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It seems like everything is a subscription service these days. Though BMW ended its subscription service that allowed customers to change cars regularly in early 2021, the company is having another crack at monthly payments. This time, though, it isn’t an all-inclusive car, insurance, and maintenance package. Instead, BMW is charging you monthly fees to use features your car already physically has, like heated seats!

BMW subscription service includes monthly charges for heated seats and other features

A blue 2023 BMW M8 Competition Coupe
2023 BMW M8 Competition Coupe | BMW

According to Car Throttle, newer BMW models in the U.K. that already have the necessary hardware for these features come with a monthly subscription option. The Car Throttle article shows that the use of heated seats is about $18 USD per month. Additionally, BMW owners have the option to pay $178 for a year of use, about $300 for three years of use, or pay $414 to have the feature for good.

Similar options are available for high-beam to assist, driving assist plus, speed/safety camera detection, and a host of other features. That sounds pretty petty and annoying on BMW’s part. However, that doesn’t quite tell the whole story. It seems this isn’t the sole way for BMW owners to obtain these features.

According to ARS Technica, this isn’t the full story. For one, ARS Technica states that BMW does not currently have plans to bring this service to the U.S. Furthermore, the article states that pay-to-play offerings for these features are only for cars that did not come from the factory with these options. In essence, many vehicles have the hardware, but their build sheet did not include these options, so they aren’t included in the software.

The all-new BMW 2 Series Gran Coupe, BMW M235i xDrive, Snapper Rocks blue metallic, Rim 19” Styling 552 M
2022 BMW 2 Series Gran Coupé | BMW

On the one hand, it sounds pretty nice. If you bought a BMW and didn’t select an option, having the chance to take it for a low-cost test drive is fairly appealing. That way, if you like it, you can choose to buy it outright or for a longer term. On the other hand, it also reveals that BMW has the power to make all these options standard without any additional production costs.

Ultimately, it’s up to you to decide whether this is a fair play. Clarification, however, was necessary.

This isn’t BMW’s first go around with this type of service

The front 3/4 view of a purple 2022 BMW M240i xDrive Coupe on Road America's autocross course
2022 BMW M240i xDrive Coupe front 3/4 | Matthew Skwarczek, MotorBiscuit

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Though it wasn’t with heated seats in the past, BMW has played this card before. In 2019, BMW made Apple CarPlay an optional extra. If BMW buyers wanted it, they had to pay $80 per year or $300 for 20 years. North American BMW buyers caused such an uproar that the company backed down and even started offering Apple CarPlay as standard.

BMW isn’t the only guilty party here, either. Tesla is well-known for its optional upgrades that cost thousands of dollars despite cars already having the hardware for them. Things like Autopilot, heated rear seats, and a heated steering wheel are all paid upgrades for some older Tesla models, according to the company’s website.

Ultimately, the biggest benefit from this type of subscription or microtransaction upgrade service really only seems beneficial for secondhand buyers. Having the ability to add an option the original buyer didn’t have is a pretty cool concept. Otherwise, it just seems a bit questionable.