Buying, owning and driving a car is not cheap. There’s the monthly payment (usually), insurance, registration, fuel and on and on. It must cost less to use a ride-sharing service like Uber or Lyft, right?
Well, as with most things, the answer is, “It all depends.” In this case, the answer depends on where you live and how much and why you drive. If the family minivan hauls two or three kids to school, soccer practice and other activities, that’s a lot different from driving a car to work and back every day and then to the grocery store on weekends.
The auto industry analysts at J.D. Power took a look at how the costs of owning and driving your own car compare with selling the car and, in this case, using Uber.
First, some assumptions about ownership: the average American vehicle owner drives about 13,474 miles in a year (1,122 miles a month) and gets mean fuel economy of 24.8 mpg. That adds up to 45.2 gallons of fuel a month at a current mean average price across the country of $2.58 a gallon, for a total of $116 a month.
The J.D. Power analysis then added in the following costs of owning a car:
- Average monthly car payment: $503 (according to Experian)
- Average monthly insurance payment: $100 (can vary widely, but estimate $100)
- Average monthly price of vehicle registration: $20
- Average monthly spend on gasoline: $116
- Average monthly spend on maintenance: $20
- Average monthly spend on car washes: $30
- Projected monthly spend on tires (based on four tires that need to be replaced every four years at a cost of $600): $12.50
- Average monthly spend on public parking: $10
- Average monthly total: $811.50
On a per-mile basis, the 1,122 average miles driven per month at a monthly cost of $811.50 works out to $0.72 per mile.
In Los Angeles, where J.D. Power conducted its comparison, the least expensive Uber option — UberX — costs about $0.90 a mile, plus $0.15 per minute and a flat booking fee of $2.10 per ride. For an 8.2 mile commute to work, Uber quoted a price of $10.57, or $1.28 per mile. That’s about $314 a month or almost $3,800 a year.
There are some advantages to using Uber, of course, most involving not having to put up with the hassles of owning a car. The question you might want to ask yourself is whether that’s worth $314 a month to you.