As we enter a new decade, car subscription in Australia has well and truly progressed from new-age novelty to present-day reality.
The automotive industry's answer to the commitment phobia that plagues plenty of millennials, services such as GoGet and Carbar are to car ownership what Spotify is to music – and they've seen massive uptake in recent years.
A 2018 report from market research company Technavio found the global automotive subscription market was set to grow 71 per cent from 2018 to 2022.
UPDATE (10/6/2020): This article was originally published in January 2020, but has been updated to include Car Next Door and to feature pricing changes and new locations for several of the included operators.
The onset of coronavirus lockdowns in early 2020 has likely boosted this estimate even further, with drivers opting for commitment-free, low-cost transport options in lieu of being able to safely use public transport.
In fact, car subscription provider Carly reported an increase of 78 per cent in the first quarter of 2020 compared to the same period in 2019, while Carbar has grown by more than 160 per cent since the start of the year and subscription platform Blinker has seen a 52 per cent increase in dealership enquiries since lockdowns came into effect.
Jonathan Englert, head of communications for GoGet, can attest to the astronomic rise of car-sharing and subscription, saying Go Get has seen "massive growth" since the service was founded in 2003.
"The first eight years were relatively slow, but the last five to seven years have been meteoric," Englert told CarAdvice.
"We have more than 150,000 members, including 25 per cent of City of Sydney households and 17 per cent of City of Melbourne households.
"Given we take 10 vehicles off the road for every car share vehicle, if we had more than a million members, we would have a notable effect on congestion."
Although most car subscription outfits offer flexible cancellation policies, rates inclusive of insurance and registration and a fleet of available options, they each vary in how and where users can access the vehicles.
They also each have their own limitations – from minimum subscription terms, to joining fees or finite vehicle ranges and locations.
So, we investigated all the options currently available to Australian consumers and broke them down across key criteria to help you find the service that's best for you.
Because some car share services are larger than others – and their popularity differs from state to state – we have chosen to list each car subscription provider in alphabetical order rather than rank them. As always, read the fineprint before you sign up.
What: Launched in May 2019, Blinker is not a marketplace but rather an end-to-end software platform allowing car dealerships and organisations to offer subscription services.
Where: Blinker currently has access to over 1000 dealers nationally.
Pricing and inclusions: The most affordable subscription price is $99 per week which includes the price of the vehicle, registration, insurance, servicing, maintenance and roadside assistance. Each dealership is free to set their own car subscription plans and pricing so it still pays to shop around for the best subscription deal.
Conditions: The minimum term can be as short as 30 days, with notice periods ranging from seven to 21 days, depending on the provider.
Eligibility requirements: Subscribers must be over 21, have a good driving history and not use the vehicle for the purpose of ridesharing.
Access: Customers can subscribe online through the Blinker provider's website, over the phone or in-showroom and collect their car directly from their Blinker provider. Most customers will be able to subscribe and drive away on the same day.
Paul and Michael Higgins, co-founders of HelloCars and Blinker.
What: Launched in 2016 as a virtual car dealership, Carbar has since become predominantly a subscription service offering exclusive, fully serviced no-strings-attached access to a car.
Where: Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane.
Pricing and inclusions: Pricing starts from $119 per week for 2016 Suzuki Swift or Hyundai Accent, and goes up to $529 for an 2018 Audi Q7 or 2019 Toyota Supra. An non-refundable upfront fee is billed at the beginning of the subscription. That upfront fee currently starts at $315, but varies depending on make and model. Pricing includes maintenance, insurance, registration, roadside assist and warranty (even if the vehicle is out of manufacturers' warranty). However, all Carbar subscriptions have no cancellation fee or minimum term.
Conditions: Two weeks' notice of cancellation.
Eligibility requirements: People aged 21 and over can subscribe as long as they hold a P2 license at minimum. Some income tests will also be conducted to ascertain the right pricing for you.
Access: You can arrange your car online and collect it from Carbar dealership locations or have it delivered to your home for free within 50km of the CBD (delivery over greater distances is available for a fee).
Desmond Hang, the CEO of Carbar.
What: Launched in early 2019, Carly is owned by Collaborate Corporation, which also operates DriveMyCar, a peer-to-peer car rental provider. Via a monthly subscription to Carly, customers can get access to a new or used vehicle (passenger, commercial and plug-in hybrids) through a dealership or fleet owner (Carly has partnerships with Hyundai, SG Fleet, Booran Motors, JC Motors and Suttons Motors) without any upfront fees, deposits, interest or break fees.
Where: Sydney, Melbourne, Gold Coast and Brisbane.
Pricing and inclusions: Vehicles start at $119 a week and can go past $400 a week for new luxury cars. There are three subscription levels depending on the amount of mileage and the insurance excess you need, but all plans offer the ability to switch cars each month. All Carly vehicle subscriptions include insurance, servicing, registration and roadside assistance.
Conditions: Subscribers must give 30 days notice of cancellation and there is a minimum term of 30 days.
Eligibility requirements: To subscribe to Carly you have to be over 21 years of age, have a full driver's licence and a valid credit card.
Access: Subscribers can book via Carly's website, or by hitting the Carly button on participating dealer sites, and then can collect the car from the dealer. Carly also has a dedicated Hyundai page for access to variety of Hyundai models.
Chris Noone, the CEO of Collaborate, Carly's parent company.
What: Operating since 2013, Car Next Door is a neighbour-to-neighbour car-sharing marketplace that lets you rent a car, van or ute from local people by the hour or day. The Car Next Door app lets you find and book cars nearby, unlock them and drive – tolls, fuel and payments are all taken care of through the platform.
Where: Car Next Door has cars, vans and utes available for rent in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, the Gold Coast, Canberra and Perth, as well as a range of regional towns and cities around Australia. Because the cars belong to real people, they're located in suburbs and towns that aren't served by most other car subscription services.
Pricing and inclusions: Prices are set by the car owners, and start at $4 per hour and $20 per day. The price includes insurance and 24/hour member support. Customers also pay a per-kilometre rate, set by the owner, that covers your fuel.
Conditions: It's free to be a member, and there are no lock-in contracts, minimum terms or cancellation fees. If you're borrowing cars regularly, sign up for the Heavyweight borrowing plan at $19/month – you won't pay booking fees and you'll get premium cover included with every trip.
Eligibility requirements: To become a member, you need to be over 18 (though you won't be able to access many cars until you're 21), with a good driving history and credit record. The criteria may change from time to time, so check the eligibility criteria on the Car Next Door website.
Access: Customers can sign up online in just a few minutes with their driver's licence, from a smartphone or desktop. Once approved, they're able to book any cars on the platform instantly – there's no need to wait for the owner to reply. Most cars' keys are accessed using an electronic lockbox, but for some cars (particularly in regional areas) you'll arrange to meet the owner to pick up the key.
Will Davies, CEO and co-founder of Car Next Door.
What: Launched in December 2018, FlexiGO is a digital platform where both businesses and private drivers can choose a vehicle subscription based on their usage and commitment needs.
Where: Southeast Queensland, with plans to expand to Sydney, Melbourne and Perth in coming months.
Pricing and inclusions: Vehicles are available from $79 a week using traditional vehicle finance, with others available from around $210 a week, with the latter rate inclusive of everything. There is a one-off joining fee of $250.
Conditions: The minimum term of lease is one week, with one week notice of cancellation.
Eligibility requirements: FlexiGO is available to all Australian license holders, including ride share drivers.
Access: Customers in the serviced areas can arrange their vehicle online and have it delivered to their home.
What: One of the original car subscription services to launch in Australia, GoGet charges members a subscription fee that allows them to book a range of vehicles in their area by the hour. The type of vehicle you can access is determined by the availability in your area.
Where: Adelaide, Brisbane, Canberra, Melbourne, Sydney, Orange and Newcastle.
Pricing and inclusions: Members have two options: a per-use hourly fee when you drive, or an ongoing monthly fee that reduces hourly and daily rates. Memberships range from $108-$348 a year and cars start at $6.50 an hour (this increases if you're not signed up on a monthly basis). Usage fees cover fuel, registration and maintenance.
Conditions: Cars must be returned with a quarter tank of fuel, any damage must be reported, GoGet must be notified of late returns. You can't change, shorten or cancel a booking that's already started. You can pause or cancel your membership at any time.
Eligibility requirements: A current drivers license and valid payment method.
Access: Members book a car online through GoGet’s booking system, use their personal swipe card to access the vehicle closest to them (they're parked in allocated GoGet spots on the street), and return the car to the same parking spot when they’re done.
What: Launched in May 2019, HelloCars allows consumers to subscribe entirely online to access a wide range of used cars for short to mid-term periods.
Where: Sydney, with subscribers along the east coast of Australia.
Pricing and inclusions: Pricing starts at $99 per week which includes the vehicle, registration, insurance, servicing, maintenance and roadside assistance. The entry-level plan also requires a $299 upfront fee, but the other two plans do not require an upfront fee.
Conditions: Minimum terms can be as short as 30 days, with a 21-day notice period before cancellation.
Eligibility requirements: Subscribers must be over 21, with good driving history and no intention of using the cars for ridesharing purposes.
Access: Customers can book online and collect their cars directly from HelloCars in Sydney, near Parramatta.
What: Launched in 2018, Motopool caters to Queensland-based customers who want all the benefits of car ownership but with more flexibility. Motopool allows you to rent your choice of car over several months and is aimed at those who travel for work, are in between cars or are in need of a second car.
Where: It's based in Brisbane, but services south-east Queensland including the Sunshine Coast and Gold Coast.
Pricing and inclusions: The base Motopool plan starts at $154 a week, plus a one-off joining fee of $250. The weekly fee covers registration, insurance, service and maintenance, tyres and roadside assist, but the customer must cover fuel and tolls. Pricing changes according to the kilometres you need.
Conditions: A three-month minimum term and a minimum of seven days' notice of cancellation.
Eligibility requirements: Customers must be 21 years of age and have held a driver's license for 12 months or more, with no history of suspensions or cancellations within the last three years or any bankruptcy claims in the last seven years. You will also be asked some insurance questions.
Access: Customers can arrange subscription over the phone or online and cars can be collected from the Motopool office in Salisbury, Queensland.
What: Popcar is a subscription-based car sharing service provided by a third party, allowing customers to access a different type of car for any occasion.
Where: Popcar is currently operating in Sydney, Melbourne, Canberra and Byron Bay.
Pricing and inclusions: One-off joining fees start from $10 and monthly plans range from $0 to $19.90. Hourly usage rates start at $5.50 with a $0.40 per kilometre fee. If you book by the hour, the cost will be the hourly rate plus $0.40 per kilometre travelled. If you book by the day, you pay the daily rate which includes 100km. Fuel, insurance, servicing, maintenance, and registration are all included in usage charges.
Conditions: Members have the option to pick plans based on how much they use the service. There are no lock-ins and if your circumstances change then you can change or cancel your membership at any stage.
Eligibility requirements: You must be 18 or older with a valid Australian (P2 and above) or International driver’s license.
Access: New members sign up online via the Popcar website by completing a four-step online registration form. Members then book a car online through the booking system then use their personal swipe card to access the vehicle they have booked. The cars are parked in designated bays approved by local councils in each area and exact locations are outlined upon booking confirmation.
Popcar Director Anthony Welsh and General Manager Kristy Wells.