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Car subscription advice

Car subscriptions – pausing and changing

If you want to stop and start a car subscription, what do you need to know?

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If you want to stop and start a car subscription – perhaps while you’re out of the country – or switch between different types of vehicle, what do you need to know?

What is a car subscription?

A car subscription is halfway between a lease and long-term car rental. You can have a car from 28 days to 36 months, with the ability to get exactly the car you want, change it when you like – subject to conditions – and can have insurance included. Unlike a lease there is no major charge (such as nine months’ advance payment) to start but the monthly charges are higher than a fixed-term lease. There are short-term leases offered – between three and 12 months – but the choice of car may be limited.

Some rental companies offer long-term hires but if you choose a subscription for a specific car, that’s the one you’ll get, not one of the same size which happens to be available on the day. Subscriptions promise freedom of choice, no commitment, and no unexpected bills at less than the overall cost of a PCP payment as there’s usually only a small deposit (one month or less).

What’s the choice?

Currently (spring 2022) if you want a car subscription direct from a manufacturer in the UK there are slim pickings. Volvo’s Care by Volvo usually comes up top in a web search and is heavily promoted. Then comes Jaguar Land Rover’s Pivotal scheme. For more mainstream brands only Hyundai in the UK offers a subscription service, called Mocean (rhymes with ‘ocean’) with a minimum three-month term, but as this is a new venture operates from only six dealerships within London.

The good news is that if you want to jump between brands and types of cars – or vans – then there’s a good choice of car subscription providers in the UK, some of whom are partners with The Car Expert.

Pausing a subscription

Say you don’t spend all year living in the UK so don’t want to pay for a car to sit on your driveway for months while you’re away. How easy is to give notice and return a subscription, and how do you avoid having to set up a new account when you start your next subscription?

Notice periods are generally short, which is one of the selling points of a subscription. After you finish the initial agreed contract period – which depending on the provider can be As short as 28 days – the subscription automatically become a monthly rolling contract until you ask for a change of vehicle or to stop. However, be careful before you think of giving up a subscription before the minimum period had elapsed as there may be a penalty fee.

Looking at the two prestige brands, Care by Volvo requires three months’ notice to cancel or change your car and doesn’t specify if you can pause and leave a gap. Jaguar Land Rover Pivotal allows its users to pause a subscription at any time and reactivate when it’s convenient.

Mycardirect, also one of our partners, says it already has a number of members who have property here and abroad so only use their subscriptions when they are in the UK, and a number of businesses use the service when required.

Electric-only partner provider Elmo says it is ‘totally flexible’ with no need to pause. The customer can hand the car back whenever they want with 30 days’ notice (after the minimum period) and then book another car whenever they need it. They can use the same account and Elmo will hold all the licence details etc. for when they next want to book a car.

A car for all seasons or reasons

Aside from pausing you may want to change the type of vehicle according to your needs throughout the year. For example, for work you may need a van for a short period to cover a particular contract, or for pleasure it may be useful to have a people carrier for the summer holidays with your extended family or a four-wheel drive SUV over the winter for skiing holidays. You may just fancy a few months in something really posh, a two-seater sports car or a convertible, or you could have a spell in an electric car.

Depending on your age and insurance record, the monthly price of a different vehicle may differ from the headline price as insurance is tailor made in all subscriptions. And remember, there’s an assessment for any extra damage every time a vehicle goes back.

Mix-and-match should be easy to achieve, but it depends on stock availability. For example, Cazoo offered Mazda MX-5s from £539 month earlier in the year but now (May) there are no Mazdas but you can get a Mini convertible from £429 a month. Despite its sporty reputation, Jaguar doesn’t offer any sports cars on Pivotal.

If you want to jump from car to a small van, Mycardirect will see you into a Vauxhall Combo Cargo for £591 (with VAT) for six months including 1,600 miles. However, if you want a van for less than six months and aren’t fussy about the brand (only the size) a long-term rental from a traditional rental company would be worth exploring or there are a number of firms specialising in short-term van leases. A good yardstick to work from is if they are a member of the British Vehicle and Rental Leasing Association (BVRLA). Search the member directory for ‘flexible rental’. Remember though that there may be different damage charges for vans above what is considered normal wear and tear for a car when you return them.

Expat subscription?

What if you live abroad, are coming to the UK for a fixed period and want a subscription car? This can be difficult as you may not have a UK credit history or a UK driving licence. Equally, you could be in the UK for a fixed-term work contract and be stuck for the same reasons.

Again, there are specialists who can help. Search ‘expat car lease’ but as the name implies, they will be short-term leases, not subscriptions. For example, Expat Cars is a division of Cocoon Vehicles (another partner of The Car Expert), which offers subscriptions and leases, It says its underwriters will require to see a number of proofs, but acceptance rates are high. It uses employee references, credit reference agencies in their home countries and evidence to support the application to get them into a car rental or car lease. Advertised costs are similar to its other monthly rentals and it offers a meet and greet airport service.

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Russell Hayes
Russell Hayeshttps://amzn.to/3dga7y8
Russell Hayes’ early career was 14 years of motoring journalism in print, television and online. He worked for What Car? and Complete Car magazines, the BBC's original Top Gear programme and Channel 4's Driven. Since 2007 he has written motoring history books on subjects including Lotus, TVR, the Earls Court Motor Show, the Volkswagen Golf, Volkswagen Beetle and Bus and the original Aston Martin V8. Now a full-time author, two more books are in the pipeline for 2021 and 2022.
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