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What is a car subscription?

January 15, 2023

The ultimate guide to car subscriptions

Car subscriptions are fast becoming the new normal, but if you’ve not yet come across this exciting alternative to car ownership, you might be wondering what it's all about. Car subscription services offer you the chance to effectively have your own car without actually owning it. For a fixed monthly fee, you get a new car sitting on your drive ready for you to use whenever you need it – and with all the running costs included. Just add the fuel and away you go!

In this comprehensive guide, we’re going to tell you everything you need to know about car subscriptions and how they can give you the freedom to use and change cars on your terms, with no length contracts or commitments.

The basics of car subscription services

A car subscription service takes the subscription model you’re familiar with from services such as Amazon Prime and applies it to the world of cars. In other words, you pay a monthly fee, and in return you get the use of a new car and pretty much all its associated running costs.

Car subscriptions are a modern and increasingly popular alternative to traditional ownership options. They’re not the same as a lease, and they differ from personal contract purchase (PCP) in a number of important ways. Unlike PCP, you’re not paying off the cost of the car. Instead, you’re paying a monthly fee to use the car, and all the other costs (such as insurance, road tax and maintenance) are taken care of within that fixed monthly fee. This is in marked contrast to PCP, where you’re responsible for all of these costs on top of the monthly payment you’re making for the car itself.

With a car subscription, although you don’t end up with the option of owning the car, you have the freedom to get on with life without the worry of the unexpected costs that are inevitable when you own a car. What’s more, car subscriptions offer much lower upfront payments than PCP, which make them a good option if you’re pushed for budget. Usually, it’s just one month’s upfront payment, which could be as little as £500 or less, and unlike PCP, it’s refundable when you hand the car back.

Freedom to change

Crucially, unlike PCP, car subscriptions don’t tie you into a lengthy contract. Most PCP contracts are for between two and four years, but as the last few years have shown us, anything can happen in that time. If you’re tied into a PCP contract with hefty penalties for extricating yourself from it, you may run into problems if your financial circumstances change, such as if you have a baby or lose your job. What’s more, if your lifestyle changes – you switch to working from home and no longer have to commute, for example – you’re still stuck with a car that you may no longer need.

A car subscription changes all of that. You have the freedom to hand the car back at any time, with no heavy fees to pay, and you can also change the car if your needs change (or if you just fancy something different!). This makes a car subscription a lot easier than buying a car outright or opting for PCP, because unlike these two ownership methods, you’re not making a long-term commitment. You’re only ever committed to a month, so if you find a car isn’t quite working for you, or even just want to try out a few different cars, you can easily switch.

Why choose a car subscription over traditional car ownership?

Car subscriptions offer a compelling alternative to PCP, but what about traditional car ownership? Quite apart from the fact that you won’t need to find a large lump sum, and you won’t ever need to worry about depreciation and resale value, car subscriptions offer a number of benefits over buying a car outright, such as:

  • Freedom: a car subscription gives you the ability to switch to a different car model or end the subscription at any time – unlike when you own a car and you’re stuck with it until you can sell it on.
  • Convenience: all-inclusive monthly fees cover insurance, servicing, maintenance, new tyres, road tax and breakdown cover, so you’ll never need to worry about finding the money to pay for on-going or unexpected costs. Just add fuel (or electricity)!
  • No long-term commitment: avoid the hassle of long-term leases or car loans that are costly to change or get out of – with a car subscription, you’re only ever committed to a month, not two or four years.
  • Access to a wider range of cars: try out different car models and brands without having to buy or lease them.
  • Lower upfront costs: you’ll pay low upfront costs compared to all other car ownership options, with just a month’s subscription in advance that you’ll get back when you hand the car back.
  • No maintenance worries: with a car subscription, all maintenance and repairs are taken care of by the service provider. With 19% of us going into debt to pay for servicing costs, that’s a major load off your mind.

Finally, car subscriptions offer potentially lower overall costs compared to traditional car ownership or leasing, and certainly when it comes to the total committed cost of ownership. That’s down to the fact that all the maintenance, insurance and servicing is included – so no unexpected bills – and the absence of a large lump sum upfront.

Tips for finding the best car subscription for your lifestyle

As with anything, choosing the right car subscription for you is all about comparing what’s on offer. You’ll want to look at the cars each provider has, the subscription options they offer and what they ask for in terms of aspects such as upfront payments, admin fees, delivery and collection, exchange and usage.

When you’re assessing the different car subscription providers, always check for hidden fees or restrictions, such as what the insurance policy allows you to do. With Drive Fuze, our monthly payment is all inclusive, so you can live your life free from worrying about unexpected charges or expenses.

The cost of car subscription services: a comprehensive breakdown

As you might expect, the amount you end up paying for a monthly car subscription depends on a number of different things. Most obviously, the type of car you go for determines the basic level of monthly cost you can expect – the bigger and more powerful the car, the more it costs.

On top of that, there are other variables. If you’d like one or more other people included in the subscription so that they can drive the car too, you may need to pay a bit extra for additional drivers. Car subscriptions typically include between 800 and 1,000 miles a month as standard (with ours, it’s 1,000 miles), but you can pay for more if you think you’ll need more than that.

You’ll also need to factor in upfront costs, which are considerably less than what you’ll pay for PCP. This is usually one month of your subscription, but you’ll get it back when you hand the car back.

The great thing about a car subscription is that once you’ve got that fixed monthly fee, that’s all you’ll need to budget – you won’t need to think about the monthly running costs you’d have to cover if you went with PCP or bought a car outright.

What’s included in a car subscription?

Different car subscription services may have different things included, so check each one carefully to find out. Typically, they’ll include the following:

  • Road tax
  • Comprehensive insurance
  • Servicing
  • Breakdown cover
  • New tyres
  • Maintenance

Drive Fuze subscriptions include all these, as well as a 24/7 helpline for any advice or support you need with your new car. The only thing that’s not included is fuel or EV charging.

This fixed, all-inclusive fee means that, unlike with traditional car ownership or PCP, you know exactly how much your car will cost you each month. That gives you the freedom to get on with life, safe in the knowledge that you won’t be landed with an unexpected expense such as a replacement windscreen or a new set of tyres. Your monthly payments will stay the same until you hand the car back.

A step-by-step guide to the car subscription process

Setting up a car subscription is simple, and you can be picking up the keys to your new vehicle in as little as seven days. Let’s take a look at what the process looks like.

Step 1 – choose your car

First things first – deciding on the car you want! Choosing the right car for your lifestyle can seem challenging given how many different makes and models there are, but a good starting point is to look through the cars on offer. You can browse our vehicles here. You’ll want to consider aspects such as:

  • How much you want to spend, both upfront and in monthly fees
  • Manual or automatic?
  • Petrol, diesel, electric or hybrid?
  • How much space you’ll need – number of seats and boot space
  • Intended use – commuting? Run-around? Lots of sitting in traffic?
  • What features you want – such as heated seats or CarPlay

You’ll have a wide range to choose from, but remember, this isn’t a permanent decision in the way that opting for PCP or outright ownership would be. If the car you choose ends up not being quite right, or your needs change, you have the freedom to change your car, or hand it back. New baby, new dog, new job – all these things can impact the size of car you need or what you use your car for.

Step 2 – customise your car subscription

This is where you’ll confirm the specifics of who’ll be using your car subscription, and how you’ll be using it. Think about whether there are any other people you want to be able to drive the vehicle – such as your spouse – and work out how many miles you’ll need to do on average each month.

Step 3 – ID check

Next we’ll need to see a few documents to verify your identity – your driving licence and proof of your address. We’ll carry out a soft credit check, which doesn’t affect your credit rating.

Once you’ve ordered your subscription, we’ll take an upfront payment that covers a month’s subscription and any car delivery and admin fees, if they apply. The great news is that you’ll get that upfront month’s subscription back when you return the car, less an admin fee.

Step 4 – your new car arrives!

You can choose when you want your car delivered, and we’ll call you on the day to let you know when we’ll be with you. You’ll need to be there, with your driving licence, when we arrive. On delivery day, you’ll pay for the month ahead, and you’ll keep paying each month until you hand the car back.

Car subscription: the future of car usership

Car subscriptions have taken the automotive world by storm, and it’s not hard to see why. Offering the advantages of car ownership without the long-term commitment and unexpected expenses, it makes budgeting a breeze and gives you the freedom to change or return your car if your circumstances change. With lower overall costs than either traditional car ownership or PCP, lower risk and a huge amount more flexibility, car subscription is a no-brainer.

If we’ve convinced you to give car subscription a try, and you can’t wait to enjoy the freedom offered by this innovative way of taking to the road, browse our cars and see what takes your fancy. You could be receiving the keys in a mere seven days!