One thing that I enjoy is seeing how different industries handle changes in technology and social expectations for shopping and ownership. The auto industry, in particular, can be fascinating as sometimes it will lag well behind other markets, while at other times, it takes bold steps to try new things and innovate in unexpected ways. Recently, Volvo has launched its Care by Volvo program, which is essentially an evolution of the idea of leasing, providing drivers with an opportunity to use a car on a subscription basis.
It’s not quite as cut and dry as that, of course, but the idea of subscription-based vehicle use is certainly a fascinating one. Seeing a major manufacturer try it out with a program like Care by Volvo is impressive, and I’m sure other companies are watching how it goes with great interest. Today, I’m going to take you through the new Care by Volvo program and talk about everything involved with it, its pros and cons, and how it could impact the auto industry at large. Is this the first step for a subscription-based auto industry? Or merely a twist on standard lease options that fails to be truly revolutionary? Let’s find out…
What is Care by Volvo?
Essentially, Care by Volvo is a vehicle subscription service that allows you to drive a new Volvo for up to two years and then return the vehicle at the end of the contract. That probably sounds a lot like a lease to you, and that’s because it is a lot like a lease, but we’ll compare the two concepts in more detail down below. What really sets Care by Volvo apart, however, is that it’s all-inclusive in terms of what you pay for: you pay one bill, and it includes the use of the vehicle, insurance, scheduled maintenance, and roadside assistance.
This inclusive contract is really where the subscription idea comes into play. You can think of it like you’re subscribing to a Volvo vehicle and enjoying it each month. There are restrictions, of course, but overall you’re free to enjoy it how you would any other vehicle you’re driving.
How does Care by Volvo Work?
In theory, it’s quite simple: sign up online, provide your credit history, and if you’re approved, then you choose a vehicle with negotiation-free pricing. Much like with a lease, your financial background and credit history will come into play – but since Care by Volvo includes insurance, your driving record can also impact whether you’re approved or not. You can shop from a wide range of different Volvo models, choosing the model, features, and even the color that you want. Then, assuming you’re approved, you can either choose to pick up your vehicle at a Volvo dealer near you or have it delivered to you.
The entire process is pretty quick overall, though it takes about two weeks for you to be able to get your vehicle after approval. Once you have the vehicle, you’re free to enjoy it and drive up to 1,250 miles every month – going over that limit will cost you $0.25 per mile at the end of your subscription. Volvo provides you with the information you need to register your vehicle, including proof of insurance, and all you do is pay one bill each month to enjoy your ride.
Even though this is a subscription-based model for using a vehicle, you’re still set into a two-year contract for the subscription. At the end of the two years, you return the vehicle and pay anything necessary due to excess miles or wear and tear, though you’re covered for up to $1,000 of excess wear on the vehicle. One thing I really like about this, however, is that after four months into the program, you can cancel your subscription or even change to a different vehicle if the one you chose turns out to be not quite right.
Care by Volvo: Pros and Cons
Overall, there’s a lot to like about the Care by Volvo program, and while it’s probably not right for everyone, there are going to be drivers that it does work well for. Let’s quickly summarize the pros and cons, in case you’re interested but not sure if it’s right for you.
- Consolidated monthly car payment
- Flexible subscription period
- High monthly mileage limit
- Factory scheduled maintenance included
- Tire and wheel protection included
- 24/7 Roadside Assistance included
- Change vehicles after 4 months
- Includes Gap coverage
- Monthly mileage limit
- No option to purchase additional mileage
- Set insurance plan – no changes to coverage
- Not available in CA, FL, HI, MS, NC, ND, NY, and SD
- Requires excellent credit and driving record
- Not available for business use
- Trade-ins cannot be applied to Care by Volvo
As you can see, there are a fair number of both advantages and disadvantages to choosing Care by Volvo compared to any other way to get a vehicle. It really does come down to what you’re looking for and what kind of terms would work well for you.
Subscription vs Lease
At first glance, Care by Volvo seems a lot like a lease, which is fair because they’re certainly similar. With a Volvo lease, you’re typically set into a three-year contract, with pretty much no flexibility to it. You pay each month for the lease, but you still have to cover your own insurance costs, as well as routine maintenance, tire replacements, and other expenses. When you return the vehicle at the end of the three years, you’ll have to pay for excess wear and mileage on the vehicle during that time, though you have the option to buy the Volvo if you want.
With Care by Volvo, the subscription term is only two years, rather than three, and if you want to cancel or change vehicles after the first four months, you’re free to do so. That’s a level of flexibility you definitely don’t get with a lease – plus, as we’ve seen, other costs like insurance, scheduled maintenance, tire replacements, and more are covered by the subscription. While you do have to pay for excess mileage at the end of the subscription, you’re covered for some wear and tear. You are also free, with Care by Volvo, to purchase the vehicle if you want.
So, you can see there are definitely some similarities here, but also enough to set this subscription model apart. Is this going to replace leases at some point in the future? Well…
Is Care by Volvo the Future of the Industry?
This will definitely depend on how successful this program is with drivers, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see this kind of subscription leasing take off and become very successful. Much like standard leasing, I don’t think it will fully replace owning a vehicle – too many people prefer that level of freedom – but I could see it becoming the new model for leasing. That being said, it could also become the new norm.
After all, there was a time when people wanted to own physical media: records, tapes, CDs, VHS, DVD, Blu-Ray, etc. But now, digital “ownership” has become much more popular, along with streaming rather than ever buying a physical item. So, similarly, perhaps vehicle subscriptions will become the standard at some point in the future, with cars just becoming another ephemeral commodity that you never really own, you just use.
If I told you 20 years ago that Blockbuster Video was dead and everyone just streams their media, you’d have said I was crazy. Perhaps in 20 or 50 years, the idea of buying a car instead of subscribing to one will seem just as outdated? Stranger things have happened.