Should Lyft Drivers Be Excited About New Leasing Option Coming to SF?

For as much as the gig economy is vilified in San Francisco and beyond, with earnings promises seemingly never living up to corporate assurances, it’s still an employment option used by thousands and thousands of folks every day. So any incentive for the little guy is worth noting.

Which brings us to Express Drive, a vehicle rental service for aspiring or existing Lyft drivers. Launched earlier this year in Chicago, Baltimore, and a few other cities, it’s been so successful that it’s expanding to more cities, including San Francisco, and it actually looks like a decent option (even if looks can be deceiving).

The partnership between Lyft and General Motors is slated to launch this summer in the city, according to an announcement from GM today. It will also come to Los Angeles and Denver later. GM says in these three cities combined, more than 130,000 people have applied to be Lyft drivers but did not have qualifying cars. (It’s unclear how many were in San Francisco, as there was no city-by-city breakdown.)

Driving for ride-hail apps like Uber and Lyft can be challenging when you don’t actually own a car, or your vehicle is too old to meet company standards or too small. Or maybe you just don’t want to put all that mileage and strain on your precious Prius. Many leasing options already exist, but Express Drive could be the best value. Of course, you have to really drive for that to happen.

The system only benefits the driver/lessee in a meaningful way if they spend a lot of time on the road — as in taking at least 65 fares a week. That’s when all the rental, maintenance, and insurance fees are waived, but the driver still pays for gas. If you take between 40 and 64 fares a week, you’d pay a flat $99 fee for the vehicle. And when it’s under 40 rides per week, the $99 fee is charged along with 20 cents per mile. Other lease options can cost $120 to $200 a week, plus gas and maintenance, so Express Drive is a better deal for frequent drivers. This rideshare blog did a nice analysis of the service back in April.

In smaller markets it might be challenging to achieve those fare numbers, especially with Lyft, which is not as big as rival Uber even though it’s been making headway on that front. But San Francisco and the rest of the Bay Area is a top market for ride-hail apps, so Express Drive will probably be huge here. Hopefully people will be able to make a better living than the poor souls driving for Uber in these three markets.

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