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Car-subscription service Carly launches in Australia

A new car-subscription service has launched in Australia

A new car-subscription service has launched in Australia, promising what it calls a "true alternative to purchasing a vehicle".

The Carly subscription program (a part of the Collaborate Corporation that also runs peer-to-peer car-sharing network DriveMyCar) has been online since the beginning of the week, and it says it has already begun attracting customers.

The service currently has 130 vehicles online ranging from $119 per week (2009 Mazda 3 Neo Sport on the cheapest package) to $616 per week (2012 Audi Q7 TDI on the most expensive package).

Unlike car-on-demand services like Go Get, the Carly business model offers three level of subscription - entry, medium and ultimate - with each offering a different amount of included kilometres, and differing levels of insurance excess in the event of damage, but with cars you keep indefinitely.

But not matter which package you choose, they all have one thing in common - the ability to switch cars at least once every month, choosing between small city cars and larger SUVs, and even performance models and convertibles, as your circumstances demand it. 

The idea being that, if your family circumstances change or if you have a holiday or house move coming up, you can switch cars accordingly. All maintenance, registration and insurance costs are included, too. 

And when you subscribe to a vehicle, or decide to switch cars, a Carly worker will pick-up and deliver the vehicle to you at home or work.

It's this convenience that Carly boss Chris Noone says should help overcome any concerns about the pricing (for some of the older cars on the fleet, a year's subscription charges sail perilously close to the outright cost of buying a similar car and owning it yourself, while the most expensive package will cost you some $30k a year).

"Subscription is an alternative," he says. "If you want to buy a car, then you need to spend a few days going between dealers, and you can either save up the full amount, or you can take out a loan. And lots of people are actually not getting credit applications approved.

"With a subscription, you don’t need to do that. And there's research from the rest of the world that shows the younger generations aren’t that keen on entering into long-term financial commitments.  

"We think there’s a lot of potential in this. We think this is a really viable alternative to purchasing cars."

Car-subscription services are still in their infancy in Australia, but are gathering steam overseas. Both private companies and the manufacturers themselves have either launched or are planning to launch subscription services.

Some Jeep owners in the USA, for example, can borrow an Alfa Romeo, Fiat or Chrysler for the weekend, with the number of swaps - and the types of vehicles available - built on a tier-based subscription model.  The FCA plan allows access to its broader fleet of vehicles after you purchase a car in the traditional way. 

It's a different approach to the subscription concept adopted by  Volvo, which bundles an entire ownership package - including servicing and insurance - into a monthly fee, without you ever owning a car.

Would you prefer to subscribe or buy when it comes to your car? Tell us in the comments below. 

Andrew Chesterton
Contributing Journalist
Andrew Chesterton should probably hate cars. From his hail-damaged Camira that looked like it had spent a hard life parked at the end of Tiger Woods' personal driving range, to the Nissan Pulsar Reebok that shook like it was possessed by a particularly mean-spirited demon every time he dared push past 40km/h, his personal car history isn't exactly littered with gold. But that seemingly endless procession of rust-savaged hate machines taught him something even more important; that cars are more than a collection of nuts, bolts and petrol. They're your ticket to freedom, a way to unlock incredible experiences, rolling invitations to incredible adventures. They have soul. And so, somehow, the car bug still bit. And it bit hard. When "Chesto" started his journalism career with News Ltd's Sunday and Daily Telegraph newspapers, he covered just about everything, from business to real estate, courts to crime, before settling into state political reporting at NSW Parliament House. But the automotive world's siren song soon sounded again, and he begged anyone who would listen for the opportunity to write about cars. Eventually they listened, and his career since has seen him filing car news, reviews and features for TopGear, Wheels, Motor and, of course, CarsGuide, as well as many, many others. More than a decade later, and the car bug is yet to relinquish its toothy grip. And if you ask Chesto, he thinks it never will.
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