An UberX picks me up at my house for a rainy morning ride to the airport. Right away I admire the car choice - a clean silver Hyundai Accent, not new. The driver, Juan, greets me as he opens the trunk for my bag. I hesitate to sit in the back. I like to think this is my new friend, not my chauffeur. But Uber has made this dirt-cheap "rideshare" service something it's not, so I play the game and hop in the back seat.
Me: "Perfect car for UberX! What year is this?"
Juan: "Yea I love this car, it's a stick shift. 2006. Do you drive Uber?"
Me: "I used to but haven't driven in a few months. Rates are too low."
Juan: "It works for me."
Me: "Nice. Have you heard that now Uber has lowered the car year requirement to 2001?"
Juan: "Wow really? I looked at getting a new Prius but the payments are too much. Even a 2012 would be $250 a month. I drive 40k miles a year so after 5 years of payments the car would have 200k more miles."
Me: "I have a 2014 Prius and with this rate it's not worth it for me anymore to drive UberX. Depreciation is too high. "
Juan: "My friend just got a 2015 Camry hybrid to drive UberX. $600 a month."
Me: "Is that a loan through Uber -Santander?"
Juan: "Yes Uber loan"
Me: "It seems to me to be predatory lending. These poor people think they can get a new car and a job, work for themselves, it sounds so great. But as you said, after 5 years they have a car that's worth very little because it has 200k miles on it. That's if they drive that long."
Juan: "Yea my wife has a 2009 Prius but I prefer to drive this Hyundai."
Me: "How much was this car?"
Juan: "Got it at auction for $3200 two years ago. I am lucky and had no problems with it."
Me: "That's brilliant!"
Juan: "I plan to drive this car for a few more years, it only has 110k miles. My gas costs about $150 a week."
Me: "I'm guessing your paycheck is about $700 a week?"
Juan: "Yea, I get about $750 minus the gas is $600 a week. I used to work construction for $12 an hour, This is the same pay, but a lot less hard work. I also plan to go to school soon."
Me: "You are doing it right, you got the right car, and you will take advantage of the flexibility the job offers. "
Juan: "Did you drive Lyft?"
Me: "I used to do Lyft and Sidecar too."
Juan: "I tried to do Lyft but after the mentor ride they told me that my background didn't make their application."
Me: "You did the mentor ride and then were denied after? Is it because English isn't your first language?
Juan: "I don't know. I wanted to try it but with Uber I am busy anyways. Did you see my rating?"
Me: "No, what is it?"
Me: "That's impressive. Clean car, drive safe, be polite, you are doing it right. Do you work weekend nights?"
Juan: "Not unless I have to, I work everyday 4am to 10 or 11"
Me: "7 days a week?"
Juan: "No, monday to friday."
Me: "Ratings are worse at night. Drunk people are unreasonable. Maybe they don't see the stars right."
Juan: "Haha, you are right. I did the bar scene and downtown for awhile but my rating was 4.5 then."
Me: "Downtown at night is another reason I quit. Impossible to find passengers, traffic, and too many rides for only 5 blocks. If I ended up downtown often I would drive away empty just to get out of there."
Juan: "Yes. 15 minutes to pick them up and for a $4 trip. Terminal 1 or 2?"
Me: "Terminal 1, Southwest."
We arrive and I thank him for the ride. He assures me I will get 5 stars and I smile and reply the same. It's nice to see someone who has some practicalities of the business figured out and is making it work.
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