Nothing beats the convenience of being able to get into your own car and go where you want on your schedule. But there are downsides to the long-term commitment of buying or leasing a car. Luckily there’s another option for reliable, everyday transportation: the car subscription. Several companies have started to offer a car subscription service in recent years as the demand for something in between a car rental and car ownership grew. But is a car subscription right for you? And if so, which one should you choose? We’ll break down what a car subscription is and who it works best for, how it differs from leasing, and then go over some of the offerings available in the United States, including SIXT+.
What is a car subscription service?
A car subscription is the flexible sweet spot between long-term options like buying or leasing and short-term rentals. The amount of flexibility varies between providers, with some allowing cancellation after 1 month and others after multiple months. Most car subscription services are targeted at those who need a vehicle for a few months and want to have everything included in one monthly package price. Usually, you can customize the car subscription to your needs, selecting a type of car and other options like monthly mileage and insurance. Some subscriptions also allow you to swap out the vehicle you drive if your needs change or you just want to get behind the wheel of something different.
Who is a car subscription suitable for?
A car subscription is a flexible way to have transportation for a month or more – just as long as you need it. But the cost per month may be higher than traditional car payments if you buy or lease. Here are some cases where a car subscription might be suitable.
- Work: Whether you own a company and want to provide a car as a perk to employees, or you need it for your own work, a car subscription can be a great solution. You can have a car only for as long as you or your employee needs it, and manage costs with everything rolled into one monthly package.
- Changing vehicle needs: Maybe you need a larger car one month for a family vacation, and then want to downsize to a sedan for commuting the next month. Whatever your situation, most car subscription services allow you to swap out the kind of vehicle you drive, based on what is available in their fleet.
- Temporary moves: If you don’t own a car but need to live or travel somewhere where driving is necessary, a car subscription is a great option. You can keep the car for as long as you need it and don’t need to hassle with buying a used car and then trying to sell it, or trying to find a short-term lease. A car subscription is also great because generally insurance packages are available or already included, saving you the extra step of finding coverage on your own.
How is a car subscription different than leasing?
If you’ve ever leased a car or looked into leasing one, you probably know that it’s a long-term commitment. While the length of the lease varies, they can be anywhere between 24 and 48 months, with the average being 36 months, or 3 years. Generally, people choose to lease a car because you can drive a new vehicle at an affordable monthly payment. The downside is that you have mileage restrictions, you don’t own the car, and it’s difficult to break the lease. Delivery times can also take a while.
At the other end of the spectrum is a car subscription, which you can use for as many months as you like. This offers more flexibility, as some companies allow you to cancel your subscription monthly, just like popular entertainment streaming services. Other upsides are you often get to drive a new-model car, and delivery can be within a matter of days instead of weeks or months. You can also avoid a pile of paperwork that’s often required for a car lease, as most car subscriptions are done digitally in an app.
Car subscription service providers
Since car subscriptions started becoming more popular in recent years, more options have entered the market. Now you can find many companies, including carmakers and rental car providers, offering subscription services. But how do you choose which one is right for you? Here we outline some of the offerings for car subscriptions available in the US.
Care by Volvo
A car subscription from the Swedish brand lets you choose a vehicle to drive and get behind the wheel in 2-4 weeks. They tout their subscriptions as all-inclusive. Each vehicle has a lease of 24 months, but you can cancel after a minimum of 4 months unless you live in Illinois, and then it’s 12 months. At the end of the subscription term, you can turn the vehicle in at a Volvo dealership and will be charged a vehicle turn-in fee, unless you book another subscription or lease or buy a car.
Monthly mileage: 1,250 miles
Monthly cost: $$
Minimum subscription length: 4 months in most states, 12 months in Illinois
Availability: States excluding California, Florida, Hawaii, Mississippi, North Carolina, North Dakota, South Dakota, New York
Sign-up fee: The equivalent of 1 monthly payment
Types of vehicles: Sedans, SUVs
Ability to swap vehicles: Yes, after the minimum 4 or 12 month cancellation period.
Includes: Insurance, vehicle maintenance
The Porsche car subscription service is for those who want to drive a vehicle from this storied German brand without a long-term commitment. You can choose from a monthly or 3-month subscription and choose whether you want access to one car or the entire available fleet. To sign up for a subscription you have to have the Porsche Drive app, choose a type of subscription and schedule your pick-up date and location. You can either choose to sign up for a subscription for 1 month or 3 months or choose a tier where you can keep the car for as many months as you like, and cancel with 30 days’ notice.
Monthly mileage: A single-vehicle subscription includes 1,500 miles per month, while the multi-vehicle includes 2,000 miles.
Monthly cost: $$$$
Minimum subscription length: 1 month to 3 months for a single-vehicle subscription; 1 month for a multi-vehicle subscription.
Availability: Atlanta, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Phoenix, San Diego
Sign-up fee: Yes, but waived for a 3-month single-vehicle subscription
Types of vehicles: Sedans, coupes, convertibles, SUVs
Ability to swap vehicles: Yes, as often as you want with a multi-vehicle subscription
Includes: Insurance, personal concierge service, roadside assistance, vehicle maintenance, complimentary vehicle delivery and pick up
Subscribe with Enterprise
The car rental company has branched out into a subscription service called Subscribe with Enterprise. When you sign up you have access to vehicles in their fleet in cities in a handful of US states. You must use the subscription for a minimum of 2 full months. Cancellation requires sending an email and then returning the vehicle to an Enterprise branch.
Monthly mileage: 3,000 miles
Monthly cost: $$$
Minimum subscription length: 2 months
Availability: Select cities in Minnesota, Nevada, Missouri
Sign-up fee: Yes
Types of vehicles: Sedans, SUVS, pickups
Ability to swap vehicles: Yes, up to 4 times per month
Includes: Insurance, vehicle maintenance, roadside assistance, vehicle registration
The Drive Canvas car subscription service merged with Fair, and it now goes by that name. This is a sort of hybrid lease/subscription service for used cars from dealerships, with everything done digitally. You can choose either a month-to-month subscription or a lease of up to 3 years. Unlike some of the other subscription services, you must provide your own insurance. Once you are done with your car, you will need to give 5 days’ notice and pay a turn-in fee.
Monthly mileage: Unavailable
Monthly cost: $
Minimum subscription length: 1 month
Availability: Cities in California and Florida
Sign-up fee: Yes, depends on the model
Types of vehicles: Compact cars, sedans, coupes, convertibles, SUVs, minivans, pickups
Ability to swap vehicles: No
Includes: Limited warranty, vehicle maintenance, roadside assistance, registration, free delivery of most cars
If you’ve wanted to try out driving an electric car without the commitment of buying or leasing one, and you live in the Los Angeles area, then maybe Borrow is a good car subscription option for you. Because the fleet only contains EVs, the model selection is not as robust as other subscription services.
Monthly mileage: 1,200 miles
Monthly cost: $
Minimum subscription length: 3, 6, or 9 months
Availability: Los Angeles
Sign-up fee: $0
Types of vehicles: 2-door hatchbacks, compact cars, sedans
Ability to swap vehicles: Only at the end of the subscription term
Includes: Vehicle maintenance, roadside assistance, home charging cord
SIXT launched its car subscription service, SIXT+, in the US in 2020. Unlike other services, this one offers the flexibility of being able to cancel anytime, even after just one month. You will also get to drive a vehicle that is the current model or previous year’s model, so you get the latest technology. Customize your subscription with a mileage package and insurance, plus any extras you might need. And because you pick up your subscription vehicle at a SIXT rent a car location, the service is available in cities across the US rather than just in a couple of states. This is also the ideal car subscription if you’re on a tight schedule, as you can arrange to pick up your car as soon as the next day.
Monthly mileage: 500 miles included. Other mileage packages are available.
Monthly cost: $$
Minimum subscription length: 1 month
Availability: In cities nationwide at SIXT car rental locations
Sign-up fee: Yes
Types of vehicles: Compact cars, SUVs, sedans, luxury cars, minivans
Ability to swap vehicles: Up to once a month
Includes: Vehicle maintenance, registration, flexible monthly cancellation
What are the limitations of a car subscription?
Now that we’ve gone over why someone might choose a car subscription, it’s a good time to point out some of the situations where it might be better to look at renting, or leasing or buying a car instead.
If you live somewhere without comprehensive public transportation, then it’s likely you will need a car every day for a prolonged period of time. In this situation, a car subscription might not be the best or most cost-effective option. Also, if you like to take a lot of road trips, or travel a lot by car for work or pleasure, then the mileage limitations of a car subscription might not be the best fit. On the other hand, if you think you will only need a car for a couple of weeks and perhaps longer, a long-term car rental might be your best bet.