Australia’s auto industry has seen a rise in car subscription services in the last couple of years, a pay-as-you-need-it option similar to Netflix and Spotify but for cars. Before you click and collect your ride, here are some of the pros and cons of subscribing rather than buying your next car.
What is a car subscription service?
Instead of buying their own car, subscribers pay a fee to use a vehicle by the month, week, or day, or for on-demand access billed per hour and by mileage. Each car subscription company has a fleet of makes and models available from either a dealership, allocated parking spots, or – sometimes – delivery.
Are there many car subscription services available in Australia?
There is an increasing range of subscription services taking to Australia’s roads. Some car subscription companies offer monthly or weekly subscriptions, while others offer on-demand plans for by-the-hour driving. Some have bigger fleets than others and availability depends on your state and location.
What are the pros of a car subscription?
The upsides to choosing to subscribe rather than buy a car include:
- No lump sum to buy. You don’t need to spend your life savings or take out a loan, so you can have a car on hand without the financial lock-in or risks that come with car ownership. (Although used cars on Gumtree are often very cost-effective, too.)
- Flexibility. Not ready to commit to one car? Easily switch the car you’re driving for some variety or to suit your lifestyle. For example, exchange a practical compact hatch for a 4WD SUV for your off-road camping trip. Or trial that premium model you’ve had your eye on before you decide to buy.
- Hassle-free package deals. Users pay a single fee that typically includes registration, insurance, maintenance, and roadside assistance.
- An alternative to public transport. A car subscription may be handy if you can’t rely on or use public transport for a period of time due to disruptions such as delays or major works – or if you’re just getting sick of the commute.
- Flexible cancellation. It’s generally fine to stop your subscription at any time after a usually brief stipulated notice period.
How about the cons?
- The longer you subscribe, the less cost-effective it might be. If you’re a frequent driver, consider the long-term affordability. For example, compare the subscription fees for 12 months to the going price for a similar demo model (don’t forget to factor in running costs).
- It may not be as convenient for you. If you’re outside the city or urban areas, there may not be many options available, especially if you need a car without much notice. If you have to travel a lot for work, your own car may also be a better always-on-hand option.
- No room for personalisation. If you enjoy the freedom of decking out your ride with bumper stickers and seat covers, and even just saving all your favourite radio stations, you may prefer to own a car where you can have free rein on making it your own.
- Check the fine print. Each provider has different terms and conditions, which may include extras such as joining fees, pre-approval for additional drivers, and distance limits. Make sure you understand your obligations before you sign.