Car Subscription: How to find the best car subscription service in Australia
In uncertain times, you might think differently about things. For example, instead of buying and owning a car, there’s a chance you could have recently searched 'car subscription Australia', only to be confused at what is out there in the car subscription service space.
That’s understandable – car subscription is a new idea, a new way of thinking about essentially paying to borrow a car long term and being able to swap cars if your circumstances change. Or, if you don’t need a car anymore, to simply return it without having to worry about the fuss of selling the vehicle.
So what is car subscription? How does it work? What type of person would it suit? How long has it existed? Who invented it? These questions will be addressed in this article, where we take a look at the pros and cons of car subscription, and – perhaps importantly for those out there who aren’t quite sure it’s the right solution for them – we’ll look at car subscription vs buying and car subscription vs lease.
What is car subscription?
If you’ve ever paid to watch a movie using your Apple TV or Google Chromecast, this concept will be easy to understand: you pay to borrow the movie instead of buying a DVD from a shop and keeping it at home as a possession, while only watching it every now and then – if that.
With car subscription you simply pay to use a car for a period of time. And the price you pay to subscribe includes all the costs you don’t want to have to deal with when you own a car – servicing, insurance, roadside assistance, registration and depreciation.
Car subscription allows users to subscribe to a car to use – and typically, the best plans offer monthly vehicle use periods, allowing you to either keep the car you have, or return it if you don’t need it. Or, if you need to swap from a city-friendly hatchback to a seven-seat SUV, some subscription services allow you to do that, often at an extra cost.
Are car subscriptions available in all locations? Sadly, not yet. The idea is pretty new to Australia, with a number of services launching in recent years. They include Carly, Carbar, Hello Cars and Blinker (which lots of people think is actually called Blinkers!), and you can find them online or in the app store.
Depending on your location, you might have access to one, some, or all of these services. Simply search 'car subscription' plus the name of your city, be it Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth or somewhere else, or just type in 'car subscription near me.' A lot of these services are in their infancy, so you might not have access to one depending on where you live. Keep that in mind.
Globally, car subscription has been around a while longer. The first service was apparently established in Hawaii about a decade ago. It’s come a long way since then, with luxury car brands now getting in on the action: Volvo has its own plan called Care by Volvo, and that will be launched in Australia in 2021. While in Europe, Jaguar Land Rover has recently launched Pivotal, a subscription service that could allow you to switch between an electric car for urban duties, or an off-roader for adventure times.
Who does car subscription suit?
Essentially, if you’ve thought to yourself: 'I’d love to be able to drive rather than take public transport,' then car subscription could be for you.
Further to that notion, it could suit just about anyone who thinks they need a car at some point in their lives. You might be the sort of person who only uses a car occasionally, travelling to friends’ places or back home to the country.
Or you work as a contractor and need to get to an office over a three-month period. Or you’ve got a family SUV and just want something smaller for your grown children to use because they keep stealing your wheels.
Pros and cons of car subscription
The pros are pretty clear: you don’t have to pay a huge lump sum for a depreciating asset, and the costs of ownership are all taken care of. That’s the biggest advantage.
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Other ticks for car subscription include the fact you can change cars if your needs or requirements shift. You can also cancel your plan if you don’t need a car anymore. And while you don’t 'own' the car you subscribe to, you don’t have to share it with anyone else – which could be a reason you’d choose a subscription service over a car share service like GoGet.
There are a few cons, though. The subscription service mightn’t have the car you want or need at a specific time. You mightn’t be able to access a service at all, based on your location. The costs can be quite high, so you need to make sure you’re actually getting your money’s worth. And there can be rules around letting other people drive the car, too.
Car subscription vs buying & lease - how do they compare?
If you’ve ever bought a car outright, you know you need a wad of cash to get the car in your driveway. That’s not going to suit everyone’s budget.
Likewise, if you’ve financed or leased a car, you need to know you’re going to have guaranteed income to be able to cover the payments for the period of the lease or car loan. Miss payments, and your car could be repossessed, leading to a bad credit rating.
But with car subscription, there’s no huge buy-in cost, and you can get out at any time. That’s part of its appeal – some providers offer no deposit subscription, and there are even some that have a no credit check policy prior to approval. That could be heaven-sent if you’ve got a chequered history with past payments.
Then there are other elements to consider when weighing up a subscription vs buying or a subscription vs lease. Only a car subscription allows you to change cars easily, and some subscription services also offer delivery and collection of your car when you sign up or finish with it.
Plus, if you happen to be in an accident, you’ve got a guaranteed loan car from most subscription providers.
How much does a car subscription cost? What types of cars are available to subscribe to?
That depends on the provider, the terms and conditions, and the type of car you need. Bigger vehicles or more luxurious models will cost you more to subscribe, as they cost more to buy.
To give you an idea, Carbar offers something like a 2016 Kia Cerato sedan for $139 a week. Think you want an SUV instead? Consider a 2019 Mitsubishi ASX or 2018 Subaru Forester for $189 a week. Want seven seats? You could get a 2018 model Toyota Kluger for $229 a week. Got posh tastes (or just want to impress someone?) Maybe a 2019 Jaguar F-Pace could be your go, but it’ll set you back $429 per week.
Just for balance, you might want to check out what Carly has on offer. You could get a 2015 Holden Barina for $133 a week or do your bit for the environment and get a hybrid Hyundai Ioniq 2019 model for $287 per week.
Or maybe you want to subscribe to a car to allow you to drive for Uber or Ola – check the terms and conditions of your subscription contract before just assuming that’s okay! – and a 2018 Toyota Camry for $336/week could be perfect for you.
Read More: 10 cheapest new cars for sale in Australia
The above prices are indicative and may not be correct at the time you’re looking for a car, and that’s the thing: prices vary between providers, and so will the stock available to you.
So, you might be desperate for a seven-seat SUV for an upcoming family trip – but you can’t get one. That’s a pretty sizeable downside.
Plus, most subscription services don’t offer you a brand-new car. If you’re after that new car feel and smell, you might not get it – there are near-new models on most of subscription site listings but expect to pay more for a newer car than you would one that’s older.
How many different car subscription services/companies are there in Australia?
There are several reputable subscription providers out there for you to shop between – provided the service is offered in your area. The ones we’ve already mentioned include Carbar, Carly and Hello Cars.
Blinker works a bit differently – you can visit a dealership and see what stock is available, then choose a car and pay as you drive. Other options include Motopool and Popcar.
The subscription plans vary by provider: some require you to pay a joining fee, others don’t; some will deliver and collect your car, others won’t; some offer short-term cancellation, others require up to 30 days’ notice.
You really need to make sure you’re getting the right car and the right subscription plan for you, so make sure you do your research.
Not sure you want to commit to a car subscription? You could try a car sharing service first. Take a look at GoGet, or Car Next Door - both of which are run differently to the 'regular' subscription services.
How do you choose the best car subscription service to suit your needs?
First off, consider your location. Search 'car subscription near me' or 'car subscription' and the name of your town or city to see if you can access a car subscription network. That’s a crucial step.
If you’ve got plenty of options available to you – if you live in Sydney, Melbourne or Brisbane/Gold Coast, this could be you – then it’s simply a matter of seeing what’s available to you. But again, be sure to read the terms and conditions to see what you are – or more importantly, are not – allowed to do with the car while it’s in your possession.