What is a car subscription?
Car subscription services offer hassle-free motoring and regular new cars - at a cost
Are you someone who’s indecisive when it comes to cars? Or do you imagine driving a brand-new car every few months? Traditional ways of buying or financing cars don’t really cater for this mindset, so you could end up feeling fed up with your car and stuck in a contract for several years to come.
Most drivers tend to finance new cars using PCP (Personal Contract Purchase) deal, which gives you the option to buy the car at the end of the contract, but PCH (Personal Contract Hire) leasing deals and car subscriptions are both becoming more popular. Here, we’ll focus on the latter, and run through the main players in the UK car subscription service market.
Car subscriptions are like long-term rental. You won’t ever own the car you’re paying for, but most of the running costs are wrapped up into one monthly payment to simplify the process. With that convenience often comes a high monthly payment, however, so it may still be cheaper to lease or buy a car - especially as some quoted figures don’t include VAT.
Make sure you check out our guide to UK car subscriptions - and if it’s something for you, take a look at the main companies that offer this service.
Compare car subscription services
Audi launched its On Demand service in four cities, and you could order a car for as little as an hour or as much as a month. In that respect, it’s more like a rental than a subscription, but a car could either be collected from a dealership or delivered to your home. However, the service currently isn’t operating and it’s not known if Audi has plans to revive it.
The Simply Drive service from Citroen predates most monthly subscription services. It gives drivers a car for three years, and after placing a deposit, the monthly fee includes insurance, road tax payments and scheduled servicing.
Strictly speaking, it isn’t a subscription service, because at the end of the period, drivers have the option to buy the car, because the plan is based on a Personal Contract Purchase. However, you’re also able to hand the car back or change it for a new replacement.
It is offered across most of the range of Citroen cars, so whether you need a small city car like the C1, or a big seven-seat people carrier like the Grand C4 SpaceTourer for all the family to pile aboard, there should be something to suit your needs.
Depending on the car, drivers must be 18, 21, 25 or 30 to qualify for the insurance, and the youngest motorists must not have had any driving convictions for the past five years or made a claim for the previous three. Up to three other people can be named as drivers on the policy, it can be driven in Europe, and the main driver earns any no-claim discount over time. The insurance excess ranges from £350 to £500.
Pivotal is the brainchild of Jaguar and Land Rover. In a nutshell, it offers drivers a new Jaguar or Land Rover for six or 12 months and includes the road tax, insurance for driving anywhere in Europe, any required routine servicing, and breakdown cover.
At the end of the period, you hand back the car and decide whether to change to a newer model or something different altogether. So if you decide that a Jaguar F-Pace is too big for your needs, you could downsize to the latest E-Pace or vice versa.
The cheapest cars start from £850 per month, while the full-fat Range Rover is £1,800 per month.
Should you need to cancel early, Pivotal says that customers will have to settle the remaining month in full, then pay 50% of the value of all further months up to the end of the contract. The insurance excess is £500, while the joining fee is £550 plus VAT.
This French carmaker was one of the first companies to bundle everything up for drivers so all they need to do is pay for the fuel they use. It launched Just Add Fuel in 2010, and has since expanded it to include young drivers from the age of 18, using telematics-based insurance, and more cars.
The insurance can cover drivers from 18 to 75-years old, although the youngest will require a black box telematics device to be fitted, which will monitor their driving style. Without telematics, drivers from 21 must have two years no claims discount, and driving abroad is permitted but additional charges may apply. Excess fees are between £300 and £500.
The service is built around a Personal Contract Purchase plan, which means consumers have a 14 day cooling off period. The additional products (insurance, service plan and breakdown cover) can be cancelled at any time, but if you haven’t paid off more than 50 per cent of the PCP’s total amount payable, a settlement sum has to be paid before the car can be returned early, something drivers should be aware of.
Volvo sees its subscription service as a cut above the competition. For example, when the time comes for your Volvo to be serviced, a nice person from Volvo will collect it and take it to your Volvo dealer, then return it after the work’s complete. What’s more, unexpected repairs outside of routine servicing schedules are taken care of.
All new Volvos are available on the subscription service, which is based on a Personal Contract Hire credit agreement. Under the terms, the customer will be liable for settling 50 per cent of all outstanding monthly fees should they want to terminate the two-year contract early.
At the moment, Care by Volvo doesn’t suit young drivers, as the insurance is only open to those aged between 30 and 80. They’ll need at least one year’s no claim bonus and must have been driving for two or more years, while cover is provided across Europe – ideal for family holidays. The excess is just £150.
LeasePlan: Subscribe and Drive
LeasePlan is one of the largest vehicle leasing companies in the UK. So it should probably come as no surprise that its subscription service is one of the most straightforward to use.
Its Subscribe and Drive programme offers four tiers, so drivers can choose a brand and size of car that best meets their needs. Drivers take on a car for three months at a time, and after the first three months can choose to switch to a different make and model, keep what they’ve got or hand the car back.
Also, after that first three months, LeasePlan requires just 14 days notice to end a contract at any time, and there are no penalty charges, a fair approach that many drivers may prefer.
Wagonex offers subscriptions of between one and 24 months and boasts a wide range of vehicles from city cars and electric cars to hot hatchbacks and SUVs. Roadside assistance, road tax, servicing and maintenance are all included, and you can add insurance through the platform as well.
There’s no initial fee to pay, and we’re told you can drive up to 2,000 miles a month. The seven-day notice period is one of the best around, but Wagonex’s pricing is all over the place - although it does handily include VAT. A Renault Zoe and Nissan Leaf are both reasonable value at just over £300 per month with everything included, but an 18-month-old Hyundai i10 comes in at a whopping £600 per month at the time of writing. You can buy the same car for under £200 per month on BuyaCar, and the running costs won’t add up to another £400 a month.
With Mycardirect you can subscribe to a car from anywhere between one and 24 months, after paying a £250 joining fee. The site is powered by Wagonex, so the packages offered and the cars you can pick from are unsurprisingly similar.
Flexed offers short-term car leases for private or business customers, and vehicles can be subscribed to for 28 days, or three, six, nine or 12 months. Cars held in stock can be delivered to you the next working day after you order, while the monthly payment also includes 24-hour emergency assistance.
28-day leases don’t have a cancellation period, and you have to be over 25 to apply if you’re planning to take out insurance with Flexed (18 and above if not). You can travel up to 1250 miles in a 28-day period, but bear in mind that prices on the site are advertised excluding VAT.
Like many of these sites, Evogo has a selection of cars in stock, or you can wait for a car in the exact specification you want to be ordered, built and delivered. While you’re waiting, you can borrow another car. Insurance is your responsibility, and once the car’s ready you’ll need to collect it from the company’s offices in Sheffield or Luton - which may only be convenient if you live local to those areas.
Evogo contracts are 89 days long, but you can renew them by the same amount if you decide to keep the car for another few months. You’ll need to supply your car’s mileage each month, and bear in mind that if you take the car abroad you’ll need to sort out insurance, breakdown and any maintenance needed while you’re away.
Prices start from about £200 per month including VAT for a base-spec Kia Picanto on a 10,000-mile-a-year deal, but Evogo is quite limited in the selection of cars it has on the site.
Keen to keep pace with the new disrupters, long-running car rental firm Sixt now offers a car subscription model, called Sixt+. Agreements last for 90 days, and then you can start on another one - although the website does say you can terminate your contract and return the car to the Sixt branch that you picked the car up from at any time. There’s a sign-up fee of between £249 and £499.
Sixt’s background as a rental firm is clear as you can’t pick a specific car, merely a category. You might be looking at a BMW 3 Series, but the ‘or similar’ caveat means that you may end up with a different vehicle from the same loose category. At the time of writing, a BMW 3 Series or similar costs an astonishing £779 per month, and you only get 500 ‘free’ miles.
Cocoon Vehicles offers both month-to-month subscriptions and 6-12 month car leases. The company says that their offers work out cheaper than if you were to hire a car the traditional way, but, like its competitors, the prices are sky-high compared to a lease deal or even a PCP. If a 12-month lease is too long for your needs then one of its subscriptions may make sense.
Cocoon also does electric, prestige and performance models, plus vans.
Onto is a subscription service that only offers fully electric cars like the Peugeot e-208 and Tesla Model 3. You don’t need to pay an upfront payment, and the subscription covers free public charging - including at Tesla Superchargers - as well as insurance, breakdown cover, maintenance and servicing.
Registration takes a few minutes and is done entirely through Onto’s smartphone app, and then it costs under £50 for delivery. Even unlocking the car can be done using the app. The only thing is that you’re limited by the choice of cars; we counted just 11 different models on the site, and there are plenty more EVs on sale nowadays.
Startup firm Elmo also offers nothing but fully electric vehicles and will donate to carbon offsetting schemes too. Optionally, you can add a home charging point, public charging access and renewable home energy. There’s no deposit to pay, and you only have to give 30 days’ notice to withdraw from the contract.
Unfortunately, you’re even more limited when it comes to the cars on offer. Only three different models (Renault Zoe, MG ZS EV and Fiat 500e) are available as of August 2021, with just one colour choice apiece, and the Fiat was out of stock.
Cazoo swallowed up Drover as part of its big expansion plans, and its resulting subscription options offer longer-term contracts than many of its competitors. Six, 12, 24 or 36-month deals are available, with insurance included so all you’ll need to add is fuel. Mileage is decent at 1,000 per month, and you also get round-the-clock breakdown assistance.
After passing all the eligibility checks, there’s the small matter of a deposit to be paid. This ranges from £229 to £629, according to the value of the car and the driver’s age, and the deposit is held for the duration of the subscription, returned after it ends.
A wide range of cars is available, from a Vauxhall Corsa to a Volvo XC60. All its cars are pre-registered and most have delivery mileage only, so you pick a specific car rather than a representative example - even if the only difference between cars is often the colour.