Is it Worth Renting Zipcar’s New Uber-Dedicated Cars?

Boston residents now have the option of renting a Zipcar to use exclusively as an Uber driver, but is it worth it?

Starting in Dorchester, Mass., a neighborhood of Boston, a dedicated Uber fleet of 10 four-door sedans will be available through Zipcar to rent for $12 an hour — plus an additional $7 monthly membership fee — for consumers who would like to be Uber drivers without the commitment of owning a car.

But with a recent $20 million settlement between Uber Technologies Inc. and the Federal Trade Commission over the ridesharing company overstating potential driver earnings, this calls into question whether renting a Zipcar to be an Uber driver will result in a net-zero gain for drivers.

Before the lawsuit and settlement, Uber advertised via Craigslist earnings rates of $25 an hour in Boston and various other exaggerated rates for nearly 20 cities. The FTC alleged that those claims were overstated, with fewer than 30% of drivers in most of those populated areas making the promised rate.

Many Boston-based publications have looked into how much Uber drivers make per hour in the city — which has a population of 667,137 — and it can vary depending on how many hours a driver works, when they work, and whether they are driving an UberPOOL, UberX, or Uber Black.

The available cars through Zipcar will be UberX, which are also allowed to be used for UberPOOL trips, according to an Uber spokesperson.

The average Uber driver works around 30 hours per week, and the average trip for an Uber driver pays out $13.09, according to an October 2016 posting from the I Drive With Uber website. With Uber drivers reportedly completing about two full trips per hour, that brings their hourly earnings total to $26.18, which includes the 20% fee that Uber collects.

A majority of Boston-based Uber drivers — 58% to be exact — drive less than 15 hours a week and make about $19.25 an hour, according to a 2015 study conducted by Uber. That report analyzed the earnings and hours worked by 601 Uber drivers who take part in the company’s UberX service. About 30% of UberX drivers work between 16 and 34 hours per week, and those who do, make $20.41 an hour, according to the study.

Gas money “usually comes out to about $25 per shift,” the Boston Business Journal reported. This is the primary benefit of using a traditional Zipcar, in that customers do not need to pay for gas, insurance, or vehicle maintenance, a Zipcar spokesperson said.

However, it seems the likelihood of an Uber driver making any significant profit from using a Zipcar is pretty slim. The only reasonable user of this joint venture is someone who already owns a car but would like to test out what it is like to be an Uber driver without having to make a firm commitment.

The above map shows the locations of Dorchester sections and squares near Boston.

The following is the most recent breakdown for an UberX ride in Boston, according to Uber Estimate:

  • Base Fare: $2
  • Per Minute: $0.20
  • Per Mile: $1.24
  • Cancellation Fee: $5
  • Service Fees: $1.15
  • Minimum Fare: $6.15

The current fleet of Uber-designated Zipcars is located in the Dorchester neighborhood of Boston, where notable destinations include JFK Library and UMass Boston.

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