Taking Uber or Lyft to and from work and to run errands might seem more expensive than driving yourself–but in many cases, relying on a ride-hailing service is cheaper than buying and using a car of your own. A new calculator compares both scenarios, and might help you decide to ditch car ownership entirely.
In the calculator, you can plug in the sticker price of a new car, details about your loan, and how much you drive. You can also tweak details about how much you spend on maintenance, insurance, gas, and registration. But the tool also includes costs that people likely never consider, such as property taxes you pay on your garage, or the value of the time you spend stuck behind the wheel.
The calculator is one part of a larger research project that attempts to understand how transportation patterns may shift in the near future, and what that means for carbon emissions. By better understanding the economic drivers of transportation choices (including public transit, though it isn’t included in the simplified public app), the University of Texas researchers plan to estimate how many drivers may make the shift to ride-hailing and what impacts that could have on energy use. Electric cars are likely to become more commonly used for ride-hailing, particularly as companies like Lyft start to use autonomous cars and own their own fleets rather than using drivers’ vehicles. As that shift accelerates, emissions are likely to decrease.