Car Subscription Services

The opportunity to change cars like you change clothes is now possible.  For a monthly fee, car subscription services are an alternative to motor vehicle buying and leasing.

With an upfront fee is usually involved, the monthly fee covers the car payment, insurance, maintenance, and roadside assistance.  Subscribers can manage their plan online with the vehicle delivered to your home.

Car manufacturers that offer this service are Cadillac, Ford, Volvo and Porsche. Other companies specializing in offering a variety of makes and models are Fair, Flexdrive, Clutch and Carma.

Unlike leasing for 24 or 36 months, car subscription can be for as short as a month. However, some programs require a two-year contract, and only allow a trade-in (exchange) after 12 months.

The greatest benefit is the “negotiation-free” way of obtaining a car. And, if you don’t like the car, you can get a different vehicle. Car subscribers are reminded it’s not your car.  Smoking is usually prohibited and pets should be kept in carriers.  Not all cars are brand new but most are low mileage and less than six years old.

For additional information on car subscriptions, click here.

Teaching Suggestions

  • Have students talk to two or three others to obtain their opinions on the benefits and concerns of car subscription services.
  • Have students compare cost of various car subscription services with buying or leasing a vehicle.

Discussion Questions 

  1. What do you believe are the benefits and drawbacks of using a car subscription service?
  2. Describe life situations that might be most attracted to using a car subscription service.

Vending Machines for Cars?

Believe it or not, you can buy a car from a vending machine.  Carvana has created an eight-story high glass structure holding 30 cars. The online auto retailer opened its first vehicle vending machine in Nashville, Tennessee, and also has locations in Austin, Houston, and San Antonio, Texas. Payment, financing, and trade-ins are arranged online.  Free delivery is offered in the areas served.  However, buyers have the option of receiving an oversized Carvana coin to drop in a slot to automatically move the car to the delivery bay ready to drive.

For additional information on Carvana, click here.

Teaching Suggestions

  • Have students search for a website or app related to car buying services that was not available a few years ago.
  • Have students talk with others about their car buying experiences. Ask students to propose an app or website that would improve car buying activities.

Discussion Questions 

  1. What benefits are associated with this type of motor vehicle buying process?
  2. Describe common mistakes people might make when buying a motor vehicle?

Auto Dealer Financing

You want a car and need financing, but your credit isn’t so great.  Most dealerships have a Finance and Insurance (F&I) Department that will tell you about their financing options.  To get the process started, the F&I Department will ask you to complete a credit application, which includes your monthly income and information on current credit accounts, including debt you owe.

At least that is how it’s supposed to work.  But there have been reports that some dealers inflate your income information for the financing without your knowledge.  That can cause you serious financial harm.  You could be saddled with car financing that you can’t afford to repay.  That means your car could be repossessed and your credit score could take a hit.

The Federal Trade Commission has a few tips to help you avoid unscrupulous finance deals:

  • Consider your options for financing. You might be able to arrange financing directly with a credit union or finance company before you pick a car.
  • Research the dealer before visiting the sales lot. Check the dealer’s reputation online by searching for the company’s name with words like “scam,” “rip-off,”or “complaint.”
  • If a dealer encourages you to overstate your income, take it as a sign that the dealer is not reputable, and leave the dealership.
  • Ask to see the credit application, completely filled out, before you sign it. Make sure your income and other personal information is correctly listed.

For more information, click here.

Discussion Questions

  1. Why is it important to consider other sources of financing before visiting an auto dealer?
  2. What might be the consequences if an auto dealer inflates your income?

Teaching Suggestions

  1. Have students visit an auto dealership to gain additional insight into this high-cost financing service.
  2. Have students make a short presentation with a summary of their findings.