Accessing Joy: Day 01

For those who’ve been keeping track, yours truly had unexpectedly managed to win a full month’s worth of access to, erm, Access by BMW. A new automotive subscription service by BMW that promises all the joy of having a BMW to drive, without the commitments that come with vehicular ownership.

Coming from an owner’s perspective, I’ve always been slightly sceptical of such programmes as I’ve always valued ownership of a vehicle. But with a free car to use for a month, why not try learning more from the perspective of someone who doesn’t want to be tied down by years of loan repayments.

With an ever-growing shift in behaviour amongst the younger population towards a more agile and subscription-based approach towards life, it was only a matter of time before such an approach arrived in the automotive world. Especially in an environment where vehicle ownership can be a rather daunting financial decision.

This is where Access comes in, with no initial downpayment required and an all-inclusive monthly price package that throws in unlimited mileage, all relevant taxes, insurance, maintenance, roadside assistance, a replacement vehicle if required and the delivery and collection of said vehicle. In short, pretty much everything related to the running costs of a car is taken care of except for fuel and parking. Signing up and booking a car is also entirely done online without the hassle of going down to dealerships, car rental shops or waiting for someone to call back with a quote. All the prices are listed upfront with payment handled online as well for a painless and seamless transaction.

For those new to the programme, you can access it here. Signing up takes at most 10 minutes with only a couple of OTP verifications required before choosing a car.

Just for comparison’s sake and out of sheer curiosity, I casually looked through a few other sites offering cars for rental and leasing. Currently, I do not know of any other premium manufacturer offering such a service online so as a baseline, here are some of the prices offered by Access by BMW.

The choices I had were either a 1 Series 118i or an X1 sDrive18i. I took the slightly larger car. Platinum Silver, please. If I was to buy one new at the current list price of $175,888, I would have to put in a rather hefty downpayment of $70,355 with monthly repayments of $1,501 excluding taxes and insurance. I’m guessing with taxes, insurances and other running costs added in, that monthly figure will hover closer to about $2,000.

Under the Access by BMW programme, my initial payment would be my monthly subscription fee of $2,688. They do charge an activation fee of $1,000 but for early subscribers, this fee is waived. Keep the $2,688 figure in mind as we move on to…

Audi on Demand, a similar but somewhat different mobility programme that works more like a rental fleet that charges by the day. So if we multiply their daily rates by 30, an average number of days in a month, these are the figures that come up. Starting at $4,819.00 for a 1-litre A3 Sedan, $6,039 for a 1-litre Q2 and $7,018 for the equivalent of an X1, the 1.4 litre Q3.

On the plus side, Audi on Demand does allow you to have a car based on the number of days you require, but the monetary savings Access provides over Audi on Demand might give one reason to take a BMW for an entire month even if he or she only drives it for a week or two. Yes Audi does do leasing as well, but leases usually come with a yearly contract and prices are not readily available online so we will leave that out for now. On a related note, for the monthly price of the 1.4litre Q3, you can get the bigger and mucho more powerful BMW X3 M40i (with money to spare) at $4,600. Food for thought.

But, as an indication to the fees required with leases, here’s a collection of cars available for leasing from All coming with a choice of 1, 2 or 3-year contracts. This tie-in period might drive some away but here’s the breakdown nonetheless. For the equivalent monthly fee of $2,688 for our X1, you are straddling between being locked in for 2 years with a Mitsubishi Outlander at $2,439.60, 2 years with the Toyota Prius+ at $2,464 or a year with a Mercedes CLA180 at $2,878.30.

If you were to sign yourself up for a 3-year lease with the Mercedes, the monthly payments work out to be $2782.00. Still about a $100 more than our BMW X1. That’s probably a full tank’s worth of petrol.

What about leasing from a more established dealership? Well, Mercedes like Audi do not post any information online with regards to leasing so we are leaving them out. But a quick look at Cycle & Carriage’s listing of cars up for listing presents a few options. Again, with daily rates presented, we use an average of 30 days to represent a month. So, for just slightly less than what we are paying for our BMW X1, you can get a Kia Niro Hybrid at $2,550.

From an established automotive dealership, we move on to an established rental company, Lion City Rentals. These come closest to Access’ subscription duration terms, offering cars between a week to 3 months. Unfortunately, in terms of cars available, the equivalent of our X1 will be a Toyota Prius Hybrid, $3235.68 for 4 weeks or $2,247 a month if you sign up for a 3-month term. Not the most exciting drive I reckon.

Those figures presented above are of course not the most comprehensive available, and I’m sure if you were to go through the hassle of filling up “Call me back” and “Request for quotation” forms, you can get an even bigger spread of information to pour-over, but I think they do give a rough idea of why I currently think Access by BMW does represent pretty good value for such a service.

So with the sign-up process filled in and all the figures done, my X1 was promptly delivered this morning and the entire handover process was completed again, in less than 10 minutes. There were a few forms to go over and sign which reviews what you should have read online on their terms and conditions page.

Once done, you can go through the car with their friendly delivery staff should you require, otherwise, keys in hand, the car is yours. For a month at least.

For those who don’t believe if when BMW says that their fleet of Access cars are new (or new-ish), here’s a look at my odometer. Fresh off the boat. Even I feel bad for putting on the additional kilometres. The friendly people at BMW mentioned that these cars will be used for at most up to a year before replacement, so expect the Access fleet to stay fresh and up to date.

As an aside, I’ll be using the X1 as my daily and will be updating my experience with both the car and the Access by BMW service as well. Before I sign off, here are a few quick answers to what I think most people will ask.

Can I use the cars for Uber/Grab/Go-Jek?
No. It’s stated in the terms of use. Don’t ruin it for everyone.

Can I transport durians in the car?
No. It’s stated in the terms of use. Don’t ruin it for everyone.

Can I stuff people in the boot?
No. It’s stated in the terms of use (really). Don’t ruin it for everyone, especially your passengers.

For more information, head over to the official Singapore site to read up.

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