I want to start driving for Uber and Lyft, and I’m thinking of buying a separate car for it; my current car is too old and small. What do you suggest? – Stephanie
Gentile: Something that’s good on gas, for a start!
Richardson: It seems every other Uber car I ride in is a Toyota Camry hybrid – Toyota’s most popular hybrid – and those drivers always love it.
Gentile: While they’re popular, Stephanie doesn’t want to cough up more money for a hybrid. She shouldn’t be spending more than $15,000 on it. A small, cheap, gas-powered car such as a Honda Fit or Nissan Versa – one of the cheapest cars you can buy in Canada – would do the trick for Uber or Lyft.
Richardson: Both Uber and Lyft insist on space and seat belts for four passengers plus the driver, so she can’t go too small. In this case, though, she’d be smart to buy a low-mileage used car; it will be half the price, and she could be piling on the distance.
Gentile: She doesn’t say if this would be a full-time job, or just a day or two a week.
Richardson: Stephanie probably doesn’t know; it’ll depend on how she enjoys the job. Some people love it; others, not so much.
Gentile: More reason not to invest too much off the top.
Richardson: The other proviso for both services is that the car can be no more than seven years old. She could find a reliable, four-year-old Toyota Camry or Honda Accord with 70,000 km on the clock for $18,000, drive it five days a week for another 50,000 km over the next year, then sell it or trade it in for around $10,000. That’s a capital cost of $8,000, at worst. If she drives less, the car will hold a higher value, and it will cost her less.
Gentile: Finally, you’re making a compelling argument. Buying a used vehicle would be a smart idea for Stephanie. And besides driving for Uber or Lyft, she could help cover the cost of her new wheels by listing it on a peer-to-peer car-sharing service such as Turo. Apparently you can make about $600 a month by sharing your car only nine days a month. Cha ching!
Richardson: Those are days she can take off, when she won’t want to be driving anyway.
Gentile: Exactly. The average car sits unused 95 per cent of the time, parked for at least 22 hours a day, but now there are ways to make money from it. Stephanie should take advantage.
Richardson: A friend of mine just bought a used Hyundai Elantra for Uber driving. It’s a bit blah, so I doubt he could make those big bucks with it on Turo, but it does the job for him. He says he has no regrets for it.
Gentile: There are even cheap cars such as the Honda Fit and Hyundai Elantra on Turo, too – you never know. Your friend might be able to make a bit of extra cash listing it there.
Richardson: It doesn’t hurt to try, but he’s usually busy driving it.
Gentile: With all that driving, it’s important for Stephanie to maintain her car so it runs smoothly for at least 100,000 klicks. That means checking the tire pressure regularly, and oil changes every 5,000 kilometres.
Richardson: Every 5,000? She’ll be changing the oil every month! Plenty of manufacturers recommend oil changes at greater intervals, such as every 8,000 km. She should follow the maker’s recommendation, not the urging of the oil-change place.
Gentile: If she leaves it longer, she should make sure to use better quality oil.
Richardson: Yup, that’s a given. She also needs to make sure she has a mechanic she can trust.
Gentile: She should ask friends for recommendations, and if she needs to drive a little farther to get to the shop, then she should do so.
Richardson: Most shops are safe these days, but there are still some bad apples. The first thing to ask is if the technicians receive commission – those that do are less reliable when they’re suggesting a new filter or belt.
Gentile: And when she buys that used car, she should take it to the shop her friends recommend for an inspection – but that’s a whole different column for us.
Richardson: Yes! For now, though, any of those cars we’ve suggested will do the job. And if Stephanie’s taking an Uber or a Lyft anywhere first, she should ask the driver what he or she thinks of their car. They’ll be honest, for sure.
What car should you buy? Write to Mark and Petrina at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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