In Depth

Car subscription services: what are they and which companies offer them?

Lexus joins Audi, BMW and JLR by offering car subscription plans to drivers

Lexus has become the latest carmaker to offer a subscription service that allows customers to drive away with a new car every month.

The Lexus One service, which is run in partnership with London-based company Drover, gives buyers the chance to choose a new hybrid model every month, says Auto Express. At the end of each month, customers can either keep the car, return it for another one or cancel their subscription altogether.  

UK drivers can choose from five models - the CT hatchback, IS saloon, NX crossover, RC coupe and RX SUV, the magazine says. The list may include more models if the service proves popular.  

Prices start at £619 per month for the Lexus CT 200h, while range-topping RX 450h SUVs can be had for a monthly fee of £1,099, says news site Motoring Research. The price includes delivery and collection, plus comprehensive insurance and routine servicing. A weekly wash at a Lexus dealer is also included in the price, as is a BP fuel card with a 5p per litre discount.  

Customers are limited to 1,000 miles per month, though unused miles can be carried over to the next month if drivers choose to keep the car, the website notes.

Ewan Shepherd, head of Lexus UK, said the service has been designed to be “completely user-friendly, letting you choose the vehicle you want, when you want it”.

Lexus, however, isn’t the first company to offer a car subscription scheme. Audi and Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) have launched similar services in recent years that allow drivers to use a range of models without committing to full ownership.

What are car subscription services?

A car subscription service is similar to taking out a smartphone contract, with buyers able to “snag the latest model each year” by signing up to a monthly plan, says US motoring site Autoweek.

Most services include benefits such as insurance and servicing, which can make premium cars significantly more attainable. 

On the other hand, paying full price for a car gives buyers an asset to sell, limiting the financial impact of vehicle ownership. With a subscription model, buyers must hand back the car after the 12-month period ends and do not get any compensation. 

This means a subscription service is “much more expensive than just buying a car”, but those who want the latest model “have to pay for the privilege”, notes US broadcaster CNN

Which carmakers offer them? 

Only a handful of manufacturers have car subscription services, including Audi, BMW, JLR and now Lexus. 

Last year, Audi announced its “on demand” car-sharing service that lets buyers trial a host of models for up to 28 days at a time.

The cars on offer include the A1, A3, A4 and A5, in addition to the Q3 and Q5 SUVs, says Autocar. Performance cars available for hire include the S3 and S5. RS models, TT sports cars and the R8 supercar are currently not offered on the scheme.

Prices range from £70 to £190 per day, depending on the model chosen, says the magazine.

BMW’s service, meanwhile, starts at £568 and allows buyers to choose between models ranging from the Mini Cooper hatchback to the 5 Series saloon, says Autocar. The company allows customers to upgrade or downgrade cars “at any time”, with no financial penalty.  

JLR’s Carpe service, meanwhile, lets buyers choose from a host of models across its range at a cost of £910 per month. The monthly fee includes servicing and insurance. Carpe doesn’t have a fixed contract period either, so users can opt out of the programme whenever they want.

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