What are car subscription features and how do they affect my warranty?
Car subscription features are a relatively new phenomenon, with varying success. The basic idea is, the car has functions that previously came as standard, or as an optional extra when the vehicle was new. Instead, some features have been transferred to a subscription scheme, so some manufacturers require a monthly fee to access things like heated seats and entertainment features.
How do car subscription features affect me?
Traditionally, if you buy a new car and don’t want optional extras like heated seats, voice recognition or sat nav you can opt out and your car won’t come with this technology preinstalled. Technological developments mean elements of the car can be switched on and off remotely by the manufacturer. This means a car may come with optional extras installed even if you didn’t initially want or specify them.
This allows manufacturers to later ‘unlock’ aspects of the car if you decide you want to use them. For example, you might only want heated seats in the winter so these can be activated on a monthly basis until the weather gets warmer.
In some instances it can work out cheaper to subscribe instead of paying the full activation fee when you purchase the vehicle. But ultimately, the car is likely to be more expensive in the first place as these extra features are there whether you intend to use them or not.
What manufacturers have subscribable features?
BMW controversially introduced a fee to access Apple CarPlay and Android Auto a few years ago. Public response was so strong they backed down and reversed the decision, making it free to access again. It has retained a few subscription features though such as ‘driving assistant plus’ which is essentially adaptive cruise control for £35 a month. Heated seats are £15 a month, a heated steering wheel and automatic high beam headlights are both £10 a month. ‘Parking assistant professional’ is able to automatically park your car after you perform the manoeuvre once, as long as you pay £25 a month for it. There are discounts if you pay a year or three years upfront though.
Audi describes its subscription service as ‘functions on demand’. Via the myAudi app, customers can choose the length of time to subscribe for, or purchase the feature for the lifetime of the vehicle. This also includes similar features to BMW such as automatic high beam headlights and a parking assist functionality.
Porsche’s subscription features depend on the model, but cars from 2022 will have access to similar options. £19 a month gets you a 7 GB data package so you have a WiFi hotspot on the go. Lane keeping assist is £18 a month and Porsche’s ‘dynamic light system plus’ is £32 a month. For £27 a month, ‘comfort access’ will open your car automatically when you approach it with the key, you can wave your foot to open the boot and swipe your hand over the bonnet so it will open.
What does this mean for my warranty?
It’s unclear yet what level of cover subscription features will have with manufacturer warranties. There’s a grey area that’s yet to be clarified as the features can be turned on and off or never activated. Whilst additional safety technology can sometimes lower insurance bands and costs, optional features are unlikely to influence these fees.
For more information on vehicle and parts warranties, take a look at our warranties page and contact the MotorEasy team if you have any questions about our cover.