What are Car Subscriptions?

For a monthly fee, drivers can subscribe to a car service and get a new car every month.
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Written by Funto Omojola
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Car subscriptions allow drivers to swap out their cars for a new one every few weeks or months (depending on the service), for a set monthly fee.

Buying a car can be a daunting process, especially as the auto market reels from a period of high prices, soaring interest rates and supply chain issues. Car subscriptions can be a flexible and convenient alternative to buying a car, depending on your needs and budget.

What are car subscriptions?

Car subscription services allow drivers access to new cars and other benefits, for a monthly fee.

Much like car leasing or renting, drivers don't own the vehicle during the time of subscription or after. However, unlike traditional car leasing, which typically offers three-year contracts, car subscription services allow customers to change their car for a new one every month or every couple of weeks. Subscribers also get the flexibility to end their subscriptions after only a couple of months.

Car subscription services are offered by independent rental companies, automakers and dealers. Examples of automaker-backed subscription services include Care by Volvo and Porsche Drive. These programs operate via franchised dealer networks, but not all dealers offer them.

Independent companies like FINN offer subscriptions to a variety of automakers like Audi, Chevrolet, Jeep and Ram, and allow subscribers to swap out cars every six to 12 months. Similarly, the car rental service Hertz allows drivers to exchange cars up to twice a month, through the service Hertz My Car.

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How do car subscriptions work?

To join a subscription service, you must meet the program's insurance, credit and driving history requirements. If approved, you can go to a subscription center, which are typically franchised dealers, or download the company’s app to begin using their service.

Most car subscription services come with a one-time enrollment fee in addition to the monthly fee. Enrollment fees typically cost a few hundred dollars — Hertz My Car charges $250 while Porsche Drive charges $595 for a one-month membership or a multi-vehicle subscription, for example.

Monthly subscription costs also vary among services and even model type: The Care by Volvo monthly price starts at around $915 for a C40 Recharge Plus model and goes up to $1,100 for an XC90. Similarly, Hertz has three program tiers, the lowest of which costs $599 per month (plus taxes) for compact and mid-size sedans and the highest of which costs $1,399 per month (plus taxes) for SUVs, large trucks, luxury sedans and the like. Most subscription program monthly fees also include benefits like insurance coverage, maintenance, 24-hour roadside assistance and more. Many offer complimentary delivery and pickup as well.

The vehicles available to drive will depend on the inventory at your local franchised dealer. And when you subscribe through a third party company like Hertz, you may not get the model you pick if the car is not available.

When your term is over, you can choose to cancel your subscription or return the car for a new one. Note that most of these programs have monthly mileage caps — 1,250 for Care by Volvo, for example. If you go over your allotted miles per month, you won’t be able to purchase more, and will be charged a fee for each additional mile you drive.

Should I join a car subscription service?

Car subscriptions are flexible and convenient: There’s no down payment required, you’re not saddled with monthly payments nor locked into a long contract. However, there are some downsides to consider.

As with renting or leasing, subscribers don’t own the car they’re driving, which means their monthly fee payments don’t go toward having equity in the car. And these fees can be hundreds of dollars more costly than monthly leasing or finance payments. Additionally, because you don't own the car, you’ll have to pay for any excess wear and tear at the end of your term, which can be costly depending on the damage.

Keep in mind that some third-party subscription services don’t operate in every state and have very limited coverage, which means not all drivers can use them.

Despite these constraints, car subscriptions ​​can offer access to newer cars, electric cars and luxury car models if you have the budget and want to drive a new car every month or so. Plus, if you're shopping for a specific make or model, a car subscription can be a good way to test drive a car for an extended period of time to see if you like it. But subscribing to a car service likely won’t make sense for the average driver.

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