The landscape of auto ownership is changing, largely driven by the high cost of vehicle ownership, fuel and maintenance. Partly thanks to the lower cost of operating electric and hybrid vehicles, car-ownership groups are becoming a popular choice for urban commuters. This suggests that shared ownership will become a more common alternative for individuals disenchanted with bearing the cost of a vehicle by themselves. Knowing this, some big automakers are exploring shared-lease agreements for multiple drivers, not unlike a cell-phone data plan for families, where partners agree to manage their collective usage.

When considering electric or hybrid vehicles, whether you choose to own them outright or collectively, you should be aware of the terms of the software that operates them. Some manufacturers stipulate that even if you own the vehicle, they own the installed software and insist that only authorized dealers may provide ongoing maintenance and repair. Original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) could also decide to charge subscription fees for simply “activating” certain performance and safety features. Furthermore, as built-in software collects data that reveals information about driving habits, the data could be used to affect warranty conditions and insurance premiums. So, it’s easy to imagine that potential car buyers of the future might back away from the high cost of solo ownership – especially if they don’t really own what they buy.