New Cars? There’s a Subscription Service for That

Whether it's dog treats, beauty products, or ingredients for dinner, subscription boxes are here to stay. At least, that's the feeling of automakers, which are starting to offer something like a subscription model for getting a car.

With plans starting at $600 per month, Volvo will cover all costs but the gas for a brand-new XC40, its latest compact SUV. That includes not just the car itself and any associated taxes and delivery fees, but insurance and a "concierge" service too. It may sound like a lease, but it's not; you don't own the car after a certain point. That might not be a bad thing.

"[A] subscription is entirely different that because it solves for a bunch of wider things in actually owning a car," Volvo chief digital officer Atif Rafiq told Engadget. "It's not just getting the car, it's maintaining it, it's paying for additional things it needs like insurance. That's all that in one flat fee is something simpler but is also more transparent."

Volvo isn't the first to try car subscriptions. Both Cadillac and Ford are building similar programs, but Care by Volvo eliminates early enrollment fees or down payments. The package also includes roadside assistance, damage protection for tires and wheels, factory-scheduled maintenance, and replacements for parts that wear out, like windshield wipers.

Subscriptions last for two years at a time, and are probably best for those with equally short-term needs for a car. If you're in the market for a vehicle and want to budget in as airtight a way as possible, a plan like this might offer the fewest surprises.