Uber Car Financing Is Nearing an End: What You Can Do Instead
Want to drive for Uber but need help affording a rideshare-worthy car? Unfortunately, you now have one less option to choose from. Uber executives recently announced they would begin phasing out the company’s car leasing program, Xchange Leasing, which owns and operates some 40,000 vehicles and 14 showrooms in the U.S.
According to The Wall Street Journal, Uber made the decision to end Xchange Uber Car Financing after losing 18 times more money per vehicle than previously thought.
The program has had no shortage of problems recently. Earlier this year, Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healy announced that Xchange Leasing had refunded 336 drivers in Massachusetts a total of $210,000 after overcharging for road tolls and other fees. Before that, Uber agreed to pay $20 million to settle an FTC lawsuit over misrepresentations made about driver compensation and the vehicle financing program.
The program was designed to help drivers rejected by other lenders get access to a vehicle and start working for the rideshare company. Critics called Xchange Leasing’s lending practices predatory and said drivers were being shackled with lease payments they couldn’t afford. Among the complaints:
- High APRs. According to the FTC complaint, Uber connected its drivers with subprime auto companies and dealers that provided interest rates significantly higher than industry averages — sometimes more than double — even for consumers with subprime credit scores.
- Mileage limitations. The FTC complaint alleged that Uber had represented in its marketing materials that drivers opting to lease vehicles through their program would have “unlimited miles,” but in reality, the leases imposed mileage limits of 37,500 and 40,000. Drivers who elected to end leases early and surrender their vehicles were obligated to pay an excess mileage charge of $0.20 per mile for all miles over their limit.
- Large monthly payments. According to Experian, the average cost of a new leased vehicle is about $104 per week, but according to Xchange Leasing’s marketing materials, leasing a 2013 Toyota Camry carried a cost around $130 per week (roughly $520 a month)
- Misleading claims. According to the FTC complaint, Uber advertised that its vehicle leasing program would allow drivers to “own a car for as little as $20/day” ($140/week); or lease a car with “payments as low as $17 per day” ($119/week). It also promised to connect drivers to the best financing options available. However, when drivers complained about the program, Uber referred the drivers to its lenders and affirmed that it does not keep track of information on loan payments or amounts owed.
Still need a car to drive for Uber?
Despite Xchange Leasing’s issues, many people want to make an income driving for Uber but need a vehicle. After all, not just any automobile will do. While the requirements vary by metropolitan area, in general an Uber-approved vehicles must meet these requirements:
- Vehicle model year 2002 or newer
- Four-door car or minivan
- Good condition with no cosmetic damage
- No commercial branding
- Must pass a vehicle inspection
Fortunately, there are other options if your vehicle doesn’t make the cut.
Many of the drivers taking advantage of the Xchange Uber Car Financing program were doing so because their credit scores made buying a car difficult. It is possible to get a car loan with bad credit, but it will likely come with a high interest rate.
LendingTree subsidiary MagnifyMoney put together this guide on how to get a car with bad credit.
To ensure that you’re getting the best deal possible, shop around with multiple lenders. LendingTree makes it easy with its auto loan tool, where you can fill out a short online form and possibly receive quotes from various auto lenders.
Don’t settle for the first financing option you receive. Rates can vary widely from lender to lender, so get rate quotes from banks, credit unions and the financing companies that work with the dealerships.
Before you buy a car to drive for Uber, consider how much you can expect to earn. According to a recent study from the loan company Earnest, the average Uber driver makes $364 per month. If your car payment is higher than your monthly income, you’ll actually lose money as a rideshare driver.
Leasing may not be the best option for Uber drivers — or any rideshare drivers, for that matter.
Lease contracts come with strict mileage limits – typically 12,000 miles per year, according to Edmunds. Exceed your mileage limit, and you’ll have to pay a fee per mile at the end of your lease. Last year, the Foundation for Economic Education estimated that the median Uber driver drives roughly 10,000 miles per year for work. That doesn’t leave many miles for personal use.
There are other downsides. Car leases typically come with a lower monthly payment than purchasing a vehicle. Keep in mind that most advertised lease offers that promise low monthly payments typically require high down payments. The more money you put down in the beginning, the lower your monthly payment will be.
Whether you buy or lease, make sure you’ve been approved as an Uber driver first! Uber reviews the driving record and criminal history of all drivers before approving them to use the platform. Don’t get yourself locked into a contract until you’re sure you’ve been accepted to drive.
Uber partnered with Hertz Car Rental to provide cars for Uber drivers. While most rental car contracts preclude rideshare driving, the Uber/Hertz partnership takes advantage of Hertz’s inventory of midsize vehicles and matches them with drivers on a weekly basis.
There are a few catches that drivers should be aware of. First, not every Hertz location participates in the Uber program. It’s currently only available in:
- Los Angeles
- New Orleans
- San Francisco
Next, Hertz requires that all drivers be 25 years or older, and will put a $200 authorization hold on your credit or debit card at the time of rental. That hold is released once the car is returned.
Hertz rentals are available at a base rate of $214 per week, but taxes, fees and fuel costs are in addition to that figure. While that rate is likely higher than the cost of a buying or leasing a car for one week, the advantage is you can rent a vehicle only for weeks you intend to drive for Uber, and you won’t lock yourself into a long-term contract.
Do you drive for both Uber and Lyft? If so, you may be able to get a vehicle via Lyft and General Motors’ Express Drive program.
Express Drive’s rental length is flexible, so you can get a car when you need it and return it anytime with 24 hours notice.
However, Express Drive is only available in certain cities:
- Dallas/Fort Worth
- Las Vegas
- Los Angeles
- Orange County, Calif.
- Portland, Ore.
- San Diego
- San Francisco
- San Jose
- Washington, D.C.
The Express Drive program allows for unlimited miles, so you can use the vehicle for personal use and work without worrying about extra mileage charges.
Rental car prices vary by city and rental car provider. Harry Campbell, founder of the Rideshare Guy blog and podcast and an Uber driver himself, was able to rent a vehicle in Los Angeles for $180 plus tax. But the more you drive for Lyft, the less you may have to pay. Lyft’s Rental Rewards program adds a bonus to drivers’ earnings that can cover most rental charges (but not taxes). Specific requirements vary by driver, but they are based on a driver’s acceptance rate and total rides given. In Campbell’s case, he says he had to do 70 rides per week.
For drivers who treat ridesharing as a full-time job rather than a side gig, Lyft’s Rental Rewards can be an economical option for getting a rideshare-worthy vehicle.
HyreCar is a peer-to-peer car rental service specifically designed for connecting rideshare drivers to car owners interested in making money while their vehicle would normally be sitting idle. Rates are set by the car owner but typically range from $25 to $40 per day. Many offer weekly and monthly discounts, bringing the cost down to around $200 per week. They also require a $200 deposit on your first rental, which is fully refunded once the car is returned on-time and in good condition.
Mileage limitations are also set by the car owner, but HyreCar requires their car owners to allow at least 150 miles per day. According to their website, most owners using their platform offer unlimited mileage.
This might be a practical option if you only drive occasionally or want to try ridesharing for a day or a weekend without committing to a long-term contract. However, since availability depends on having people in your area willing and able to loan out their vehicle, you may have a hard time getting a car when you need it unless you live in or near a major metropolitan area.
Maven Gig is a program offered by GM to provide newer-model Chevy vehicles for rideshare and other delivery drivers. Rates for a four-door sedan start at $209 per week.
Again, Maven Gig is only available in a handful of cities right now:
- Los Angeles
- San Diego
- San Francisco
- Washington, D.C.
However, the website says additional cities are coming soon.
Maven Gig offers unlimited miles, and rates include maintenance, insurance and OnStar roadside assistance.
Getaround is another peer-to-peer car rental service that is currently piloting a program in California to match Uber drivers with cars they can rent on an hourly basis or for a full day.
The advantages of using Getaround include no upfront costs. It will even give you your first rental (up to 14 hours) for free. After that, rental is a flat $5 per hour, including gas, insurance and mileage.
That’s the most flexible and economical option for occasional Uber drivers, but Getaround makes it very clear that standard Getaround cars are not available for driving with Uber. The pilot program, which involves drivers in San Francisco and Oakland, is not open to everyone and availability is limited.
Other expenses to consider
Before you rent, buy or borrow a vehicle to drive for Uber, consider not just the cost of the vehicle, but the other expenses of being an on-demand driver, to ensure that your net profit is worth the time you’ll spend on the road.
Here are a few common expenses for rideshare drivers:
- Uber deducts a percentage of each fare from the driver’s payment to cover overhead costs for technology, marketing, etc. Uber doesn’t publish its commission rates, but discussions on Uber driver message boards and other reporting suggests the company’s fee is typically around 25 percent.
- Vehicle expenses. Fuel is a pretty obvious expense of driving for a living; you won’t get far on an empty tank. But also consider the other expenses of operating your vehicle. If you drive twice as much because you’re driving for Uber, you’ll probably need new tires, oil changes and other maintenance services more often.
- Smartphone. Uber drivers are required to have a smartphone from its approved devices list and download the app that connects them with riders. Depending on your carrier, data plan and device, that can cost anywhere from $45 to $100 and up per month.
- Automobile insurance. If you already own a car, check with your insurance company to make sure your policy covers you while you’re driving for a rideshare company. Many exclude coverage while driving for commercial purposes. They may be able to add the coverage, but your premium will likely go up.
- Taxes. Uber drivers are independent contractors. That means in addition to income taxes, you’ll have to pay self-employment taxes: Social Security and Medicare taxes that an employer would withhold for you if you were a W-2 employee. Your total tax liability will depend on a lot of variables, so it’s a good idea to talk to a tax professional to get an idea of how much of your Uber income you need to set aside for tax purposes.
You may also pay for car washes, snacks for customers, accounting software to track your business income, satellite radio subscriptions and so on. Take all of those costs into account and consider whether driving for Uber makes sense before you incur the cost of buying or leasing a car.
The bottom line
The vehicle options available to Uber drivers may have constricted with the closing of Uber Car Financing and the cancellation of Uber’s rental program with Enterprise, but there are options available if you need a car to drive for Uber. Even if the Hertz program, Getaround, Maven Gig or HyreCar aren’t currently available in your area, Campbell says drivers should keep looking. “Don’t be afraid to check nearby cities for rental availability,” he says, “I know of many drivers in Los Angeles who have driven down to Orange County or even San Diego to get a rental.”