Owning a car is still considered to be a rite of passage for many Americans. It represents autonomy, freedom, and adventure. And considering that 35% of U.S. households own three or more cars, it’s clear that we still value the idea of being able to provide our own transportation. But that may be changing — at least in some U.S. cities — due to the rising costs of car ownership compared to ride-hailing. One recent study found that in four major metropolises, including Chicago, it’s actually cheaper to call an Uber every day than it is to own a car.
According to Mary Meeker’s 2018 annual internet trends report, it’s more economical to use Uber than it is to own a car in four of the nation’s five largest cities — a list that includes Chicago, Los Angeles, New York City, and Washington, D.C. This report takes into account the cost of parking, gas, car insurance, and maintenance. It might not surprise most consumers that NYC residents incur the highest weekly rates of car ownership; it costs owners there an average of $218 per week just to own a car. But when New Yorkers switch to taking an Uber everywhere, costs decrease by as much as 35% to only $142 a week. And given the mess that MTA regularly causes for those living and working in the city, it’s not a shock that many are putting these numbers to the test.
In Chicago, the savings might be a bit more on the conservative side. But it’s likely to be intriguing news for many locals, particularly because Uber’s new Express Pool car service just launched in the Windy City. In basic terms, the service is similar to their carpooling feature, UberPool, but the express option actually allows drivers to pick up their riders in an organized manner to make a shared route more efficient. It organizes riders who are all traveling in the same direction, saving both time and money for travelers. So for those who want to pay even less for more convenience — unlike a bus route, there are no specific pick-up locations for Express Pool — this may be an interesting option.
But even without opting for carpooling, ditching a car in favor of Ubering everywhere may actually be preferable for many folks. Since owning a car is not typically seen as a great investment, as a vehicle depreciates in value the moment you drive it off the lot, it may simply not be worth the cost of city parking, upkeep, and rising gas prices. Of course, there are trade-offs to consider, like the lack of independence and fare hikes during peak travel times. But if you’re sick of paying through the nose just to own a vehicle you don’t get to use very often, you may want to crunch the numbers and see whether you might want to become a full-time ride hailer.