WTF?! Owners of certain Toyota vehicles are confused at a not-so-new subscription service the car manufacturer has in place. It seems that those who have been enjoying the remote start feature on their key fobs may have to start paying for it as early as next year.
Many owners do not realize the remote start feature of their Toyota is a paid service. It is part of the company's Connected Services platform, which has been running for several years now. But in 2018, Remote Connect came included as a trial for cars with Audio Plus or Premium Audio packages. The Audio Plus trial period is three years, while the Premium is 10 years.
Some owners who purchased their 2018 Toyota early on are nearing the end of their Remote Connect trial and may not even know it. The "Remote Connect" subscription costs $8 per month or $80 per year for those wanting to keep this functionality. The stipulation was only made widely known thanks to a Reddit post last month pointing out the conditions on some Toyota marketing material. However, dealerships seem to gloss over the fact that this is a paid feature when demonstrating it for customers.
While the Premium Audio package provides 10 years of use, it is unclear what happens to the service when the vehicle changes hands. Since the feature is still under trial for the original owner and doesn't transfer to the buyer (at least not on paper), the seller may be on the hook when the subscription runs out.
Even if the subscription does not auto-renew, the seller may receive nonstop calls and correspondence urging renewal---a problem already inherent with extended warranties. Additionally, the new owner is not likely to know why their fob stopped working when attempting to remote start the car.
The good news is that owners of older vehicles with Remote Connect will start getting the service for free now.
"Remote Connect equipped vehicles built before 11/12/18 were required to have an active Remote Connect trial or paid subscription for the key fob to perform remote start functionality," said Toyota. "The logic has been enhanced to no longer require an active Remote Connect subscription for the key fob to perform remote start functionality."
Toyota is very vague on what cars have this feature. YouTuber and car salesman "ToyotaJeff" confirms that it at least works on the 2018 and 2019 Camry and the 2019 Rav 4 (above). For 2021 models, check Toyota's connected services chart. For older models, there is an easy way to tell if it is equipped.
If you have a Toyota, new or old, but are unsure if you have the auto-start feature (there is no dedicated fob button), press Lock three times and hold for three seconds on the third press. If your car has Remote Connect, it will start. The fob needs to be within 20-30 feet to work.
Alternatively, you can install the Toyota app from that App Store or Google Play. After logging in or creating an owner account, you can link to your car with "Activate Remote Services" (follow the prompts). Once set up, you can start your car or unlock the doors from within the app. There is also an option to pair with a smartwatch.