A few years ago subscription services for cars were all the rage. Volvo was the most successful since new driver insurance pricing wasn’t much different than a veteran driver. In California Volvo was forced to terminate their subscription model buy the DMV. In 2021, it seems like most companies have halted their services. BMW, Genesis, Mercedes-Benz, Nissan and, most recently, Audi have left the subscription model game.
Why didn’t subscription services catch on?
I thought they would, but there was an overall lack of awareness of the services and how they worked.
Depending on your driving needs, a subscription could save money compared to leasing. There are the added perks of getting the latest model, switching cars frequently, and the services that come along with the lifestyle the manufacturers were trying to create for those loyal to their brand.
But in general the services had a lot of fine print and rules around mileage or the time you can keep the car. The user is responsible for knowing the ins and outs and for many it’s too much of a gamble if the service is really a fit for their lifestyle.
Limited availability is a larger issue, there aren’t so many cities or states that offer subscriptions. Porsche’s service is only available in Atlanta, Las Vegas and Los Angeles.
This limited availability is in part due to logistics and cost and in part to dealer franchise laws designed to stop automakers from dealing directly with consumers. The Care by Volvo program, for example, faced legal challenges from the California New Car Dealers Association and was subsequently withdrawn from the state. Until challenges from dealers have been addressed, nationwide rollouts of these services will stay off the table.
Care by Volvo and Porsche Drive currently have the most attractive, and active, subscription offerings. Care works a lot like a traditional lease, but with insurance and most maintenance covered, and it adds the ability to cancel your subscription on short notice or resubscribe to a different model.
Volvo Care will cost you $600-750 without tax a month, Porsche’s offer is $1500-2600 or $2100-3100 for a multivehicle plan. Swapping cars on whim has its perks, a sports car when you want and an SUV when you need. If you were to lease both of these vehicles, it would cost you more than going for the subscription.
Ultimately, the convenience of these programs will be as important as outright cost.