Want a Car Without the Debt? Subscribe!
In an age when you can order almost any item for instant delivery, consumers don’t have to settle for the more traditional method of leasing or buying a car. The growing popularity of car subscription services, described as the “Netflix model of car ownership,” is a sign that consumers value an alternative method for car procurement, one that is convenient and debt-free. The concept is simple: sign up for what you want and cancel the subscription when you’re finished with it.
A consumer can subscribe with a car manufacturer or a third party provider. If you’re going directly to the automaker, you pay a monthly fee which covers access to its inventory, the cost of insurance, maintenance, and roadside assistance. A number of luxury automakers offer subscription services including Porsche Passport, Access by BMW, Care by Volvo, Lexus Complete Lease, and Mercedes-Benz Collection.
Third parties are also getting into the subscription game. Companies like flexdrive offer all-inclusive pricing and a stress-free package. With over 9,000 users, flexdrive is offered in 17 cities and has a plan to go national next year. Fair, another car subscription company, also hopes to change the face of car ownership. At Fair, you can get a car based on advanced data and analytics, not just a credit score. According to the company, you can get approved with a driver’s license and a bank account. Billed as commitment-free, paperless and totally flexible, California-based Fair already has 20,000 subscribers and is growing rapidly. At flexdrive, the average monthly subscription is about $800. At Fair, it’s approximately $350 per month. This includes a limited warranty, routine maintenance, and roadside assistance, but if you want to use Fair’s insurance, it’s an average of $115 per month (if you qualify).
The stress-free, commitment-free, streamlined subscription model sounds great, but is the price right for consumers? The best way to find out is to do the math to determine the best option: buying, leasing, or subscribing. Calculate the cost of car ownership and determine what your priorities are. If you need a car temporarily, or if you run the risk of making a bad car financing decision, a subscription model may be the best and most efficient option. But since it’s definitely not the least expensive option, it’s important to analyze your needs, your habits and the short-term and long-term cost of each option.
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