Movies, TV and newspapers all offer subscriptions as simple and convenient ways of utilizing their services over a period of time — even when that period of time is right now, in some cases. I personally have my favorite periodicals delivered to my doorstep each month, enjoy free shipping for goods that my family buys and even dine on an almost-daily choice of prepared meals each week. It’s a business model that has been around for quite some time, and many consumers like it.
Due to the new ways people are using cars, automotive subscription services are becoming available as well. Luxury automakers BMW and Mercedes-Benz just announced at the 2018 North American International Auto Show that they plan to launch vehicle subscription pilots this year. Premium car-maker Volvo currently has a service called Care by Volvo that allows customers to subscribe to a new XC40 crossover for a period of 24 months with all insurances, taxes and fees included, starting at $600 per month.
Now if that’s a bit too rich for your blood, there’s another new entry in this sector that’s slightly less premium, called Flexdrive.
Here’s how Jose Puente, co-founder of Flexdrive, describes the service:
"Flexdrive is a vehicle subscription software and services platform. Vehicle subscription as defined by Flexdrive for consumers is the ability to access a car on-demand via a mobile app with a simple approval process that requires no long-term financial contracts. The subscription includes the car, insurance and service and maintenance. Subscribers can swap vehicles as their needs change."
Flexdrive provides on-demand usage of any number of vehicles, with insurance, maintenance and all other fees included. The service allows you to choose a late-model vehicle from their fleet for either a weekly or monthly term, and you have the flexibility to swap vehicles when your needs change, with no long-term financial contracts.
So here’s how it works.
Flexdrive currently has partnerships with local dealers in Atlanta, Georgia, Austin, Texas, and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, as well as Cherry Hill and Turnersville in New Jersey. All interaction is done via a free mobile app for your Android or iOS smartphone. An initial registration is required where you agree to the terms and create a profile. This is done by scanning your driver’s license and credit card with your phone, and then all of your information is uploaded to Flexdrive via the cloud. We went through the whole process and found it to be fairly quick and easy, with approval taking only six minutes once our information was uploaded. In fact, the most time-consuming part was taking the required selfie, as I had difficulty lining up my face in the app’s provided frame.
Besides a valid driver’s license and credit card, you’ll need a personal mobile phone to receive alerts, and a refundable $250 reservation deposit; you must also be at least 25 years old with a clean driving history. There are no credit checks, long-term commitments or down payments required.
We searched through the app in Atlanta. Most vehicles listed in the Atlanta area were of the fuel-efficient variety, yet there was a 2016 RAM 1500 pickup available. Pricing started at $189 per week for a 2014 Corolla or other comparable compact cars and went as high as $259 per week for the RAM. While many of the makes and models at each location were similar, I did find some variety in the types of vehicles offered, such as minivans, small crossovers and even some premium cars, depending upon the Flexdrive location. For example, Philadelphia has a 2017 Toyota Yaris for $159, as well as a 2016 Acura ILX for $229. If these prices sound a little high, remember, this includes insurance and vehicle maintenance, and there’s no extra fee for changing vehicles if you find you don’t like one or your needs change. Also, there’s no credit check. You can also take a break if you’re out of town or don’t need a car for a period of time.
So now I can add cars to my weekly dinner and monthly magazine subscriptions. I’ve been pleased with the latter for quite a while, and like those more familiar subscription services, Flexdrive seems simple enough. The next step is to actually go get some cars and see how that part of the process works.
Flexdrive is partially owned by Cox Automotive, the parent company of Autotrader.