Driving a Tesla for Uber and Lyft – are you sure about that? That may be many drivers’ first thoughts when hearing this story below, but it’s true and it’s paying off big time for RSG reader and rideshare driver Shannon J.! Below, senior RSG contributor Chonce Maddox-Rhea interviews Shannon about driving a Tesla for Uber and Lyft, including the cost of the vehicle, (lack of) fuel costs, and tips for electric vehicle drivers.
Have you ever thought about switching to an electric vehicle for rideshare driving and everyday use? Some of the biggest and most common expenses drivers have are gas and vehicle maintenance. Switching to an electric vehicle (EV) could virtually eliminate these costs.
While, electric cars like a Tesla are not cheap, for one rideshare driver in the San Francisco Bay area, making the switch to a Tesla Model S was a no-brainer. In 2018, Shannon J. purchased his Tesla Model S for $85,000 and never looked back.
I recently spoke to him to find out how rideshare driving might differ now with an EV and to outline how much he’s saving now in the busy San Francisco market.
From $60/day in Fuel Costs to $0
Shannon has been driving for both Uber and Lyft since 2015. In 2016, he was laid off from his marketing job and transitioned to full-time rideshare driving. While work has been pretty consistent in his area for many years, in 2018 he realized he was spending a ridiculous amount of money on gas and maintenance for his vehicle.
“I drive a lot – at least 12 hours per day,” said Shannon. “In 2018, when gas prices in California were well over $4 per gallon, I knew I couldn’t get putting $60/day into my car like that.”
He looked into the Tesla Model S and while the car did cost a total of $85,000, Shannon says the amount he was spending on gas alone for rideshare driving was enough to cover the monthly car payment.
Want to go all EV but don’t have Tesla money? Check out our guide to the cheapest electric cars here.
“My wife was a little nervous when I decided to make this huge purchase but it’s paid off in so many ways,” Shannon added. “My car came with free lifetime supercharging as well as a lifetime warranty on the battery. With the battery serving the role as the ‘engine’ in an electric car it seemed like there was very little to worry about and the car will last a long time.”
Shannon explained how it would normally take anywhere from 8 to 12 hours to fully charge his vehicle at home the normal way, but supercharging speeds up the process significantly. Several supercharging stations are set up in his area and this allows him to charge his car to 80% in 40 minutes and to 100% in about 1.5 hours.
This makes it much easier to drive for Uber and Lyft for several hours each day while only taking a few breaks to recharge.
Virtually No Maintenance = More Rideshare Profit
Switching to an EV like a Tesla can virtually eliminate more than 90% of your vehicle maintenance needs and costs. According to Consumer Reports, “the typical total ownership savings over the life of most EVs ranges from $6,000 to $10,000.” In fuel savings alone, Consumer Reports found that the typical EV owner saves an average of $800-1000 a year over an equivalent gasoline-powered vehicle.
“When I broke down the costs, getting a Tesla seems like a no-brainer,” Shannon said. “Every 50,000 miles I needed new brakes and every 3,000 miles or so an oil change. Based on my driving habits, I was doing 110,000 miles each year which would wear down a regular car every two years and I didn’t want to keep buying new cars.”
Shannon likes that he can drive while his son is in school and keep up with a schedule of 12 hours a day over 5 days a week. He earns around $42 to $45 per hour driving for Uber and Lyft so $1,800 income weeks are not uncommon.
That said, after taxes, a lot of the money he would have spent on oil changes, tune-ups and new brakes can now just go back into his profit.
“I now have more than 256,000 miles on my Tesla and have not had to do much to maintain it. I took my car in for service 3 weeks ago because I found out my coolant levels were low and I also got the AC recharged and rotated my tires. All of this ran me a little over $300 which is not bad at all given how much I drive the car.”
Overall, Shannon estimates he’s saved at least $20,000 to $30,000 by making the switch to his Tesla Model S.
3 Things You Should Know About Driving a Tesla for Uber or Lyft
Of course, driving for Uber and Lyft with an electric vehicle can be a learning curve and you likely don’t want to get slowed down when it comes to recharging your vehicle during a shift. Below, Shannon offered his top 3 tips for driving a Tesla for Uber or Lyft.
1. Take Advantage of Free Supercharging If That’s an Option
It seems like Shannon purchased his Tesla at the right time because it came with free supercharging. Supercharging stations are open 24/7 and located all over desirable areas and amenities to make it convenient for drivers to quickly recharge. Being able to recharge your EV quickly is crucial since time is money when you’re driving for Uber or Lyft.
To find a supercharging station near you, Tesla provides this free map. If you don’t have free supercharging credits, you will be billed each time you sign up so it’s ideal to look out for promotions that offer it to you for free if you’re considering this vehicle.
For example, just last year, Tesla offered free supercharging to anyone who purchases a new Model S or Model Y in order to push sales.
2. Once You Reach a 20% Battery Level, Stop to Recharge
The last thing you want to experience is your car dying in the middle of a passenger trip. To avoid this, Shannon recommends pausing during your driving shift and going to recharge once you reach 20%. Sometimes though, you still might run the risk of running out your battery depending on how long your trips are.
“One, time picked up a family when I had 35% left on the battery and figured I’d be okay,” Shannon said. “The family’s destination was an hour and 10-minute drive away and I knew my car wouldn’t make it. So what I did was let them know up front that we’d have to stop and plug the car in for 10 minutes once we got closer in order to make it to their destination.”
Shannon also did a 5-hour trip from Sacramento to Reno, Nevada and let his passenger know beforehand that they’d need to stop 3 times to recharge. He says most people are fine with the heads up if it’s a longer trip and of course, the quick supercharge stations come in handy.
3. Consider Opening the Door For Your Passenger (Tesla handles can be tricky!)
With Teslas being so new, a lot of people who aren’t used to the car might have issues opening the car door. This also depends on the model as Shannon says that with some models, there’s a sequence you have to do to open the door.
His car has pop-out handles which is pretty easy to navigate but a few passengers with longer nails have gotten their nail stuck when trying to open the door. That said, you can see how your passengers react and opt to open the door for them or create a graphic with instructions that you can attach to your backseat window as a guide.
Is Switching To a Tesla Right For You?
Switching to a Tesla may or may not be right for you. Shannon recommends carefully weighing the costs to see if it makes sense financially. These cars are expensive but so are new brakes every year and major mechanical breakdowns.
Another thing you want to consider is whether there are enough charging stations in your area along with how much driving you’re doing. It seems like Shannon is driving enough to be able to afford payments on this vehicle. According to Tesla’s map, the San Francisco area has tons of supercharging stations, but this may not be the case yet in your town.
Also, realize that Tesla is not the only type of electric vehicle to consider. Check out our roundup of the best electric vehicles for rideshare drivers and compare your options.
Readers, do you or would you drive an all-electric vehicle for rideshare or delivery? Why or why not?
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-Chonce @ RSG