The Ultimate Guide to Car Subscriptions in Canada

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Last post we spoke about the evolution of car ownership, and how subscription as a new way to access cars is growing faster than a Tesla in ludicrous mode. So, what’s actually out there and how do you actually subscribe to one?

There’s no clear consensus as to what constitutes a car subscription. We’ve investigated the entire landscape, and while there’s some similarities in the value propositions there’s also a lot of nuance.

Ultimately, it comes down to flexibility (which includes the term you would need to own the car for, and the ability to swap among different kinds of cars) and convenience (whether services such as insurance, maintenance, delivery and roadside assistance are included as part of the overall package).

Car subscription services that are designed to have the highest amount of flexibility and convenience tend to look more like car rentals (and tend to have a higher cost), while those that are designed to limit flexibility with convenience features priced in behave more like a traditional car lease.

Canadian Car Subscription Programs

We started writing this to put together a full list of what’s available in Canada, but right now, the only in-market service is the Zipcar Commuter program. Zipcar offers two packages, a “Standard” package that has a monthly fee of $249 for economy vehicles and a “Premium” package that has a monthly fee of $299 for their roomier vehicles. Regardless of which package you choose, you’ll still need to pay $0.30 per kilometre.

Care by Volvo has announced plans to launch in Canada, but as of the date this was written it’s not yet available for purchase.

To get an idea of what might be coming keep on reading to see what’s currently available to our neighbours south of the border.

US Car Subscription Programs

Car Manufacturer Car Subscription Programs

One of the obvious benefits of being a car manufacturer is that you have an ample supply of cars. Consumers don’t go directly to a car manufacturer to buy their car in most cases today, but the subscription model offers a potential way to do so.

In-Market Car Subscription Programs

There are currently five car manufacturers that have launched car subscription programs:

  • Cadillac (“Book by Cadillac”) allows you to swap between a number of different vehicles in their lineup up to 18 times a year with everything bundled into the monthly price

  • Hyundai (“Unlimited +”) allows you to lease their IONIQ electric vehicle, with everything except insurance included in the monthly price

  • Ford (“Canvas”) that gives you a variable price based on the car, the term you’d like to own it for (up to 12 months), and the mileage

  • Volvo (“Care by Volvo”) lets you lease their XC40 or V60 for a 2-year term (and an option to upgrade at the 1-year mark), with all bells and whistles included in the monthly price

  • Porsche (“Porsche Passport”) gives you unlimited swaps between different vehicles in their lineup (depending on if you choose the “Launch” or “Accelerate” tier), with everything included

It’s hard to capture all the details of a car subscription program in a single sentence, so we’ve captured and summarized everything that we could in a table here.

Announced Car Subscription Programs

A few other car manufacturers have announced plans to launch pilot versions of their own car subscription programs in the near future:

  • Lincoln — launching in California

  • Lexus — launch location TBD

  • BMW — launching in Nashville with two tiers, the “Legend” tier for $2000 per month and the “M” tier for $3700 per month

  • Mercedes-Benz — launching in Nashville and Pennsylvania with a handful of monthly subscription tiers

Third-Party Car Subscription Programs

If you don’t make cars, where might you get some inventory for a car subscription? You can partner up with dealers, or you can start buying it up yourself. One of the benefits for any third party is that you can offer cars from different brands for consumers that may be a bit more agnostic to the exact car they drive (or have brand commitment anxiety).

There’s a number of third-party car subscription programs out there, trying variations of these models, and we’ve tried to consolidate as much information about each of them as we can here.

The Car Subscription Customer

Given all of the options that could become available in the near future, who’s going to subscribe to this new model of car ownership?

Maybe it’s the recent graduate who needs a car to get to their first job but is thinking about working abroad in a year or two and needs the flexibility.

Or perhaps it’s the young couple in the midst of a quarter-life crisis and would really prefer a 2-door coupe before having a family that requires an SUV to fit a car seat and stroller more comfortably.

It could also be a solution for the car lovers who get bored of their vehicles easily and no longer want the long commitments that traditional car ownership forces them into.

Or, perhaps it’s none of the above…only time will tell!

What do you think about these car subscription services? Would you be among the first Canadians to subscribe to any of them if they became available here?