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UPDATED: May 21, 2020
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Car ownership is a facet of most people’s everyday lives. We rely on vehicles to get to and from work, travel and run our errands. Although some of us may rent a car when we’re out of town or our car is in the shop, it’s difficult to envision a world without needing to own a car, isn’t it?
You’ve probably heard about self-driving cars. They’re no longer a “how” so much as a “when.” In only a few short years, people will be able to relax behind the wheel and let their vehicles navigate the roads for them. But the car industry is taking things a step further.
Instead of having to scrape together enough money to buy your own self-driving vehicle, businesses want to give drivers the option of forgoing a big purchase with car subscription services.
Can’t afford a nice car? Tired of yours always breaking down? Crippled under the weight of your insurance premiums on top of your car payments?
Here’s what to expect as the new Netflix-era of subscriptions take over the road.
The world is changing — so should your car insurance. We’ve got the latest rates from the top providers in your area waiting to be discovered. Enter your zip code above and we’ll get you rates to compare fast.
Self-Driving Cars in 2018: Everything You Need to Know
Google was one of the first companies to introduce the general public to self-driving carts back in 2009. There were many oohs and aahs, but most people were skeptical the cars would ever be more than prototypes.
Fast-forward almost a decade and the Google self-driving car has become Waymo, a self-driving technology company that’s released the first autonomous cars to navigate public roads.
Recently, one of Waymo’s cars was involved in an accident that raised concerns about the safety of driverless vehicles. Google responded with a statement that the car involved was not in autonomous mode at the time of the collision and a human driver was to blame for the accident. Further police investigation confirmed the driver, not the car, to be at-fault.
Waymo isn’t the only name to know about when it comes to self-driving tech, though. Many of the automotive industry’s biggest brands like Tesla, Mercedes-Benz, and Ford are working on driverless models.
How do self-driving cars work?
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration adopted a list of the levels of autonomous driving from the Society of Automotive Engineers.
Modern cars with self-driving tech such as the 2017 Mercedes-Benz E-Class and Tesla Model S are equipped with assistance features that are a combination of adaptive cruise control, automatic steering, lane centering, and remote parking functionalities.
Cars with the abovementioned Autonomous Driving Technology are classified as level 1 or 2, with the Tesla Model S being the most well-known level 2 car currently on the market.
Waymo has tested multiple level-3 autonomous vehicles on public roads without a safety driver. These vehicles are capable of operating independently but require human intervention if unable to perform their tasks.
Level 4 and 5 driverless vehicles are designed to perform all major driving functions on their own. Level 4 vehicles are limited to operational design domain (ODD), which means they aren’t equipped to handle every type of terrain or driving scenario.
Level 5 autonomous vehicles are the type of most people think about when they hear the term “self-driving.”
At the highest level, these cars are fully capable of handling both typical and off-road environments with ease. The technology required for this type of functionality is a while off, so you’ll have to put your dream of autonomous off-roading on the backburner for now.
Self-Driving Car Subscription Services
Now that you’re caught up on the autonomous driving landscape, it’s time to tackle the big question. How are self-driving cars and subscription services going to change the future? Essentially, as driverless vehicles become more commonplace, people are going to rely less on their own manual vehicles and more on rideshare services like Lyft.
It makes sense. Why spend hundreds of dollars a month on car payments and insurance when you could sit back, relax and be shuttled to and from your destinations all for a fixed rate every month?
Lyft is testing a subscription service that would enable frequent riders to pay a flat-rate for fixed amount of rides every month.
“We are going to move the entire industry from one based on ownership, to one based on subscription,” Logan Green, Lyft CEO, said during a press event in March 2018. At $199 a month, unlimited Lyft rides (up to $15) would be included in a subscription package.
The average American driver spends $8,003 annually on vehicle ownership, according to the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics. This figure would be less if you didn’t buy a new car, obviously, but at the current standing, car subscription services would afford riders a massive discount on expenses and completely reshape the way Americans get around.
The Low-Down on Car Subscription Services
We’re in the age of subscription services. People phase out cable in favor of Netflix and Hulu; monthly fees give us unlimited access to our favorite music on and offline; subscription boxes offer customers new, exciting products delivered right to their doorstep every month.
Car subscription services follow a similar model of pay-as-you-go car insurance. Rather than own a vehicle or lease one out, drivers can pay vendors an all-inclusive monthly fee to have access to a car, insurance, roadside assistance, and maintenance services.
Moreover, drivers wouldn’t be stuck with the same model in an expensive leasing contract. Instead, they could swap out vehicles to suit their preferences and needs; you could have a minivan for the whole family Monday through Friday and easily switch to a sports car for a weekend getaway.
Who has them now?
The concept of car subscription services is still relatively new, but it’s expected to explode in the near future. Currently, Cadillac’s Book service is the largest available with operations in Dallas, New York, and parts of Southern California.
With big-name brands already offering these services, it’s only a matter of time before independent car subscription service providers sprout up and try to take control of the market. We expect to see fierce competition among companies as they negotiate partnerships with riders’ favorite manufacturers and rideshare companies.
How will self-driving cars change the game?
As self-driving vehicles become more mainstream, the car subscription service will become a means of hiring your own personal chauffeur … sort of. Rather than having to put on a happy face or sit through small talk with a driver, your vehicle will come to you and take you wherever you need to go for a flat rate.
By the time self-driving cars are this integrated into society, cruise control, accident prevention and similar assistance technology will ensure that roads are safer, accidents occur less, and ultimately, provider greater access to transportation for those with disabilities and low budgets.
How the Future of Car Subscription Services will Impact Drivers
The future of less car ownership has a lot of obvious benefits, but it also poses a few negative consequences to consider.
Fewer people owning cars won’t necessarily translate to fewer people on the road. In fact, it’s likely the widespread adaption of car subscription services would generate more traffic, especially in urban areas where most have forgone owing a car in favor of other modes of public transportation.
If car subscription services cost less than a monthly metro pass, there’s little doubt New Yorkers and other city dwellers across the country will be swapping out packed subway cars for cushy, air-conditioned, private rides.
The influx of riders subscribing to these services could lead to a higher cost than initially expected. Rideshare companies may keep prices low, but subscribing to big brands and getting your own private ride will cost a pretty penny.
Figures speak for themselves: Access by BMW currently starts at $2,000 a month, while Cadillac’s Book costs $1,800 monthly plus a $500 enrollment fee.
It Pays to Wait
Our opinion? Car sharing services and the self-driving model will undoubtedly give riders the most versatility it comes to cost. Ridesharing is still a new market, and as automotive technology improves, it’s bound to replace the typical taxi model and reduce the need for personal vehicles.
Currently, car subscription services are limited to luxury brands and specific regions; we recommend holding off on forking over more than a month’s rent to subscribe to your own BMW.
Instead, save money by comparing auto insurance rates and finding a good provider while we wait for the next wave of the future to hit.