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Car subscriptions in Canada

Read our guide to the flexible alternative to buying or leasing a car.

Buying a car is an expensive investment. Not only is there the purchase price to worry about, but you also need to cover the cost of registration, insurance and maintenance.

So if you’re only an occasional driver, or you only need a car for a short-term period, the long-term commitment and cost of car ownership might seem like an unnecessary hassle. That’s where a car subscription program comes in.

What is a car subscription program?

A car subscription program is an alternative to buying or leasing a car. As the name suggests, it allows you to pay a fee to use a late-model vehicle for a specified time. The subscription fee is usually paid monthly, and you often have the option to cancel at any time.

The fee covers the use of the vehicle and also includes other costs such as the following:

  • Insurance cover in case the car is involved in an accident, damaged or stolen.
  • Routine maintenance costs like oil changes
  • Registration
  • Roadside assistance

However, it doesn’t include expenses such as gas or charging an electric vehicle.

Car subscription programs are offered by third-party providers as well as some car manufacturers. It’s easy to sign up for a subscription online or via the provider’s mobile app. You can choose from sedans and SUVs as well as gas, hybrid and electric vehicles. If your driving needs change and you need to switch cars, that’s usually an option too.

Are car subscriptions a good idea?

It depends on your personal circumstances. A car subscription in Canada could be a good idea in the following scenarios:

  • If you don’t want the cost and commitment of buying a car. Buying a car is a substantial financial investment. You also need to cover ongoing costs like registration, insurance and maintenance. Car subscriptions combine these costs into your monthly payment, which means a lot less hassle for you.
  • If you need a car occasionally. If you only need a vehicle now and then, a car subscription could be a more cost-effective option than a long-term rental. For example, if you’re temporarily living and working in a different city for a few months, a car subscription could be a convenient solution.
  • If you want to drive new and different vehicles. When you buy a car, it doesn’t stay new for very long. A car subscription allows you to access new and recent models, while you can also swap to a different vehicle if your driving needs change.
  • If you want to try before you buy. Thinking of buying a specific car model? You can use a car subscription service to put it to the test in the real world first.

But there are other scenarios where a car subscription program simply doesn’t make sense. Situations where a car subscription may not be worth your while include the following:

  • If you need a car full-time. If you need a car to drive regularly for the long term, you’ll be better off financially if you buy or lease.
  • If you want to use the vehicle how you want. Many subscription services limit the number of kilometres you can drive per month, and they don’t allow you to make modifications to the vehicle.
  • If you don’t live in a major city. Car subscriptions are relatively new to Canada, so you may struggle to find a company that services your area.
  • If you haven’t been driving for long. You’ll need to satisfy a minimum age requirement (typically 21–26) to qualify for a subscription. Companies often also require you to have held your driver’s licence for a certain time or have one year or more of auto insurance history.

Car subscriptions in Canada available in 2023

You can sign up for a car subscription with Roam, Steer EV, ShiftRide and Porsche Drive. Learn more about how each subscription works below.

Roam

Roam AutoFounded in 2020, Roam is a Toronto-based car subscription service that provides access to over 40 models from more than 15 car manufacturers. Plans start from one month in length, and you can pick up the vehicle yourself or pay to have it delivered to your door.

  • How it works: Sign up for a Roam membership and choose the make and model you want. You can typically choose to pay by the month or sign up for a three-month plan. You can also customize your monthly mileage limit and cancel your subscription at any time after giving seven days’ notice.
  • Rental period: The rental period runs for a minimum of 30 days.
  • How much it costs: The cost varies depending on the vehicle you choose. The cost ranges from $771–$2,469 a month + HST, insurance and membership fee.
  • How payments work: You need to pay a $149 membership fee and a refundable deposit. Vehicle payments start on the day you collect your vehicle and you’re billed every 30 days. You can pay via credit card or pre-authorised debit.
  • What’s included: You get 2,000km mileage per month, comprehensive auto insurance, routine maintenance and 24/7 roadside assistance.
  • Types of cars available: You can choose from gas, hybrid and electric vehicles. Sedans, SUVs and pick-up trucks are available.
  • Canadian locations: Toronto
  • Eligibility requirements: You’ll need a valid Ontario G driver’s licence. You’ll also need to be 23 years of age or older, have at least one year of car insurance history and have no major criminal convictions or moving violations. You also cannot have more than one at-fault accident in the past three years.
  • Is Roam legit: Yes. Roam was founded in 2020 and is headquartered in Toronto. It has an active online presence and recent customer reviews on sites like Trustpilot and Google.

Pros

  • Easy sign-up process
  • Plenty of vehicles to choose from
  • Can customize a plan to suit your needs

Cons

  • Toronto only
  • Membership fee
  • Insurance deductibles start from $2,500

Steer EVPicture not described

Steer EV is a car subscription service that specializes in electric vehicles. It offers access to over 300 vehicles and has locations in Canada and the USA.

  • How it works: Download the Steer EV app and browse the available plans. Choose the plan and vehicle you want, then schedule a date and time for delivery. If you want to cancel your subscription, you’ll need to give 30 days’ notice.
  • Rental period: You pay by the month.
  • How much it costs: The cost varies depending on the vehicle and plan you choose.
  • How payments work: Payment is monthly via your credit card. You’ll be billed for your first payment on the day you take delivery of your vehicle.
  • What’s included: Insurance, routine servicing and maintenance, roadside assistance and a concierge service are all included. The plan you choose determines the vehicles and features available:
    • Preferred Plan: Two vehicle swaps a month and Tesla Model 3 available.
    • Preferred Plus Plan: Two vehicle swaps a month and choose from a Tesla Model Y or Jeep Wrangler 4xe Unlimited Rubicon.
    • Premier Performance Plan: Unlimited vehicle swaps per month and choose from a Tesla Model S, Tesla Model X or Jaguar I-PACE.
  • Types of cars available: You can choose a battery, plug-in or hybrid electric vehicle.
  • Canadian locations: Toronto, Vancouver.
  • Eligibility requirements: The primary subscriber must be 26 years old or older, while the secondary driver must be 23 or older.
  • Is Steer EV legit: Yes. Steer EV is a legitimate provider with headquarters in Washington, DC. It launched in Toronto in March 2021.

Pros

  • Vehicle swaps available
  • No upfront subscription activation fee
  • Free delivery
  • Easy way to try an EV

Cons

  • Not available in most areas
  • No vehicles for drivers who prefer gas vehicles
  • No pricing information available on the website

ShiftRideShiftride logo

ShiftRide is a car subscription marketplace where car owners and dealers can list their vehicles for other users to lease. As a subscriber, you can browse the available vehicles and find a subscription that meets your needs.

  • How it works: The owner who lists their car gets to set their terms such as the price, the length of the subscription, the mileage limit and other restrictions (such as whether pets or smoking are allowed in the vehicle). If you need a vehicle, you can browse the marketplace to find a vehicle near you with suitable terms and then reserve the model you want.
  • Rental period: This depends on the car owner.
  • How much it costs: The cost varies depending on the vehicle and subscription offered. You’ll also need to pay a refundable deposit (the amount varies based on the vehicle) when you subscribe.
  • How payments work: Payments are automatically charged to your credit card at least 24 hours before your subscription begins or renews.
  • What’s included: You get use of the vehicle, routine maintenance, ShiftRide support and insurance.
  • Types of cars available: The cars are less than 15 years old and have been driven less than 250,000km.
  • Canadian locations: Most of the cars are in Southern Ontario.
  • Eligibility requirements: You must be at least 19 years of age and hold a valid G2 or G driver’s licence (or equivalent if issued outside of Ontario/Canada). To qualify for ShiftRide’s insurance, you will also need to have no more than three tickets or major accidents in the past three years, have no more than three demerit points, have no major violations or alcohol/drug-related incidents in the past seven years and have not had an accident with ShiftRide. You also need to maintain a high ShiftRide rating.
  • Is ShiftRide legit: Yes. ShiftRide was founded in 2016 and is based in Toronto.

Pros

  • Wide range of vehicles available
  • Flexible terms available
  • Easy to use

Cons

  • Most listings are in Ontario
  • Cars are often older than those offered by other subscription companies

Porsche Driveporsche logo

Porsche Drive is a subscription program offered by Porsche Canada. You can choose from a monthly or three-month subscription and choose to drive either one model or the entire Porsche range. Porsche Drive also offers daily or weekly rentals through the Porsche Drive – Rental program.

  • How it works: Download the Porsche Drive app and sign up (or sign up on the Porsche Drive Montreal website if you live in Montreal). Choose a monthly subscription, then choose the vehicle you want and schedule a delivery time.
  • Rental period: You can rent for one month or three months with a single-vehicle subscription or monthly with a multi-vehicle subscription.
  • How much it costs: A single-vehicle subscription plan features a $750 activation fee (waived with a three-month plan). The cost ranges from $2,650 to $4,200 per month (plus taxes) depending on the vehicle. A multi-vehicle subscription plan features a $750 activation fee and costs $4,500 per month (plus taxes).
  • How payments work: Payment is via credit card. Your first payment is charged to your card when the delivery of your first vehicle is confirmed, and subsequent payments are charged monthly in advance.
  • What’s included: You get insurance, personal concierge, roadside assistance, vehicle maintenance, seasonal tire change and free delivery and pick-up (within 50km of participating Porsche dealership).
  • Types of cars available: Porsche.
  • Canadian locations: Toronto, Kelowna, Vancouver and Montreal.
  • Eligibility requirements: You must be 25 years old or older, have a valid driver’s licence and a clean driving record.
  • Is Porsche Drive legit: Yes. Porsche Canada runs this program.

Pros

  • Access to luxury vehicles
  • Unlimited vehicle swaps
  • Complimentary delivery and pick-up available

Cons

  • Not cheap
  • Not available in all locations
  • $2,500 insurance deductible

Car subscriptions in Canada: Shifting gears from car ownership?

In the post-pandemic world, Canadians may be starting to think twice about whether they need to own a car. New vehicle sales in Canada in 2022 reached their lowest level since 2009, according to DesRosiers Automotive Consultants Inc.

A total of 1.49 million new vehicles were sold in 2022, a 9.1% decline from 2021. However, the COVID-19 fallout wasn’t the only factor behind this drop in sales, with supply chain issues and uncertain economic conditions also having an impact.

COVID-induced supply shortages have also resulted in rising car prices for new and used vehicles. In December 2022, Canadian Black Book reported that the average listing price for used vehicles was more than $36,000 – a significant investment for most people and a good reason why you might want to consider a car subscription if you don’t need a long-term vehicle.

How much do car subscriptions in Canada cost?

There are several factors that can affect the cost of car subscriptions in Canada, such as the following:

  • The make and model you choose. A high-end luxury vehicle costs more than an entry-level sedan, while you’ll also pay more to use a seven-seater SUV than a small hatchback.
  • Any extras. If you want to add additional mileage to your plan or sign up extra drivers, you’ll need to pay for the privilege.
  • The company you choose. In addition to the base subscription fee, you’ll also need to consider any sign-up fees and security deposits that apply.

As a general guide, expect prices to start at around $900 a month for an entry-level or older-model vehicle. However, choose a premium model, and you could pay $2,000 or more per month.

Who is eligible for car subscriptions?

Eligibility requirements vary between car subscription services. However, as a general rule, you will need to meet the following criteria:

  • Be a Canadian resident.
  • Hold a valid driver’s licence.
  • Meet a minimum age requirement (often 23 or older).
  • Have at least one year of car insurance history.
  • Have a clean driving record.

Factors to consider when choosing the best car subscription

  • Cost. Compare similar vehicles across different providers to find the best price. However, don’t forget to check for any hidden fees that may apply, such as sign-up or car delivery costs, and find out how much you’ll have to put down as a security deposit.
  • What’s included. Read up on what features are included in your monthly subscription fee, such as insurance cover, registration costs and basic vehicle maintenance. Also check whether there’s anything you’ll pay extra for, such as more mileage or adding an extra driver.
  • Vehicles available. The best car subscription service for you will offer access to the type of vehicle(s) you want to drive. Browse the inventory to make sure any type of vehicle you need will be available.
  • Area serviced. Look for a car subscription company that offers vehicles in your area. You may struggle to find a suitable service if you don’t live in a major city.
  • Mileage limit. Check the maximum distance you’re allowed to drive per month to make sure it’s adequate for your needs.
  • Flexibility to swap vehicles. Next, check whether you can swap to a different vehicle if your needs change. Is there a limit to how many swaps you can make? Is there a fee attached?
  • Insurance. Take a look at the insurance included with your subscription. What does it cover, what’s excluded and how much will you need to pay out of your own pocket in the event of a claim? If you’re not happy with the cover, can you provide your own insurance?
  • Cancellation policy. Check whether you can cancel the subscription at any time, and how much notice you have to give to do so.
  • Reviews. Finally, check what previous customers have to say about the company on independent review sites. Do they recommend it or have any complaints?

Steps to get a car via car subscription

Once you’ve found the best car subscription company for your needs, here’s what you need to do to sign up.

1. Browse cars

Start by browsing cars in the subscription company’s inventory. Use filters to narrow down to specific manufacturers, body styles, fuel types and seating capacities.

Tip: Found a car you like? Check the fine print closely to make sure it has everything you want, such as Android Auto/Apple CarPlay, automatic transmission and key safety tech.

2. Choose your car and customize your subscription

When you’ve found the car you want, make sure you add any extras you need to your subscription. For example, you might want more monthly mileage or to add a second driver to your plan.

Tip: Don’t forget to check what the car subscription company’s insurance covers. Find out what situations and damage it covers, and read up on how much you’ll have to pay (the deductible) if a claim is made on the policy.

3. Review the total cost and sign up

Now it’s time to organize a time to collect your car and have it delivered. Before you pay, make sure you review the total cost of your monthly subscription – plus any extra fees and charges – so you know exactly what to expect.

Tip: Check whether insurance, registration and maintenance costs are included in the subscription fee. Be aware that you’ll often be required to pay a refundable security deposit, while a sign-up fee may also apply.

4. Get your vehicle

You may be able to collect the vehicle from the company’s lot, but in other cases, the company will deliver it to your door. However, keep in mind that a delivery fee may apply. Make sure you’re aware of any requirements you must satisfy before returning the vehicle, such as filling up the gas tank.

Tip: Take your time to thoroughly inspect the vehicle and paperwork. Take photos of any damage to the vehicle and make sure it’s reflected in the paperwork before you take possession of the car.

What documents will I need to provide?

The exact documentation required depends on the car subscription service you choose. However, you may be asked to provide the following:

  • Your driver’s licence.
  • Proof of address.
  • Details of your car insurance history.
  • Bank statements showing your income.

Car subscriptions vs car sharing vs car leasing vs car ownership

How does a car subscription differ from car sharing services? And how do both of those options stack up against the more traditional approach of buying or leasing a car? Check out the table below for help working out which option is right for you.

Car subscriptionCar sharingCar leasingCar ownership
How often you driveOften, but you only need a car for a limited time (e.g. a few months)Occasionally, such as for a day trip or a weekendFrequentlyFrequently
How long you need a car forOngoing but short term (typically 1–12 months)A few hours to a few daysLong termLong term
Can you change vehicles?Yes, but there may be limits on the number of vehicle swaps per monthYes, you can choose the vehicle you want as neededYes, at the end of the leaseNo
Can you make vehicle modifications?NoNoNoYes
Affordability
  • Yes, if you need to use a car regularly but for a limited time
  • No, if you’re looking for a vehicle to use long term
  • Yes, for occasional use
  • No, if you frequently need access to a car
  • Yes, for long-term, regular use
  • No, if you only drive occasionally
  • Yes, for long-term, regular use
  • No, if you only drive occasionally

Summary: Pros and cons of car subscriptions in Canada

Pros

  • Flexible and convenient. A car subscription gives you the flexibility to drive a recent-model vehicle whenever you want but without the significant investment buying a car requires. You also don’t have to worry about paying for regular servicing to maintain the manufacturer’s warranty.
  • Easy to sign up. It’s quick and easy to sign up for a car subscription online. You can register within minutes, and some providers don’t require you to complete a credit check.
  • Avoid the hassle of buying a car. Using a car subscription service allows you to avoid the stress of negotiating the best purchase price, getting the best price for your trade-in or paying interest on a car loan.
  • Avoid car ownership costs. When you own a car, insurance, registration and maintenance costs add up to a significant amount each year. With a car subscription, you don’t have to budget for these sizable bills. Learn more about the cost of owning a car.
  • You don’t have to worry about depreciation. As the old saying goes, a new car starts losing value as soon as you drive it off the dealer’s lot. So regardless of whether you buy outright or finance your car, you end up paying a lot more for it than it ends up being worth. But with a car subscription, you simply pay a monthly fee to cover the car’s short-term running costs.
  • Use different vehicles. A car subscription service allows you to change to a different vehicle. So if you need more space, better performance or want to switch from gas to electric, you can.
  • Try before you buy. Want to know what it’s like to drive an electric vehicle? Thinking of buying a big SUV but don’t know whether you’ll feel comfortable driving such a large vehicle? A car subscription program gives you the chance to take an extended test drive without any long-term commitment.

Cons

  • High costs. The cost of insurance, registration and maintenance are all built into your monthly subscription fee. Add in a sign-up fee and you could be looking at a significant cost to take out a car subscription.
  • Mileage limits. Most companies have a monthly limit on the distance you can drive a vehicle. If you frequently drive long distances, this kilometre allowance might not be enough for your needs.
  • Driver restrictions. You’ll typically need to be above a certain age limit, meet driver’s licence requirements and have previous insurance history to be eligible for a subscription.
  • Dead money. A car may be a depreciating asset, but it’s still an asset. But if you sign up for a car subscription, once you give the car back, you won’t have anything to show for the money you spent.
  • Insurance deductible. Insurance against accidents, theft and damage is typically included as part of a car subscription. However, you may need to pay a large deductible in the event of an insurance claim, so it’s worth checking the fine print before you sign up.
  • Security deposit. Car subscription companies typically require a security deposit. This is often $1,000 or more, and while it’s refunded once you return the vehicle in perfect condition, it’s another cost you’ll need to budget for.

Bottom line

Car subscriptions in Canada are a viable alternative to buying or leasing a vehicle – but only in specific circumstances. If you need a car you can drive regularly, but you don’t want or need the long-term commitment or high cost of car ownership, compare car subscription services to find the right one for your needs.

Frequently asked questions

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