How to Pick a Good Car for Uber and Lyft Rideshare Driving
It doesn't usually make sense to buy a car specifically for rideshare duty, but some are better than others.
2020 was hell for everyone, no doubt. Lots of us lost jobs and might be searching for new income streams. Driving for a rideshare company like Uber or Lyft might not be a dream job, and yeah, both companies have been criticized by many (including me). But it’s still a viable method of bringing in money, more so if you use a car that’s decent at doing taxi duty.
What makes a good rideshare vehicle?
I should clarify that I don’t recommend you go out and buy a new car specifically for rideshare work. The pay scale of gig work is volatile, with differing pay scales for Uber, Lyft, Instacart, Amazon Flex, Doordash, and others. I know from experience, rates change all the time, and often without warning.
With that in mind, consider the car you currently own. If it’s a big honkin’ Ford Super Duty, maybe gig economy work with your car might not be the best course of action. Unless there’s Uber for loads of lumber or gravel or stuff you could haul in the bed?
Most rideshare vehicles have to be less than 15 years old, have a clean title, and might have to pass a basic inspection by whatever company you’ll choose to drive for. Make sure you find out what the exact car requirements are for your municipality, they do vary from place to place, and company to company!
If you are buying for rideshare work, buy cheap.
New cars depreciate like hell with the average car losing more than 25 percent of its value the second you drive it off the lot. Depreciation only accelerates the more a car is driven.
Rideshare drivers do a lot of miles. In my prime, I drove at least 35,000 per year or around three times the national average of 12,500 miles. Driving well above average is certain to destroy the value of your vehicle.
So ideally, you’ll start with, or buy, a car that’s already done a lot of depreciating; loads of drivers are ridesharing in perfectly reliable vehicles in the $5,000 to $10,000 range. A $10,000 vehicle depreciating to $6,000 in value is much easier to swallow, compared to a $35,000 vehicle depreciating to $18,000 at the same time, under the same conditions.
You’ll want something low maintenance, so maybe angling for a ZHP E90 as my colleague Chris did, probably wouldn’t be the wisest idea.
Fuel economy is important too, naturally. I averaged about 30 mpg from my Sonic Turbo. With the amount I spent on fuel, I still found myself wishing my car was better on gas. Remember, gas is part of your expenses. Lower expenses equals more profit.
Passengers value space, but I’ve noticed it’s not critical. I took close to 10,000 people in the back of a Chevy Sonic hatchback, and still managed to maintain a 4.9 rating, with very few complaints.
With that said, here’s a quick list of cars that are pretty good for gig economy work, namely rideshare:
- Toyota Prius (any year) Do you want economy, reliability, longevity, ease of service, and good interior space? The Prius has it in space. These cars easily average 45+ MPG and will trek to 250,000 miles without batting an eye. There’s a reason why so many taxicabs and Uber drivers use Priuses – they work.
- Toyota Camry Hybrid (any year) Similar to the Prius, the Camry Hybrid is reliable and easy to fix. The economy isn’t as good as the Prius, but it is more spacious and comfortable to drive.
- Kia Soul (any year). The Soul is a deceptively roomy vehicle, and it’s cheap to buy and own too. It’s got a big back seat, OK fuel economy, and a spacious trunk for how short the car is. The 1.6L and 2.0L GDI engines are solid, too.
- Ford Fusion (2014+, 2.5-liter) The sedanocolypse of everyone buying crossovers has put a hex on car-shaped cars. These big sedans can be had fairly cheaply on the used market, and they’re generally reliable. The Turbocharged EcoBoost engines sometimes have issues on the higher mileage cars, but the naturally-aspirated 2.5-liter four-cylinder is a solid unit.
- Nissan Versa (2012-2019) The Versa isn’t a very pleasant car to drive in the slightest. It’s slow, loud, and kind of ugly. Yet, the Versa is also absurdly cheap to buy, and remarkably spacious, with a big trunk and rear legroom besting a lot of midsized sedans. The CVT automatic should be avoided, but the five-speed manual or the four-speed automatic on lesser trims are usually fine.
If you already own one of those, you’re in good shape to start. If you’re looking for your next vehicle and want to factor in potential gig work as a primary or secondary use, focus on cars like the ones I just listed. A good rideshare vehicle is the one you can make money with, without losing your ass!
It would be great if others who have driven for Lyft, Uber, or any similar outfit could chime into the comments with their insights too. Come chat and tell us what you drove!