Car subscription services: The newest way to travel
Open your phone or turn on your television and I’m betting you’ll find a handful of ways to stream your favorite media. Netflix, Spotify, whatever you subscribe to, it’s safe to say that these services have changed the way we consume media; they’re fast, easy to use, and personalized to make sure you find the kind of content you’re looking for.
Well, the automotive industry is taking notice – it’s response? Car subscription services. They’re simple, flexible, can be personalized to fit your automotive needs, and – more often than not – can also be managed right from your smartphone. That’s why the market for them is quickly growing, not just in the U.S., but all over the world.
What are they?
Well, like all new, exciting industries – everyone’s still sort of figuring this out. Everyone from luxury car manufacturers and silicon valley start-ups, to rental car companies and local dealerships want in, and each bring with them their own, unique take on the concept. But the core of the idea is the same: pay an all-inclusive, transparent monthly fee for access to a fleet of vehicles, with a range of the usual extra costs included. The details are where each company differentiates themselves. The number, and models, of cars you’ll have access to vary widely. Some places offer only used cars, some only new and some both. Some allow you to swap between models for the same monthly price, some have unique fees for each individual car. All include a variety of either (of all of) insurance, maintenance, roadside assistance, and concierge service as part of the cost of their monthly fee.
The idea here is that everyone gets the car experience they want without the hassle of long-term lease agreements, the depreciating value of owning, or the potential mishaps of ride-sharing (yeah, I’m looking at you, creepy driver I don’t know who won’t stop talking). Picture this: you’ve subscribed to a small SUV for everyday use – kids, work, errands, etc – then, when that fun get away rolls around, you swap out your car that now smells like fast food, cold coffee, and dogs, for something sportier, more exciting, and definitely cleaner. When you come home, swap back to old reliable. Or, you live someplace where you don’t need a car everyday…until you do for a few weeks. Easy, just find the right subscription service for you and have a car ready for you the same day – oftentimes you’ll be able to pay per week, instead of per month. Odds are, the right service for your needs is out there – the tricky part is finding it. We try to make that part easy.
Who are the big names?
Monthly car subscriptions, dealer subscriptions services, or car rental subscription services, the truth is they’re not all created equal. Here’s a quick look at some of the most popular car subscription options available.
Audi Select – Audi’s service is one of the most comprehensive auto-manufacturer services out there. Though it currently only services Nashville, TN – Audi plans on expanding the service to other regions in the future. With three different payment plans available at either $995, $1399, or $2,699 per month, up to 13 subscribable Audi models, and the kitchen sink of benefits included with their monthly fee, their service lives up to Audi’s reputation.
Ameridrive – More interested in paying a weekly fee, instead of a monthly fee? Check out Ameridrive. Currently operating in parts of Georgia, Florida, and Texas, Ameridrive is all about utility. Subscribe to a car, weekly, for up to 4 weeks. Each car has its own individual fee, which – depending on the model – can run you as little as $198, or as much as $348 per week. Looking into working with a ride-sharing service? For a small daily fee, Ameridrive will let you use their cars to help you supplement your income.
Kyte – Definitely one of the easiest and most straightforward services to use, Kyte works with local dealerships and rental companies, and lets its subscribers choose car types, rather than individual models. Economy cars will cost you $494 per month, while sedans run $532, and SUVs cost $606 per month. The goal here being that you get a car that can do what you need as quickly and as simply as possible. This is great for those who live either in San Francisco, Boston, or Los Angeles – Kyte’s current areas of service.
Currux – At first, Currux seems like your run of the mill car subscription service. Pick a car with its own individual monthly fee and agree to subscribe to it for either 6, 12, or 24 months. However, Currux brings its own twist to the industry. You can share the cost of subscribing to a car with up to three other subscribers. All three of you have the same amount of “ownership” of the car. This could be a great option for young professionals living in Houston, TX – where Currux operates – who might not need a car everyday, and are looking to save money. Imagine splitting the monthly cost of subscribing to a KIA Rio LX (roughly $362 per month) three ways.
Fair – Fair is a great introduction to car subscription services. Think of it as a direct alternative to leasing a used car. It’s very simple: Fair’s fleet of used cars each come with their own monthly price (anywhere from $190 to $705 per month), which you can commit to either per month, or at a reduced rate for either 2 or 3 years. This makes it a nice transition for everyone who has leased a used car. The difference here is the all-inclusive price; the calling card of the car subscription service. While it doesn’t cover insurance, it does cover roadside assistance, maintenance, and a concierge service. If you live in either California or Florida, Fair is worth checking out.
Ok, but why?
On the surface, it looks expensive, but when you factor in all the extra costs you’ll have to cover when you lease, or the large sums of money you’ll have to fork over up front when you buy, the cost of a lot of these services are pretty competitive. Obviously, there are services that are all about luxury – i.e. Porsche Drive – for those for whom price is not a factor. But if outright owning a car, or the hassle and haggling of leasing from a dealership, aren’t particularly important or appealing to you – car subscription services are a great alternative. Get the kind of car you need, when you need it.
There’s also a sense of modernization to factor in. Most of these services are all manageable from a smartphone app, and you can get your new car often as quickly as the same day. No dealing with car salespeople or not-very-helpful car rental clerks – just open your phone and, with a few clicks, get your new car – often with insurance, registration, maintenance, roadside assistance all included in the price you agreed to. It’s all about simplicity and ease of use. No hidden fees, no negotiating, and you’re guaranteed a car to fill your needs.
Pros and Cons
So let’s do a quick run-down, a recap if you will. The benefits of subscribing: Simplicity. Transparency. Ease of use. The car you need, when you need it. The benefits of the digital age. Only pay for when you need your car.
The pitfalls of subscribing: costs vary between services. Because it’s a relatively new idea, only a few services operate nationwide. If it’s important to you then, technically, you don’t “own” your car – though some services do offer their cars for sale.
Car subscription services are popping up everywhere at an ever-increasing rate. And like your favorite streaming services, it looks like the industry is here to stay. With the entire concept of “owning” something being redefined in various other aspects of our lives – it only makes sense that our transportation – how we get around – follows suit.
The best part is, with so many options out there, there’s bound to be one that fits your needs, and in the off chance that there isn’t, just give it a few months. With the rate at which the market for car subscription services is growing, we could all be looking at an entirely different market landscape before we know it.