Don’t have a car but want to drive for Uber and Lyft? Hyrecar wants to help you out. We sent senior RSG contributor Will Preston out to sign up, try out and report on what it’s like to rent a car as a rideshare driver through Hyrecar.
After Paula described her experience renting out a vehicle via HyreCar, RSG decided to look at the experience from a different angle – what it’s like to use the service as a driver. I can say the overall experience was a positive one, but it started out very negative. More on that later.
How Does Renting Through Hyrecar Work?
HyreCar asks you to sign up for an account and send in all of the same identification information you would send to apply for Uber and Lyft. Specifically, you need a driver’s license and credit card, along with a profile picture. You also need to approve and pay for a background check that costs $29.99.
You then browse the website for cars that are near you and request to rent the cars you are interested in. It’s a little backwards from other rental sites, but the system is designed to get you into a car as quickly as possible, while also incentivizing owners to respond quickly to driver requests.
You select anywhere from one to several cars you are interested in, and each of the owners are notified that someone wants to rent their vehicle.
At some point, one of the car owners accepts your reservation, and that will be the car you end up renting. Your other pending reservations disappear, and you are immediately charged for the rental in question.
Once your rental has been accepted, HyreCar then purchases a custom insurance policy with your name that is good for 30 days. They send you a link where you can download all of the documents you need to send to Uber and Lyft, including a copy of the registration, inspection forms, and the insurance policy. You upload those documents to Uber and Lyft, and then wait for them to approve it. In my experience, this can take anywhere from an hour to 18 hours, so make sure you plan for that.
I really wasn’t sure what Uber and Lyft were going to think about me driving a vehicle that clearly was not registered in my name, but they seemed to have no problem with it. The only thing they wanted was an insurance policy in my name, and I needed to put my name and information at the top of the inspection form, which the owners left blank for that purpose.
You are then given directions to a location where you will meet the owner and pick up the vehicle. The owner goes over things with you about how the vehicle works, how much gas you have, and answers any questions you may have. You then drive off with a stranger’s vehicle and start driving for Uber or Lyft.
Each rental has a mileage limit, typically 250 or 400 miles per day in my experience, and if you go over that you are charged $0.25 per mile. You are expected to return the vehicle with the same amount of gas it had when you picked it up, and in the same condition it was given to you.
Once you return the vehicle, the owner verifies that all is okay and checks the car back in. You then go on your merry way.
My Experience Renting with HyreCar
My initial experience was incredibly bumpy. I think it was because I did not behave like their typical renter who signs up for the service and immediately starts booking a vehicle. I wanted the approval process to be completed before I did that. As a result, it was a few weeks before I got approved, which seemed excessive.
Once I was approved, I selected several vehicles. I immediately started getting phone calls and texts directly from the owners of the cars I was interested in, which surprised me. HyreCar had apparently given them my contact information. This is different than Uber and Lyft, which use a relay phone number. One owner responded almost immediately, and voilà. I had a vehicle. She and I spoke on the phone, ironed out a few details, and I told her I would see her in a few weeks.
Another weird thing is that once your rental is approved, you are shown the “your rental” page that says the make and model of the car and the owner’s information. You know what’s not on the there? The color of the vehicle. There may or may not be a small thumbnail of the car, but it’s small enough that you’ll have to guess the color of the car. Why does that matter? Uber and Lyft ask you the color.
Then the next hiccup happened. The vehicle’s owner contacted me and told me she needed to cancel the rental due to a family emergency. No problem, I thought. I will just get a different car. I selected several other cars, and again I got a car almost immediately. It was far enough in advance that I was able to get the documentation submitted to Uber and Lyft in advance so that I was approved by them before I ever picked up the vehicle.
I spoke to the owner the day before the pickup date and confirmed a few details. He said he would see me tomorrow… and then he ghosted. The day of the rental he would not answer the phone or respond to any texts or emails from me or customer support. I started calling him two hours prior to when I was supposed to pick up the vehicle, and eventually gave up and contacted customer support.
Superb Customer Support from HyreCar
I started a live chat with someone on their website who, once they heard what was happening, immediately gave me the phone number to contact a live person. I explained my situation, and asked if there was any way that they could get me in a vehicle today. They said absolutely, and that someone would call me back soon. While the call back came a lot later than I wanted (about an hour), they were extremely helpful once the support process began.
They sent me links to vehicles they knew were available, which I immediately requested. I was no longer picky at this point – I just wanted a vehicle. One of the owners responded right away and we started the process of renting that vehicle. HyreCar rushed the creation of the insurance policy so that I could send the documentation to Lyft and Uber. I was also given the personal cell phone number of someone who worked there who then continued to communicate with me throughout the process to make sure everything went okay.
I think this was an extreme situation because I was from out of town and really needed to rent a car immediately, and didn’t have any extra time for the normal process. Also, I’m going to go on a limb and suggest most people don’t have two owners cancel on them.
Although I was incredibly impatient during the process, I think the phone support I received was actually quite good. From the moment things went south to the moment I was picking up the car, about 3 1/2 hours elapsed. All things considered, that’s not half bad.
Driving with a HyreCar Vehicle
It was about 6:30 p.m., and I really wanted to get on the road and start seeing what it was like to drive in the Bay Area. I was super rushed and stressed out when I first met the owner to pick up their vehicle. It was indeed dark outside and raining quite a bit.
Being a Californian, I of course did not have an umbrella. She and I made a cursory walk around the vehicle, and she showed me the basics of the car and how much gas I had (1/4 tank). I thanked her and drove off, heading immediately for the nearest gas station. She then initiated the rental in their app, as I received a text message from HyreCar as I was driving away from the house that my rental had started. I can say it was a profoundly strange experience to drive off with a stranger’s car.
There was only one problem left. Neither Lyft nor Uber approved my application that night. I kept checking to no avail. I gave up at 1 a.m. and went to sleep. This is what happens when you do things like this on a Friday evening. Let that be a lesson to you. Do not pick up the car until it’s approved by Uber or Lyft.
The next morning, I saw Lyft had approved the car and I started driving at 8 a.m.. Uber approved it around 11:30 a.m. I drove three four-hour shifts on Saturday and one six hour shift on Sunday, and returned the car to a duly-appointed friend of hers Sunday night.
It was another dark and stormy night. We did another walk around the car looking for any damage, after which her friend pointed out some significant damage on the left rear bumper. I had no memory of damaging the vehicle, of course. I thought I taken the time to take good photos of the car and its condition before I left.
In retrospect, I really didn’t. The photos didn’t show all of the car, and the required flash often reflected and made it impossible to see parts of the car.
It was a very uncomfortable hour before I heard from the actual owner who informed me that the damage had been there before and that I should not worry. Whew! Although I returned the car a little late, she graciously offered to check me in on time due to the confusion that happened on the front end.
What Should Drivers Know About Using HyreCar?
Make sure to allow time for the Lyft and Uber approval process. Do not pick up your rental until it is approved. Otherwise, you are paying for a rental that you can’t use for anything other than running to the mall.
Do not be in a hurry when you pick up your vehicle. Before you touch the car, take many pictures of the outside and inside of the vehicle. Then take several more when you drop it off, showing that it’s in the drop-off location with no new damage.
Remember you are dealing with an amateur who could be any kind of person. Do not trust their documentation and their photos. Ask if there is any known damage on the vehicle, and make sure to take a picture of it.
Luckily, this was a very nice, honest lady who told me the damage was already there. Imagine if she was not honest. Because I took no pictures in advance, I would’ve had no proof that the damage already existed.
Do not pick your vehicle up in the dark. Night time photos with flash are horrible, especially if it’s a dark vehicle. I can’t stress enough how important those photos are and how much I wish I’d taken them in the light.
Bring your Uber/Lyft placards. My owner had only a single Uber placard and it was in the wrong place. Also make sure you follow any local airport regulations.
Call the owner well in advance of picking up the vehicle and tell them you would really like the tank to be full when you pick it up. It’s really easy to return car with a full tank of gas. It’s near impossible to return it with any other level. Maybe the owner won’t honor the request, but it doesn’t hurt to ask.
I learned after the fact that the rental policy you pay extra for has a $2500 deductible if you are found at fault. This is another huge difference between a typical rental car company and HyreCar. When you pay extra for insurance with a rental car company, you are paying for the convenience of walking away if anything happens. That isn’t the case here, and that’s a really important thing to know.
If you damage this person’s car, or if someone else damages that while you are driving, you could be on the hook for $2,500. Hopefully your regular car insurance will cover the deductible. If it doesn’t, you may want to check out some rideshare-friendly insurance companies here.
Does Renting From HyreCar Make Sense?
I paid $65 to rent a vehicle I could drive for 250 miles before I had to pay extra. That’s $0.26 a mile, and additional miles are $.25. How does that compare to using your own car?
In one of the first articles I wrote for RSG, I talked about how to calculate your per mile cost, and I calculated my per mile cost (excluding fuel) at $.13. That includes depreciation in the value of my car, and $.06/mile for maintenance and tires.
What about taxes? When you use your own car, you can deduct $.058/mile (in 2019), interest on your car loan (based on the percentage you use it for business), and car washes. This makes most of my earnings tax free.
When you use a HyreCar, you can only deduct the actual cost of renting the car. That means that with your own car, your net earnings are higher and your taxes are lower. With HyreCar, your net earnings are lower and your taxes are higher.
Let’s take a look at an example, based on my Uber driving from the weekend.
I drove 455 miles and made $394.56 in gross revenue from Uber. My car’s per mile cost is currently $.24 (including fuel), and using the HyreCar I rented last weekend was $.36/mile. (I’m including an approximation of $.11/mile for fuel.) You can see my actual net revenue for the HyreCar would have been $230.76, and for my car was $285.36. That’s not too far apart, right?
But for the fuller picture, we need to look at the taxes. I can deduct $163.80 if I use HyreCar, and $263.90 if I use my own car, meaning I would pay taxes on $230.76 and $130.66, respectively. At my current tax rate, that leaves $161.53 after taxes with HyreCar, and $246.16 with my car. (Out of curiosity, I ran the numbers for a more expensive car, and it turned out to be a lot closer to the HyreCar.)
Does it make financial sense to rent with HyreCar? I’ll say it’s not completely out of the ballpark. I will also say that if the rental car is hit with a giant repair bill, it’s not going to be your problem.
Overall Review of HyreCar
With the caveats I mentioned above, I actually think this is a pretty good deal. Using HyreCar also gives you a more realistic earnings number. A lot of people who are new with Uber and Lyft forget to subtract the cost of depreciation and maintenance when calculating how much money they made. They just subtract the cost of their gas.
In this situation, there is no question. You’re paying $0.25 a mile for that vehicle, plus the cost of your gas. At the end of the night, you know exactly how much you made – and you haven’t put any miles on your vehicle.
Readers, have you ever rented through HyreCar or have you considered it? Please consider using our affiliate link if you’d like to sign up for Hyrecar. And if you’re interested in renting your car, make sure to check out Paula’s article on renting out your car on HyreCar.
Track Your Miles for Free with Stride DriveSmart drivers know they need to track their mileage from start to finish. Stride Drive is a free app you can use to track your mileage, which will help you save money at tax time.
-Will @ RSG
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