Driving on demand: for whom is a car subscription worthwhile?

Subscribing to a car instead of owning one is now possible in many places.

Driving on demand: for whom is a car subscription worthwhile?

Subscribing to a car instead of owning one is now possible in many places. But how does it work and for whom is it suitable and worthwhile? And what is the difference to leasing? A car expert and a consumer advocate provide an overview.

A newspaper subscription, yes. A streaming service subscription, okay. But a car subscription? This has also been the case for some time. But what is behind such offers? And for whom are they worthwhile? Auto expert Ferdinand Dudenhöffer from the “Center Automotive Research” (CAR) and Simone Bueb from the Bavarian Consumer Center provide answers.

What is a car subscription?

With the car subscription, which is also offered under the term "car subscription", you pay a monthly fee for the use of a car. This includes all costs such as insurance, taxes and maintenance. Fuel costs are not included. Providers often charge a kind of entry fee.

What is the difference to leasing?

With classic financial leasing, a monthly leasing rate is due for the use of the car and the vehicle is returned after a previously contractually agreed period. Costs such as insurance, taxes, maintenance have to be paid additionally. Some leasing contracts offer a purchase option after the contract has expired. This does not exist with the car subscription.

Which well-known manufacturers are on board?

Almost all major car manufacturers in Germany offer car subscriptions. Then there are dealer-based platforms and providers with their own vehicle inventories and logistics. Classic car rental companies such as Sixt also offer subscriptions. However, the offers there are more like long-term rentals, because customers have fewer options when it comes to choosing equipment or motorization.

What do you need to know about the various contract models?

In principle, contract terms from one month are offered. But this flexibility does not come for free. This is because shorter maturities are usually more expensive than longer maturities.

Which cost traps should one pay attention to before completing the course?

Simone Bueb points out a kilometer limit because exceeding it can be expensive. Sometimes trips abroad are limited or not allowed at all. And there are age limits. This not only applies to novice drivers, but also to older drivers, often over 70 or 75 years of age depending on the contract. If the customer wants to change the car during the subscription period, he sometimes pays a change fee.

Who are car subscriptions suitable for?

If you value flexibility and are willing to pay a surcharge for it, the car subscription is the right choice. The subscription is also suitable for seasonal drivers who, for example, only need a car in winter and prefer to ride a bike in summer, says Prof. Dudenhöffer.

Consumer advocate Simone Bueb finds it positive that the delivery after the conclusion of the contract is usually quite fast. This increases flexibility.

Who is the subscription not for?

The car subscription is rather unsuitable for novice drivers, as many providers require that you have held your driving license for at least three years. For drivers who have driven accident-free for many years and have a high no-claims discount, the subscription can be disadvantageous because the insurance calculation is only based on an average no-claims discount, explains Dudenhöffer.

He thinks the car subscription is less suitable for anyone who values ​​individual equipment or special paintwork. Because most providers only offer vehicles with standard equipment. "If you need a car every day - in the long term - then you are certainly better off leasing or buying it," says consumer law expert Simone Bueb.

What does that actually cost?

There are a number of offers and providers. The price also depends on the term and mileage. Three examples from a query on a large comparison portal:

How do you recognize a good offer?

CAR has also developed the car subscription factor to give average interested parties with little experience an overview. With its help, a good offer should be recognizable. Accordingly, an offer is cheap if the monthly amount is less than two percent of the actual car purchase price. You should take into account any dealer discounts or entry fees. It is also important to calculate with the same number of free kilometers when comparing.

Simone Bueb advises comparing offers very carefully, studying the terms and conditions and paying attention to hidden costs.

Is the car subscription a model with a future?

The car subscription will change the car business dramatically, believes Ferdinand Dudenhöffer: "In the future, dealers will no longer be needed to the extent that they are today because the costs of the car dealership are too high". The expert sees the subscription as a central concept for digital sales. Because it will enable the industry to market cars with a fraction of the current distribution costs and to offer them cheaper.

Car subscriptions are therefore also attractive in the long term because the so-called "residual value risk" is assumed by the provider. This means that if the value of the subscribed car has fallen drastically on the used car market, this does not mean a loss in value for subscribers because they simply return the car at the end of the contract period.

Can a car subscription promote the spread of e-cars?

A car subscription for an electric car, which almost all providers have in their range, creates an inexpensive and convenient opportunity to try out an electric car. Subscribers can gain experience, especially with regard to questions such as range, charging network or the usefulness of installing a wall box in their own garage. The car subscription acts as a kind of practical test.