By on August 6, 2019

We often place ourselves in enviable situations in these QOTD posts, selecting which model best suits us following a sudden windfall, or perhaps deciding which vehicle tops all others in performing a certain task. In a sense, this is just like those other questions.

Except… you’ll be taking a severe pay cut.

Things have gone bad, you see. Somehow, following some unfortunate sequence of life-altering events, all the strings that tied you to a life of leisure and fair pay have snapped. You’re now just surviving. Yes, you’re stuck driving for Uber.

A grim situation, no doubt, if you’re used to the finer things in life (no offence to the many excellent Uber drivers I’ve had in the past). And yet here you are, just trying to make ends meet, your only ally in the daily battle for survival being your car.

And it’s a new car, too, as your old one was either too pricey (on a monthly payment basis), too thirsty, or too old to qualify for ride-hailing service. We’re taking your daily driver out of the picture, as this QOTD necessitates a new-car purchase.

So, money is tight. Your new car’s fuel economy and monthly payments must be factored into the purchase, as do your own day-to-day needs, as this isn’t just a work vehicle. You’re not sleeping in it, but you’ll definitely need this vehicle both for income generation and to handle the random driving duties called for by what’s left of your life.

2018 Hyundai Elantra GT (Image: Steph Willems)

Isn’t this a great opportunity to familiarize yourself with the country’s remaining crop of economy cars? To maximize profit on your meager proceeds, you’ll want a gas-sipper, ideally one that doesn’t retail for too much money. You’ll want to consider backseat space and cargo volume, not just for your paying passengers, but for your own family (or just yourself, assuming you’re unattached). Hell, maybe your new status in life will see you hauling multiple 30-packs of Busch home from Walmart on a regular basis.

Is depreciation and warranty worthy of consideration? You bet it is.

So, what vehicle becomes your do-all chariot? Is the newly embiggened yet still miserly Volkswagen Jetta in the running? Remaining examples of the equally thrifty Chevy Cruze or the always-ready Honda Civic? A Hyundai Elantra GT, for that nice extended cargo floor, or maybe that new Versa you read about yesterday morning? Or, is a family-friendly crossover or minivan what’s needed in your life?

There’ll be no hooking up with Maven and renting out your current GM car for extra income while you work a non-driving day job — this is a vehicle you’ll spend a sickening amount of time in.

Do the math, consider your options, and let us know what ride you’d choose to make the most of your new career.

[Images: Nissan, Steph Willems/TTAC]

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41 Comments on “QOTD: Ready to Share Your Ride?...”


  • avatar
    gtem

    I cringe when I get into a brand new car that the driver bought specifically for rideshare work. I hope that at least they are leasing, but even so, how many thousands did they put themselves in the hole for just to make $9-10 an hour?

    No, I’d be buying the oldest and cheapest possible car that would still qualify. Do a thorough interior deep clean, recondition exterior to a presentable state, put some fresh struts on and start pounding the pavement. It would probably be a 200k+ mile Prius, or maybe an Elantra.

  • avatar
    87 Morgan

    I have not driven a used 17′ Camry, so I am not sure how comfortable the seats are, but this would be my first choice.

    2nd choice would be the car that I have; Buick LaCrosse only I would forgo the AWD for fuel economy. Pre-owned of course as new they are stupid expensive, but 3 years old they are depreciation whores and are a fantastic buy. Oddly, I checked awhile ago, they qualify for the Uber Black so you can charge more. So you have a sturdy 3.6 decent F.E, cheap parts if need be and a nice quiet place to whittle away your time lamenting the sudden and dramatic economic changes that have befallen.

  • avatar
    Vulpine

    This is actually funny as I just saw on Facebook a guy “Ubering” his pickup truck, hiring out to haul anybody’s oversized load. Considering the price of the truck (photos make it out to be a new or nearly-new model), the owner is putting the truck and himself to work hauling other people’s furniture, etc.

  • avatar
    dukeisduke

    People would be wise to consult their insurance company before loaning out their cars, or transporting people for money, since those activities are usually prohibited on insurance policies. Every time I’ve had a claim over the last couple of years (I’ve been rear-ended twice in two years), the first thing the insurance company asks is, “Do you know if the other driver was carrying passengers for a ride sharing service?” They asked if I did as well.

    • 0 avatar
      ravenuer

      Good points…..

    • 0 avatar
      sgeffe

      What insurance is available for that? Or does Uber and Lyft offer their own policies..which guarantees you won’t bring anything home after forking over for that?!

      • 0 avatar
        Wirey1

        You can google “best insurance for uber” or something similar. Several of the bigger outfits allow you to rideshare. Mine does not.

        The insurance that Uber and Lyft provide only covers you while enroute to a fare and while transporting the fare. The rest of the time, you’re on your own.

  • avatar
    Lie2me

    I would go with a slightly used econo-crossover i.e. Trax, HR-V etc. If you’re going to use it as livery you’ll need to get the most economical, dependable, comfortable and utilitarian vehicle you can afford and these type of vehicles seem to qualify. I definitely would not get new, because of depreciation and wear and tear

  • avatar
    Deneb66

    I’d have to go with a few years old base Camry or Corolla. My ’14 Camry, while not too exciting has been rock solid reliable and doesn’t cost much to maintain or insure. Second choice would be a minivan, so that if things went from bad to worse, I could live in it. Crude but functional.

  • avatar
    danio3834

    If you’re gonna do a livery gig, do yourself a favor and get a 1 year old 300 or Impala at nearly the same price as that new well equipped econobox. Your riders will be pleased. Also, if you let it out on Turo or similar, you’ll get a higher rate.

    • 0 avatar
      Lie2me

      ^^This is probably the right answer, these cars are proven work horses that are super-cheap slightly used and can take the abuse of livery. They’re big, comfortable and can carry a lot of stuff

  • avatar
    indi500fan

    I’ve read that folks driving Uber mostly aren’t considering true operating costs and may actually be losing money?

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    My first thought, like Danio’s, was a slightly used Impala or 300, but on further reflection, I’d opt for a ’16 or ’17 Camry. Boring, yes, but I’d have to think that in the taxi/limo biz, low operating costs would be the key to making a living, and a Camry should prove bulletproof.

    (Not coincidentally, my 22-year-old daughter is going to be in the market for something in the next few months, and I keep trying to point her in that direction as well, to no avail.)

  • avatar
    Blackcloud_9

    Since I have been in this situation and was an Uber driver for a short while between jobs, I had the perfect vehicle. A Kia Soul. Thrifty enough, seats me and 4 passengers comfortably, modern enough and easy to keep clean.
    Being an Uber driver was not for me. I wasn’t willing to go into it whole hog. Wasn’t ready to spend 8-10 hours per day in my car. But the passengers I picked up were always happy to sit in the Kia.
    Luckily, I am fully employed again. Did not enjoy being part of the “gig” economy.

  • avatar
    Dan

    I don’t think it’s quite as bad as that, but factoring in the backloaded expense of a new car after you burn up the first one the real net is in the range of 10 bucks an hour and as a contractor there are exactly zero benefits. Welcome to the gig economy.

    Me, I’d rather ask fatties if they wanted fries with that. At least you have coworkers to divide the pain.

    Edit: was supposed to be a reply to indyfan above

  • avatar
    ajla

    According to the internet, an Uber driver in my area makes an average of $33K. While that isn’t so poor to be homeless, it isn’t “new car” money either, but I’ll go along with the scenario. Running the numbers, my max outlay with this income would be about $15K.

    It looks like I can get a manual transmission Accent for about $13k, so that would be my pick. C/D got some really good numbers out of it, it has decent passenger/cargo volume, and a longer warranty.

  • avatar
    lstanley

    The ride share answer is, and always will be, Toyota Corolla. In the left lane, going 55. With a driver from another country with some fascinating stories to share about life. I recently had a driver from the Comorros, and a driver in San Francisco owned a crime scene clean-up company back in Brazil.

    Each drove Corollas.

  • avatar
    JMII

    My neighbor was in this situation (between jobs) and used a Dodge mini-van. Apparently this opens up higher paying gigs as its not a common vehicle choice. Thus larger groups or airport runs come into play vs your typical single rider economy car pickup. He has also removed the seats and used it haul various products around too (Amazon deliveries?). For awhile he was hauling phone books! Seems all the old folk condos (I’m in FL) still uses the yellow pages.

  • avatar
    cprescott

    This is an interesting problem.

    I’d buy a new car at all for this. I’d settle for up to a three year old car that had already depreciated that does not have a Honduh or Toyoduh tax that artificially raises the acquisition cost.

    I do not use my “new” car for ride sharing, but I went through this hunt to replace my 22 year old car that I had since new and quickly found out that Hyundais and Kias are great bargains and have improved so much that they will last significantly longer than some other cars. My 2016 Hyundai Elantra that had 21k miles on it (with a stick!) is roomy, gets 46 mpgs per tank (actually measured mileage divided by petrol pumped), and keeps amazing me how good a car it is every day. This car cost under $13k, was a fleet (not rental) car and was superbly maintained and looks and drives brand new. I still have factory warranty for almost another year up to 5 years/60k.

    Careful shopping on a used car market will allow you to minimize the expenditure and being open to not buying a Honduh or Toyoduh (group think) will end up saving you money.

  • avatar
    mmreeses

    “The only winning move is not to play.” Get any other type of job–bagging groceries, etc.–that doesn’t eat up your car.

    as all the comments above hit, with depreciation, etc., it’s a losing battle unless you can handle a lot of the maintenance yourself and think through how to max. your revenue/min. your costs.

  • avatar
    dividebytube

    I’ve gotten some uber rides in decrepit vehicles that squeaked and rattled through the streets. Old Kias, an Volvo S40 that had seen better days, and even a high mileage Panther Lincoln. At least the Lincoln was comfortable and the driver said he gets a lot of repeat riders who want to ride in a larger car. Not sure how that works.

    Newest car I rode in was a very base Fusion.

    Reliability would be my first concern, comfort my second. And cheapness/MPG to run battling for third. This car is going to take a lot of abuse so no VW Jetta (which gets stellar MPG) even though it’s roomy. So probably something Toyota hybrid provided I can stand the seats.

  • avatar
    FormerFF

    There are good deals to be had on late model Fusion hybrids. My experience with mine, which is a PHEV, is that they are quite reliable and the per mile cost is very low.

    I wouldn’t do Uber, there are jobs in my area that pay more than the average Uber driver makes per hour without risking an expensive (and depreciating) capital asset.

  • avatar
    Scoutdude

    Fusion Hybrid all the way. Since the announcement of their discontinuation they are available with big discounts, they’ll get ~40mpg in stop and go traffic and are proven to not need much in the way of maintenance or repairs.

  • avatar
    IBx1

    Lincoln MKZ Hybrid; but a 2014 for about $17k. 40mpg for low running costs, luxury marque for access to higher-paying tiers of Uber service, and can similarly justify a higher rate for Turo.

    Comfortable for all-day driving and looks sharp, unlike some miserable cheap penalty box from Nissan or hunday.

  • avatar
    Fred

    I delivered Chinese food for min wage and tips using my car. What I learned is that the wear and tear on your car means I lost money. Granted min wage was about $3 then, but the principle applies. Not to mention if they get in a wreck and you didn’t update your insurance, well it all seems a bit risky. Fortunately I’m not desperate for money.

  • avatar
    dal20402

    There’s a reason every full-time rideshare driver in Seattle has a Prius. It has the lowest TCO in full-time service of all cars eligible for rideshare.

    That said, I have a Class B CDL, and there is absolutely no way I would ever do rideshare when I have the option of driving a bus again to put food on the table.

    • 0 avatar
      sgeffe

      Perhaps I could learn to drive a semi if I absolutely had to.

    • 0 avatar
      onyxtape

      It’s not just the TCO. There’s a rule that Sea-Tac airport only allows cars with over 45MPG to pick up passengers there – which pretty much means Prius for the most part.

      The regular Prius has a surprising amount of room. 5 adults plus two full-size suitcases can fit just fine with a little wiggling about.

      • 0 avatar
        -Nate

        Disagree ~

        I’m 6′ and have short 32″ legs, the back seat was only good for a few minutes, I’d have sooner walked than ride with three across back there .

        I talked to a man in Phenix who said he runs an indie cab company, all Prius’, no problems .

        -Nate

  • avatar
    slavuta

    No.

  • avatar
    -Nate

    If you’re not a car person, you won’t mind others being pigs in the back of your taxi .

    I’ve ridden in some ubers, all were clean, near new vehicles with pleasant & courteous drivers, mostly non English speaking, I’m not sure how good an idea that is, not speaking the language of your Customers .

    I didn’t realize you could use a 5 year old car .

    Too bad Panthers are out, they’re comfy, cheap to run and reliable .

    I saw a kid in a one or two year old black prius driving both rideshares, it hadn’t been washed (not even the windows) since it was built, I’d not have touched nor ridden in it for free .

    A 20 something white kid of course, too lazy to understand the basics in life .

    -Nate

  • avatar
    tankinbeans

    2.0T Taurus with a sunroof.

  • avatar
    Art Vandelay

    Money is tight so I should buy a new car for a gig that might let me break even on that car not counting for depreciation? On what planet does this make sense? I have a pension and work in a field where I’d have 6 offers in a day if I lost my job, however even in my younger days this makes zero sense. If my car got repo’d (happened back in the leaner days), I’d get a 500 dollar roached J body or something so I could continue to go on interviews between the retail and fast food gigs (happened too) that nobody would touch in the parking lot of the craphole apartment I ended up in and desperately tell myself it was temporary (thank God it was)

  • avatar
    WallMeerkat

    This side of the pond, I’ll keep my taxi-friendly Octavia. If I have to upgrade, upgrade to VRS. If money tight, a Rapid or SEAT Toledo.

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