Uber is ditching its age restrictions for riders so unlicensed teens can use the service. With teen driving anxiety on the rise, you may be tempted to rely on Uber instead of getting your license. But does that make financial sense? Let’s break it down.
How Much Does an Uber Cost?
That’s a question without an easy answer! The cost of an Uber varies depending on where you live, how far you’re going, and what time of day you’re traveling (for example, is there surge pricing in effect?).
To keep things simple, we’ll use numbers from this study that found that in 2019, the average cost of an Uber ride was $25.37 (let’s hope that includes a tip for your driver!).
Scenario 1: Just Ubering to School
Let’s imagine you’re only taking an Uber to and from school every day. That’s probably not a realistic situation — I’m sure you want to do things on the weekend, have afterschool activities that involve travel, and want to hang out with friends outside of the school day.
But at a bare minimum, $25.37 twice a day five times a week comes out to $253.70 per week. With an average of 36 weeks in a school year, you’re looking at $9,133.20 for transportation to and from school. And that doesn’t count the summer, either!
Scenario 2: Going to Work
What about if you have an after-school or weekend job? According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average worker aged 16-24 made $751 per week in the first quarter of 2023.
If you’re working five shifts a week, that adds an additional 10 rides, or $253.70 per week of Uber costs. Of course, you’re also going to and from school, so you’re paying the same $253.70 to get to and from school weekly.
So of your weekly salary of $751, you’re only taking home $243.60 after paying for transportation.
How Much Does It Cost to Drive?
Now let’s look at the cost to drive. First, there are some start-up costs. You need to get your driver’s license. If you take an online driving course at Aceable, that can be as low as $60 plus $30-$50 in DPS fees.
If you’re a lucky duck, your family might have a car you can use for free. But let’s say you are fully paying your own way. According to Bankrate.com, on average:
A used car payment is $523 per month.
Insurance costs $168 per month.
You’ll also pay for gas and car maintenance, which Car and Driver estimates to be approximately $57.70 a week for the average teen driver.
If we add those weekly costs up, we find that the average cost to drive (not including the cost to get a license) is $748.70. While that is higher than the cost of Ubering just to school and back, here are some things to consider:
Taking a defensive driving course can lower your insurance premiums up to 10%.
The longer you’re on your parents’ insurance without a collision or ticket, the lower the cost will be.
Once you pay off your car loan, you will own your car! Not only does that mean that your monthly driving costs will drop to far below the cost of Ubering, you will get back a big chunk of change when you sell your vehicle.
Having a car loan will help build your credit, making it easier for you to get a great rate on an auto loan or mortgage later in life.
Uber vs. Driving Financial Pros and Cons
Either method of travel has its pros and cons. From a strictly financial standpoint, let’s compare the two.
Fewer rides per week will reduce your costs.
At first, it costs less to Uber than to purchase a used car and pay car insurance.
Every time you travel, you have to pay more — your ability to do extracurriculars and hang with friends will be determined by your wallet.
Surge pricing can stick you with an unexpectedly high bill.
Drivers can cancel unexpectedly, making you late for school, late for work (and potentially costing you your job), or make you miss curfew.
The money you pay toward rides will not increase your credit score or result in an asset down the line.
You have the freedom and flexibility to go wherever you want, whenever you want (as long as your parents say it’s okay!) — that could mean taking on extra shifts at work, saying yes to last-minute plans, or taking on more extracurriculars.
If you’re willing to help your parents out with chores and driving siblings, they may be willing to contribute to your car expenses.
Once your car is paid off, you can travel for just the cost of gas.
Having a car loan increases your credit score.
You own a car! That’s an asset worth a lot of money!
The initial costs for purchasing a car are higher than Ubering.
You have to pay for and get your license.
There are ongoing maintenance costs with car ownership.
Your friends will always be asking you to drive them everywhere.
So what do you think? Does Uber make financial sense for you in the end, or are you going to drive? If you’re going to be a driver, take the first step toward getting your license today!