GUIDE TO CAR SUBSCRIPTIONS, AN ALTERNATIVE TO BUYING OR LEASING
It's 2019. We have drones and hover boards, our phones unlock by scanning our faces 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?
Thankfully, vehicle subscription services are becoming more and more popular. Think of it like any other subscription: Sign up for what you want, and only pay for what you need. From automakers to third-party companies, there are many ways to subscribe to your next new car.
Think about it, you don't buy CD's anymore you subscribe to either pandora, spotify, or iTunes Music. You also don't buy your DVD's either: you most likely have a subscription to hulu, spotify, or another streaming service. Why than, would your vehicle situation be any different? Subscription cars are the way of the future!
Freedom Supercars pioneered the automotive Subscription model in the United States in 2009, disrupting the market. Now, within the last few years big automotive companies have taken notice and have realized that the market is shifting to a new audience that wants something more convenient, interchangeable, and flexible to their wants and needs.
Here is a look at how many companies believe in the car subscription model
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.
Access by BMW
BMW now has a pilot program running in Nashville for its subscription service, Access by BMW. The program, like Porsche's is a two-tiered affair and again, like Porsche, isn't cheap. The first tier, which BMW is calling "Legend" will set users back a cool $2,000 per month and gives access to vehicles like the 4-Series, 5-Series, and X5 (sans M models) as well as the excellent M2. Upgrading to the $3700 M tier and things start to get really interesting with access to the M4 Convertible, M5, M6 Convertible, X5M and X6M.
Users can order vehicles through the Access by BMW app, an 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/when it will expand the program beyond Nashville.
Book by Cadillac
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, but as the program continued, its service area expanded to drivers in Dallas and Los Angeles. It requires a $500 enrollment fee before requiring another $1,800 per month for the service itself. However, the upside is that it offers access to some of Cadillac's best cars, and it allows you to swap cars up to 18 times per year. Insurance and concierge service were included in the cost.
Cadillac had so many people wanting to do the program that they stopped it to make sure their service could meet the large demand, and will re-launch the program in mid 2019.
Care by Volvo
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 which then gets applied to your first month's payment.
Lastly, unlike the more expensive programs by Cadillac and Porsche, Care by Volvo only lets you swap cars every 12 months in most markets. They very quickly sold out all of their spots and are no longer reserving spots at the moment.
Jaguar Land Rover
Carpe by Jaguar Land Rover
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 Carpe (as in Carpe Diem, which I think is Latin for "Dead Poets Society is one of the best Robin Williams movies"), a new 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, maintenance, etc leaving you to deal with fuel and not much else. Carpe 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 (about $2,900) for a Range Rover Sport HSE. Interestingly, Jaguar Land Rover isn't requiring a deposit to be put down, but should you choose to do so anyway, it will lower your monthly subscription cost.
Lexus Complete Lease
Lexus will open its Complete Lease program in the first quarter of 2019 with the newly unveiled UX crossover. The program will offer a two-year, 20,000 mile lease inclusive of insurance and maintenance for a single, non-negotiable price. Details are a little thin at this point, with Lexus refusing to divulge whether prospective lessees will configure and order their cars at a dealership or online, or how just how much one would expect to pay for the program.
Lexus has confirmed though that the program will launch in Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles and Miami with the potential to expand to other cities if everything goes well, ditto to other models if the UX proves to be popular.
Mercedes-Benz has been talking about launching its pilot program for a car subscription service for months but 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.
The program is called "Mercedes-Benz Collection," and it actually 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 gives 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.
Joining is a relatively simple process. You just have to download the Mercedes-Benz Collection app, 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.
Porsche's Passport service is expensive, but it gives you a lot for your money. First, there are two tiers from which you can choose. The first tier is 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 Porsche fan crazy: 911. Panamera, too. That said, exclusive models like the GT3 RS are off-limits no matter what. Sorry.