Toyota Quietly Starts Charging a Subscription for Remote Start

Toyota has cemented its popularity with American buyers thanks to the brand’s exceptionally reliable cars. When consumers purchase a Toyota, they can usually expect all the mechanical components and interior features to work as intended. That includes remote start, which allows drivers to turn on their car from a set distance using their key fob or a smartphone app.

Though remote start is convenient, Toyota has locked the feature behind a paywall. Typically, we only see this move from luxury automakers, so many Toyota drivers are understandably surprised. What does this subscription service look like, and how does it affect current owners?

What you need to know about Toyota’s remote start subscription

The Toyota logo on a car in Krakow, Poland, on December 3, 2019
Toyota logo | Jakub Porzycki/NurPhoto via Getty Images

New Toyota cars will come with the option for drivers to enroll in a free trial of Toyota Connected Services. In addition to remote starting capability, these services could include roadside assistance services, Wi-Fi services, and maintenance reminders. Interestingly, the range of services you receive depends upon the audio package you choose.

For example, on the Toyota 4Runner, you gain access to remote start only through the Premium Audio package on higher trims. However, on the Sequoia, remote start will come with both available audio packages on any trim. The length of the trial will also depend upon your audio package.

Remote start only comes with the Audio Plus or Premium Audio bundle of services. Audio Plus comes with a three-year free trial, after which you’re charged a subscription fee. A Premium audio trial lasts for 10 years before you need to begin making payments.

This applies to all Toyota vehicles from 2018 to 2021. Toyota claims the remote start functionality on vehicles manufactured before these dates is “enhanced” and doesn’t require extra subscriptions.

How much does the Toyota remote start subscription cost?

Once the free trial ends, drivers must pay $8 a month or $80 per year to remain enrolled in Toyota Connected Services. If you’ve purchased a new Toyota from 2018, you’re probably already enrolled in this program without even knowing it. When a thread was posted about the program on Reddit recently, even the moderators marked it as “potentially misleading.”

A Reddit user pointed out that drivers might lose access to remote start once the Toyota Connected Services trial ends. The automaker confirmed to The Drive that owners would indeed be charged more to use remote start. As we can see from the comments on Newsbreak, many drivers are less than enthusiastic about the development.

Additionally, The Verge reports that some drivers found out about Connected Services accidentally. Users in a Toyota forum were questioning why remote start would still work on some vehicles but not theirs. That suggests Toyota won’t even notify you once your free trial has ended.

It also doesn’t help that dealership videos make no mention of Toyota Connected Services or the length of the trials. Dealers only say that you can still use remote start while you have the Audio Plus package. As we’ve learned, that doesn’t apply to some Toyota models.

Which other automakers charge extra for remote start?

Lexus, Toyota’s luxury offshoot, has been using paid remote start for years. Mazda introduced paid remote start for its vehicles manufactured since 2020, though drivers can also take advantage of a free trial. After the trial ends, owners are charged $10 per month.

Porsche and Cadillac require drivers to pay monthly fees for some safety features. BMW initially made smartphone integration an optional service but revised this decision due to customer backlash. Given the response from the Toyota communities online, we could see something similar happen with this situation.

RELATED: Automakers Want to Charge You Monthly for Your Car’s Best Features