Flexdrive Car Subscription Service Hopes to Get People in Dealerships

The cost to borrow a car for a week might surprise you.

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Cox Automotive, the parent company of Kelley Blue Book and Autotrader, has teamed up with dealer network Holman Enterprises to create the Flexdrive mobile app. Flexdrive is a vehicle subscription service that allows you to book a car from a dealership without a down payment, long-term contract, or mileage limit. It also covers service and insurance. It’s like a very short term lease that lasts for a few weeks.

This is a response to a spreading concern for car dealerships about the decline of car ownership. As rideshare services grow and the future of mobility spelling bad news for the traditional model of car ownership, this is one way dealers are trying to get creative on a solution. It’s also a way to get unsold, non-current “new” cars off their lots and get some money out of them.

This may remind you of Book by Cadillac, a $1,500/month subscription service that allows you to drive an Escalade one day and a CTS-V the next. The difference with Flexdrive is that it’s usage based rather than having a flat monthly cost. If there’s a week that you don’t need a car, you don’t pay for the service that week.

If you take a look at the cars on Flexdrive you can borrow, or rent, or lease, or whatever you want to call it, it’s hard to determine whether or not it’s a good value. A 2013 Ford Fusion from Flexdrive is $219/week with similar weekly prices for cars in the same segment. For reference, as of this writing, you can get a 36 month lease on a brand-spanking-new 2017 Ford Fusion for $232/month or finance one for 72 months for $319/month.

Seems like a lot to borrow a car for just a week. Granted, it’s cheaper than Cadillac’s Book service, but that’s a luxury service for the upper class while Flexdrive is aimed at middle-class folks who don’t want to own a car.

For my money, if I were in the market for this, I’d rather just finance a certified pre-owned car with a warranty. A monthly payment would likely be the same or less than a weekly payment to Flexdrive for the same car. Look up CPO Ford Fusions, chances are there are a ton of them near you for well under $20k. Even if you rarely use that car and even factoring in insurance and maintenance costs, it still seems like a better deal. But, apps and subscription services are hot right now so I could be wrong.