AAA report: Relying on ride-hailing costs twice as much as owning a car

The study, which analyzed the expense of single-rider travels in 20 cities, found that Boston has the highest cost for ride-hailing services at $27,545.

Inbound traffic on the Massachusetts Turnpike.
Inbound traffic on the Massachusetts Turnpike. –Aram Boghosian / The Boston Globe)

Relying on ride-hailing companies as the primary means of transportation is twice as expensive as owning a vehicle in 20 major urban areas, including Boston, which had the highest cost for such services at $27,545 per year, according to an analysis released this week by the motor and travel organization AAA.

AAA analyzed the cost of services like Uber, Lyft, and an occasional rental car then calculated the annual expenses based on traveling 10,841 total miles, which the agency estimates is the average number of miles urban car-owners drive each year.

“Ride-hailing services are a popular and convenient transportation option, but … they are not a cost-effective replacement for vehicle ownership,” the study said.


The report based the total cost of ride-hailing on data from 243,838 economy-level, single-rider trips in the cities examined. The analysis did not take into consideration the costs associated with carpooling or multimodal transportation options, such as the MBTA. 

For the individual car ownership portion of the analysis, a median sedan was selected “… since it is most representative of the vehicle type for economy-level ride-hailing services,” the study said.

Nationally, those who use ride-hailing services averaged $13.15, 6.66 miles, and 15.11 minutes per trip, according to the report. Included in the average costs were the use of rental vehicles for longer distance ventures, based on rates for off-peak times, not holidays.

“[The] average driver takes 2.1 road trips per year, totaling 11 days, traveling 1,476 miles,” the study said.

To replace a personal vehicle with a ride-hailing service, supplemented with a rental car for longer trips, would then cost an urbanite an average of $20,118 year — an expense Boston residents would have to fork over an additional $7,427 for, according to the report.

Parking costs in the urban areas studied, as well as the average cost to own a median sedan, “factoring the expense of fuel, insurance, parking and the vehicle itself, driven 10,841 miles annually,” were the key data points considered, the report said.


Across the board, when including parking charges that averaged $2,728, owning a personal vehicle in one of the 20 cities costs $10,049 a year, according to the study.

But the study’s claim that ride-hailing services are more expensive than car ownership is a faulty one, said Lyft communications manager Campbell Matthews.

“The premise of the study that people are just taking a single-occupancy rides is unrealistic when you look at how people are using rideshare,” Matthews said. “[The report] doesn’t take into account the other options.”

For Lyft, shared rides compromise one-third of the service’s rides in cities where the pooling option — like in Boston — is made available, according to a statement from Lyft.

“[The study] also did not look at multimodal transportation, like public transit or bikes and scooters,” the statement said. “This is especially significant since research asserts that while 80 percent of weekly drivers said they never use public transit, 95.5 percent of weekly rideshare riders utilize public transit.”

Uber, in a statement, also said the study erred in only examining single-occupancy rides.

“We fundamentally disagree with any industry-based study that is designed to advocate for every person owning and driving more cars individually,” the statement said.

Rather than using multiple modes of transportation, such as ridesharing, solo travels taken with a ride-hailing service — what the study focused on — can have can have consequences on the environment and lead to transportation issues in a city, Uber said.

“This includes increased congestion in our cities and approximately 10,000 deaths every year due to drunk driving,” Uber said in the statement.


AAA representatives did not respond to requests for comment.