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What is the Best Car for Lyft Premier Lux or SUV?

What is the Best Car for Lyft Premier Lux or SUV?

A rideshare driver’s most important and expensive business asset is their car. Most part time rideshare drivers tend to use their existing vehicles regardless of how expensive it may be. If they drive very sparingly, the cost of the vehicle may not affect their rideshare profits that much but as drivers drive more often (20+ hours a week), the cost of the vehicle becomes important. The cost of the vehicle includes depreciation, maintenance, repairs and insurance in addition to the cost of gas. Luxury cars are much more expensive to operate as a rideshare vehicle due to its higher initial cost, depreciation and cost of premium gas if it requires it.

Once I started driving regularly on Lyft and Uber, I decided to get a second car that was newer so that it qualified for Lyft’s Power Driver Bonus, but also cheaper to operate. I picked the Hyundai Elantra mainly because it gets great gas mileage, it was at an attractive price used, and it was a reliable vehicle. So far, the investment has paid off pretty well since I save about 50% on gas compared to my old Lexus that required premium gas and only got about 15 mpg in the city.

What is Lyft Premier?

Lyft Premier is a service that offers premium cars to riders. It is only available in select cities so search for your Lyft city page to see if Lyft Premier is available in your city. The minimum is 2009 luxury vehicles and the list can be found here:

Not all luxury vehicles make it on the list so make sure to check this list carefully to see if you can use your existing car on Premier.

Why Lyft Premier?

Lyft Premier has much higher rates than regular Lyft rides, so drivers can make about double what they can make on a normal Lyft ride. However, the consensus is that Lyft Premier rides are far and few in between so it may not work for most people to get an expensive car just for Lyft Premier since you may do one or two rides a day, after being online all day. However, if the cost of the vehicle is low enough, it may make financial sense to drive it normally on Lyft while also having the option to accept Premier rides. You can take a look at the below analysis.

What about Lyft Lux?

I did a preliminary scan of prices and I don’t believe it is financially attractive to get a car just for Lyft Lux. The cars typically cost a lot more  (~40% more, even used) than cars that qualify for Lyft Premier and I would expect even fewer rides on Lyft Lux. I’ll continue to do some research and testing to see if it will ever be financially viable to get a car just for Lyft Lux. For people who already have a luxury vehicle, it may make sense to do Lyft Lux or Lyft Premier only. This strategy is only for people who don’t mind getting no rides in any given day and to get rides that only makes financial sense for them.

Which Car Qualifies for Lyft Premier?

Below is the list as of the posting of this article:

Acura ILX*, MDX, RDX, RL, RLX, TL*, TLX*
Alfa Romeo Giulia
Audi A4, A4 Allroad, A6, A7, A8, Q3, Q5, Q7, RS4, RS7, S4, S6, S7, S8, SQ5
Bentley Continental Flying Spur, Mulsanne
BMW 3 Series, 5 Series, 4 Series Gran Coupe, 6 Series Gran Coupe, 7 Series, ActiveHybrid 5, ActiveHybrid 7, ActiveHybrid X6, ALPINA B6 Gran Coupe, ALPINA B7, M5, M6 Gran Coupe, X1^, X3, X4, X5, X6
Buick Enclave, Envision, LaCrosse, Regal, Regal Sportback
Cadillac ATS, ATS-V, CT6, CTS, CTS Wagon, CTS-V, CTS-V Wagon, DTS, Escalade, Escalade ESV, SRX, STS, XT5, XTS
Chevrolet Suburban, Tahoe
Chrysler 300*
Ford Expedition*, Explorer*
Genesis G80, G90
GMC Acadia, Acadia Denali, Acadia Limited, Terrain*, Yukon, Yukon Denali, Yukon Limited
Hyundai Equus, Genesis
Infiniti FX, FX35, FX50, G37, JX, M, M35, M37, M45, M56, Q40, Q45, Q50, Q70, QX, QX50, QX56, QX60, QX70,QX80
Jaguar F-Pace, X-Type, XF, XJ
Kia K900
Land Rover Discovery, LR4, Range Rover, Range Rover Evoque, Range Rover Sport, Range Rover Velar
Lexus ES, GS, GX, IS, LS, LX, NX, RX
Lincoln Continental, MKC, MKS, MKT, MKX, MKZ, Navigator, Town Car
Maserati Ghibli, Levante, Quattroporte
Mercedes-Benz 300-Class, 350-Class, 400-Class, 420-Class, 500-Class, 560-Class, C-Class, CLA-Class, CLS-Class, E-Class, E55 AMG, G-Class, GL-Class, GLA-Class, GLC-Class, GLE-Class, GLK-Class, GLS-Class, M-Class, ML55 AMG, Maybach, R-Class, S-Class
Nissan Armada*
Porsche Cayenne, Macan
Rolls-Royce Ghost, Phantom
Tesla Model 3, Model S, Model X
Toyota Land Cruiser, Sequoia
Volkswagen Atlas, Touareg
Volvo S60, S80, S90, XC60

How Would You Recommend Buying a Car?

I always recommend drivers buy used cars. Pick cars that have a reputation for reliability so that you are not saddled with the cost of repairing an used car, regardless of what the previous owner did. I personally trust Toyota, Lexus and Hyundai but there are other reliable cars and car companies to buy from. If you want some extra reassurances for your used car, buy a Certified Pre-Owned Car that comes with a warranty. Many Certified Pre-Owned Warranties cover just the powertrain and may not cover things like doors, electronics and accessory motors like seats and windshield wipers. Sometimes you can buy an extra warranty to cover these items. The downside is that CPO cars tend to cost more and they tend to be newer, which adds to the cost of getting one.

Because I’m looking for the cheapest used car possible that is fairly reliable, I usually buy from private sellers to avoid any type of dealer fee you need to pay when buying from a dealer. At the prices I am looking at, a few hundred dollars in dealer fees typically cut drastically into my profits and drives up the cost of the car. In addition, you can still get financing to buy from private sellers, but it is a little more hassle and more steps to take on your own. When you buy (and finance) from the dealer, they typically do all the paperwork and you leave with a new car and plates.

Private sellers are also more willing to negotiate, depending on how fast they want to sell cars. I typically see cars in good condition (on paper) sit on Craigslist for a few weeks so its safe to say that you can negotiate the price a little while also giving you enough time to arrange financing.

How I Search for Used Cars?

Below are the three locations I search for used cars:

Autroader.com and Cars.com are my top choices to search for cars. They mostly have cars listed by dealers but private sellers on occasion list their cars on there too. I have seen cars listed on Autotrader, but not on Cars.com so if you really want a specific car, search both. Craigslist is also a great place to search for cars offered by dealers and private sellers, but you may see more cars by private sellers than Autotrader.com or Cars.com Autotrader and Cars.com typically have a few more filter options so you can find heated seats or 3rd row seating while Craigslist only has a few options to filter through and there is no guarantee that the seller will have everything listed on Craigslist. When searching on Craigslist, you’ll need to do a bit more research on your own to find out what the car actually has and may require some communication from the seller. Sellers on Autotrader and Cars.com don’t always put everything on the listing either, but they tend to be more complete than Craigslist.

I find that I can find cars with higher mileage and/or cars of lower value on Craigslist than I do on Autotrader or Cars.com so if you’re after a cheap car, I would search more on Craigslist than Autotrader/Cars.com.

Below is the search I use to find Lyft Premier Cars:

Cars.Com Search for Lyft Premier Cars

You will need to change the zip code so that you can see cars close to you. Also, this search brings up quite a few totaled cars being sold as parts so look at the listing carefully. Some of these cars probably have a rebuild/salvage titles and they are not allowed on Lyft or Uber. You will need to ensure it has a clean title so I would encourage you to either request a CarFax report from the seller or to buy your own. Also, while I believe every car by these manufacturers qualify for Premier, you will need to ensure the car you picked is on the Premier list.

Once you take a look at the list, you can see that there are quite a few cars that meet Lyft’s requirement selling for around $6500-$7000. They may have a lot of miles on it but they qualify for Lyft. I wouldn’t recommend buying something at the bottom of the barrel but something with possibly fewer miles, say 80k-90k. In addition, some states have regulations around how many miles a car has in order to be eligible for Lyft and Uber, so you may need to get something around 60-70k miles.

Cost of a Lyft Premier Car?

From the above website, I would say the lowest price would be in the $6000 range for a 2009 car with 120k miles but the car may require a lot of maintenance to be done on a car with such high mileage. The common items to replace at that mileage is battery, spark plugs, ignition coil, water pump, belts and possibly shock absorbers and suspension parts if they are very worn.

The next concern would be cost of fuel. These cars often require premium gas and don’t get very good gas mileage so you will need to spend more on gas. For example, my old Lexus sedan had 50% higher cost of gas than my 2013 Elantra. This is the main reason why I don’t recommend doing just regular Lyft with a Premier car since you’ll end up paying a lot of money for gas a week. The only advantage to driving nice cars on Lyft and Uber is that you may get more tips and a higher rating, but the amount of tips don’t negate the cost of having a Lyft Premier level car.

Since the car you are buying is cheaper to begin with, it will have very low depreciation cost and insurance cost due to its lower value. However, there will be more things to fix on an older car so maintenance costs will be higher than if you got a newer car. Typically, any type of service done on luxury cars is also more expensive compared to a basic vehicle since the parts tend to be more complex so keep this in mind. Performing the same repair on a BMW at a BMW dealership could cost double the same type of service done on a Toyota at a Toyota dealership due to more expensive labor and parts.

If you search for a 2013 Hyundai Elantra or Sonata, you can find cars in the $6000-8000 range with much fewer miles than you see in the above list and I would argue that maintenance wouldn’t be as bad as the Lyft Premier eligible cars and both of the Hyundai vehicles get very good gas mileage. You can spend around $10,000 to get a car with just 60k miles and you probably wouldn’t need to worry about replacing parts until 100k. When you take this into consideration, getting a vehicle for just Premier may not make financial sense for everyone but for a limited population in the cities that have Lyft Premier and also can afford to go days without a ride and willing to spend the extra cost of maintaining an older Premium car in the off-chance for a Premier ride. Drivers mention that about 10% of their rides are Premier, so it is not very many. These Premier rides may only cover the additional cost of the Premier car and may not yield extra profits by having it.

What is the Best Lyft Premier Car?

I would argue that the BMW 3-series would be the cheapest car you could find in your area with moderate levels of reliability, assuming that it is well maintained. You usually see a few BMW 3-series vehicles for sale and there typically aren’t that many buyers of used BMWs especially at this price range and model years (below 2013) so you can usually find a few and able to negotiate a lower price. I personally would only buy one that is over $1,000 below the KBB fair-condition private sale price with about 80-90k miles. If you don’t find one, just wait for one. I found three cars when I was looking, but one had a lower price than the others so I bought that one.

The one reservation I have about the BMW 3-series is that it doesn’t have a spare tire and relies on Run Flat Tires to be installed, unless you want to wait for a tow truck. There are tire patch kits but they may not always work and the same can be said about Run Flat Tires. This is probably one of the biggest things to watch out for when buying a BMW (in addition to the condition of the body, interior, engine, and if it has fold down seats) since a set of Run Flat tires run about $200 each (summer run flat tires are cheaper for some reason). Many tire stores and BMW owners don’t know this so they end up getting non run flat tires (without getting a spare tire in the trunk) on their newer BMW. When you do a search on TireRack, it doesn’t even recommend run flat tires for specific model BMWs, but you can filter by run flat tires.

My second choice would be a Lexus because of their known high levels of reliability. I would go for either the ES or IS. Note that a 2011 ES qualifies for Lyft Lux, which is the next step above Premier but it is also a few thousand dollars more expensive. I wouldn’t recommend getting the car just for Lux. If you really want to get a car for Lyft Lux, I would try the BMW 5-series. Again, there seems to be quite a few for sale but it may be difficult to find one that has an attractive price.

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