As rideshare drivers, we’re probably some of the best judges of cars. After all, cars are where we spend 100% of our working drive time, and if operating that car isn’t a pleasant, profitable experience, it has to go. So what are the best cars for rideshare drivers? Resident RSG Car Guru Gabe Ets-Hokin picks his five faves.
What’s the best car for rideshare driving? Oh boy, what a can o’ worms! My short answer is this: the car that works best for you. So how do you figure that out? Well, before I bought my rideshare car, I spent about three months reading, researching and figuring what would make me the most money. I’ll share with you my methods – and my short list of final picks, and hopefully you can use it to get into the perfect ride.
Do I Need to Buy a Car to Drive for Uber and Lyft?
First, sit down and ask yourself: do I really need to buy a car?
You need to ask yourself this because, in a lot of cases, it may make more sense to rent. We’ve written a lot about rental options, so renting may be better than owning if you:
- Are only working a little and can use an hourly service like Getaround
- Want to do rideshare full time but aren’t sure you’ll like it.
- Are transitioning professionally or geographically or just hate the idea of ownership, or…
- Have any number of other issues, like financing, rideshare insurance, or social factors that make car ownership unappealing.
From testing and evaluating lots of rental services, I think a focused and careful driver can make similar money, or the difference in income will make the advantages of ownership murky. If that’s the case for you, check out our page on Uber rental options.
So buying’s for you? Good! Now the fun begins. Fire up Excel, or check out my spreadsheet, copy it and crunch some numbers.
To build my spreadsheet, I tried to figure out what an average rideshare driver would look at before they bought a car. I used current gas prices (and electric rates!) averaged across the country; we here in California pay more for gas. I also used online numbers to estimate maintenance costs (excluding tires and suspension, as all cars need those and they all cost roughly the same) and used Autotrader.com to find the lowest price of a clean, low-mile, base trim 2017-model example of a car from each category. That way, a prospective buyer can get a car still under factory warranty so they can purchase an extended warranty, which is highly recommended, as expensive things start to fail on any car when the sixth odometer digit appears.
I then assumed a driver would roughly match my experience in miles driven per year: about 40,000 miles for 40 hours per week. I also assumed they would see similar fuel economy: about 20% less than the EPA rating, as rideshare work is primarily short, stop-and-go hops.
My experience as an automotive/motorcycle journalist informs me that people report very high mileage numbers in comments and on sites like Fuelly. I’m very impressed you can get 75 mpg out of your Prius, but you’re probably not the guy to get me to the emergency room (or even a movie) on time.
I then added up fuel (or electricity) and maintenance and added that to the total purchase price (not counting tax and licensing costs, which vary from state to state) and divided by 200,000 miles to determine cost per mile. You may argue that car X or Y might still be worth something after it’s seen 200,000 rideshare miles; but it won’t be much. When I sold cars, we’d always offer at least $1,000 in trade on any operable car, no matter how funky, but in the grand scheme of things, you’re better off donating it to charity after 5 years of door-slamming, pothole-bouncing, drunk-puking and gym-sweat absorbing. If you disagree, pay me $10,000 now for my current car. I will deliver it to you in 2024.
Please note in two of the categories I lumped together what I thought were the three best examples of each car together in each. I’ve driven all six cars listed, and while I think Hondas are the best in both categories, some drivers swear by (and pay a premium for) Toyota’s reputation for durability and quality. Additionally, I am very impressed with Hyundai’s value, fun-factor and 100,000-mile powertrain warranty, so I think whichever of these you choose, you can’t go wrong.
Not ready to buy a car for rideshare yet? Check out Fair, a rideshare rental option that offers great cars at competitive prices:
- Fair’s New Program (available in these states: CA, GA, VA/Wash DC) – click here to download the Fair app and get your first week ($195 savings) free!
- Drivers in other states – click here to download the Fair App and get $100 off your Fair car rental (or enter code “RSG100” at checkout)
Here Are the Best Cars for Rideshare Drivers
Here’s what my number-crunching revealed. I list the cost per mile, but that’s with my assumptions. Plug in your information, and you may get a different result.
Hyundai Elantra, Honda Civic, Toyota Corolla (2014-newer)
Low Price: $7,500 (Hyundai Elantra)
MPG: 28-32 city/38-42 hwy
Cost Per Mile: $.17
What these little fellas are great for is a surprisingly low up-front investment. I found plenty of Elantras and even Honda Civics on Autotrader for under $8,000; Corollas are usually a grand or two more. Not a bad deal for these cars, which are reliable, fun to drive, get good (count on 25mpg average for ridesharing) fuel economy and offer decent infotainment options and passenger room/trunk space.
The cheaper gas is where you live, and the more you drive on the highway, the more you’ll save, but beware: non-hybrids burn through brakes and trannys driving around town. KBB’s maintenance estimates seem low, but not everybody lives in hilly San Francisco, where the slopes and stop-n-go traffic make short work of brake discs and pads. Highly recommended for folks who want low car payments or have sub-prime credit.
Lincoln MKZ Hybrid (2013-newer)
Low Price: $18,399
MPG:41 city/38 hwy
Cost Per Mile: $.19
Yes, it’s an odd choice: compared to other entry-level luxury cars the Lincoln is lacking: after all, it’s an upscale Ford Fusion. But it’s also (by far) the cheapest car you can use for Uber Select and Lyft Luxe, and it goes without saying that you’ll be eligible for Uber Comfort. This may boost your earnings, but I didn’t put ol’ Linc into the number-one slot, as I found that in an informal and unscientific survey of Uber Select drivers, you’re unlikely to get enough premium-priced rides to see that much difference in earnings.
Still, it is nice to drive a luxury car, especially one as economical and highly-rated as the MKZ. It’s the same powertrain as Ford’s C-Max and Fusion hybrids, and that means it’s reliable and easy to find a dealer. This could be your car.
Hyundai Sonata Hybrid, Toyota Camry Hybrid, Honda Accord Hybrid (2014 or newer)
Low Price: $14,000 (Sonata)
MPG: 39-49 city/38-47 hwy
Cost Per Mile: $.16
Choose your flavor. Bland anonymity? Toyota. Thrifty fun? Hyundai. Sporty and solid? Honda. RSG Senior Contributor Jay Cradeur loves his Accord Hybrid, plus you’ll likely be scooping up some of those sweet, sweet Uber Comfort rides.
You may have noticed, from reading this listicle, that I’m a fan of hybrids. You’re right: that’s because not only do they use a lot less gas, saving you money and extending your range, but they also love stop-n-go city driving, have a lot more pep off the line, and are cheaper to maintain: brakes and transmissions last much longer than conventional cars. It’s the next best thing to an EV.
So why not just get a Prius? Here’s why: the Sonata/Camry/Accord are intended for older buyers who want more room and a quieter ride than a car like the Prius. You spend 40 hours a week or more in your car, so why not make it as hospitable as possible? Your customers will thank you, maybe even tip.
Toyota Prius (2017-newer)
Low Price: $16,000
MPG: 54 city/50 hwy
Cost Per Mile: $.17
Oh, Prius. Why do rideshare drivers like you so much? And when I say “like,” I mean love. “The best car for rideshare is Prius and Prius only,” stated Bay Area Uber Driver Aga Jabrayilov, and the Prius won my informal Facebook poll with 60% of the total votes. It’s probably the only thing that many rideshare drivers agree on.
The Toyota Prius is as ubiquitous in rideshare as the Ford Crown Victoria or Checker Manhattan was to the taxi industry. And no wonder: it’s the best-selling hybrid in the USA. In fact, it’s one of the best selling cars, period, which means there’s an unlimited supply of clean, used, low-mile examples. That also means it’s cheap and easy for do-it-yourselfers to find parts, watch instructional videos and keep their rides going for year after year.
In fact, you could probably find an older, cheaper example in good nick and drive your per-mile cost below my next recommendation, the Bolt EV, but I chose to stick to the 2017 model because it’s possible an older one could be excluded from Lyft and Uber’s platform in the next five years: Lyft just excluded all cars older than 2017 in Miami, Orlando and Tampa, Florida.
The 2017 also offers the perk of being completely redesigned. It’s now faster, quieter, better handling and more fuel-efficient than the prior generation model. It’s also (somehow) even weirder looking, but nobody can call its appearance boring. You can’t go wrong with a Prius, but you probably knew that already!
Chevrolet Bolt EV (2017-newer)
Low Price: $18,500
Cost Per Mile: $.14
Yes, yes, I know I’m biased: my first RSG article (and videos) were all about driving my Bolt EV for rideshare, but the numbers back me up: I’m saving 10 cents a mile (or more) in fuel costs compared to a gas car like a Honda Civic, or $4,000 a year. That’s $83 a week, or $2 an hour, and that’s not even factoring incentives like cheaper off-peak charging (I pay $7 to drive my car 238 miles if I charge at home during off peak hours), carpool lane privileges, reserved parking spots or the occasional bonus programs Uber and Lyft may toss our way. Oh, and I drive in California, where gas is $1 more than the national average. Consider that while electricity rates are subject to regulatory approval, oil companies raise their prices on a whim, usually at a time when you’re driving the most.
The Bolt is also really fun to drive and passengers love the quiet, smooth running and general green vibe of my car. That they depreciated 50% in three years (I bought new last year, woe is me) is due to the massive government incentives when they were new – up to $15,000 in some places – not that they’re unreliable. In fact, except for a few minor recurring issues, the Bolt has been very reliable overall, and battery degradation will probably not be an issue to 200,000 miles. I say “probably” because few of these cars have even reached 100,000 miles, and they’re under warranty to 150,000. But experts don’t think the Bolt’s battery pack will degrade much, thanks to an advanced thermal-management and charging system.
I was surprised when KBB.com’s cost-of-ownership calculator spit out $3854 for five years of maintaining the Bolt EV. The service schedule to 150,000 miles is cabin air filters ($11.36 on Amazon) and tire rotations, and at 150,000 miles it needs new battery coolant. That’s it, which is why dealers hate the Bolt (and all EVs). Brakes will likely last the life of the car. However, there will be some wear items: at 50,000 miles I can feel the shocks and struts getting bouncy. Still, it’s like owning a very large blender, the ultimate cheapskate’s vehicle.
Caveat: EVs may not work for everybody. If you drive more than 238 miles in a shift, if you live somewhere that gets excessively cold (or hot), if you don’t have a place to charge at home, it could drive (heh, heh) your expenses into Sonata/Camry/Accord-ville, in which case a nice big hybrid may be a better choice.
Conclusion: The Best Cars for Rideshare Drivers
Sure, I could’ve picked a winner here. When I was assigned this story I assumed it would be my car, the Bolt. But it’s not the best choice for everyone, so I can’t say it’s the best overall. I could also pick the popular choice, the Prius, but that would be too easy, and the Prius is an economy car. The fancier Lincoln is intriguing, thanks to the Uber Select angle, but who knows how long that will last?
If you held a gun to my head and forced me to pick what is the best car for rideshare drivers, I think something like the Accord Hybrid would probably tip the scales that last little bit. Cheap to operate, luxurious, eligible for Uber Comfort and commanding higher-than average resale value, it’s likely the best all-around choice. But whatever you get, make sure you’re buying the best car for you. Do your homework, be prepared and don’t drive yourself crazy.
Drivers, what do you think is the best car for rideshare drivers? Would you get a Bolt? If you’re still looking for a vehicle, check out these rideshare vehicle rental options to test drive some popular cars for rideshare driving.
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-Gabe @ RSG
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