Toyota Now Charges a Subscription Fee to Use Remote Start Functionality — ExtremeTech

ExtremeTech
4 min readDec 14, 2021

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When a company decides it wants to launch a subscription service and convert free users to paying customers, there are two basic ways to go about it. One method is to create new product features or service tiers that are only available to subscribers while keeping free benefits the same as they were before. Another is to remove services that were formerly free and lock them behind a paywall. The first encourages people to sign up by enticing them with new options. The second method “encourages” people to sign up by taking away valued functionality in the hopes people are willing to pay for it instead.

Toyota has surveyed the market and gone with the second approach. Since 2018, the company has sold Remote Start as a factory option on all vehicles equipped with either Audio Plus or Premium Audio. What most customers were apparently unaware of is that continuing to use the Remote Start functionality of the vehicle is dependent on paying Toyota a monthly subscription fee. The company claims to offer a three-year “free trial,” but after that period is over, it expects you to start forking over $8 month for the privilege of starting your car remotely.

The key fob one uses to start a modern Toyota does not communicate with any servers. It does not contain or use a cellular modem. There is — and I can’t stress this enough — no technical reason why this type of remote starter requires a subscription service. Toyota just wants you to give it more money.

Toyota Punishes Newer Vehicle Owners

As Ars Technica points out, this is a problem unique to relatively late-model vehicles. If your Toyota was built prior to November 12, 2018, you won’t be subject to the same subscription requirements. Apparently Toyota vehicles built prior to this date are limited to 3G modems, and 3G carrier networks are being shut down across the US. According to Toyota, it has “enhanced” vehicles with Remote Start built prior to this date and removed the need for a subscription service.

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