Should I Buy A Car or Use Car-Sharing Services? Part 2

Yesterday I shared Part 1 of my analysis of the decision to buy a car or utilize car sharing and/or cab services. I looked at the costs to own a car (specifically my car) on a yearly basis. Today, I’ll look at the costs of some alternatives to car ownership – car sharing and cab services.

Option 2: “Rent” a car as needed

The second option I looked at really consists of several options that can be mixed and matched. I looked specifically at three services: UberX, Zipcar and Enterprise Car Share. I’ve researched the cost of each of these services (although I have never personally used Zipcar or Enterprise Car Share, so cannot verify the accuracy of the posted pricing) and calculated how many trips you could take for the cost of car ownership.

Let’s start with Uber. I personally prefer Uber to cabs because it is both less expensive and more convenient. Boston isn’t New York, and there isn’t a cab available on every corner. I also prefer UberX. It’s cheaper, and the drivers are usually so nice! But really I choose it because you’re getting the exact same thing, but for a lower price. That’s a no-brainer.

The chart below shows fare quotes using the Uber app for three sample trips around Boston. This reflects standard pricing (not surge rates).

UberX Costs Miles Low Cost High Cost
Work to Home 4.3 $9.00 $12.00
Home to Back Bay 2.5 $7.00 $10.00
Home to Brookline 5.1 $10.00 $14.00
Average $8.67 $12.00
Rides per Yearly Car Cost 273.06 197.21
Weekly Rides 5.25 3.79


So, for the same $2,367 you would have to spend to drive a 2004 Honda Civic around, you could take somewhere between 197 and 273 UberX rides per year. That is roughly 4 or 5 UberX rides per week. Not bad.

Now onto car sharing. I researched both Zipcar and Enterprise Car Share for this analysis. I elected to consider two options because I had anecdotal evidence, via testimony of friends, that Enterprise is less expensive. Unfortunately, I cannot make a definitive statement on this since Zipcar does not provide comprehensive information on their website (or at least I couldn’t find it). That said, what I was able to find indicates that the two are highly comparable in terms of price, both for short-term hourly rentals and day-long rentals. Given this, I will use the Enterprise pricing here, since I was able to find more comprehensive information on their website.

The chart below documents two scenarios. These seemed like common scenarios to me, but I admittedly have never used either service. The first scenario is a four-hour rental on a weekday afternoon, after 5 pm. To me, this is running errands after work, driving around town without coming near the 180 daily miles included in the rental. The second scenario is a weekend trip, where you pay the daily rate for three days. This may be somewhat more limited by the 180 mile daily limit. Of course you can go over that, you just pay more.

Out of curiosity, I looked into how far away from Boston you could get in 180 miles (assuming you drive there one day and back another) and Portland, ME, Burlington, VT, Providence, RI, and many more choices are all within the radius. That is one of the great things about living in New England – so many great places are so close by!

Please note that these calculations take into account the $40 yearly fee charged by Enterprise.

Around Town Driving Hourly Cost 4 Hour Cost
Standard Car – Weekday after 5 pm  $9.75  $39.00
Trips per Yearly Car Cost 59.65 Per Year
1.15 Per Week
Weekend Trip Daily Cost 3-Day Cost
Standard Car – Weekend  $         84.50  $  253.50
Trips per Yearly Car Cost 9.18 Per Year
0.76 Per Month


So you could take about 60 weekly trips around town or 9 long weekends for the same cost as owning a car. And, of course, you can do any combination of the above – weekend trips, short trips, UberX rides – it’s totally flexible!

We now know how much it costs to own a car and how many Uber rides or Zipcar trips you can take for that same amount of money. Tomorrow, I’ll bring everything together and share my key take-aways from this analysis.

Do you use a car sharing service or cab services? How much do you spend on these services?

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