Ridesharing companies such as Lyft and Uber imagine a world where people can enjoy the freedom, but not the hassles, that come with a car. In fact, they want their driving services to be cheaper than owning a vehicle. How close are they to that goal? To find out how the cost of ridesharing stacks up with that of owning and driving a car, NerdWallet tackled these questions:
- How much would it cost to exclusively use ridesharing services like Lyft and Uber for every trip — even trips to the grocery store — instead of driving?
- How many Lyft or UberX rides could you take each week if you ditched your car and spent your yearly car ownership budget on ridesharing services?
Across the country, Lyft and Uber are facing regulatory obstacles and their services are better in some cities than others. Every driver’s situation is unique. Our analysis helps identify cities where driving is the most economical option and provides a general look at the cities where you should consider taking Lyft and Uber instead of driving.
Owning pays: In every city we analyzed, owning and maintaining a car is less expensive than taking Lyft and UberX for every trip. In some cities, however, costs are relatively close. For example, in Miami it would cost about $3,000 more to ditch your car and exclusively use Lyft.
Watch the rates: The number of rides that people can take each week if they divert their car ownership budget to ridesharing varies from city to city because Lyft and UberX rates are different in each city. For example, people in Detroit can take about 985 rides each year if they divert their car ownership budget for Lyft, while New Yorkers can only take about 400 rides.
Base costs vary: In the 50 cities surveyed, Lyft had cheaper rates in 29 cities, UberX is the best deal in 15 and the services have the same prices in six cities.
So Why Would I Ditch My Car?
You have a checkered driving history: If you’ve received a DUI, speeding tickets or other driving infractions, you probably pay a lot for car insurance. Higher car insurance means you’ll pay a lot more in ownership costs.
You drive a luxury car: Expensive cars often require expensive car insurance and costly maintenance.
You have a short commute or use public transit: If you don’t use your car, then you’re wasting money.
Why Should I Keep My Car?
You are a parent: If you’ve got kids, you probably take many trips in your car every day, so using only Lyft and Uber just doesn’t make sense.
Your commute is long: Remember, with rideshare services, you pay for distance and time.
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Here’s how we estimated car usage for each city
When determining car ownership costs and the expense of taking Lyft and Uber for each city, we relied on three key statistics: the number of trips drivers take each day, the number of miles traveled every day and the amount of time drivers spend driving from place to place.
- Number of trips: The typical driver takes 3.02 trips each day, according to the Federal Highway Administration.
- Number of miles traveled: The highway administration also was our source for the estimated number of miles drivers travel each day in large cities and states.
- Time for each trip: It is difficult to approximate the amount of time spent on each trip. As a proxy, we used the average one-way commute time in each city as calculated by the U.S. Census Bureau.
Here’s how we calculated car ownership costs
We split our car ownership cost calculation into carrying costs — costs associated with the purchase — and operating costs — costs associated with car maintenance. Car ownership costs vary depending on the kind of car you own. A Chevy Silverado pickup, for example, is much more expensive to own than a Toyota Prius. To estimate costs, our model used a 2014 Toyota Camry because it is a popular car with relatively low ownership costs.
- Taxes and fees
- Car payments
- Yearly gas costs
Here’s how we calculated Lyft and Uber costs
We calculated Lyft and Uber costs with numbers from the federal highway administration and census bureau to approximate car usage. We used the rates provided by Lyft and Uber on their websites to calculate cost per mile, cost per minute and the base rate for each ride. We didn’t account for surge pricing or Lyft Line or Uber Pool — the carpool rideshare options that can cut costs up to 50% less than our estimates.
Here’s how we calculated the number of possible Lyft and UberX rides each year
This equation can help you compare the costs of ridesharing versus owning when you are considering your transportation needs.
|Cities||Ownership Costs||Lyft Cost per year||UberX Cost per year||Lyft allowed rides per week||Uber allowed rides per week||Most number of rides possible per week||Most number of rides possible per year|
|Tampa Bay, FL||$11,941.67||$15,676.47||$15,676.47||16.15||16.15||16.15||839.80|
|Oklahoma City, OK||$11,390.32||$15,991.86||$22,765.34||15.10||10.61||15.10||785.20|
|Los Angeles, CA||$11,890.59||$17,857.49||$17,857.49||14.11||14.11||14.11||733.72|
|Corpus Christi, TX||$11,418.48||$17,623.55||$23,625.67||13.73||10.25||13.73||713.96|
|Ann Arbor, MI||$13,460.42||$21,091.24||$24,165.57||13.53||11.81||13.53||703.56|
|San Diego, CA||$11,696.58||$19,124.47||$19,124.47||12.96||12.96||12.96||673.92|
|Kansas City, MO||$11,982.16||$19,686.03||$33,823.82||12.90||7.51||12.90||670.80|
|Salt Lake City, UT||$11,372.23||$18,789.78||$18,789.78||12.83||12.83||12.83||667.16|
|San Francisco, CA||$11,838.03||$23,518.94||$22,725.44||10.67||11.04||11.04||574.08|
|San Antonio, TX||$11,483.51||$25,321.09||$28,360.50||9.61||8.58||9.61||499.72|
|New York City, NY||$11,945.56||$32,632.02||$32,632.02||7.76||7.76||7.76||403.52|
- Depreciation, financing, taxes, fees, maintenance, miles per gallon and repairs from Edmunds True Cost to Own data for a 2014 Toyota Camry
- Average car payments calculated using the 2014 Toyota Camry MSRP
- Per mile, per minute and base rates from Lyft as of Oct. 3, 2014
- Per mile, per minute and base rates from Uber as of Oct. 3, 2014
- Insurance data from NerdWallet’s car insurance comparison tool
- Gas prices from the ACCRA Cost of Living Index
- Parking prices adjusted by city from NerdWallet’s cost of living calculator’s transportation costs index
- Average vehicle miles traveled per day from the Federal Highway Administration
- Average commute time from the U.S. Census Bureau
Note: We surveyed all cities with both Lyft and Uber except for Modesto and Santa Barbara, California, and Toledo, Ohio, because we did not have cost of living data for those cities.
Rideshare image via Shutterstock.