driving for a ride-hailing company like uber or lyft (or both) can be either a full-time job or a way to make extra money on top of another job — thanks, late capitalism! — and one of the keys to success in this "side hustle" is your driver rating. for those considering starting as a ride-hail driver, here are some new cars that can help you keep that rating at five stars.
i love the uber rating system— alex kealy (@alexkealy) april 5, 2018
5 stars: a taxi journey happened
1-4 stars: i'd like to jeopardize a complete stranger's livelihood
many drivers go above and beyond by offering smartphone charging, snacks and beverages, choice of music, and other comforts for the journey. if your car can help you go above and beyond, even better. things like rear usb ports or in-car wi-fi are great extras.
for the traditional ride-hailing experience — uberx, lyft and their respective carpooling services — fuel efficiency seems to be a chief concern, and rightfully so: having to constantly fill up your fuel tank with premium will eat into your take-home pay. my pick:
kia optima hybrid
epa-rated at 39/46/42 mpg city/highway/combined, the optima hybrid won't use much gas as you shuttle people around. charge-only usb ports and a 12-volt outlet in the rear console give drivers an opportunity to earn brownie points with riders by offering mobile-device charging.
other decent options: any mid-size hybrid sedan, such as the toyota camry hybrid or honda accord hybrid. keep in mind that these will all be more expensive than gas-only versions, and some are only available as mid-level or higher trims that will add additional cost.
wildcard: "cheap" $35,000 tesla model 3, if and when it finally becomes available.
for larger-vehicle services like uberxl or lyft xl, you'll need a seven-passenger vehicle. how about:
we once named it the most device-friendly three-row suv, and that'll ingratiate you with riders. not only does the traverse have multiple usb ports, front and rear — including in the third row — it has standard three-zone climate control and a subscription-based in-car wi-fi network that can help your passengers stay connected.
other options: minivans like our favorite chrysler pacifica are a solid choice, as well. for added fuel efficiency there are three-row suvs like the toyota highlander hybrid or the mitsubishi outlander phev. the only hybrid minivan currently available is the chrysler pacifica hybrid. like with the sedans above, expect to pay an added premium for the hybrid tech.
wild card: ford transit connect. you'll stand out a little in a sea of suvs, but that's about it for perks.
uber and lyft also offer more luxurious rides. the lowest tiers are known as uberselect and lyft lux and are restricted to premium and luxury vehicles. fares will be higher, as will riders' expectations. why not surprise some riders with ...
genesis makes very nice cars, and it's high time someone showed that to all those who worship cars just for the badge they wear. dual-pane window glass, three-zone climate control, comfortable seats with standard real leather instead of vinyl (looking at you, mercedes-benz and bmw), available all-wheel drive and more than respectable performance may change some minds. more importantly: these cost far less than comparable models from other brands, saving you some money.
other options: genesis g90 for an even more luxurious ride, or its not-twin twin the kia k900.
wild card: land rover discovery. you never see these as ride-hail vehicles, but a diesel-powered discovery will be (relatively) light on your wallet at the gas pump and capable of reaching just about any destination — even if it means going up the side of a mountain.
the highest tier of either service involves "black cars," or black-painted cars with black leather interiors. lyft lux black or uberblack and their seven-passenger equivalents offer the most expensive fares for passengers and the most lucrative earnings for drivers. vehicles can be cars or suvs but not compact ones, like a bmw 3 series or mercedes-benz c-class. my pick:
live out your "transporter" fantasies with this 600-horsepower luxury sports car. (ok, frank martin drove a bmw 7-series and two audi a8s, but let me have this.) you'll never want for passing power during highway drives but may find sitting in downtown traffic a bit frustrating given the m5's capabilities.
other options: the bmw m760 trades a small bit of the m5's quickness for extra passenger room and is available with a nifty tablet for rear-seat occupants to control various climate and entertainment features.
wild card: every new four-door sedan from bentley and rolls-royce also qualifies, but if you can afford a car like that, why aren't you hiring your own driver?
those are my picks, but the true king of the ride-hail cars is the chevrolet tahoe. get a new black tahoe with black leather seats and you can drive any tier of uber or lyft, assuming you meet the various driver requirements.
don't think you have to buy a brand-new car to become a ride-hail driver. while services do have maximum vehicle age standards, which vary from service to service and location to location, even a black car can be a few years old. there are also several other ways to acquire a car for ride-hail driving without buying one.
finally, a nice car alone will not guarantee a good rating. it helps to be courteous, capable of following the gps directions provided by your app of choice, nonthreatening and, above all, a good driver. people want to get where they're going safely and quickly more than they want wi-fi available in the car.
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