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Steven Ewing/Roadshow

Car subscriptions still flying under the radar for most shoppers

That doesn't mean the idea is dead in the water, though.

Car subscription programs like Care by Volvo are still very new, and it shows in terms of how many shoppers actually know they exist.

Autolist surveyed 1,428 car shoppers in the second half of April, and they found that 70 percent of those polled have no idea subscription programs even existed. Of the 30 percent that knew of them, about half were able to actually name an automaker that offers one.

Even after learning about them, the respondents weren't ready to dive right in. Only one third of those surveyed said they'd consider a subscription for their next car, but it rose to 45 percent when all future cars were taken into consideration. The remainder just said no. 

Care by Volvo is basically a lease with maintenance and insurance lumped in, which is a bit more sensible than the "swap into a new car every day if you want" programs.

Steven Ewing/Roadshow

People still get why subscription programs are on the rise, though. 37 percent said the biggest draw was the ability to swap vehicles, while 32 percent said it was the lack of long-term commitment. A little over 20 percent lauded the all-inclusive pricing, while about 10 percent liked the idea of being set up with a car through an app. Pricing generally includes access to the car (or cars), plus incidentals like maintenance and insurance.

Right now, only a few automakers are offering subscription programs, with the most prominent ones coming from BMW, Cadillac, Mercedes-Benz, Porsche and Volvo. Notice anything about those names? They all happen to be higher-end brands, and they carry commensurate price tags: Access by BMW and Porsche Passport start at $2,000 per month, and Book by Cadillac starts at $1,800 per month. No wonder people don't know about them -- it's not exactly within most buyers' realm of affordability.

Care by Volvo is the most accessible OEM-based program, starting at $600 per month for a Volvo XC40 with included maintenance and insurance. That's a stellar deal in markets with high insurance premiums. Care by Volvo is more like a lease, where a person sticks with one car and has the option to buy it after the terms end, or they can keep the program rolling and slide into another new model. As more affordable programs continue to come online, that's when it'll likely begin resonating with consumers in earnest.

Have any other questions about car subscriptions? Head over to our handy subscription guide, which we keep updated with the latest news about turning your garage into a Netflix library.