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Is ridesharing here to stay? Yes, I believe so. However, I have one other nagging question in my mind these days: can I ditch my car and I rely solely on Uber or Lyft?
My first attempt to use Uber in lieu of my personal car was in 2017. At the time, Uber offered me a Ride Pass for 28 days. That’s when I got to experience some of the benefits, both tangible and non-quantifiable savings. However, Uber never offered this pass in Phoenix again. Or maybe Uber just decided not to invite me anymore.
I can’t remember the last time I rented a car while traveling for business or pleasure. I have been using ridesharing services exclusively instead; they are cost-effective and more convenient. In addition to using Uber and Lyft in the US, I have used DiDi during a recent trip to China.
But what is prompting me to think that ditching my personal car is a great idea? I am in the market for a new car; the one I currently drive is aging. However, I now question the wisdom of replacing it with a new one. What are my options? Buying a pre-owned, lightly used vehicle to reduce the operating cost is a viable option. However, I am seriously considering getting rid of my old car and relying on ridesharing services such as Uber and Lyft.
I have always dreamed of living in a city where I didn’t have to rely on a personal vehicle much. Perhaps a walkable city like Paris or a mass-transit-friendly city like London. However, I know this is a stretch because I live in Phoenix, which scores low on both fronts. Yet getting rid of my car, in a way, gets me closer to this dream.
Five benefits of ridesharing (besides cost savings)
Fast-forward to 2019, I have now been using Uber and Lyft exclusively, to and from work, for a few months. And, I am hooked!
“Is using Uber and Lyft cost-effective?” This has been the most common question I get from my colleagues and friends. My short answer has been that it depends. But yes, I am actually breaking even. However, there are additional benefits to not driving my car to and from work. Here are the top five:
- Saving time: With two in the car, my rideshare driver can use the High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) lane. This allows me to avoid rush-hour traffic. Using the HOV lane has reduced my commute by 20 to 25 minutes each way.
- Not missing breakfast: Because of the time savings, l can now leave the house 30 minutes later than usual. Because of this, I no longer skip breakfast to rush to get to work.
- Being more productive: I can use my smartphone while someone else is driving. I can make calls, respond to emails and catch up on the news.
- Less worrying: I no longer have to worry about where to park my car. That’s especially beneficial because parking at my office is becoming a challenge. I also no longer have to worry about putting gas in my car as often.
- Less stress: Most importantly, I am not as stressed when I arrive at the office in the morning. I can now attest that driving is stressful and is ruining our lives.
Overall, using Uber and Lyft has given me more freedom. Freedom from driving, worrying and stressing, and the freedom to believe that I can get rid of my car.
Research says . . .
The cost of ownership
To make an informed decision, I need to consider several factors. Most importantly, the cost associated with owning and operating a new car.
The total cost includes monthly payments, insurance, gas, maintenance, title, registration, and depreciation. According to AAA the average cost to own and operate a vehicle in 2018 was $8,849.00. This is a high price to pay given that I mostly use my car to commute to and from work. In addition, I am out of town on 30 percent of all working days in a year, and my car remains parked in the garage during these trips. Even when I am at work, my car sits parked for at least eight hours during the day. It is mind-boggling that I own a depreciating asset that sits idle most of the time.
Is ridesharing here to stay?
I started with this question, and I believe that research supports my answer: yes!
The popularity of ridesharing services, enabled via apps like Uber and Lyft, is on the rise. According to a Pew Research Center study, ride-hailing services are continuing to become more popular. In fall 2018, 36 percent of US adults said they had used a ride-hailing service such as Uber or Lyft. This is up from 15 percent in late 2015.
Given this rise in popularity, a 2014 study by KPMG predicted that two-car households will decline in the future. KPMG projected that two-car household ownership will fall from 57 percent to 43 percent by 2040. Population shifts to urban centers are
The impact of ridesharing
We have all witnessed the impact ridesharing services have had on taxi companies. They are simply crushed!
The impact of ridesharing also extends to infrastructure. Something we once thought would grow forever, for example, parking. In The Impact of Ride Hailing on Parking, Alejandro Henao and Wesley Marshall have established the correlation. As ridesharing becomes more popular, it could reduce parking demand at airports, event venues, restaurants, and bars. However, I’ve found that the reasons why people use Uber and Lyft align with my own. The diagram below shows why riders choose Lyft or Uber over other options.
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But what concerns me the most about ridesharing?
Among many concerns, the price fluctuation is most worrisome. I have had similar experiences to what Caroline Lupini details on this Twitter thread. While Caroline was in Madrid, Uber charged her 35 EUR instead of the 21 EUR she was quoted. She also claims that support wasn’t of any help when she contacted them.
Here are other factors I need to consider before deciding to ditch my car:
- Integrity: Are ridesharing companies treating their drivers fairly? Countless media reports indicate that they haven’t. This has prompted me to develop a love-hate relationship with both Uber and Lyft.
- Pricing: Uber’s surge pricing is outright wrong. I had read that many factors impact Uber’s surge pricing including one’s phone battery being low. But I had not experienced it myself until recently. On May 7, 2019, I arrived at Phoenix Sky Harbor International airport with my phone battery at 10 percent. First, I checked Uber and the price was $42.97, which was outrageous just to get home. I only live 16 miles from the airport. I chose to take Lyft because the price was $24.51. In addition, a recent report by ABC-affiliate WJLA-TV found that Uber and Lyft drivers manipulate fares to cause artificial price surges.
- Dependability: Will my driver arrive within 10 minutes after ordering one? On recent early-morning trips, I have been experiencing wait times of up to 15 minutes.
- Safety: The death of Samantha Josephson, may she rest in peace, made headlines earlier this year. Even prior to this horrific incident, safety had been on my mind. It is not my intent to assign blame here. However, I only bring it up because safety is always a concern when I ride with a stranger.
What would it take for me to give up my car?
I think the total cost of ownership is important to consider in this decision. However, to me, the time saving is equally important. This involves determining how much I value my time. To do so, I found this Ride or Drive calculator to be valuable. What I love about it is that it considers all factors. Most importantly, this calculator provides a cost comparison projected for a period of 10 years. In my case, the projected savings are upwards of $38,000 in 10 years.
While these savings are enticing, I think that Uber and Lyft prices must drop to make them more appealing. Recently, Lyft introduced its All-Access Pass for a monthly subscription cost of $299 for 30 rides worth up to $15. If a ride costs more than $15, one pays the difference. After those 30 rides, Lyft gives subscribers a 5-percent discount on additional rides during the month. Lyft has also introduced another pass which charges subscribers $14.99 per month. This pass takes 10 percent off the cost of unlimited rides. I predict that in the future both Uber and Lyft will offer more affordable pricing.
Is it time to ditch my car?
The more I think about it, I can’t justify owning a new car for my current needs and use. As a family, we own two vehicles. But, I think the time has come for us to seriously consider getting rid of mine. We can do with only one.
The next question is: what do we do with one side of our garage if I ditch my car? If you have ideas we should consider, please share in the comments.