If you're looking for an option outside of an auto loan or a traditional lease, welcome to the world of car subscriptions. Just like subscribing to a smartphone, these programs provide a way of "owning" a car without long-term committments. Like a lease, the car's not yours, but unlike leasing, some programs let you swap vehicles in short periods of time. Many programs often bundle things like insurance, maintenance and other perks in one single monthly payment.
With the introduction to these programs out of the way, read on to learn more about automaker and third-party subscription services.
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.
Volvo launched its Care by Volvo service at the Los Angeles Auto Show in 2017 alongside its new XC40 crossover. While the service first launched with the XC40, every single Volvo on sale today is available these days.
But, for example, 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.
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.
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. There are two options: a multi-vehicle subscription and a single-vehicle subscription. There are different benefits to each one.
The multi-vehicle subscription provides the most flexibility, as you can imagine. It costs $3,100 per month and provides access to the Porsche 911, Taycan, Macan, Cayenne, 718 Boxster and 718 Cayman and the Panamera. If you don't need more than one car to flip out of, the single-vehicle subscription may be a better fit. Subscribers can choose one of the vehicles named above and subscribe for either one or three months for the single car. Porsche will also let you extend one extra month, should you want to keep the car a tad longer.
Prices vary for the single-vehicle subscription, with a $1,600 per month fee for a Macan, to a $2,950 per month fee for a 911. Keep in mind there's a $595 joining fee up front, too. And before you ask, the Turbo and GT cars are not part of the program. Sorry.
Porsche Drive was once limited to just a few areas, but today, it serves 14 cities. They are:
- Atlanta, GA
- Houston, TX
- Phoenix, AZ
- Irvine, CA
- Los Angeles, CA
- Monterey, CA
- San Diego, CA
- San Francisco, CA
- San Jose, CA
- Cincinnati, OH
- Louisville, KY
- Nashville, TN
- Northern New Jersey
- Philadelphia, PA
The 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.
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.
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.
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 Plus program.
Sixt Plus 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 you 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 a month, or perhaps you want to experience Range Rover ownership without the headaches -- in that case there is a Velar available for $1,049 a month.