Time to Resist the Subscription Bandwagon

Dear Car Talk:

I purchased a 2019 Toyota RAV4 XLE with 10,400 miles on it in October 2020. It came with a remote start feature on the key fob that I used last winter.

I went to use it this winter, and it did not work. I come to find out I have to pay for it. Apparently, I had it on a "free trial" for a period of time, but if I want to keep using it, now I have to pay a monthly fee. Nobody told me this when I bought the car.

Have you ever heard of this? It doesn't make any sense to me. Isn't it like having brakes but having to pay extra to use them? -- Phil

But here's what owners figured out: You don't need the car's modem to use remote start. You can use your key fob.

Unfortunately, Toyota programmed the system so that however a remote start is requested, the system first checks to see if you have a paid-up subscription. If not, it tells you to get lost. How did this go over with customers? Well, kind of like how it went over with you, Phil. They're ticked off.

Toyota says they are surprised by the customer reaction, and that they're "reviewing" the plan. But there's no guarantee they'll change it.

So if you really want the remote start, Phil, you'll have to fork over the monthly fee, and buy the whole Remote Connect plan.

I'm not a big fan of subscriptions for the same reason that companies love them. They're relatively small monthly payments, charged automatically to your credit card. And when a fee is automatic and small enough, you forget about it, and you keep paying whether you use the service or not. See also: my gym membership.

So my suggestion is to resist, if you can live without it, Phil. And let Toyota know you're disappointed. If we don't put up a fight, before we know it, we'll be putting a quarter in the dashboard every time we want to recline our seats.


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