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Buy the best car for rideshare driving

What to look for when you drive for Uber or Lyft.

Uber car

Cooley on Cars viewer Brent C. wrote in with a question that perhaps 1 million other ride-hailing drivers US have asked at one time or another: What's the best car for me to use when I gig for Uber or Lyft? He's using a 2014 Camry Hybrid now which is certainly one of the top cars for rideshare drivers. 

The Camry Hybrid is roomy, durable, economical and about as cheap to repair and maintain as anything out there. But whatever you drive has to be selected first and foremost to not get in the way of the ride-hailing income you'll be taking home.

Now playing: Watch this: Pick the right car for driving rideshare

As with almost every question I get about which car to buy, I start by recommending with late-model used options. That's even more important if you're driving for a ride-hailing service as the higher usage is going to plunge a new car into the abyss of depreciation faster.

Secondly, I think about something that's massively popular. Ride-hailing doesn't reward creativity in your choices. Go with the most mainstream cars that have been debugged by the most customers and miles. These are the ones with a vast and inexpensive repair supply chain that's grown up under them.

Rideshare all-stars

There are a slew of lists out there of the best cars for ride-hailing, but if you scan them you keep coming up with the same handful of makes and models. These five are pretty representative, all chosen from around the 2016 vintage:

  • Toyota Prius might be the all around champ: Legendary fuel sipping, tough as nails and with a tight turning radius that can transform the tedium of downtown driving.
  • Toyota CamryHonda AccordHyundai Sonata and Ford Fusion -- go with hybrid versions when you can. These tend to smear into one big sweet spot, but they have a skosh more room than a Prius. They'll also impress your customers with an appearance of comfort that a Prius tends to lack and are part of a sagging automotive sector, meaning you should be able to steal one.
  • Kia Soul is a great choice for a compact crossover. It's almost as if this thing was developed on spec for ride-hailing use with its easy utility and high economy on a compact platform. The Kia/Hyundai 10/100 powertrain warranty is also attractive for the heavy driver, though you may be at odds with their exception for "taxi, route delivery, livery or rental" use.

Whoops. Know that your car's warranty might be voided by you doing rideshare work with it, as would apparently be the case with Kia's tantalizing 10/100 powertrain warranty.

  • Lexus ES is a big favorite for entering the Uber Select tier of premium rides at perhaps $7,000 to $8,000 more than a nice Camry. We didn't love the circa 2016 edition, but many of our complaints are diluted by the particular needs of a ride-hailing driver.
  • A Dodge Grand Caravan can qualify you to take higher earning rides and may actually cost less than a late-model used sedan of the same model year. Remember, a large vehicle can always handle a small ride, but the reverse is not true. 

Whatever car you drive, check out Uber's tips for reducing wear and tear on it. They're hardly revolutionary, but make a good reminder on how to lessen the financial payload on any vehicle.

Don't want to commit to buying a car for ride-hailing? Consider renting one: FairHyrecar, Uber, Lyft Express Drive and others specialize in renting cars to ride-hailing drivers. But pencil out those numbers carefully if you find yourself renting one a lot. The economic tipping point to buying one of the cars recommended above may be nigh.