Guide to Car Subscription Services
A New Alternative to Vehicle Ownership
If you want a stress-free experience the next time you pick out a new vehicle, consider a car subscription, now offered by several major manufacturers and third-party companies. These services cost a little more than a regular lease or monthly financing payment, but the perks are worth considering.
Some brands include maintenance and insurance, and others say it’s hassle-free to swap out your current car for a different one.
We took a look at manufacturer-sponsored programs, as well as some third-party providers. While the manufacturers’ own programs work kind of like a fancy lease, most third-party subscriptions work more like a car-sharing service, such as Getaround, ZipCar, or Car2Go. Some charge a flat monthly fee, while others have fees that vary by car and location.
Keep in mind that the scope of vehicle subscription services is still pretty limited, but poised for growth. That means if you’re outside of a major city, you might be out of luck for now. It also means the car subscription providers are changing quickly as new manufacturers and startup companies get in on the action. Just recently, BMW and Mercedes told Automotive News that they would be testing new car subscription services in 2018. We’ll continue to keep track of this burgeoning transportation option as it grows.
Book by Cadillac
Cadillac’s subscription program, Book by Cadillac, launched in January of 2017. The service was exclusive to New York City, but in November, Cadillac announced plans to expand to Dallas and Los Angeles. For a $1,800 monthly fee, Book By Cadillac provides access to models such as the CT6, Escalade, XT5, ATS-V, and CTS-V. The vehicles are delivered to the customer’s home by a concierge service and can be swapped out for a different vehicle up to 18 times per year. Membership is month-to-month, with a one-time enrollment fee of $500. The monthly payment includes taxes, maintenance and insurance, and a monthly allowance of 2,000 miles.
Care by Volvo
For a mere $600 a month, you can join Care by Volvo, which was announced in late November. Granted, it’s more expensive than many leases, but it’s much less than luxury competitors’ services. Care by Volvo includes insurance, maintenance, roadside assistance, pickup, and delivery, and grants access to the all-new Volvo XC40 compact SUV. Presumably, other Volvo models will become available, but they have not yet been announced.
Care by Volvo requires a two-year agreement with a 15,000-mile allowance per year, and customers have the option of switching out to a new vehicle after the first year.
This fall, Porsche introduced Porsche Passport, a subscription service with two tiers. “Launch” costs $2,000 a month and grants access to eight Porsche models. Stepping up to the $3,000 “Accelerate” plan gives you access to 22 models. Porsche Pilot also requires a one-time $500 membership fee.
The service includes insurance, maintenance, unlimited mileage, and vehicle pickup and delivery. Members are allowed frequent vehicle swaps. Interested residents of the metro Atlanta area can apply through the Porsche Passport smartphone app. Porsche Passport may expand to other areas in the future.
If you live in the San Francisco Bay Area or Los Angeles, you can check out Canvas. The Canvas fleet consists of used Fords less than three years old, giving you choices that range from economical to entertaining. Canvas plans are flexible, starting at $429 a month for an entry-level vehicle and 500 miles. Upgrading a vehicle or adding miles increases the price, but the longer you keep your vehicle, the less you’ll pay per month. A Canvas plan includes insurance, maintenance, roadside assistance, delivery, and pickup.
Clutch and Drive Flow
Clutch is a third-party subscription service based in Atlanta. Clutch also operates Drive Flow in the Winston-Salem and Raleigh areas of North Carolina. Though Clutch is a partner in the Porsche Passport program, it offers more-affordable subscription plans to drive a variety of vehicles.
The catch with Clutch is that you don’t get to choose the vehicle you’ll drive. You can make requests for certain features, and your concierge will select a vehicle based on your ratings of your previous vehicles.
After an initial $500 fee, Clutch membership is month-to-month with no long-term commitments, and plans include insurance, roadside assistance, and unlimited vehicle swaps. Clutch plans are available at $750, $950, and $1,400 a month, with a variety of vehicles available at each tier. Drive Flow has a similar tier system, but pricing varies by zip code.
Flexdrive contracts with dealers to provide late-model cars with insurance, maintenance, and roadside assistance included. You can rent by the week or month.
Prices vary depending on the dealer. Examples of pricing they give on their website include a 2017 Nissan Altima in Atlanta for $219 per week with unlimited mileage, a $250 refundable deposit, and local taxes of $2 a day. In Philadelphia, you can rent a 2016 Subaru Crosstrek for $199 per week with a $15 charge for every 100 miles over 500 and $4 a day in state taxes.
Flexdrive is available in Atlanta, Philadelphia, and Austin.
According to Carma, a Detroit-based subscription service, you can save 20% a month compared to the true cost of car ownership. This service’s vehicles are typically compact cars, and users get to choose from the available models.
Carma includes maintenance, insurance, roadside assistance, and delivery. Plans start at $399 a month for 500 miles and go up to $499 a month for 1,250 miles. Subscribers can roll over unused miles at the end of the month and can swap out vehicles every 30 days. Carma’s site does not mention regional availability, and phone calls to the customer service line went unanswered.
Pricing for Yoyo is a little different than other third-party services. After paying an initial fee of $99, Yoyo members pay per mile based on the type of car they’re driving. Yoyo offers a diverse fleet with vehicles that fall into categories of 50 cents, 75 cents, or a dollar per mile. Cars can be swapped out at any time, and the service includes insurance, maintenance, and delivery. Yoyo is available in the San Francisco Bay Area and plans to expand based on demand.