The complete guide to car subscription services The complete guide to car subscription services

Why Buy a Car
When You Can Subscribe?

The next best thing
to having a fleet
of cool cars at your disposal

A peek inside Ralph Lauren’s legendary garage, housing his collection of more than 70 cars.

Most of us tend to have a lot of subscriptions these days. We can sign up for streaming services, movie passes, boxes of perfectly portioned food and shaving kits to be delivered to our door at our convenience. These subscriptions take a lot of the work and stress out of rather mundane chores and make life a whole lot more fun. And a car subscription—which is pretty much exactly what it sounds like—promises to do the same thing.

Why be limited to buying a car outright, leasing it for three to five years or going without a car altogether, when you can pay a monthly fee to access the kind of car you want right now? No worrying about things like insurance or routine maintenance. These car subscriptions services, which seem to be popping up more and more, allow you the kind of flexibility that's impossible with the car ownership of yesteryear. You can swap cars quickly and efficiently because all you're really committing to is a certain brand's service. Drive a sleek sedan for a while, but then swap it for an SUV for summer adventures. It's now possible.

But let's talk pricing for a second. Are these services more cost-effective than traditional leasing or buying? It gets tricky, because you're certainly feel like you're paying a premium for the convenience. But when you run the numbers, the subscription model often comes out breaking even or sometimes ahead. Take the entry-level BMW X5. At $67,000 to purchase, the real cost is about $80,000 according to automotive resource Edmunds' standard assumptions over a five-year period. Take away the estimated fuel spending and this equates to a monthly cost of $2,300 to $2,450 (as opposed to BMW's $1,099 per month subscription). This is a simple breakdown, of course, but it illustrates how these subscriptions aren't simply a thrilling waste of money.

So, which one's right for you? It depends on your style, your budget and how often you want to switch up your car. But we've done the research for you. Here are all the ways to subscribe to your next new car.

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The Services

Access by BMW

Access by BMW

Access by BMW

BMW's subscription service is testing the waters with a pilot program available to the Nashville market. The entry tier subscription (which includes insurance, maintenance and roadside assistance) gives you access to vehicles like the 3-Series, all-electric i-3, X-Series SUVs, as well as a fun-to-drive M2 convertible. You order up vehicles through the Access by BMW app, and there aren't any restrictions on vehicle swaps. You can even pause your subscription for travel or simply to take a break when you know you won't be using it.

From $1,099 a month, at BMW

Care by Volvo
Care by Volvo

Care by Volvo

Perhaps not surprisingly, Volvo's subscription offers the most peace of mind. And it's one of the few that's available nationally. Currently they only offer two models, the S60 sedan and XC40 SUV. But the Swedish automaker has vowed to expand to include all of its models. Your insurance and roadside assistance are covered like most subscriptions, but Volvo also includes excess wear and use coverage with every plan. This means that Volvo will forgive $1,000 in mileage overages and vehicle damage at the time you return your car. And a road hazard plan for tires and wheels removes a lot of worry too.

From $700 a month, at Volvo

Mercedes-Benz Collection

Mercedes-Benz Collection

Mercedes-Benz Collection

Mercedes began testing their subscription service, dubbed "the collection," this summer in Philadelphia and Nashville with plans to expand to more cities this year. And while the program isn't cheap, it does provides a broad range of cars, all handled via a white-glove concierge service. The ability to effortlessly "flip" into different vehicles by contacting your concierge via an app is pretty cool. As with most subscription plans, your vehicle is delivered to you fully washed and fueled, and the plan includes insurance and necessary maintenance.

From $1,595 a month, at Mercedes-Benz

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Audi Select
Audi Select

Audi Select

Currently testing in the Dallas-Fort Worth metro area, this service gives you access to a top-tier selection of models, plus a suite of support services that can make your driving life a lot easier. Choose from some of Audi's most popular models, from the A4 sedan and the A5 cabriolet, to the Q5 and Q7 SUVs and the sleek, sporty S5 coupe. You can swap out your car as frequently as twice a month, each one delivered by a concierge that has professionally detailed and loaded it with gas. What's more, subscribers also get a credit for up to two days of Audi's Silvercar rental service per month, available at more than 20 destinations (many at airports) around the country.

From $1,395, at Audi

Porsche Passport

Porsche Passport

Porsche Passport

Like the Mercedes subscription, Porsche's Passport membership is a bit pricey, but it gives you a lot for your money. For about two grand per month, you'll have access to an unlimited stream of Boxsters, Caymans, Macans and Cayennes. Along with a personal concierge and handy app to help you switch between them with ease. Full-detail washes, along with roadside assistance and maintenance are included and there are no milage restrictions. The only downside is that if you don't live in Atlanta, you're out of luck for now.

From $2,000 a month, at Porsche

Canvas
Canvas

Canvas

Canvas is slightly different than the typical auto subscription. Currently operating in Los Angles and San Francisco, it's backed by Ford Credit and offers Ford and Lincoln vehicles—many of which are used off-lease vehicles that are several model years old. Currently, much of the inventory is from the 2016 model year. We do appreciate the à la carte style of the program, allowing you to select different subscription lengths and mileage packages to suit your needs. Insurance is included, and all Canvas cars come with Ford's Protect Premium Maintenance Plan.

From $329 a month, at Canvas

Maven

Maven

This GM-backed service expanded recently to include a peer-to-peer offering that enables owners and eligible lessees to rent out their vehicles like an Airbnb for cars. Using the Maven app, you can locate available peer and Maven-owned cars near you, available to rent for round trips by the hour, day or month. Drivers will be able to unlock and start the cars using an app (eliminating any inconvenient meet-ups to exchange keys).

From $8 an hour (no membership fee), at Maven

Sixt car rental service

FYI

In 1912, Martin Sixt founded the first commercial car rental company with a fleet of three cars in Munich, Germany under the name Sixt Car Cruises and Self Drivers. It now simply goes by Sixt and boasts over 4,000 locations worldwide.

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