Do your homework before signing up for car subscription-based services
Just about any new car today is really a computer on four wheels. A computer becomes more powerful by adding paid apps and free operating system updates, and cars are also moving in that direction.
A car manufacturer charges a monthly fee that allows you to use a key fob to lock and unlock your car! More on that below. Additional equipment has existed since the beginning of car 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 want to 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 do to an older model.
If you’re in the market for a new car, do your homework on subscription costs before you sign a purchase contract.
Car manufacturers want to charge us for more performance or even the most basic features. For example, Mercedes Benz charges its electric car owners 1,200 dollars a year to drive a little faster.
The pricey software upgrade, “Acceleration Increase”, gets you zero to 60 mph one second faster. It is available for the Mercedes-EQ range of electric cars.
The German luxury car brand also charges German buyers $576 per year for rear-wheel steering on the EQS. This function reduces the car’s turning arc, and helps in tight turns and parking. While this is standard on 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 if yours is on the list.
Audi’s “functions on demand” system allows drivers to purchase subscriptions to new functions such as smartphone functionality via the car’s display, parking assistance and dynamic exterior lighting.
The extra functions can be paid for per month or per year and are available for the models e-tron, A4, A5, A6, A7, Q5, Q7 and Q8. 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 US
Meanwhile, Audi’s Connect Prime and Connect Plus are available here in the US, starting at $36 per month or $365 per year, and offer enhanced 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 fee for heated seats in other countries. There’s also a High Beam Assistant upgrade, which automatically brightens or dims the headlights for $8 per month.
The automaker previously tried to charge buyers $80 per year to access Apple CarPlay. They scrapped the plan after a lot of negative feedback.
In the US, BMW ConnectedDrive Upgrades offer premium features through software upload. You can get a dash cam feature for $19 per month or $430 for the life of the vehicle.
Cadillac offers a hands-free highway driving system called Super Cruise for $25 per month. This gives you hands-free driving for over 200,000 miles on compatible roads throughout the US and Canada. It’s offered as a free trial when you buy the vehicle, but you pay if you want to keep it afterwards.
The following models offer Super Cruise: 2018-2020 CT6, 2021 and 2023 CT4, 2021 and 2023 CT5, 2021-2023 Escalade, 2022-2023 XT6 and 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 things.
GM is making 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 collision 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 by 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 the 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 the driver 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.
• Do you already own a Tesla? You can also pay a $99 subscription fee if you have Basic Autopilot and want to add FSD capability.
• If you have Enhanced Autopilot and want to add FSD capability, it will set you back $199 per month.
Full disclosure: Tesla’s FSD has placed the automaker in the sights of the federal government. The US Department of Justice has launched a criminal investigation into whether Tesla misled consumers, investors and others by making false claims about its self-driving technology. Press or click here for my opinion.
If you live in an area where winters are cold or summers are hot, remote start allows you to bring your car’s interior to a comfortable temperature before you get into it. If you’ve been enjoying the feature in your 2018 or later Toyota, get ready for a surprise.
You must subscribe to Toyota’s Remote Connect service to continue using the key fob to start the car. The service is run 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 the doors from your phone.
Remote Connect costs $8 per month or $80 per year.
Bottom line: Ask about monthly or annual subscription fees when buying a car. They can cost you much more than you had budgeted for.
Keep the technological know-how going
My popular podcast is called “Kim Komando Today”. It’s a solid 30 minutes of technical news, tips and callers with technical questions like you from all over the country. Look for it wherever you get your podcasts. For your convenience, click the link below for a recent episode.
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Learn about all the latest technology on the Kim Komando Show, the country’s biggest weekend radio talk show. Kim takes calls and offers advice on today’s digital lifestyle, from smartphones and tablets to online privacy and computer hacks. For her daily tips, free newsletter and more, visit her website at Komando.com.
The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of USA TODAY.