Do your homework before signing up for car subscription-based services6 min read
Just about any new car today is truly a computer on four wheels. A computer gets more powerful by adding paid apps and free operating system updates, and cars are moving in that direction too.
One automaker charges a monthly fee that lets you use a key fob to lock and unlock your car! More on that is below. Optional extras have been around since the dawn of automobile sales, but subscription-based services are relatively new.
At least the popular GPS apps are still free. Here are five Google Maps, Apple Maps, and Waze tips and tricks you’ll use all the time.
Your car may be older. You don’t have to go without all the bells and whistles. Tap or click for high-tech upgrades you can make on an older model.
If you’re in the market for a new car, you must do homework on subscription costs before signing a purchase contract.
Automakers want to charge us for more performance or even the most basic features. Case in point, Mercedes Benz is charging its electric car owners $1,200 a year to drive a little bit faster.
The pricey software upgrade, “Acceleration Increase,” gets you zero to 60 mph one second faster. It’s available for the Mercedes-EQ line of EVs.
The German luxury car brand also charges German buyers $576 per year for rear-wheel steering on the EQS. This feature reduces the car’s turning arc, helping in tight corners and parking. While this comes standard to EQS vehicles sold stateside, it could be a sign of things to come.
Stay safe: Over 5 million cars have been recalled in the last six months. Check to see if yours is on the list.
Audi’s “functions on demand” system lets drivers purchase subscriptions to new features like smartphone functionality via the car’s display, parking assistance and dynamic exterior lighting.
The extra functions can be paid for by the month or year and are available for the e-tron, A4, A5, A6, A7, Q5, Q7 and Q8 models. You can choose what you want. Navigation, for example, is $849 per year. The dynamic lighting package is $260 per year. Plans are currently rolling out in Europe, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see them reach the U.S.
In the meantime, Audi’s Connect Prime and Connect Plus are available here in the U.S., starting at $36 per month or $365 per year, offering improved navigation, voice recognition, and Wi-Fi.
Stop paying too much at the pump: Best hidden map feature that will save you money on gas.
BMW made waves when it announced an $18 per month charge for heated seats in other countries. There’s also a High Beam Assistant upgrade, which brightens or dims headlights automatically for $8 per month.
The carmaker previously tried to charge buyers $80 per year to access Apple CarPlay. They scrapped the plan after lots of negative feedback.
In the U.S., BMW ConnectedDrive Upgrades offers premium features through software uploads. You can get a dash cam function for $19 per month or $430 for the life of the vehicle.
Cadillac offers a hands-free driving system for the highway called Super Cruise for $25 per month. With this, you get hands-free driving across 200,000 miles of compatible roads throughout the U.S. and Canada. It’s offered as a free trial when you buy the vehicle, but you’ll pay up if you want to keep it afterward.
The following models offer Super Cruise: 2018-2020 CT6, 2021 and 2023 CT4, 2021 and 2023 CT5, 2021-2023 Escalade, 2022-2023 XT6, and the 2023 Lyriq.
For the 2023 Corvette Z06 or Stingray, you’ll have to cough up $300 for a three-year subscription to GM’s OnStar service, which includes remote start and vehicle diagnostics, among other features.
GM is making its OnStar and Connected Services Premium Plan services mandatory on all new Buick, Cadillac, and GMC models for a whopping $1,500. This includes three years of automatic crash response, roadside assistance, turn-by-turn navigation, a remote key fob, vehicle diagnostics, Wi-Fi hotspot, and more.
Porsche Connect offers subscription services for various features, such as a Wi-Fi hotspot ($20 per month), theft detection system ($280 per year), and navigation and infotainment ($205 per year).
Availability varies depending on the model, and you can activate many functions on the fly via the Porsche Connect app. The upgrades are available for the 718, 911, Taycan, Panamera, Macan, and Cayenne.
Tesla’s “Full Self-Driving” beta mode, or FSD, was once only available to drivers with a passing score determined by their car’s driver monitoring system. Now, the feature is rolling out to the masses – or anyone willing to pay for it.
You can request FSD from your driver’s screen or the app, but the price may make you do a double take:
• FSD is available for $15,000 when you purchase a new vehicle.
• Already own a Tesla? You can also pay a subscription fee of $99 if you have Basic Autopilot and want to add FSD capability.
• If you have Enhanced Autopilot and want to add FSD capability, it’ll set you back $199 per month.
Full disclosure: Tesla’s FSD has placed the carmaker in the federal government’s sights. The U.S. Department of Justice has launched a criminal investigation into whether Tesla misled consumers, investors and others by making false claims about its self-driving tech. Tap or click here for my take.
If you live in an area where the winters are cold or the summers are hot, remote start lets you get your car’s interior to a comfortable temperature before you enter it. If you’ve enjoyed the feature in your 2018 or later Toyota, get ready for a surprise.
You’ll have to subscribe to Toyota’s Remote Connect service to keep using your key fob to start the car. The service runs through an app on your phone. It includes other features such as vehicle status alerts, limiting performance for guest drivers, last parked location and the ability to lock or unlock your doors from your phone.
Remote Connect costs $8 per month or $80 per year.
Bottom line: Ask about monthly or yearly subscription fees when buying a car. They could cost you a lot more than you were budgeting for.
Keep your tech-know going
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Are you dealing with Christmas stress? The government is here to help. Also, Google launches yet another way to stuff websites with ads, Netflix expands its video game collection, animate your own stories with Alexa, IRS scam and five smart ways to use Bluetooth trackers.
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The views and opinions expressed in this column are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect those of USA TODAY.