Rapid Review: CarBar+ Car Subscription Service

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Having a car sit in the driveway costs you money. By the time you factor in an annual service, registration, insurance and depreciation, you can easily find thousands of dollars leaving your coffers before you've driven a single kilometre. This is where services like CarBar+ come to the fore. Rather than you owning the car, you pay a regular fee, that starts at $169 per week and have full-time access to vehicle for as long as you need it. All you need to pay for, after the fee, is fuel. All the maintenance, registration and insurance is covered in the fee. I tested the service for a month, trying three different vehicles. Here's what I learned.

What Is It?

Carbar's subscription service, CarBar+, lets you chop and change cars, depending on your needs. Say you just need a small runabout most of the time but a larger vehicle for annual holidays, you can send back the small car and swap it for an SUV or ute. If you're on a longer holiday, you can return the vehicle and you won't pay for it to sit in your driveway. There is a minimum subscription time of one month and you need to give two weeks' notice before discontinuing but other than that there's no other commitment.

Unlike car rental, which is focussed on short term access to a car, Carbar+ is about longer=-term access to a vehicle but with the flexibility to switch vehicles easily. Ans the fees charged by CarBar+ are generally lower than the traditional car rental market.

What's Good?

Over the month, I tested three different vehicles.

  • 2015 BMW 320D Sportline
  • 2017 Volkswagen Passat
  • 2013 Mercedes C250

All of the cars were clean and arrived with a full tank of fuel. And you can check out their catalog, order online and have the car delivered to you at no charge.

Unlike DriveMyCar, which I looked at recently, CarBar owns the vehicles it provides to customers. Its business is based on renting the cars out and selling them. So, if you wanted to buy the Passat I drove, you could rent it for a month, or take advantage of the company's three-day test drive period before committing to the purchase.

As these aren't new cars, they aren't in 100% perfect condition. For example, the BMW had a few stone chips on the body and a decent one on the windscreen that, I suspect, would not pass a roadworthiness inspection. The Passat, which was the newest vehicle I drove, was my pick of the three cars. While it wasn't the most responsive to drive - the BMW took was the most powerful of the three - the comfort and equipment level was excellent. In fact, if I was thinking of a new car, my week with the Passat was enough to push high up my shortlist.

Even the Mercedes, at five years old, was in great condition.

The variety of vehicles offered by Carbar+ is broad. $129 per week gets you into a 2011 Mazda 2. $199 a week puts you behind the the wheel of 2013 Volkswagen Golf. If your tastes are a little more exotic, $749 has you driving a 2016 Jaguanr XF 20d and $549 picks up a 2015 BMW x4.

What's Bad?

As with any rental service, you may end up renting a car that isn't perfect -like the BMW I started with. But if the odd nick or scratch is a bother, it's easy to switch cars.

Should You Buy It

Pricing starts at $129 per week and ranges to over $1000 depending on the vehicle.

The question of whether this is a better option than owning a car is interesting. It's possible that taking the access route over car ownership will save you a few bucks. And the ability to easily switch vehicles depending on your needs is also a factor. At the moment, our family has a smaller vehicle and a seven-seater for when we head out all together. For the next couple of years at least, the seven-seater is needed regularly but I wonder if there's a case for ditching the second car and moving to an access arrangement.

The economics of this will vary for each of us but I like the idea of being able to switch vehicles every now and then, without the hassle of selling and buying a car.


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