To buy or to lease?

Until recently, those were the only two options for having a car. But now subscription programs offered by several automakers could make car ownership as simple as a smartphone upgrade.

“They're based on what you would do with a mobile phone. It's one monthly fee that covers all costs involved with car ownership short of gas and parking,” said Nick Kurczewski, Consumer Reports auto expert.

Swedish automaker Volvo is the latest to jump on the trend with its program in the U.S. called “Care by Volvo”.

Starting at US $600 a month, it includes insurance, vehicle service, roadside assistance, 24/7 customer care, and replacements needed for wear-and- tear items such as brake pads and wiper blades.

So how does that price compare to leasing the same Volvo?

At $600 a month, over two years, you’ll pay $14,400 on the car.

The three-year lease rate for the same vehicle is $325 per month, plus you’ll need to put $3,000, totalling $14,700 over the lease term. And that doesn’t include insurance, maintenance and repairs.

BMW, Hyundai, Cadillac, and Porsche all have similar subscription based programs in the U.S., with varying degrees of how often you can exchange a car for a new one.

“Right now, most of these programs are by luxury makes, but as the idea goes mainstream so will the price,” said Kurczewski.

The “Care by Volvo” program will be coming to Canada this year, and it’s expected other automakers could follow suit. But for now, the industry is trying to figure out how the subscription-based model will work in Canada and whether Canadians actually want it.

“One type of consumer who would really love a subscription-based program is someone who wants to stay on top of latest safety features, infotainment systems and other convenience items,” said Kurczewski.

But it’s not for everyone, especially if you like the idea of paying off your vehicle and not having a monthly car payment.