Driving for Uber – is the XL worth it?

The 15-day proof of concept that I completed was using a gas guzzling SUV so that it could qualify for Uber X, Uber XL, and Uber Select. The most common category is Uber X – in terms of both supply and demand. An Uber X car can be 15 years old as long as it’s in decent condition, it doesn’t need to be leather or a certain color, just fit the normal 5 passengers (4 + driver). To qualify for XL it is the same conditions except needs to fit 7 passengers (6 + driver). The big one comes in with Select, only a small number of car types, models and ages can qualify, the driver must meet a certain rating, and the car must have leather. All the specifics can be found on Uber’s website. Note: this is focused on Colorado, it’s possible other geographies may vary.

To see the original proof of concept financials, click here.

If you’re like me, before getting into Uber you’re probably wondering is it worth it to get a bigger (i.e. Uber XL) and/or fancier (i.e. Uber Select) car. Unfortunately, the 15-day proof of concept wasn’t long enough to assess Uber Select as the driver must have over 50 trips to qualify (the website says 25, but the text message from Uber when I was finally allowed to drive Select came at 50, so who knows). Needless to say, in my 119 rides, only 69 of which happened after I qualified for Select, I only got 1 Select ride. Had I drove for a few more weeks perhaps the frequency may have increased, hard to say. Thus, this analysis is focused more on if Uber XL is worth it.

ADVANTAGES:

1. Uber XL means you can get higher fares per ride – $1.3320/mile and $0.216/min (as compared to $0.75/mile and $0.0975/min).
2. More passengers and higher ride costs sometimes equate to higher tips.

DISADVANTAGES:

1. Most 3 row SUVs are gas hogs, increasing your fuel costs by almost double (if not more)
2. Unless you have a large 3rd row SUV with tons of luggage space, you may find yourself trying to get seats up, then down, then up, then down, in the few seconds between passengers – a total pain and also can impact the rider experience
3. Having 3 rows of drunk people can really suck
4. 3 row SUVs cost more than small sedans

In other words, the reason you’d do Uber XL is to make more money. So let’s take the proof of concept financial results and see how it compares if I’d used an Uber X only vehicle. The big changes – (a) gas was cut in half as most sedans are 32+ miles / gallon and mine is 16 miles / gallon, (b) car payment was cut in half, (c) Uber XL rides and Uber Select rides were removed from earnings. Note – see below for how the Uber XL and Select were adjusted.

RIDE REVENUES:

From Proof Of Concept (Uber X, Uber XL, Uber Select): 
$1,519.19 – 30% taxes = $1,063.43

Uber X Only *:
$1,262.13 – 30% taxes = $883.49

* Uber XL and Uber Select rides totaled to $323.16 of my ride earnings, or about 21%. Realistically, I probably wouldn’t have been idle if I’d not taking these rides, but also realistically I probably wouldn’t have got a replacement ride for each. So I went line by line adjusting each Uber XL to an X ride, and each Uber Select to an X ride, then ran an average between no ride replacement and full ride replacement to get the $1,262 above. Not perfect, but decent enough for this benchmark.

OVERALL COSTS:

From Proof of Concept with a fancy 3 row SUV (note: 2008 SUV, higher maintenance, more issues):
$590 / month prorated and adjusted down to $266.25

Assuming Honda Civic lease (note: 2017 car, lower maintenance, less issues):
$300 / month prorated and adjusted down to $128.50

Note, the prorating was done as the proof of concept data was 15 days, or half a month. The adjustments were made to account for the fact the overall costs weren’t 100% allocated to driving for Uber. I’ve also removed the cost of parking for the “Honda Civic” as I suspect most people don’t need to pay to park their car at their house overnight like I have too.

DIRECT COSTS (gas, supplies, etc.):

From Proof of Concept with gas guzzling car:
$324.06

Assuming fuel efficient Honda Civic:
$205.63

Same as the original proof of concept, this does not account for car wash and vacuuming costs which I had to do every 3 days. If you don’t have the ability to do these at home for free, you may want to factor that in to your direct cost projections.

THE TOTALS:

If we take the original proof of concept with the large fancy gas guzzling old car, we’d get the following:

Uber X + XL + Select:

$1,063.43 in earnings – $266.25 in overall costs – $324.06 in direct costs = $473.12 / 68.10 hours =
$6.95 / hour

If we take the original proof of concept adjusted for using a brand new 5-passenger economy car, we’d get the following:

Uber X Only:

$883.49 in earnings – $128.50 in overall costs – $205.63 in direct costs = $549.36 / 68.10 hours =
$8.07 / hour

Important – This includes a 30% tax rate with the IRS, which depending on your tax bracket could be more or less. Depending on if you’re able to deduct 1099 expenses could be more or less (certain tax brackets allow for it, others may not). In other words, you’ll have to look at your own situation, what you can qualify for, and make adjustments as needed to customize this analysis to your personal situation. You can also check out Uber’s help page for more information here.

IN CONCLUSION:

Based on the proof of concept, it would indicate it is not worth getting the gas guzzling SUV.

HOWEVER, if you are someone that enjoys driving evenings, I would suspect getting an XL would likely end up earning more as the night runs with large groups going to/from ball games, concerts, bars, is where most the XL activity takes place. I personally am a morning person, I don’t do night shifts so for me, XL wasn’t worth it. For you, it might be.

Though I will recommend, when transporting human life from point A to point B, to do it at the hours your body and mind are at its peak – meaning if you’re not a morning person, don’t transport human life in the morning, if you’re not a night owl, don’t transport human life in the evenings. Most passengers do not wear seat belts and one false move from you or one mistake could cost them their life. Something you likely won’t recover from easily.

PS – dear Uber rider, if you wouldn’t mind please wearing seat belts. We driver’s are not invincible angels gliding your lives impenetrably around town. Your desire to not belt in can not just change your life forever, you’re putting that on us too.

Hope this helps,
Sara

If you think Uber is for you, feel free to use this code to get a sign-on bonus (gives me one too!): https://partners.uber.com/i/sarac13944ui

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