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Latest car subscription service offerings

Car ownership is morphing into usership, and car manufacturers are introducing subscription service plans to keep new car sales flowing.

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When was the last time you bought a CD or DVD? Probably not since Spotify, Deezer and Apple Music became the go-to platforms for music and Amazon Prime, NOW TV and Netflix redefined nights in with instant access to films and box sets.

The same is happening with cars. The traditional method of buying a car with cash, either from savings or a bank loan, has been overtaken by personal contract purchase (PCP) schemes where you finance a car over an agreed period (usually three years), with the options at the end to either pay off the remainder (the dreaded and always hefty balloon payment) and keep the car, or hand the keys back and use any equity to help fund another one (the most popular choice).

Dealers provided finance for 88% of new cars to private buyers sold in the UK in 2017, a significant proportion through PCPs, and there’s no sign of demand slowing down as long as interest rates remain low.

Shifting even further away from traditional ownership, personal contract hire (PCH) schemes are also becoming more popular, the main difference being that these are a straight rental with no option to pay off and keep the car at the end of the agreement.

Ownership has morphed into usership, with car makers realising there are even more creative ways to entice customers into shiny new cars without the burden of ownership.

The latest plans is the subscription service. It’s still early days, but major brands are already launching various types of pay-as-you-go services providing mobility at a fixed monthly cost, enabling drivers to treat themselves to the car of their dreams with minimal up-front costs or savings required. The model is very similar to what you probably already have with a mobile phone, TV service or music platform.

Flexibility is the name of the game, with some schemes offering subscribers the opportunity to swap cars on a whim and upgrade for special occasions. Buying is one of the few options no longer on the table…

We here at The Car Expert have been looking at three of the latest schemes.

Jaguar Land Rover

Jaguar Land Rover Carpe subscription service by InMotion

The expanding model line-ups of both Jaguar and Land Rover make both premium marques ideal for the subscription model, opening up usage to customers who may never have considered either brand before.

In June 2018 Jaguar Land Rover launched its Carpe (Latin for “seize”) offering an all-inclusive car subscription service providing customers with hassle-free access to brand new Jaguars and Land Rovers.

Ostensibly for high mileage users, because there’s no mileage restriction, customers sign up for a standard nil-deposit 12-month package and can specify the car to their requirements. Servicing, maintenance, insurance, roadside assistance and delivery are all bundled into the no-haggle monthly cost.

Sounds good but just how much does it cost?
It’s not cheap!

Subscription packages start from £910 per month for a standard specification Jaguar E-Pace through to a wallet denting £2,200 per month for a top-end Range Rover Sport HSE; these figures exclude VAT, suggesting that business owners are the key target.

The online scheme can be found at carpedrive.com and is run by Jaguar Land Rover tech subsidiary InMotion which is confident a new breed of well-heeled customers will sign on and renew their subscriptions on an annual basis.

Sebastian Peck, managing director of InMotion, said: “We know there is appetite for unlimited motoring packages and demand is growing rapidly for subscription services that better meet individual needs. For people who love driving premium vehicles, but are tired of inflexible contracts, a subscription to Carpe is the solution. We aim to give our customers as much flexibility, freedom and choice as we can.”

BMW and Mini

BMW and Mini models available through Drover subscription service

Also new to the market is a subscription service from BMW and Mini, the result of a partnership with tech company Drover; which, incidentally, also offers a selection of cars across different brands.

Cars covered by the scheme start with a Mini Cooper and a BMW 116d Sport and rise through the 2 Series coupé and X1 up to 4 Series coupé and 5 Series saloon and estate models.

Other vehicles include the BMW 2 Series Active Tourer, 2 Series convertible, 3 Series saloon and estate, 4 Series convertible, X3 and i3.

Sounds good but just how much does it cost?
Costs, which include VAT, are rolled into a monthly charge which also covers insurance, maintenance, servicing, taxes and breakdown cover. No deposit is required.

Prices for the Mini Cooper start at £562 a month, equating to £131 a week over 52 weeks.

The cheapest BMW on the scheme, a 116 Sport, costs £778 a month, while a 520d Saloon costs £1,076.

Users can sign up to the service at www.joindrover.com/bmw-mini where at the end of each month they can also swap, upgrade or downgrade their car or cancel altogether, without any long-term commitment. It’s not cheap but is certainly flexible.


Care by Volvo subscription service

Volvo’s Care by Volvo subscription service volvocars.com/uk/buy/shop/care-by-volvo  was introduced in 2017 to coincide with the launch of the all-new XC40 model, but has since been extended to cover the new V60 and S60, while other models are sure to follow.

The nil deposit scheme, which the brand describes as being a form of personal contract hire agreement, covers insurance, service, maintenance and even some repairs, road tax, tyre replacement and breakdown cover.

Customers also have access to an alternative Volvo model for a set period, ideal for families planning a holiday or in need of some serious short-term load-lugging capacity.

Sounds good but just how much does it cost?
Confusingly, Volvo offers different deals to customers living within the M25 (where it was initially piloted) to those living elsewhere in the country.

Those within the M25 sign up to a 24-month agreement with a maximum of 15,000 miles. Prices start at £799 a month for the XC40 and £829 for the V60.

Those living elsewhere sign up for a 12-month agreement, which can be extended at no extra cost, with prices starting at £799 a month for a V60 and £899 for an XC40 (yes, the prices are different!) and annual mileages capped at 10,000 miles. All prices include VAT.

This new subscription service will be closely monitored by Volvo’s parent company, Geely Automotive, as it intends to launch its forthcoming Polestar and LYNK and Co brands on subscription-only models from 2019.

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Curtis Hutchinson
Curtis Hutchinson
Curtis Hutchinson is a member of the Guild of Motoring Writers and has been a senior motoring journalist for over 25 years. He has written extensively about the automotive industry as editor of both Company Car and Motor Trader where he won the coveted Newspress Business Publication of the Year Award. His work also appears in Fleet World and Fleet World International. In 2016 he was part of the founding team behind the relaunched London Motor Show.