Car subscriptions third option to buying, leasing

Volvo latest automaker to offer program

SAN ANTONIO – The next time you want to get a new car, you may be able to subscribe instead of buy or lease. 

Some automakers are revving up subscription programs as a way to reduce hassle and increase flexibility.

Swedish automaker Volvo recently released details about a new subscription-based ownership program called "Care by Volvo."

Starting at $600 a month, the program includes insurance, vehicle service, roadside assistance, 24/7 customer care and replacements for items such as brake pads and wiper blades that are subject to wear and tear. The program doesn't include gasoline.

"The idea of these programs is to take away much of the hassle and mystery involved with buying or leasing a car," said Nick Kurczewski, of Consumer Reports. "With subscription models, you pay one monthly fee for most costs involved in owning a car. Plus, you could drive a new vehicle every year or even every week with some other programs." 

Volvo isn't the only automaker offering consumers this type of deal. BMW, Hyundai, Cadillac and Porsche are trying similar subscription-based programs, with varying limits of how often you can exchange a car for a new one.

And for those who balk at Volvo's all-inclusive price, it's worth noting that the base price for the included vehicles starts at $33,200.

"Although the programs that are currently in effect are on the pricier side, there are no long-term commitments, and we anticipate the monthly fees going down as this trend becomes more popular," Kurczewski said. "These types of programs could be really enticing for those who want to stay on top of the latest advancements in safety, infotainment and convenience."

A subscription-based ownership experience won't be for everyone, especially for consumers who like to pay off their vehicles and not have a monthly car payment. Also, the programs typically have mileage limits and people with bad driving records can expect to pay more.  

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