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Pros and cons of car subscriptions
by Mina Z. • November 1, 2018

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What are some of the pros & cons of car subscriptions?

That’s a great question. Let’s start with a few of the main considerations people have when choosing how to get car:

1. Term Length: How long do I want to have a car? How long do I want to commit to financially?

2. Usage: What are my day-to-day transportation needs? How far do I drive? Does anyone else drive my car?

3. Budget: How much do I want to pay for all my car related expenses per month? Costs like maintenance, insurance, roadside assistance can add up.

4. Car Preference: What kind of car do I want? Do I like to modify my vehicles? Do I like to change cars often?

Each of those listed above is important when deciding. Here’s how car subscriptions stack up in each of those categories:

Term length

Some people are very sure of how long they need a car for, and others may not be. One of the major downsides of leasing or financing a vehicle is the long term commitment that usually comes attached to it. Leases are more often than not 3 year commitments, and they are very difficult (and very expensive) to break. There are lease swapping options - of course - if you find yourself in a pinch, but they are not always an easy option because you are dependent upon someone wanting to take over your lease. Financing is often an even longer contract than leasing. Last year, Edmunds found that the average auto loan in America is 69.3 months. If you are confident that you need a car for several years without interruption, leasing and financing are your best bet.

Car subscriptions, however, often don’t have those multi-year commitments. They are often offered in monthly packages with no commitment (month-to-month) or with a short term commitment (imagine a few months to a year). If you - as a customer - need a car for a length of time in between a few weeks and a few years, car subscriptions can be very effective. The other nice thing with car subscriptions is that most companies do not penalize heavily - if at all - for early cancellation. Car subscriptions are designed to be flexible, so you won’t find yourself paying an arm and a leg if you need to.

Usage

Car subscriptions often come with some type of limitation on the car’s usage. Most of them have mileage caps (or extended mileage packages for an additional cost). Some subscription services also have restrictions on who can drive your car. It varies from service to service. Some companies, like us at Canvas, offer free secondary drivers and flexible mileage packages. As for leasing or financing, leasing can have similar mileage caps, but there wouldn’t be any major restrictions if you choose to finance a vehicle. It’s also important to note that driving a lot of miles can also incur extra maintenance costs.

Price

There’s no doubt about it - cars are expensive. The monthly car payment itself is usually only a slice of the whole costly pie. Down payments, insurance, maintenance, depreciation, and are just a few of the costs that cars can incur.

Leasing tends to be a fairly cost-effective option. Mileage limitations aside, leasing is usually reasonable and will come with maintenance packages that last the duration of your contract. Plus, with a lease, you don’t take on the burden of depreciation or the effort of selling the car down the road. Financing can also be cost effective. It can be especially affordable if you finance over a long term like 5 years - which is not a solution for everyone. Both routine and unforeseen maintenance needs can be additional (and unplanned) costs as time goes on and your car gets older. Financing does have the added benefit of possible negotiation. If you’re not intimidated by the dealership, you can utilize your savvy haggling in order to secure some savings.

So, how about car subscriptions? Car subscriptions informally come in two tiers - luxury and economy. Luxury, like BMW or Cadillac, can be astronomically expensive. Prices in luxury car subscriptions can range from $1,500 to nearly $4,000 per month. That’s not a price point that is truly comparable to traditional leasing or financing. But, good news! More affordable car subscriptions exist! Prices for the less expensive subscription options, like Canvas, will range from $400 - $600. And if that price seems high to you, it’s because car subscriptions are more often than not “bundled” services. For example, our car subscription at Canvas comes with comprehensive insurance, all maintenance costs covered, and roadside assistance. Car subscriptions also account for other costs that you may otherwise be paying for separately - like registration. For some customers, the single monthly bill that covers insurance, maintenance, and your vehicle costs can be a very convenient feature.

Car Preference

One major advantage that financing has across the board is that the car is all yours to do whatever you want with. You can purchase any car from any make based on what you like, and you can make all the modifications you want to it. Car subscriptions - like leasing - do not come with that flexibility.

However, car subscriptions have another type of flexibility for car enthusiasts: swapping. Because car subscription services are fundamentally different from traditional car ownership, many of them offer the ability to change out your vehicle when you need to. Another point to consider is that car swapping may not be a feature everyone wants. If it’s something that excites you, car subscriptions are a good option.

There are also some other miscellaneous comparisons that we think are valuable to consider when you’re making your decision:

  • Credit Requirements: Similar to most major purchases, car subscriptions do come with credit qualification standards. It varies from company to company, but it’s possible that car subscription services won’t be a good fit for everyone. Leasing & financing could potentially provide alternative options (like a larger downpayment) for individuals who don’t qualify.

  • Available locations: Car subscriptions are not currently available everywhere. If you don’t live in a major metro area, there’s a likelihood that there are no car subscription options near you… yet. As car subscriptions catch on more and more, we don’t doubt that they will become available across the country.

  • Making the purchase: Most car subscriptions are all-online. Some OEMs & dealers are now offering online checkouts as an option, but it’s far from the norm. If you’re not comfortable hopping over to the dealership, you have an option now to avoid it.

  • Delivery: Some people enjoy buying & selling vehicles, while others prefer a no-hassle transaction. Car subscriptions more often than not provide pretty simple delivery and returns.

We know that’s a lot to unpack and that getting a car can sometimes be a difficult decision, so we are always here to answer any of your questions! Feel free to shoot us an email at support@drivecanvas or give us a call at 844-863-2687.

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