Article: It's Cheaper to Uber Than Own a Car in Chicago, Washington DC, New York, and Los Angeles

article: It's Cheaper to Uber Than Own a Car in These Cities
Mary Meeker’s slide deck that’s referenced in the article:

The article doesn’t have much substance but I found it interesting. I live in SF (not one of the listed cities) and I’ve often considered getting rid of my car and relying only on Lyft, Uber, rental cars, etc. Like the article’s author my monthly parking fee is ridiculous.

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Seems like SF would be another city where it is cheaper. It just isn’t one of the biggest 5 cities looked at in this study (paid for by Uber investors)


Thank you for your invaluable contribution.

On a serious note, just because something is not true for you, doesn’t mean it’s not true for anyone. I too have considered getting rid of my car, which spends most of the time in the garage yet requires insurance, registration, and maintenance. It wouldn’t even be a question if I had to pay for parking, like in SF.


I agree with the thrust of the article, though I guess beater ownership in a city could be defended. But owning a nice car in the city today is nuts . . . . never more so than right after you discover your sweet ride has been keyed.

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I wouldn’t be surprised if this is true, especially with all the Uber promos and discount GC. You could pay $1/mile to a Uber vs. .55/mile yourself, and easily save money for lowish usage.

And I suspect the irs rate is an average of city vs, rural expenses.

I believe the conclusion is true in several cities, but the numbers don’t make sense. For instance, in LA, they give $62/week. If your work is 2 miles away (which is pretty lucky if you’re in LA), you’re paying $6-7 for the Uber each way. On the low end, that’s $60 just for commuting back and forth during the week with no side trips. But then you don’t have a car or any money left over to go anywhere on the weekend.

In NYC it makes more sense because people commute with public transportation anyway. Plus the cost of having a car in NYC is much higher - insurance alone is ~$300/mo, plus the parking costs, increased gas usage, etc.


Yeah. I don’t think anyone thinks Uber could replace a car for the same number of miles. And surge pricing at commuter hours too.

I rarely rent a car for travel anymore, in favor of Uber plus public transit. Getting $2/ride back in sears points makes it competitive, even in LA.

That chart says it is showing weekly commuting costs. Side trips and weekend use are going to add to both the personal car and Uber costs.

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What happens when Uber / Lyft / etc cannot find a willing pool of drivers? I really think it will get harder as folks realize it is not great, easy money. This may not be an issue in major cities where the driver can stay extremely busy.

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Their cars could be autonomous by then… :fearful:


I live in SF. I had a car for about 5 years in the 90s, then got rid of it because it was such a hassle, and I was not one of those people taking off for the ski slopes every weekend.

Here are the costs involved, you can do the math:

Uber: Average of $10/ride to most places in the city if you ride by yourself. If you pool, it would be a third to half of that. Keep in mind, it is a small city with most people never venturing outside of a 3mile by 3 mile square Rail: Caltrain/Bart commute out of town will cost you an average of $8 each way.

Parking: About $350/month unless you live in a few neighborhoods where parking is easy

Tickets/Tow: About $400-$1000/ year - Parking enforcement is strict and unfair - (eg illegal tow signs put up with 12 hour notice and then cops signing off that they were there for 72 hours) Even pros getting parking tickets here occasionally. One tow is $1000, accidentally parking too close to a street corner with a ramp (considered handicap) is $900.

Liability insurance (you still need this if you are going to rent cars) - $300/year minimum

Breakins - Windows smashes are getting very common. So a replacement window periodically should be added.

Distance: Even if you have a car you probably won’t drive to work if you work in SF due to additional parking costs. You’ll take an uber or bus. If you work outside of SF you are probably looking at an average of 50 miles a day.


I’m more worried about if one of them loses, the other wins, and we’re stuck w/ only one ride-share company. Then the rides stop being VC-subsidized and the winner starts charging whatever they want.


This would probably bring the taxi and ride-share van businesses back to life.

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Yeah. The cap to what they can charge is whatever the taxi regulators allow. Otherwise, we’ll just go back to taxis, which now have smartphone dispatching apps too.


I know this is a sample size of 1 so it means literally nothing to anyone else, but if I totaled up the uber costs of where I drive when I go on vacation, it would often be at least triple the price of a rental. Obviously how far your hotel is from the airport is the main factor, but even when staying close, it is hard to come out ahead with uber. Look at a place like Las Vegas where the vast majority of hotels are within 5 miles of the airport. An uber to the Strip from the airport is ~$20+tip. So you’re at $40 before you even decide to take an uber during your trip. Rental cars can be had for ~$20 a day. It isn’t until you add in the cost of parking that uber starts to be competitive. I would only consider not renting a car if my hotel had fairly expensive parking fees. Normally, I try to avoid those hotels.

All of that is true, but I’m mostly traveling to NY/SF/LA and almost never Vegas where cars are cheap and parking plentiful.

My plan does also involve the bus.

I did say it was competitive. Not necessary cheapest:)

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In NY and SF, if you’re in the city area, you’re probably good (and usually better off) using public transportation. I wouldn’t even drive in if the car and parking were free. That bodes well for Uber in this analysis since a lot of the cost of owning or renting a car is fixed, no matter how much you use the car.

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Add in the NPV of a future 10k DUI and Uber starts looking pretty good.

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