Car subscription and long-term rental: What are the differences?

Whether skiing, mountain biking or if you need a drill for a short time – renting cheap instead of buying expensive yourself is often the smarter option. Why? Quite simply: the landlord always has up-to-date and well-maintained material. So-called long-term rentals have also been around for a long time when buying a car. Car rental periods of one month or several months are an interesting alternative to classic cash purchases, car financing or leasing, especially for people who appreciate a high degree of flexibility, always want to drive a brand new model and do not want to bother with tiresome paperwork. The industry giant Sixt, for example, has long-term rental cars for periods between 27 and 120 days. And then there is the car subscription. This still young form of car ownership aims in a very similar user direction. But how does a long-term rental differ from a car subscription?

This is how long-term rental works

In the case of long-term rentals, customers choose a vehicle similar to short-term or holiday rental cars, but usually use it longer. The choice is basically the same range of models, where you choose a vehicle category instead of a fixed model. Long-term rental is much more flexible than car leasing, for example. While a leasing contract is usually concluded for a period of two to five years, the only requirement for a long-term rental is a minimum rental period of just under one month. An important advantage of long-term rental: Depending on the provider, users can easily change the model during the rental period.

What is a car subscription?

When comparing long-term rental with a car subscription, there are many parallels. With both types of offer, the customer pays a monthly fee that includes all ancillary costs. This includes insurance, maintenance, vehicle tax as well as TÜV and tire service. There are companies like ViveLeCar with minimum terms of 3 months or even just one month like Sixt+, who call these offers car subscriptions, but are actually long-term rental cars. The usual terms for the subscriptions of the newcomers are more like 6 months to a year.

Rent and subscription: these are the similarities

– Full cost control (taxes, insurance and maintenance as well as other additional costs are included in the monthly rate)
– As a rule, subscription and long-term rental cars are new cars with good equipment
– Very high flexibility due to short contract terms
– Cross-manufacturer and cross-model range of vehicles
– Depreciation doesn’t matter
– Free mileage flat rate sometimes low
– Ideal for testing different technologies over shorter periods of time, such as hybrid or electric cars.

Would you prefer a subscription or long-term rental?

The basic rule is: For shorter terms, only the long-term rental car comes into question or is the better choice. Use periods of one to three years are more in favor of the car subscription. Example: If you don’t have a car and are professionally transferred to another location for several weeks for a project, you should consider a long-term rental car. The providers here come almost exclusively from the classic car rental sector such as Sixt, Avis, Herz or Europcar. The Avis website, for example, lists a Polo class car as a long-term rental car for €529.

Subscriptions, on the other hand, were made socially acceptable in Germany primarily by start-up companies such as Like2Drive, ViveLeCar and Finn. With fresh entrepreneurial enthusiasm, well-programmed websites and a fully digitized ordering process, they have now established a sales channel for cars that is constantly growing. The term car subscription has almost become a buzz word. Comparisons are often made with streaming services such as Netflix, where you can subscribe to unlimited films at a flat rate. That looks sexy and, so the makers hope, will be transferred to the staid car industry with its traditional sales via car dealerships.

So it’s no wonder that many manufacturers want to get involved with their own subscriptions. And not only them: The classic, large rental car companies have now jumped on the bandwagon. Apparently, the subscription seems to be displacing the typical long-term rental. Example Europcar: There is an Opel Corsa or a similar model with a six-month term for 399 euros per month. But a one-month subscription contract is also possible. Then the small Opel costs 529 euros, as with Avis, and is therefore more of a long-term rental car. So the boundaries are fluid and in the end it’s all just a question of marketing.

But that doesn’t have to be a bad thing. The bottom line is that a rented or subscribed car is a better choice than a purchased car because it is cheaper. Regardless of whether the new name is a rental car or a subscription car.

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