Is A Car Or Uber Cheaper To Commute With?

We compare the costs and advantages of a car versus an Uber. Our real-world example reveals why the softer factors might be the determining ones too.
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Published: Wednesday, August 31st 2016
General
Using an Uber is an incredibly convenient way to travel to work. Not only does someone else deal with the road rage on your behalf, but you can turn the back of the car into your makeshift office. We spoke to Michelle, a senior associate at a Johannesburg law firm who has used both about costs and her experience. This is what she had to say about commuting with an Uber versus a car:
"For me the Uber worked out far cheaper... ... at R2500 a month versus R8500 a month for a car, including monthly installments on the car finance, car insurance and wear and tear." She explains, however, that when working in a fast-paced law firm, the 'bar' is set high with regard to the make and model of the car you drive.
The Uber on an entry level financed car, however, worked out to be roughly the same per kilometre, at R16 per kilometre for both in our example. From Michelle's experience, an Uber averages at roughly R16 per kilometre versus a very rough AA car cost calculation of R5 per kilometre. That pegs a car's running costs at about a third of the Uber costs. Car Insurance Comparison(2)

For Most, However, The Costs Are Much Of A Muchness

However, the AA rates exclude the money put down to purchase the vehicle, only looking at insurance, wear and tear, depreciation, fuel, tyres and so on. If you add the monthly cost of a new financed car, it will cost you roughly R80 a day for an entry-level model (including modest weekend travel). Working on Michelle's average work travel of 7 kms per day, this works out to about R11 per km, plus the R5 on fixed and running costs. That means that if Michelle had opted for an entry level vehicle, her car costs could in fact equal her Uber costs per kilometre.

It Comes Down To Convenience And Personal Needs 

If you look at it that way, you will then need to look at the softer advantages of the car versus the Uber. Obviously with a car, once you've paid it off, you only then need to look at the AA rates (R5 per km in this example). But then again, they say time is money, and with an Uber, you can work in the back of the car, chat to friendly drivers, or even catch some shut eye.
"South Africans are stuck in the mindset that they need a car. We need to shake that off.  Families do not need multiple cars. My boyfriend, who I live with, has a car so when I used an Uber to commute to work, if I needed a car I always had the option of using his," Michelle reveals. "I used an Uber daily for over a year and the pros of using Uber most definitely outweighed the cons".
However, she says that she has now bit the bullet and invested in her own car, this time an entry level vehicle, shirking off the 'keep up with the Jones' mentality.
"The decision to buy another car was driven largely by our two dogs, who love trips to the park and the nearby dam. The puppy, Rusk, also needs to go to doggy daycare twice a week so I have to fetch and carry him which is beyond an Uber driver’s job description. He is also prone to car sickness so I couldn’t impose him on an Uber driver!" she laughs.
Thinking back she reveals how much she enjoyed her Uber commuting days.
"The hassle of servicing, licensing, washing and maintaining a vehicle disappeared, which was a pleasure. My pet hate of having to navigate parking lots and parking tickets also vanished. I was able to work, make calls, and so on, while on the trip and I found my productivity increased substantially," she says.
She explains how she also met some inspiring and energising Uber drivers, often moonlighting to fund other interests and passions. Some were wise beyond words with great perspectives and life advice. Which was more of a perk than she anticipated it to be.