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How Electric Car Subscriptions Are Transforming Mobility

tesla in an electric charging station

September 28, 2022

How Electric Car Subscriptions Are Transforming Mobility

In March 2019, tech luminary Kara Swisher threw down the gauntlet on mobility when she proclaimed in the New York Times, “I will die before I buy another car.” Swisher argued that “owning a car will soon be like owning a horse,” noting the rise of car-sharing and ride-hailing apps, electric scooters, and autonomous driving.

I agree that mobility is heading away from ownership, but I would add another force accelerating this trend to Swisher’s list: subscriptions, especially those focused on electric cars. Subscriptions will provide many of the benefits Swisher ascribes to, say, ride-hailing — ongoing maintenance costs, dealership negotiations, and long-term debt will go away. But they also provide the convenience of a car at your fingertips, something anyone who’s waited 20 minutes for an Uber will appreciate.

Subscriptions will supersede buying and leasing cars, and electric cars are quickly replacing internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles. Electric car subscriptions combine these trends. They will eliminate the hassles of car ownership and leasing, free consumers from long-term debt, and severely reduce the burden cars have historically inflicted on the planet. In which case, owning a car really might end up seeming as “quaint” as buying a horse.

Eliminate the Hassles of Buying or Leasing a Car

Even if you’re not yet convinced that owning a car is old-fashioned, you probably agree that the process to loan or lease one is less than pleasurable. From facing pushy salespeople to parsing confusing paperwork while wasting hours of your time at a dealership, it’s not exactly anyone’s favorite way to spend an afternoon. And if you feel pleased that you’ve gotten your desired price for a car, just wait until the last-minute pitches for warranties and upgrades.

From Reddit posts titled “Another rant about car dealerships” to “Car dealership war stories,” it’s clear that American consumers are getting fed up with an unfair system designed to take advantage of them. While it used to be a given that negotiating was a necessary step in buying or leasing a car, younger generations are rejecting that notion. As we saw in many retail industries, online car buying proliferated in the pandemic and shows no sign of stopping. 

Embracing online commerce, subscriptions are meeting consumers in the modern era with fully digital signups, easy account management, and swift vehicle delivery, eliminating the need for awkward dealership confrontations or long waits for new wheels. And with a fixed monthly subscription payment, you’ll never have to worry about surprise fees or any other unexpected price hikes. Some car subscription services even cover supplementary costs like title, registration, and acquisition fees, resulting in a transparent monthly payment that streamlines finances for the driver. 

Free Yourself of Long-Term Debt

The full picture involves more than just quick, online access to cars doing away with antiquated dealership headaches or months-long waits for new vehicles. Nearly 80% of Americans are in consumer debt, averaging above $50,000 per person. Auto loans are the third largest contributor to this growing problem, behind mortgages and student loans. Given the average cost to buy a new car in 2022 is a whopping $47,000, combined with lease payments hitting record highs amid inventory shortages in an inflationary market, neither buying nor leasing looks all that great for the budget.

Why should mobility continue to further exacerbate our nation’s record-setting debt? 

Car subscription services are answering this question with alternatives to financing your vehicle. Offering month-to-month access to a car and flexible commitment terms, they let you avoid long-term debt by paying as you go for as long as you need the car, and they won’t penalize you for walking away if your situation changes. Compared to a lease’s steep penalties for ending your term early or the hassle of selling your depreciated asset if you purchased the vehicle, a subscription service provides financial flexibility to match the changing world. 

Both car leasing and a loan to purchase lock you into years of payments the moment you sign on the dotted line, with scarce options for getting out of that commitment. Prices are even more stark in the electric vehicle (EV) market, where a new car rings in at an average of $54,000. Subscription services help you dodge both long-term debt and a hefty upfront price tag, getting behind the wheel on your terms and keeping the vehicle for the period of time that makes sense for you. 

Reduce the Environmental Impact of Driving

The future of mobility isn’t just about doing better for consumers; it’s about consumers doing better for the Earth. Transportation is the largest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions in the US. EVs offer a way forward, but prohibitive prices for buying and leasing box some conscious citizens out of participating in a global movement toward cleaner energy practices. EV subscriptions, such as the California-based service Autonomy, are filling this gap and democratizing access to the country’s most popular EV brand, Tesla. 

With customizable payment plans, Autonomy empowers drivers to save money while getting behind the wheel of a Tesla in days or weeks rather than the automaker’s standard months-long wait. You can sign up for the subscription on your phone, and after Autonomy’s minimum three-month subscription term, you can give up the car penalty-free with just a 28-day notice. 

In 1998, when Swisher gave up her landline in favor of the relatively new cell phone, she was years ahead of the curve on what is now a pretty standard household decision. If her instincts more than two decades ago are any indicator of her predictive prowess today, the auto industry is in for a sea change. By combining the flexible, forward-thinking model of subscriptions with cutting-edge EV technology, companies like Autonomy are making good on the journalist’s prediction.

Picture of Baylor Knobloch

Baylor Knobloch

Baylor is an experienced storyteller working as a writer and editor for Sharp Pen with a background in journalism and media production. When not crafting tech communications, she writes and edits for online publications In The Know and Humor Darling. Baylor earned her BA at Brown University.

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