What It's Really Like Ditching Your Car For Uber — For Good

Photo: Courtesy Uber.
Between insurance, car payments, and the occasional (but inevitable) parking ticket, your car is burning a giant hole in your bank account. Maybe it's time you ditched it — after all, you hail an Uber half the time anyway. While you've been mulling over the decision, a growing number of millennials actually are selling their cars in favor of using Uber and public transit.

Megan Quinn, a former partner at Kleiner, Perkins, Caufield, and Byers and an investor in Uber, took the plunge last year. Outlining her experience in a blog post, she decided to sell her car when she moved to London. Since she recently relocated back to the San Francisco Bay Area, Quinn has remained car-free, relying only on Uber, public transit, and the occasional car rental. When she found herself considering purchasing another car, she decided to crunch the numbers and found that she likely saves a couple thousand dollars a year by not being a car owner.

But while it sounds good (especially if you've got money at stake in Uber's longterm success), is this something anyone can do?

According to AAA, the American Automobile Association, car ownership costs the average person a whopping $8,700 a year, thanks largely to maintenance, insurance, and gas. The average Uber fare is $15. With that in mind, the cost of owning a car in the U.S. covers 11 Uber rides a week. And according to a case study Uber performed in Chicago, UberX users in particular could save more than $2,000 annually compared to car ownership. In a metropolitan area where you can either walk or take the subway part of the time, it would seem that you could save a lot of money.

Ashley, based in NYC, used to pay $105 in insurance and $40 in gas each month, with half a dozen $75 traffic tickets over the course of the year. Without a car, those costs are now down to $50 to 60 in Uber expenses each month — and Ashley says the money from selling the car "will happily cover all Uber and transit costs for a couple years."

Los Angeles resident Michelle* quit driving four years ago and has been using Uber and mass transit exclusively ever since. With an unlimited Metro pass, roughly $100 in Uber rides a month, and $30 per month of non-driver's car insurance, she ends up paying $230 a month on transportation.
"I don't know if I really save that much money, but it can be a lot less stressful," she says. "Los Angeles has horrible traffic and the parking is often just as bad."

Uber is actually hugely popular among many Angelenos.

"I was quite shocked once I moved [to L.A.] to find that the number of people who don't drive runs counter to L.A.'s reputation as a car city," auto journalist Jaclyn Trop told Refinery29. "It feels as though half of L.A. has ditched car ownership in favor of Uber." But it makes sense. You don't have to pay attention to traffic; you can drink as much as you want. The economics make sense.

For the occasional instance where you do need a car — for a road trip, day of cross-town meetings, or a trip to Ikea — you can turn to a service like ZipCar or just rent a car for a day or two. Even so, abandoning your own vehicle does have its caveats. That trip to Ikea can't be quite so spontaneous without wheels parked outside your door; there are some seriously questionable Uber drivers out there; and that could put your personal safety at risk or put individuals at risk of discrimination.

However, making Uber more convenient and affordable than car ownership is an eventual goal for the company. Products like UberPOOL and "Smart Routes," a bus-like service being tested in select areas of San Francisco, offer more ways people can travel cheaply without a car or traditional public transit.

"The math doesn't work for everyone, everywhere right now, but I think the trade off is compelling for a growing number of people," Quinn told Refinery29 via email. "Owning a car has historically been a status symbol, but to me, not having one is the real luxury."

*Name changed

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