Is Renting A Car For $5 an Hour to Drive for Uber Worth It?

Don’t have a car, or temporarily without a car, but want to drive rideshare? How does $5 an hour to rent a car sound like to you? Senior RSG contributor Christian Perea tested Getaround, a rental car service for Uber drivers, and explains how it works, what you can expect when signing up to drive, and how you can maximize your earnings.

Related: Getaround not in your city? Check out our Vehicle Marketplace for more options

For only $5 an hour you can pay for the privilege to rent a car and pound the streets of San Francisco as a bonafide Uber driver seeking profits and adventure.

Is it even worth it? Seems a little strange paying Uber for the privilege of shuttling around a bunch of techies. I decided to try it to find out for myself to see how great (or terrible) it is.

UPDATE: Getaround no longer includes gas in the price of the rental. This is a deal breaker for me since a 10 hour rental is about $50 and the gas would be another $20 ($70 to drive for the day). That’s about half my earnings for any given day of Bay Area driving. So I recommend that you get around to renting a different way 😀

Getaround and Uber recently partnered up in San Francisco to offer cars that almost anyone can use to drive for Uber. They’re dispersed all throughout SF, Oakland, and Berkeley, and you can just go on ahead and walk up, unlock the car from your phone via the Getaround app, and  proceed to drive them for Uber for as little or as long as you want.

As of now, this partnership between Getaround and Uber is only available in San Francisco, but you can find a list of rental and leasing options nationwide on our Vehicle Marketplace. And I suspect if this goes well, they will roll it out to other cities.

Don’t have a car, or temporarily without a car, but want to drive rideshare? How does $5 an hour to rent a car sound like to you? Senior RSG contributor Christian Perea tested Getaround, a rental car service for Uber drivers, and explains how it works, what you can expect when signing up to drive, and how you can maximize your earnings.

First Impressions

Getting into a car was fairly seamless. I was surprised at how easily the Uber driver app and Getaround integrated with each other. I could jump over to Getaround from the Uber driver app, sign-up, reserve a car, and then have it updated on my Uber Driver-Partner account. It worked flawlessly, which I find amazing because just a few years ago, updating a car on Uber seemed like ti could take a week!

All of the cars that I could rent to drive for Uber cost $5/hour to operate. The minimum you can rent for is an hour, and at the time there were plenty of cars available to rent. All of them were 2015 or newer and include examples like:

  • 2016 Toyota Prius
  • 2016 Toyota Camry
  • 2015 Volkswagen Jetta
  • 2016 Chevy Cruze

Since gas isn’t a concern, I went for the Corolla since it has a good power to weight ratio for a 4-banger.

The first time you rent, Getaround will give you up to 14 hours of drive time for free. If you’re in SF or the Bay, You can sign up to rent here, and if you just want to signup to rent a car in general, you can signup using this link regardless of where you are or whether you even drive for Uber (Getaround is pretty useful for a rental when visiting another city).

My First Rental: A Mule With Everything I Needed To Drive For Uber

My first rental was a white 2016 Toyota Corolla. It came with almost everything I needed: airport placards, Uber stickers (front & back) and a very basic GPS mount. It did not come with a cord to charge my phone or an aux cord, so make sure to bring your own. You may also want to bring a vacuum, some cleaning supplies and your own GPS mount to save you time cleaning up before you return your rental.

👉 Related article: Essential gear every rideshare driver should have

The car was passable. Don’t expect a perfect brand-new car like you would rent to take your family on a road trip to Wally World. This is a mule-for-rent.

There were several dings and scratches but nothing too crazy. The interior was definitely that of a car that had never been loved by an owner: skin flakes, greasy knobs, and body soil throughout the car. Every seat had a major stain. The carpet was clean-ish. The exterior was covered in a thin layer of brown dust. Except for the doors and windows, which were covered by fingerprints.

The inside had a faint smell of month-old urine mixed with Little Trees New Car smell. Don’t ask me to tell you how I know what that smells like…

Still, it worked exactly as advertised and somehow I didn’t get a rating ding for cleanliness from my passengers. I recommend you bring a microfiber cloth, vacuum and maybe even a deodorizer yourself to get it ready for passengers.

I also recommend trying different cars in your area since the second car I rented was much cleaner and didn’t show as many signs of wear and tear yet. I may have gotten unlucky on the first rental, but I think it’s important to understand that each rental is different.

Gas, Maintenance & Insurance Are Included

UPDATE: Getaround used to offer free gas and a gas card as part of their rentals. They no longer do so and now they expect you to also return the car with a full-tank of gas. Personally, this is kind of a deal breaker for me since I would already end up paying about $50 to rent the car for a day. Adding $20 in gas on top of that makes it come out to about $70 for a day’s worth of driving and that’s pretty close to half of my money!

Getaround asks that everyone return the car with a full tank of gas.

Otherwise they’ll bill you $15 for “being the kind of a**hole who didn’t re-wind their Blockbuster tapes in the 90’s” [they may not use those specific words].

My tank was full but the gas card was missing. The previous driver most likely refilled the whole tank and pocketed the card by accident after a long shift. I made sure to note this so I didn’t get blamed (and charged a fee) for the missing gas card.

As I drove more and more, I realized there is a lot of convenience in not having to worry about gas, maintenance, and insurance. However, I later found that I would instead worry about the $5/hour clock running in the background + income taxes.

Make Sure To Inspect Your Rental

I basically performed an old-school “Lyft Mentor” inspection.

Most rentals have at least a scuff mark like this.

Take lots of notes and pictures. When you first get to the rental, I advise inspecting the exterior first for scratches and dings. Inspect the headlights, blinkers, and then move onto the interior. Take lots of notes and pictures. Channel your inner CSI. Just don’t swab the backseat for DNA.

Make sure to check the exterior AND interior tire tread on all 4 tires for uneven wear or damage. Your tires are the most important thing between your bum and the asphalt.

Making Sure You Don’t Get Dinged With Fees

While using the vehicle, you may incur some fees for damage to the vehicle. Here is a list of Getarounds fees for renters:

  • Smoking in vehicle: $500
  • Leaving it dirty: $45
  • Super dirty: $100
  • Late Return Fee: $50/hour + normal hourly rate.
  • Crashing the rental: $1000 – $2500 (regardless of fault).

Is Renting A Car For Uber Profitable?

My first rental session only brought in $46.75 over the course of 3 hours of being online. However, I was pretty rusty and rented from 5AM to 9AM to drive the morning rush on a weekday holiday and didn’t do a great job of maximizing the full four hour rental.

Although my first rental was free, I normally would have paid $21.20 for this time (4 hours rental, there’s a $1.20 booking fee).

Related: How Much Do Drivers Make Per Hour? Our Survey Here

My 2nd session was much better. I earned $138.44 over six hours of renting. My rental for those 6 hours cost $31.20, so in the end I came out with $106.94 for that time period which is similar to $17.82/hour. This shift targeted the evening rush on a Monday.

If you rent, you’re obviously going to want to target the busiest times of day to drive.

No Quest, Boost, Or Promotions

I noticed while driving that I didn’t qualify for any promos. I checked with Uber and they confirmed that when you are signed up for the Getaround rental program you will lose eligibility to participate in any bonuses like Quest, Boost, or Consecutive Trip Boost.

Tax Disadvantage: Renting also has a tax disadvantage because you cannot take the Standard Mileage Deduction. In the example above, I can only deduct $31.50 for the rental fee. If I owned or leased the car though then I could have deducted $52.96 via Standard Mileage Deduction.

This is why it’s important to track both your mileage AND expenses with an app like QuickBooks Self-Employed so you can stay on top of this stuff before it’s too late!

Getting to Your Rental: I took a Lyft Line to my first rental because I was feeling lazy. I don’t suggest doing this because the cost will add up over time. I walked 3100 steps to my second rental and it was much better because the 3100 steps to go home let me stretch my legs after sitting for 6 hours.

Hourly Fee Anxiety

While driving, there was always a bit of anxiety running in the back of my mind knowing that I had to beat that $5 charge each hour in order to make a profit. This made the downtime between rides a little bit more stressful, and I could see that taking a toll on me in the long run.

This would likely encourage me to take fewer breaks, but that would likely contribute to me getting very burnt out as a driver quickly if I rented full time.

Be Smart About Renting For Rideshare Driving

If you need to rent a car to drive for Uber, be smart about it. You clearly won’t make as much if you drive during the slower times, so read up on driver strategies to drive during busy times or times when you know there will be surge (bad weather, several big events going on, etc.) By targeting more profitable hours you can out-earn the $5 easily enough to eek out a worthy profit.

Rentals Definitely Serve A Purpose

That said, it may be smart to only rent if you are “trying it out”, your car is in the shop, or if you’re starting from nothing and don’t have a car. You may have no other option but to rent, so if you find yourself having to do so, I would really grind out as many hours as possible until you can get a minimally viable rideshare vehicle.

👉 Related article: Essential gear every rideshare driver should have

I Actually Had A Lot of Fun Renting

Although my first car was pretty dirty, I actually had a lot of fun on both occasions because I didn’t have to worry about gas, depreciation, etc. All I had to do was make more than $5 an hour, and that was pretty easy.

From a part-time or casual perspective it’s not a bad deal, but if you are looking to drive full-time or often as a part-time then I suggest getting your own car so you can lower your expenses to less than $5 an hour, deduct your mileage for a larger tax deduction, and still qualify for extra promotions from Uber like Quest and Boost.

Getarounds rentals worked exactly as I expected and even a little bit better. Would you use a Getaround rental and do you think this is a viable option for drivers who don’t own a car or their car is in the shop?

-Christian @ RSG