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      01-05-2019, 03:52 PM   #1
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My Access BMW Car Subscription Program - an in-depth review

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I’ve been a member of these forums for a long time but have never posted much. I wanted to write something up about my experience with the BMW subscription program for three reasons. First, to share back with this community that I have taken a lot from! Secondly, for my own benefit to document the journey.

Five years ago I bought my first BMW—a cherry red E46 convertible. My second was an Atlantic Blue e93 convertible. On road trips I enjoyed renting M cars to have some extra fun. However, owning BMWs comes with always having thoughts about new tires, walnut shelling the engine, wondering how much longer the turbos will last and other stuff in the back of your mind.

I have been saying “if there was just a service where I could drive a car and not have to worry about anything, I would sign up for it.” Having the luck of living in Nashville, Access by BMW launched in April 2018. And when they dropped their prices at the beginning of August and offered three free upgrades per month AND no signup fee, I took the plunge and signed up for the Legend Tier.

In early August a white BMW M2 was delivered as my first Access by BMW vehicle. Since then I have completed 27 switches and driven 9 different models. The program isn’t perfect, but it’s a lot more fun than I ever thought it would be.

The Cars
I’ve driven the M2, M3, M4, 440i, 540i, M6, X5, X5M and the i8 Roadster. The first five cars are on the Legend Tier while the others are on the M Tier. (Later I’ll explain how you drive M Tier cars without being on the M Tier.)

The most common misconception about the program I’ve seen is the idea that you’ll find the car that you like the most, cancel the subscription, then buy it. That would be true if I could pick a favorite. The problem is how do you pick a favorite?

I have driven hundreds of miles of the Blue Ridge Parkway in a Bronze i8 Roadster. I did the Tail of the Dragon in a Black-on-Silverstone M4 Convertible. We took a quick trip in a gorgeous Carbon Black X5M. Around town I switch frequently between M2, 540i and X5. When the weather is nice, I grab a convertible. When I just want comfort, I get a sedan or SUV. Some days I’m feeling more aggressive and just want a DCT I’ll request a switch.

The point is, I can’t pick a favorite. Sometimes, I switch just because I’m bored. Sometimes I switch 3-4x per week. Other times I go two weeks without a switch. But even then I’ll switch just because I want someone to bring me a clean, detailed car with a full tank of gas. (Yeah, you get spoiled rotten on this program.)

I can pick a worst car, though. The 440i convertible is terrible. Having owned an e93 335i, the 440i is extremely disappointing. It just doesn’t have that BMW “feel” in the steering that virtually every other car has.

Car Features
Most of the cars are pretty well equipped but you get spoiled fast. When you have been driving cars for a month with a heads up display and then you get in a 540 without it, you’re disappointed.

Any M car in the program is very nicely equipped. All of them have upper-level trims and option packages. The X5 and 540i are middle of the road in terms of equipment.

All of the cars are 2018 models. I’ve been told the plan is to swap out the cars at either one year or 15,000 miles. That would be awesome as I’d love the new X5s to make their way in to the program.

All of the cars have the wireless Apple CarPlay, which is awesome. None of the cars, disappointingly, have active cruise control. That would be great for road trips.

The Tiers
Originally there were two tiers—Legend and M. As best I can tell, I was one of the first five people to sign up. When I did there were approximately 160 cars in the fleet roughly split between the Legend Tier and the M Tier. (I drove around the BMW of Nashville lot and guesstimated.) Since then it appears they have sold off quite a few of the M cars, presumably because that tier has weak demand due to price.

The Icon Tier cars have been slow to roll in. Right now I think they have an X2 and an i3 but still no M240, X3 or 330i that I’m aware of. Getting the balance of demand for certain tiers with inventory is no doubt complex and expensive. From what I’ve heard the Icon tier is by far the most in demand.

Upgrades and Secret Cars
Anything that adds flexibility is good! Flexibility is why you do a subscription. The things that the program does to remain flexible, in my opinion, will be what makes or breaks it.

Being able to say “I’d love to take a trip and do it with more power or more style” is just awesome. From the Legend Tier you can upgrade to the M Tier for $75 per day. (I’m not sure what the daily upgrade price is between other tiers.) However, early signups got three free upgrade days per month added to their accounts. This has been my favorite part of the program.

Access by BMW has official cars that they advertise on the site. But, they also keep some “secret” cars around like the M3, M4 coupe and i8 Roadster. You can request them, but it’s hit or miss as to if you can get them at the time you want. Each of the secret cars is also assigned to one of the tiers. So, for example, the i8 Roadster is secret on the M tier. This means that if you get that car, it’s “free” if you are already on that tier. If you are on the tier below (Legend), it either costs you an upgrade credit or $75 per day.

One of the BMW concierge guys told me that an Alpina is coming soon—can’t wait to try it out!

Switching Cars
The switching of cars is fairly straightforward. You go on the app and type in what you want, when and where you want it delivered and you’re done. From there virtually all conversation happens via text message. They text you when they are on the way, when they arrive and when they are done with the switch.

When I tell people I’m doing a car subscription and I change cars frequently, they all assume, for some reason, that I go to the dealership. Most are shocked when they hear that the car is delivered. And then when I tell them that all my settings are moved to the new car and all the things in the console, glove box, back seat and trunk are transferred they are blown away. All you have to do is wait for the concierge to text you that your switch is complete and then you walk out of your house/office and swap the keys. It takes all of 60 seconds!

In my opinion, this is very under-marketed and is one of the most fun things about the service.

After you finish the switch you’ll get a text from your concierge a few minutes later letting you know what the fuel charge was for your prior switch (assuming you didn’t fill it up right before the switch) and telling you to enjoy your new ride.

I will also say that all of the concierges that deliver cars are very knowledgeable, friendly and deliver great service. I have yet to have a bad interaction with anyone. In fact, I rather enjoy talking with them every time I switch as we geek out on certain aspects of different cars.

How They Pick Your Car
When you request a car it is supposed to be done using a “needs-based” system. That means you say something like “I need something with hauling space” or “I want something sporty” but this is, in my opinion, the most confusing part about the program.

The marketing materials advertise certain cars. So, just stick with that! Instead of having to say “I need something with hauling space” you may as well just say “X5, please.”

I understand why they do this. They do it because they can’t guarantee any particular car at any particular time. They don’t force people who are driving certain cars to return them on any sort of timetable. I think it would be much better if they gave you a list of the cars and you could rank them in priority order.

If they had cars from all sorts of manufacturers, it would make more sense for the needs-based system. But, with them all being BMWs, it needs to be model-based. This may mess with their algorithm that helps them know what cars to have available in the fleet, but it’s something they need to figure out.

Several times when I have asked for a convertible and expected to get the 440i (which is on my tier) I’ve gotten the M4 convertible. They have freely given upgrades when no car is available—which is awesome! Sometimes, they just like to surprise and delight and an M6 shows up for your upgrade. Dang!

Other Recommended Improvements
As I said before, anything that offers flexibility in a program like this will make it win. Anything that makes it feel restrictive will cause it to lose appeal.

Right now switches can only happen from 8:30-5:30 Monday-Friday. Seeing some limited weekend switching would be nice as many times I’ve wanted a fun car just for Friday night only to be “stuck” with it all weekend. (Like I said, this spoils you rotten!) This is especially not fun when you are using daily upgrade credits and you have to keep the car through the whole weekend when you may not even want the upgrade.

If they made this change in addition to going with a more model-specific approach (vs. the needs-based approach), I think it would be a big win.

Finally, I’d like to see a few more models added. The new X7 would be great for family trips. A 7 series would be great for day trips. Again, more flexibility!

Pricing Structure Thoughts
Right now you pay a fixed monthly price for your tier and then you pay more for daily upgrades in higher tiers. That price also gets you 2,000 monthly (rollover) miles.

The things I’ve noticed is 1) you’re always thinking about your tier, 2) sometimes you want to drive cars in a lower tier, 3) you are always saving up credits for higher tiers, 4) some months you drive only a few hundred miles and 5) some months you drive 3,000-4,000.

I’d like to see the program have a lower monthly subscription price that is equal for everyone. Then, based on your miles and types of cars you drive you go up from there. Again, all about that flexibility.

For example, right now the cheapest tier is $1,099 per month for 2,000 miles. Here’s my idea on how I would change it.

What if the subscription price for everyone was $799 and that included the Icon Tier cars for up to 1,000 miles per month? I think this would be the magic price point to bring tons of people into the program. More people int he program means more flexibility for everyone because they can justify a larger fleet of cars.

From there, the monthly price would go up based on the miles and types of cars you are driving. For example, want an X5, maybe that’s $40 per day. Want an X5M, that’s $80 per day. Blocks of 500 miles could be $300 per month. And so on. That would get close where the pricing is today but with a lot more flexibility. I would also suggest that they charge everyone a signup fee and then make that signup fee available immediately in car and mileage upgrades. That would really incentivize people to take full advantage of the program.

Final Thoughts
This program has been so much fun to be a part of from the ground floor. When I first signed up I was curious if this was going to be more of an extended test drive and I settled on a car or if I was really going to like switching cars all the time. For me, the answer has been the latter.
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      01-05-2019, 04:24 PM   #2
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Here are a few pictures and a screenshot from the app.
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      01-05-2019, 04:54 PM   #3
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Thank you for taking the time to offer your pespective on this program. I hope they bring it to canada soon.
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      01-05-2019, 06:02 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by xander_g View Post
Thank you for taking the time to offer your pespective on this program. I hope they bring it to canada soon.
Sounds cool, can you try it for 1 month or is there a contract to sign
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      01-05-2019, 06:10 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mecheng77 View Post
Quote:
Originally Posted by xander_g View Post
Thank you for taking the time to offer your pespective on this program. I hope they bring it to canada soon.
Sounds cool, can you try it for 1 month or is there a contract to sign
No contract. It's month-to-month. Like Netflix.
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      01-05-2019, 07:53 PM   #6
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A super writeup, thanks! It does sound appealing, and costs little more than ordinary depreciation would cost on a new purchased vehicle. Good food for thought.
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      01-05-2019, 07:57 PM   #7
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Bring to FL!

Have you had any discussions with any staff that may know when this is coming to another city? (Preferably Sarasota!) looks like something tailored for me.
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      01-05-2019, 08:06 PM   #8
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Have you had any discussions with any staff that may know when this is coming to another city? (Preferably Sarasota!) looks like something tailored for me.
They are pretty tight lipped about that. Considering they are still making changes to the program and trying to get the formula right, they have incentive to not really talk about what their plans are. Mercedes is also testing here in Nashville.
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      01-05-2019, 10:30 PM   #9
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I have 2 issues with BMW’s program.

1. I can’t custom order the car and get exactly what I want. I have to compromise on colors and options and settle for whatever is available.

2. This program is more than twice of what I’d pay to lease the car. It doesn’t make any financial sense. If it was priced lowered like Volvo’s program then a lot more people would be interested.
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      01-06-2019, 12:09 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by alex2364 View Post
I have 2 issues with BMW’s program.

1. I can’t custom order the car and get exactly what I want. I have to compromise on colors and options and settle for whatever is available.

2. This program is more than twice of what I’d pay to lease the car. It doesn’t make any financial sense. If it was priced lowered like Volvo’s program then a lot more people would be interested.
While I agree with point 2 I don't think your point 1 makes much sense, you can'yt expect BMW to have in stock a whole bunch of colour combos to suit different tastes. I'd expect them to have cars with a decent number of options so people are exposed to the tech etc but who really cares about colours when you can swap and change colours?
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      01-06-2019, 12:12 AM   #11
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Fastastic overall information there Stepback3 and I really enjoyed reading about how it works for you. I think it makes sense for some people in some situations and I think that in my situation as the M6 is pretty much my dream car I think it would be good to enroll in the scheme for the missus for the variability of the system - she could rotate through i3, 1/2/3/4 series normally and every so often we could ask for an x5 or soon x7 if we need to tow something or similar.
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      01-06-2019, 05:48 AM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by alex2364 View Post
I have 2 issues with BMW's program.

1. I can't custom order the car and get exactly what I want. I have to compromise on colors and options and settle for whatever is available.

2. This program is more than twice of what I'd pay to lease the car. It doesn't make any financial sense. If it was priced lowered like Volvo's program then a lot more people would be interested.
This is what makes describing the program so hard. You are referring to "the car" when there is no single "car." When you purchase or lease you pick out a car and color and features.

When you subscribe, you don't care nearly as much about that stuff because in the next couple of days you'll switch!

Today I have a 540i that is blue with saddle interior. Tomorrow I'm going to try out an i3 just for fun. On Wednesday I'm going to try out the X2. By next weekend I'll likely have an M something.

You can't compare leasing a single vehicle to a subscription anymore than you can Blockbuster Video to Netflix. Sure, it's all cars but the experience is way different.

I get the price concerns. It is expensive. No denying that. The country club isn't the cheapest way to play golf. This is like the country club of BMW.
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      01-06-2019, 08:49 AM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Stepback3 View Post
Quote:
Originally Posted by mecheng77 View Post
Quote:
Originally Posted by xander_g View Post
Thank you for taking the time to offer your pespective on this program. I hope they bring it to canada soon.
Sounds cool, can you try it for 1 month or is there a contract to sign
No contract. It's month-to-month. Like Netflix.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Stepback3 View Post
Quote:
Originally Posted by mecheng77 View Post
Quote:
Originally Posted by xander_g View Post
Thank you for taking the time to offer your pespective on this program. I hope they bring it to canada soon.
Sounds cool, can you try it for 1 month or is there a contract to sign
No contract. It's month-to-month. Like Netflix.
In that case, BMW if you are listening come to Toronto, sign me up. I think there will be huge demand
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      01-08-2019, 11:36 AM   #14
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Great write-up. I'm in Nashville as well, and have been considering this program, so I'm glad to read your perspective. Hope to see you around.
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      01-08-2019, 11:40 AM   #15
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What happens if there is minor damage on the vehicle? Are you liable for a certain amount?
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      01-08-2019, 11:48 AM   #16
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What happens if there is minor damage on the vehicle? Are you liable for a certain amount?
Subscription includes insurance with $1000 deductible.
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      01-08-2019, 11:56 AM   #17
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Well done on the write up, now if they only offered it elsewhere
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      01-08-2019, 11:59 AM   #18
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Kinda felt this way when I was leasing my F10 550i and M5 from 2012-2016 as Id constantly had them picked up to bring in for service/warranty work, and loaners would be dropped off. I literally drove every Non-M car from those years, from M-Sport 135i to G11 750Li (I went as far as tossing on the Dyno for fun lol, and always had a jb4 on hand for all the N55 equipped models)
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      01-08-2019, 12:11 PM   #19
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Great friggin write up. This is so cool. And I agree on the pricing. Its not terrible considering the flexibility but some people just dont drive that much. (Especially me).
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      01-08-2019, 12:15 PM   #20
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How do they feel about high wear and tear on brakes/tires?
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      01-08-2019, 12:28 PM   #21
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well, I assume there is some disclaimer about not track the car?
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      01-08-2019, 12:45 PM   #22
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well, I assume there is some disclaimer about not track the car?
There is a disclaimer about the track. But I've been actively encouraged to do things like M6 launch mode. The people who run this program understand that these cars are meant to be driven. I am respectful of the cars but I don't baby them, either.
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