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Car ownership vs. carsharing vs. car subscription

The right option for you could depend on how often you drive and where you live.

Having access to a car is a necessity for most people, but the rise of carsharing and car subscription services means you now have alternatives to traditional car ownership. But if you drive often, you may be better off sticking with a car loan. Learn how to compare car ownership vs. carsharing vs. a car subscription service in this guide by comparing the benefits, cons and costs of each option.

At a glance: Car ownership vs. carsharing vs. a car subscription

When deciding between car ownership, carsharing and a car subscription it’s important to ask yourself the right questions about your vehicle needs. Use the table below to compare features of each option.

CarsharingCar ownershipCar subscription
When do you need a car?
  • Occasionally (e.g. for weekends or trips away)
  • Immediately and can’t wait for one to be available
  • Immediately and can’t wait for one to be available
How long do you need a car for?
  • Hours to a few days
  • Long-term
  • Ongoing as long as you’re subscribed
Flexibility to change vehicles?
  • Yes. Choose vehicle type as needed
  • No. Once you choose a car, you’re stuck with it
  • Yes. You can often change vehicles as needed
Is it affordable?
  • Yes for occasional use
  • No for long trips or daily use
  • Yes for long-term, regular use
  • No if only used occasionally
  • Varies but subscription fees can get expensive

What is carsharing?

Carsharing is a form of car rental that lets customers use a vehicle on a short-term basis, whether that’s for a couple of hours, days or weeks. The cars are either owned by companies, like Zipcar, or by individual owners who rent out their vehicles when they don’t need them.

Pros of carsharing

  • Only pay for a car when you need it. You have the flexibility to choose when and for how long you rent the car.
  • Range of vehicles to choose from. Most carsharing services have a range of vehicles available, meaning you can choose different vehicles for different occasions.
  • Not responsible for repairs and maintenance. You don’t need to pay for repairs or servicing.

Cons carsharing

  • Choice of vehicles may be limited. You may find the type of vehicle you want isn’t available when you need it.
  • Vehicle pickup. You generally need to pick up and drop off the vehicle from a designated area, which may be inconvenient or prohibitive depending on your location.
  • Availability depends on where you live. Car sharing programs are popular in urban areas where there are many convenient pick-up and drop-off locations. But if you live in a more rural area or even a more rural suburban area, this option may not be available.

Costs of carsharing

  • Security deposit. You’re generally charged a security deposit that’s refunded if you return the car in good working condition.
  • Rental cost. Your payment covers the lease of the car and varies depending on the type of vehicle you rent.
  • Fees. You may be charged fees for driving long distances, getting the car dirty, returning it without a full tank of gas and a host of other reasons.
  • Fuel. You generally have to cover the cost of gas and need to refill the tank before returning the vehicle.

What is car ownership?

Car ownership involves purchasing a vehicle outright, either by using your own cash or by getting a car loan. The car is considered your personal asset, and you’re free to use it as you wish. You can also sell the car at any time, as long as you’ve paid off your loan. If you go this route, it’s helpful to figure out how much you can should spend on your vehicle considering both cash and loan options.

Pros of car ownership

  • Ongoing access to vehicle. As the owner, you have complete use of the car whenever you need it.
  • Greater choice of vehicle. You can choose whatever vehicle you want that suits your needs and aren’t limited to the selection of vehicles available on a sharing or subscription service.
  • The car is your asset. You can sell the car whenever you wish and use the funds for something else.

Cons of car ownership

  • Depreciating value. Cars are generally a depreciating asset and lose value over time. If you plan on selling your car, you’ll likely get less than what you originally paid for it.
  • Limited to one type of vehicle. Unless you also purchase another car or use a carsharing or subscription service as well, you’ll be limited to just the one type of vehicle you choose to buy.
  • Repair and maintenance costs. As the owner of the car, you’re responsible for all ongoing repairs, which can be expensive. You also need to cover the costs of registration and insurance.
  • Cost of finance. If you need to get a car loan to purchase the vehicle, you’ll also need to cover the cost of repaying the loan.

Costs of car ownership

  • Purchase price of the vehicle. This is the biggest single cost of car ownership and can be covered by either your own savings, a car loan or a combination of the two.
  • Repairs and maintenance. You’re responsible for paying for all necessary repairs and servicing the car needs.
  • Registration and insurance. You need to have the car registered and meet your province’s minimum insurance requirements to drive.
  • Fuel. You need to cover the cost of gas.
  • Cost of financing. If you use a car loan to purchase your vehicle, you’ll need to make monthly payments.

Is carsharing cheaper than owning a car?

The answer to that question really depends on how much you drive. In many cases, carsharing can be cheaper than owning a car, but that’s generally only possible if you drive short distances and infrequently. If you have to commute a relatively long distance to work every day, or have a busy family, then owning a car will likely be the cheaper option.

To determine which option is cheaper based on your lifestyle you should not only consider how much you drive, but also the total cost of car ownership (e.g. gas, insurance, maintenance, car payments, etc.) and compare that to the cost of using a rideshare service like Uber or Lyft to wherever you regularly go.

    Compare financing options for car ownership

    As you’re deciding between car ownership vs. car sharing and subscription services, it’s important to consider a variety of car loan options to make sure you’re getting an accurate picture of the financing rates you could qualify for. Compare car loan features from reputable Canadian lenders in the table below. Once you’ve narrowed down your options, click the green button to find out about preapproval.

    Name Product Min. Loan Amount Interest Rate Loan Term Min. Credit Score Requirements Table description
    Loans Canada Car Loans
    0% to 29.99%
    3-96 months
    Min. income of $1,800 /month, 3+ months employed
    Get access to financing from multiple lenders across Canada through a single application with Loans Canada. Bad credit, CERB and EI borrowers are considered.
    3.99% to 29.99%
    12-96 months
    Min. income of $1,800 /month, 1+ months employed
    Available in Ontario only.
    Browse thousands of available vehicles and apply online from the comfort of your own home. Receive confirmation of your financing options and get your new vehicle delivered to your door anywhere in Ontario free of charge. All credit scores considered.
    CarsFast Car Loans
    4.90% to 29.90%
    12-96 months
    Min. income of $1,800 /month, 3+ months employed
    Browse thousands of vehicles from dealers across Canada and get matched with financing that meets your needs. Apply online to purchase a new or used vehicle and get the vehicle delivered to your door.
    Coast Capital Car Loan
    18-84 months
    Able to service debt payment of $300/month
    Finance or lease both new and used vehicles with competitive rates and flexible terms from one of Canada's largest credit unions. No credit union membership required for this product.
    Canadian Auto News
    3.99% to 29.95%
    12-84 months
    Min. income of $2,000 /month, 3+ months employed
    Answer a few simple questions to get matched with affordable financing options. Auto loans are also available to those with bad credit, consumer proposals and bankruptcies to help rebuild credit.
    Car Loans Canada
    3.99% to 29.95%
    12-84 months
    Min. income of $2,000 /month, 3+ months employed
    Search thousands of vehicles online, including $0 down options, from dealers across the country and get matched with affordable financing options. Auto loans are also available to those with bad credit, consumer proposals and bankruptcies to help rebuild credit.
    LoanConnect Car Loans
    9.90% to 46.96%
    3-120 months
    No min. income requirement
    Get access to 25+ lenders through LoanConnect's brokerage. Receive pre-approval in as fast as 60 seconds and get your funds in as little as 24 hours.
    Canada Auto Finance
    3-96 months
    Min. income of $1,500 /month, 3+ months employed
    Canada Auto Finance is a broker that connects borrowers with partnered local lenders. Financing for a new or used car is available for borrowers with bad credit, no credit, CERB, EI or bankruptcy.
    Carloans411 Car Loans
    1.90% to 19.99%
    Up to 72 months
    Min. income of $1,600 /month, 3+ months employed
    Get connected with suitable lenders through CarLoans411. Finance your next car, van or truck with loans available in amounts from $500 to $50,000. Check eligibility for this loan through LoanConnect.
    Fairstone Secured Personal Loan
    19.99% to 23.99%
    36-120 months
    Established credit history and own your home
    Fairstone offers secured personal loans up to $50,000.

    Compare up to 4 providers

    What is car subscription?

    A car subscription service, like Care by Volvo, is similar to carsharing, but gives you ongoing access to a vehicle in return for a regular payment. You can generally choose from a range of brands and vehicle types, and may be able to switch vehicles as you wish. Most car subscription services have no fixed contracts, and you can cancel your subscription when you want.

    You will generally make a single weekly or monthly payment, which covers all registration, insurance and maintenance.

    Pros of car subscription

    • Ongoing access to a vehicle as long as you need it. Unlike carsharing, you have exclusive access to a vehicle for as long as you remain subscribed.
    • Ability to change vehicles as you need. Some subscription services let you swap your vehicle when you want.
    • No ongoing obligation. You’re generally able to cancel your subscription at any time, or at the end of the current billing period.

    Cons of car subscription

    • Can be expensive. The weekly or monthly subscription fee can often be quite high, and you don’t have the benefit of owning the car as an asset.
    • Vehicle choice may be limited. Like carsharing, the range of vehicles you can choose from will be smaller than if you were to buy a car.

    Costs of a car subscription service

    • Rental cost. Your subscription fee covers the cost of renting the vehicle and varies based on brand and class.
    • Fees. As with carsharing, you could be charged fees if you return the vehicle in less-than-perfect condition.
    • Fuel. You also have to cover the cost of gas.
    • Security deposit. You may need to pay an initial deposit that’s returned once you cancel your subscription, provided you haven’t damaged the vehicle.

    What is the difference between car sharing and car rental?

    Both options allow you to access a car for a short amount of time. The key difference between carsharing and car rental is that carsharing is an essentially self-run and automated process. Renting a car usually involves reserving a car in advance, waiting in line, signing papers and paying at the car rental company’s physical location. Carsharing differs from car rental in that most of the process is done online or through a carsharing app, and can be done within minutes before picking up your car.

    Even if you appreciate the speed and convenience of carsharing, it’s important to consider that renting a car has some key benefits over car sharing too. When you rent from a car rental company you can be confident that the vehicle is mechanically sound, which may or may not be the case with a shared car. You’ll also have a bigger selection of vehicles to choose from at a car rental company.

    Bottom line

    Carsharing and car subscription services can offer savings and flexibility for people who only need access to a car occasionally or who want the variety of driving different vehicles. But if you use a car daily, you’ll likely be better off getting a car loan and purchasing a car of your own.

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