12 month period, but not any more, because now Jaguar Land Rover is getting into the game with Pivotal (previously known as Carpe), a subscription service that is, for the time being, only available in the UK.
Like most subscription services, it's all-inclusive so your monthly fee takes care of the car, insurance and maintenance, leaving you to deal with fuel and not much else. Pivotal isn't cheap, but neither are Jags and Land Rovers, so your basic E-Pace SUV will run £910 (around $1,200) per month and range (get it?) up to £2,200 for a Range Rover Sport HSE. Interestingly, Jaguar Land Rover isn't requiring a deposit, but should you choose to put one down anyway, it will lower your monthly subscription cost.
While Pivotal is currently UK-only, we wouldn't be terribly surprised if it hopped the pond, given how hot the subscription market segment is right now. Roadshow has asked Jaguar Land Rover if it has any plans to bring Pivotal here, but so far, it's remained tight-lipped on the subject.
Mercedes-Benz has been talking about launching its pilot program for a car subscription service for months and now it's a reality. The program is called Mercedes-Benz Collection and, like most of the other OEM programs, it's not cheap but it might be worth it if you really love that three-pointed star and live in Atlanta, Nashville or Philadelphia.
The program is called Mercedes-Benz Collection, and it provides a pretty broad range of cars to those who subscribe. The plan, like others from OEMs, has more than one tier. The Reserve tier will cost $1,595 per month and give you access to vehicles like the C43 AMG, the E400 wagon and the GLE350 SUV. For $2,995 per month you can access the Premier tier, and with that, you can drive around in a C63 S sedan, a G550 SUV or an SL550 roadster.
If that's not enough, Mercedes-Benz launched an AMG-Exclusive tier in February. As the name implies, the tier is made of only Mercedes-AMG vehicles, 11 of them, to be precise. Notably, it includes the AMG GT, but unsurprisingly, it costs quite a bit per month: $3,595 per month
If your jaw is on the floor over the price of the Premier and AMG-Exclusive tier, you're not alone. That's a lot of cash per month, but the ability to "flip" into different vehicles with minimal notice through the Mercedes-Benz Collection concierge service is pretty cool. As with most subscription plans, cars are delivered to you cleaned and fueled, and the plan includes insurance.
Joining is a relatively simple process. You just have to download the Mercedes-Benz Collection app and go through the prompts, which include sending a photo of your driver's license, and in around 24 hours you should have a decision on your application. You then pay a $495 application fee, and you're in.
There's a pretty prevalent theme among the automaker brands that offer a subscription service in that they're all luxury marques. Nissan is the lone wolf when it comes to mass-market brands trying their hand at this kind of program. It's also the new kid on the block.
Nissan revealed its Switch service in February, and although Nissan's mostly in the business of selling bread-and-butter crossovers and sedans, Switch does include Godzilla, aka, the GT-R. Two tiers are available for subscribers, one called Select for $699 per month, and a second named Premium for $899 monthly. Select offers most of Nissan's basic models like the Altima and Rogue and the Premium tier tosses in the Leaf, Murano and even the 370Z among others.
When fun comes knocking, snagging seat time in a GT-R costs even more. Nissan caps time with the GT-R at seven days and it costs an extra $100 per day. Further, the sports car is reserved for those who opt into the Premium tier. Right now, Nissan Switch is only available in Houston, Texas, and includes the typical subscription features such as insurance, delivery and vehicle maintenance.
Porsche Drive - Subscription (previously known as Porsche Passport service) is expensive, but it gives you a lot for your money. First, you pick one of two tiers. The first tier, called Launch, will set you back a tidy $2,000 per month and gives you access to an unlimited stream of Caymans, Boxsters, Macans and Cayennes.
If you're a true baller, you can upgrade to the Accelerate plan, which runs $3,000 per month and gives you access to those three magic numbers that drive every Porschephile crazy: 911. Panamera, too. That said, exclusive models like the GT3 RS are off-limits no matter what. Sorry.
The next thing you need to know, and perhaps the biggest bummer about the whole Porsche Drive - Subscription program, is the geographical area it serves. While it launched in Atlanta, Passport is now also available in Las Vegas, Phoenix, San Diego and Toronto, Ontario, but that's it. Apart from that, it's all sunshine and roses. Porsche doesn't put any kind of restriction on the number of vehicles you can change into, and its insurance is decent, though still with a $1,000 deductible.
Unlike Book by Cadillac, Subscription includes full-detail washes as part of its fee, so you'll never (in theory) be charged for turning in a dirty car. There are also no mileage restrictions, so if you feel like road-tripping your borrowed Panamera S around the US, that should be fine.
When you apply to join, you'll pay a $500 application fee, and Porsche expects you to be a member for no less than 31 days. The rest is simple and handled through either Porsche's app or its concierge service.
Porsche Drive - Rental is a short-term car rental service that offers short-term rentals -- think between 4 hours and a week -- of Porsche vehicles with mileage caps. Costs vary significantly based on which model you choose and the length of your loan, but a week in a 911 with a 1,500-mile limit will cost you just shy of $3,000. Just like Passport, Drive is available in Atlanta, Las Vegas, Phoenix, San Diego and Toronto, Ontario
Porsche Host sees the brand partnering with peer-to-peer car rental service Turo to offer short(ish) term loans from a week to a month of customer-owned Porsche vehicles from specially selected "five-star" Turo hosts. The program launches in October and is limited to Los Angeles and San Francisco. The cars can be booked through the Turo app.
Volvo launched its Care by Volvo service at the Los Angeles Auto Show in 2017 alongside its new XC40 crossover. The Swedish automaker has since vowed to include all of its models in the Care program, but currently, we only have pricing for the XC40.
The Care by Volvo plan for the XC40 starts at $600 per month for the T5 Momentum trim and goes up to $700 per month for the T5 R-Design, both of which you can configure yourself. You start with a $500 deposit that gets applied to your first month's payment.
Some of the more critical aspects of the Care by Volvo plan are the excess wear and use protection included with your subscription. Basically, this means that Volvo will forgive $1,000 in mileage overages and vehicle damage at the time you return your car. If you park exclusively by feel, you may still end up paying for deep scratches or dents, but this should help soften the blow.
Volvo also includes a road hazard plan for tires and wheels so if a box of nails drops off the back of someone's handyman truck and your tire picks them up, it's covered. If you fall into one of Detroit's man-eating potholes and your rim is destroyed to the point where it will no longer hold air or can't be balanced, that's covered too. Curbing the hell out of your Volvo's rim wouldn't be included, however, so practice your parallel parking in something else.
Under Volvo's service and maintenance plan, all repair and wear items are covered in the first three services (10,000, 20,000 and 30,000 miles). This includes things like brake pads, wiper blades and fluids. This sounds pretty good, but typically in the first 30,000 miles of car ownership, maintenance items aren't that big of a deal; for example, having to replace a set of brakes at 30,000 miles on something like the XC40 would be atypical.
Lastly, unlike the more expensive programs by Cadillac and Porsche, Care by Volvo only lets you swap cars every 12 months in most markets. While that's still better than most lease programs, it's not ideal for those of us who suffer from a lack of car commitment.
These subscription services aren't directly backed and managed by a vehicle manufacturer. Most offer used or off-lease vehicles, and prices vary pretty widely, as does the level of bundling. Some services, for example, provide insurance bundled with the vehicle while others will help you find insurance. Others, meanwhile, leave you to figure it out yourself. The benefit to third-party services is that they're usually much cheaper than the OEM options, and represent lower-cost ways of getting into a vehicle.
Borrow is an electric car-only subscription service that will give you an EV for three, six or nine months at a time. Borrow functions more like a rental service since all vehicles remain the property of Borrow. The EVs that it provides to customers are all used and available in the Los Angeles area only.
Customers can currently choose from four tiers of electric vehicles, each with different pricing. The most affordable tier is the "Campus" plan, which gives access to a Smart ForTwo ED for $199 per month. The second-lowest-cost tier is the "City" plan. Those who opt for the City plan get a Fiat 500e, and prices start at $399 per month.
The next step up is the "Premium" plan. This gives users access to either a BMW i3 or a Volkswagen eGolf. This tier ranges from $624 per month for three months to $524 per month for nine months. There is a third "Platinum" tier planned that offers a Tesla Model S, for a whopping $1,099 per month.
Insurance is not included with the monthly subscription fee but Borrow says that it can assist with finding insurance and bundle it with your monthly payment. Maintenance and roadside assistance are both included.
Borrow is the most lifestyle-focused of the third-party options with its promises of swag bags, new products, event and restaurant discounts. While it might be good for someone who's in Los Angeles for a predetermined length of time, with used EV prices being what they are, it's probably not a great option for someone who is living there permanently, kind of like a furnished apartment near a movie studio.
Fair is another leaselike program with the benefit of being almost totally online. Users have to download the Fair app and scan their driver's license to get approval. Fair then runs a soft check on their credit to determine the maximum payment that they'd qualify for and shows a collection of vehicles in their area that they can afford.
Again, where it differs from a lease is that the user isn't locked into a set-length contract. Fair offers customers the option to trade up or return vehicles. Another key difference is that unlike other subscriptions, Fair asks that you make a "Start Payment" which is higher than your typical monthly payment and is linked to the overall value of the car.
Fair offers a three-day/100-mile return policy that will allow users to return the vehicle if they don't like it, but after that or if there is any damage on the vehicle within that period, the Start Payment is nonrefundable. So beware.
Fair does not include insurance in the cost of your monthly payment, but like some of the other services we've covered, it will help you find insurance. Routine vehicle maintenance is included -- think oil changes, fluids and tire rotations -- but other expenses will come out of your pocket.
Everything else happens through the app. You make your payment through the app by linking a bank account, your vehicle documents are found in the app, etc. It seems fairly convenient, and with no obvious mileage restrictions (based on documentation), it could be a good way to go for most people wanting a car. Fair also offers a great deal of choice when it comes to what vehicles are offered, whether you're looking for an economy car, a truck or SUV or even an EV.
One of America's biggest car rental firms -- Hertz --is getting into the subscription plan game with its My Car pilot program in Austin, Texas, Atlanta, Georgia and Southwest Florida. The plan will allow users to choose between two vehicle packages which start at a steep $999 and extend up to $1,399. The cheaper Tier 1 program gives users access to full-size sedans, small SUVs and small trucks, which would include the Nissan Altima, the Toyota Tacoma and the Volkswagen Tiguan.
The pricier Tier 2 gives access to the Tier 1 stuff plus larger SUVs like the Jeep Grand Cherokee and Infiniti QX60, full-size trucks like the Ford F-150 and luxury sedans like the Cadillac CTS. Now, this is a pricey option for solidly "meh" rental cars, but the upside is that you get unlimited mileage for the length of your rental, though you will have to return your vehicle to one of the five currently participating rental locations. Is it worth it? Maybe, if you need to pile miles on a company car but your business doesn't want to buy or lease.
Sixt may not be as familiar to most Americans as Hertz or Budget, for example, but the European rental car company has been carving out a foothold here by offering slightly different cars than you'd expect for rentals at decent prices. Now the company has decided to follow after its big, yellow competitor (not into bankruptcy) into the car subscription game with its Sixt+ program.
Sixt+ is available in Washington, California, Nevada, Texas, Florida, Georgia and other states through Sixt rental locations. Like most subscription services, buyers are able to select a tier of vehicle and for a set monthly price the get access to that car with things like maintenance, registration and the ability to swap for a different vehicle once a year.
Prices for the most basic tier -- Kia Rio is the example here -- will run you $459 per month plus the $199 sign up fee. Want to move a few rungs up the ladder, so to speak? A Mercedes C-Class is $849 per month, or perhaps you want to experience Range Rover ownership without the headaches -- in that case there is a Velar available for $1,049 per month.
Originally published in 2019, and regularly updated.