What should you do when you want to drive for Uber but you don’t have a car to use? Ideally you’ll already have your own car that qualifies for an Uber service, but many drivers will have to buy, lease, or rent a car to use for ride sharing jobs. What’s the best choice?
You can be approved to drive for Uber even if you don’t currently have access to a vehicle. You can apply and see if you pass the background and driving record checks before you go through the trouble of accessing a car. If you don’t have a car yet, apply first and think about how to get the car later.
When you decide to get a car to drive for Uber, is it a smarter financial decision to should you buy a car, rent a car, or lease? Each option has upsides and downsides that I cover below.
How Uber drivers get access to cars
- Use a car you already own
- Buy a car, typically a used hybrid or compact
- Lease a car through Uber Xchange
- Rent a car for Uber through their Hertz or Enterprise programs
- Rent a car through Hyrecar, a peer-to-peer service
What types of cars qualify for Uber?
The first thing you need to do is learn which types of cars are accepted by Uber in your area. Generally, Uber requires vehicles to:
- Must have 4 doors and seat belts for 4 passengers
- Model year 2007 or newer (in most cities)
- Must pass a mechanical inspection and be in good cosmetic shape
Learn more about vehicle requirements for all of the Uber services. Six-passenger cars and entry-level luxury cars qualify for the more expensive Uber services, so some drivers looking to get a new car will try to find an affordable used minivan, SUV, or luxury car.
How to apply to drive for Uber when you don’t have a car
Here’s a common dilemma: You want to drive for Uber, but you don’t currently have a qualifying car and you’re not sure if you will pass the background check and driving record check. You want to see if Uber will accept you as a driver before you go through the trouble of accessing a car.
If you don’t currently have access to a qualifying car, there is a special application that allows you to let Uber know that you don’t have a car.
Apply to drive for Uber on this page and select “I need a car” to find out if Uber will hire you without having to provide vehicle information on the application.
Best solution: Use the car you already own if you can
This might seem like common sense, but if you already own a car that qualifies for Uber, use it! Your car payment, if you even have one, will almost always be lower than a lease or rental payment. With the rates that Uber is paying these days, buying a second car when your first car already qualifies is not usually the right financial decision. Even accounting for vehicle depreciation, it’s wise to use the car you already own.
The only exception to using your own car might be if you’re investing in an UberBlack vehicle and commercial registration and insurance. If you just want to drive for Uber X, XL, Plus/Select or Lyft, use what you already have.
Lease or finance a car through Uber Xchange
Uber Xchange is a leasing service allow you to lease an Uber-approved car month-to-month for only a low downpayment of around $250. Uber leases have high monthly payments — around $600/month — so this is a better option for drivers with bad credit or drivers who don’t want to commit to buying a qualifying car.
You’ll need to have your own insurance to use a leased car. One strong benefit is that mileage is unlimited. Your car payment will be automatically deducted from your Uber earnings. Some Uber leasing plans have an option to cancel after 30 days, so you won’t be stuck with the lease if the plan isn’t working out.
Apply for Uber and select “I need a car” to begin the Uber Xchange process.
Upsides: You can get a car even if you have bad credit or no credit. Try Uber without committing to buying a car or a long-term lease. Maintenance is included, unlimited mileage
Downside: Higher monthly costs and interest rates that might not make financial sense if Uber fares and market demand are low in your area
Rent a car for Uber or Lyft through their rental programs
Both Uber and Lyft now partner with rental companies to provide weekly rental cars in select larger cities. You pay a weekly fee to rent a newer model car. Insurance and unlimited mileage are included. You can drive your Uber rental car for Uber and Lyft, but you can’t drive your Lyft rental for Uber.
These rentals aren’t cheap: Expect to pay around $180/week.
- To qualify, you first need to sign up to drive and pass the background check
- You pay a deposit that is returned after you turn in the car
- The rental fee is deducted from your pay
- Insurance is included price of the rental
- Unlimited mileage. Personal use is ok
- Routine maintenance is included
- You may have to drive a minimum number of hours for each app in order to qualify
- You can’t always reserve your car in advance. First come first served.
- Full detail about the Lyft rental program
Upside: You can try driving for Uber and Lyft before you commit to owning your own car. You don’t need to have your own insurance. You can get approved for a rental with no credit or bad credit.
Downsides: Very high weekly cost. Not available in most cities. Very hard to get a car in busy cities.
Rent a car from another driver using Craigslist
You may have seen an offer on Craigslist like this — Uber drivers can rent another driver’s Uber-approved car for a period of time. The car will already be registered with Uber, and the driver who owns the car will have to list you on the insurance policy.
You might think that you need to drive your own car for Uber, but you can drive anyone’s car as long as it’s in Uber’s system and you’re listed as a driver on the insurance policy. Initially this worked best for husband/wife or parent/child Uber driver combos, but some crafty people have figured out that they can rent out their Uber-approved car to people who want to drive for Uber but don’t have access to their own vehicle.
Here’s how renting/leasing from another driver works:
- You apply to drive for Uber
- You contact someone on Craigslist, or a site like hyrecar.com, and agree to rent a car
- You sign a leasing agreement with the owner of the vehicle
- You are added to the vehicle’s insurance policy
- You are added as a driver on the car owner’s Uber account
As odd as this idea sounds, I think it’s a great way to get some experience with Uber without making a big investment in a new car. You might find out that you love driving for Uber and it pays the right wage for you. If that’s the case, you can consider getting your own car. But if you discover that Uber in your area isn’t working out as well as you thought it would, you won’t be stuck with a car payment.
Rent a car from Hyrecar
Hyrecar is a vehicle marketplace that allows you to rent Uber-approved vehicles from private owners and use the car to drive for Uber. After you create a Hyrecar account and show them that vou’re an approved driver, Hyrecar gives you the registration and insurance information you need to add the rental car to your Uber account. They also provide insurance for you as soon as you take possession of the rental. It’s a good option if you want to try Uber before you buy a car, or if you need a car temporarily.
Buy your own car to drive for Uber
Owning your own car to drive for Uber can be the cheapest option, with fewer restrictions than leases and weekly rentals. The car will be yours to do with as you want, and the monthly payment will almost always be cheaper than leases and rentals.
If you decide that buying your own car for Uber is the way to go, buy the type of car that can realistically make you money with current Uber rates: An older used car in great condition that costs $5,000–$15,000 will be nice enough to please your riders and won’t dig too deeply into your weekly ride earnings.
Always make sure to closely check Uber vehicle requirements before you purchase a car, and email Uber just to make sure your car qualifies, especially if you’re aiming to use your car for UberXL or Plus/Select.
Good auto loans — If you decide to buy a car
If you decide that buying a car to drive for Uber is right for you, it’s worth taking a moment to compare a few different auto loan options. In my own search, I’ve found that these are a fast and easy way to get a sense for the kind of cars and loans you can qualify for.
- 1-800 Auto Yes - One-step application process
- Automotive.com - Shop for cars and loans
- myAutoloan.com - A fast way to see which types of auto loans you qualify for
Upside: You’ll own the vehicle, so you can use it as you wish, sell it whenever you want
Downside: If the vehicle is too expensive and Uber isn’t very lucrative in your area, you might get stuck with a car payment you can’t afford
Don’t buy or lease a car until you’re approved to drive!
I’ve gotten comments from people who went out and bought or leased a car before they were approved to drive for Uber. In a lot of cases, these people were confident they could pass the driving record check and background check, so they went ahead and got the car before Uber approved their application. Then something happened in the application process — delays, or outright rejections — and now they’re stuck with a car payment that they may not be able to afford. Don’t put yourself in that position.
Get approved to drive before you get the car! The initial application process — providing your personal info and passing the background check — should only take a few days, or up to a week. Apply and find out if you’re approved to drive. Then you can source the car.
Is it worth buying a car just to drive for Uber?
Buying a car exclusively to drive for Uber or Lyft is a big investment that may not pay off if your area isn’t busy with ride requests. Even in the busier markets, you should only expect to make around $10–$25/hour after expenses. Many drivers are able to make money with an affordable car (~$10k), but other drivers who splurge on a more expensive model find that it can become a breakeven or a loss.
Try before you buy: If you’re new to Uber and you’re not sure how strong the local market is, try renting a car through Hyrecar to see if the job is right for you.