Want Heated Seats? You'll Need to Pay for That (and 14 Other Super Annoying Auto Subscriptions)

INSURANCE - CAR INSURANCE
You may have to think about more than just the price of a vehicle the next time you go car shopping.
Last updated April 18, 2023 | By Jenny Cohen Edited By Jeff White
pretty girl holding car keys at outdoors with sad expression

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Auto subscriptions are becoming more popular with automakers, but it’s not all that welcome for drivers.

Companies are now putting basic things like heated seats on subscription-only plans that may not show up in the initial cost of the car but could cause trouble to your bank account if you’re trying to do better financially or you have a set budget for your car purchases.

Know which features some carmakers are locking behind a subscription paywall so you can save extra money to cover the cost or look for a different vehicle instead.

Acceleration increase

Oksana/Adobe female hands driving Mercedes Benz

Want to go faster? That could cost you if you get a new Mercedes Benz.

The German automaker is possibly going to add a subscription fee to its electric vehicles, increasing the performance of its EV engine acceleration if drivers an extra fee.

Payment could open up around 20% more power to the engine for those who pay.

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Autopilot

Tierney/Adobe man driving a Tesla Model 3 on autopilot

Tesla has some innovative features in its vehicles such as its electric falcon-wing doors on the Model X or its autopilot driving, allowing the vehicle to drive with little to no input from the driver.

Autopilot sounds like a great feature, but it’s also a feature you’ll have to pay for. The EV company charges drivers $199 for full autopilot capabilities in most cases depending on your vehicle’s eligibility.

Hands-free driving

ryanking999/Adobe smart self driving car

Tesla isn’t the only car manufacturer charging drivers to unlock hands-free driving options.

Ford offers drivers BlueCruise while General Motors links drivers to Super Cruise through its OnStar feature.

Prices and eligibility can vary so check with your dealer or car manufacturer to see if your vehicle is eligible and how much it may cost.

High-beam assist

VanderWolf Images/Adobe BMW M3 headlight

Another feature that BMW has locked down under a subscription is its high-beam assist option.

You can manually switch from high beams down to regular beams at night when you’re driving and encounter another vehicle coming your way.

But if you pay for a high-beam assist subscription, the high beams will automatically adjust without your input.

Adaptive cruise control

scharfsinn86/Adobe car with adaptive cruise control radar

Cruise control is a great feature if you’re trying to save money on gas, allowing you to keep a steady speed on highways and freeways.

Car manufacturers have been adding an adaptive feature that allows sensors on your car to calculate the speeds of vehicles in front of you and adjust your car’s speed without the driver’s input.

But a driver does have to input some cash into a subscription if you want that option to be unlocked.

Remote start

scharfsinn86/Adobe application for remote engine start and car warm-up

Start your vehicle with the push of a button on your key remote so it’s toasty warm or super cool when you get in on winter and summer days. This has become standard for high-end cars.

While it sounds like a great feature for drivers who live in climates with drastic weather conditions, it’s also a feature you may have to pay for to actually unlock the option in the future.

Wi-Fi

zapp2photo/Adobe smart car and internet of things (IOT) concept

You may be able to turn your car into a Wi-Fi hotspot with access to the internet if you’re working on the road or streaming services if you’re on a long trip with kids.

But be aware that the feature will cost you. Car manufacturers can partner with different mobile providers to unlock your Wi-Fi access for your vehicle.

So you’ll have to check with your vehicle maker or its mobile partners to figure out how much that feature costs and what package may be right for you.

Parking assist

Svitlana/Adobe businesswoman using parking assist system

Cameras are becoming more popular on vehicles, allowing drivers to pull up to a spot and let the car do the parking for them.

While these parking assist features are a great thing for those parking-challenged drivers, it also will cost you some cash to get a subscription to activate it.

BMW, for example, locks up its parking assist and costs can vary depending on the model and availability of the feature for your vehicle.

Heated steering wheel

Kekyalyaynen/Adobe woman in winter clothes sitting in his car

Are your hands freezing cold when you grip your steering wheel in the winter? Some car manufacturers have found a solution with heated steering wheels.

But, again, unlocking this feature may cost you. BMW, for example, charges drivers to have that feature available and gives you different payment length options.

So you might be able to hold off and pay for the feature only during the months when you expect to use it.

Camera recording

New Africa/Adobe modern dashboard camera mounted in car

Cameras on your vehicle have added benefits such as being able to record accidents so you have a form of proof for insurance or to help you keep an eye on your car as an extra security feature.

But adding these extra capabilities to your cameras will likely include a subscription. BMW, for example, charges a one-time fee for this option while Tesla’s Sentry Mode records activity around the vehicle when you’re not there as part of its Premium Connectivity package.

Heated seats

Владимир Солдатов/Adobe button for heating the car seats

If you live in a cold climate, heated seats are a great feature to have in the winter months when you get into a cold car.

But BMW wants you to start paying up to unlock that feature, and they may not be the only ones.

The good news is you can pay $18 per month if you want, which means you can limit paying to only the months that you need it.

Adaptive suspension

hanjosan/Adobe luxury vehicle ride controls

Want an extra smooth ride with a suspension system that can adapt to road conditions? That’s another feature that BMW will charge you for.

But like other subscription-based services, it’s important to check with a dealer to see which options are available for which models, if you want to pay for them.

Crash response

MaxSafaniuk/Adobe ambulance rescue van on road street

General Motors first added OnStar services to its vehicles in 1996, which includes a feature that can sense if the car has been in an accident and alert authorities to your location in such an event.

But the OnStar capabilities are only covered by an OnStar subscription. Check with your dealer or the car manufacturer about OnStar options including crash response and others to see if you want to add a subscription to your monthly costs.

Maps

Ekaterina/Adobe gps with the route on the dashboard of a car

More cars are hitting the roads with built-in map capabilities that make it easy to find where you’re going with directions or help out with traffic updates.

The good news is that these maps can be updated over the air by car manufacturers simply by connecting remotely to your vehicle.

However, access to maps, updated roads, and traffic conditions might be hidden from non-subscribers.

Satellite radio

Home-stock/Adobe man dancing in car singing while driving his car

Satellite radio may be a great option if you’re driving for long periods of time or just don’t want to listen to local radio stations when you’re in your car.

But that option comes at a cost. SiriusXM, for example, includes more than 425 channels that cover music, sports, news, and more with a monthly subscription.

Bottom line

Studio Romantic/Adobe young woman buys a car in a car showroom

It can be tough to justify paying extra money for a subscription on top of the cost of a vehicle, especially if you’re trying to lower your financial stress and have a tight budget.

Ask your dealer about different options that may or may not be covered under a subscription model and check out car models that might include the options you want as part of the purchase of the car and not as an add-on fee.

You may want to consider all of these potential payments before deciding on your next car, as well, as you may not be paying for what you expect.

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Author Details

Jenny Cohen Jenny Cohen is a freelance writer who has covered a bit of everything, from finance to sports to her favorite TV shows. Her work has been featured in The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, and FoxSports.com.