Which car should you buy if you're a budding Uber driver?

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Drive around any Australian city and you’ll see quite a few cars with that little circular black sticker with a small white square in the middle in the back window. This indicates that the car is an Uber car and – as long as you have the Uber app on your phone, you can book a ride in it.

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It is amazing how quickly Uber has been adopted, not only in Australia but around the world, and you can see why – fares are normally around half of a taxi fare, the cars are generally smart and the drivers are generally friendly, plus you can book a ride from wherever you happen to be and your ride (in our experience anyway) is picking you up 5-10 minutes later. Plus since the fare is booked to your credit card, you just hop out at your destination, all done.

So, they are pretty good from the user’s perspective – but have you ever thought what it would be like to drive one? The great news is that you can clock on and clock off whenever you like, so it’s easy to combine with your other responsibilities (like work maybe?). And an extra few dollars into the bank account certainly doesn’t hurt.

There are some requirements for Uber drivers, but the most important is having a vehicle that Uber regards as fitting the bill. The most basic car (which is for an ‘UberX’ vehicle) must be less than ten years old, have at least four doors and seat at least four people plus the driver. Of course it must be ‘in excellent working condition’, which includes working aircon and windows.

If you don’t have access to a vehicle that meets these conditions (and Uber does insist on a vehicle inspection before you can start driving with them), all is not lost – you can always buy a new car. Well, not necessarily a new one – as long as it’s under ten years old you’re fine. So the big question is – which are the best cars for Uber drivers?

The Performance Drive website has a few recommendations for budding Uber drivers – their first pick is the trusty Toyota Corolla for sheer reliability as much as anything else, plus the hybrid version keeps fuel costs way down, with a consumption figure of 4.1/100km.

Their second choice might seem a bit strange though – they are suggesting the BMW 330e, which is a mere $73,000 – not what you might regard as Uber driver territory, however there is another category of Uber car – the ‘Uber Select’ – that is for people who want to ride in style. Uber suggests a number of models it thinks would fit the bill, from the Hyundai Genesis to the Maserati Quattroporte. And if you’ve a Tesla S, or yes – a BMW 3 series – as long as it’s under ten years old you’re in, plus you make a little more money as an Uber Select driver, so you might pay off that $73K a little more quickly. The big advantage of the 330e is its fuel consumption – just 2.1l/100 km, thanks to its hybrid setup – a four cylinder turbocharged 2l petrol engine coupled with a 65kW electric motor, which does all of the low speed driving, while giving you a 0-100kmh acceleration of 6.1 seconds when you need it.

Some of the other cars that make the grade, at least as far as Performance Drive are concerned, are the Hyundai i30, the hybrid version of the Toyota Camry and the Skoda Superb. At the smaller end of the scale they suggest the Kia Picante which costs just over $14,000 new, which will make car loan payback pretty quick. However we’ve yet to see a ‘compact’ car with an Uber sticker in the back window – the Hyundai Getz – arguably one of the most common cars on the road in Australia, is strangely absent from the Uber fleet. Or have you seen one?

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