Get Used To Subscription-Based Features: Toyota Will Charge A Fee For Key Fob Remote Start

Currently, Toyota's Remote Connect subscription is $80/year

Toyota’s newer cars (after 2018) will require a subscription for remote connectivity features. (Images: Toyota)

These are the new, somewhat hidden costs of owning newer cars.

Over the past few years, the notion that you pay for a car and all its baked-in features has eroded. ‘Over-the-air updates’ is now a much-hyped feature of new cars, with the idea that you can keep the car fresh for longer with updates that weren’t available at launch. In addition to that, however, automakers are using it as a pay wall to lock out certain features unless you pay a fee. Not just in the form of a one-time option, either — Toyota is now gradually moving into charging a monthly subscription for remote connectivity features.

More specifically, a company spokesperson told The Drive that 2018 and newer cars equipped with “Remote Connect” functions would have to pay over time to keep functioning. This includes the proximity-based RF key fob, even though using the fob does not transmit any data through an onboard modem, like using your smartphone would.

Despite that, you still have to have a Remote Connect subscription active in order for even the key fob remote start to operate. So, the car’s cellular-based modem will occasionally check that you have Remote Connect active, and if it’s not the remote start ceases to function. The move is one that some folks have already been used to with phone-based systems using an app to control their cars, but locking out some functionality on the actual key fob is certainly unusual.

How much will it cost? Toyota’s Remote Connect currently runs at $8 per month or $80 annually.

You can use it without paying for a subscription, but there are a couple caveats

Not every post-2018 Toyota owner will wind up paying for the Remote Connect key fob functionality right away. In fact, certain “Audio Plus” packages will add remote start functionality from the fob for up to 3 years. 2020 model vehicles will actually get it for 10 years, while “Premium Audio” vehicles may get a trial for up to 10 years before you have to get a Remote Connect subscription. The caveat? If an owner waives Connected Services (you’ll still have to pay the fee for other Connected Services functionality), then key fob remote start will not function.

If you own a Toyota built before November 12, 2018, your vehicle will not require this subscription to function. Instead, the automaker says the logic has been “enhanced” to forego that requirement. Part of that comes down to older cars’ 3G connectivity to use connected services, which will not function after cellular providers shut down or “sunset” the 3G network in the US next year.

Whatever your stance is on the issue, this is likely just the tip of the iceberg moving forward. In the future, subscriptions may well be an added cost of ownership as automakers jump on board. Stellantis, for example, is shifting emphasis toward software-based functionality over the coming years, with the aim to incorporate the technology into some 34 million vehicles by 2030.