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Is it cheaper to Uber or Bolt or own a car?

28 April 2021
3 minute read

Should you sell your car and call an Uber? We did the numbers for you - take a look and see if you can cut costs by ride-hailing, or if it makes financial sense to own a car.

What we compared: The cost of owning a car and the cost of ride-hailing. We used a VW Polo in our comparison, as it is one of the best sellers in South Africa. We priced UberX, Uber Go and Bolt services as these are most readily available.

What we found: Travel around 650km a month and you can save money if you ride-hail. Travel 1 850km a month and you’re probably better off owning the car.

What the car costsFixed costs: R5 868 per month, worked out in the table below. 

Variable cost: Petrol, which we priced using average urban fuel consumption per litre for the Polo and April 2021’s petrol price of R17.10 a litre.

VW Polo: monthly fixed cost
Monthly repayment plus maintenance plan (R280 000 financed at 10% interest, 10% residual, 72 months) R4 993
Monthly comprehensive insurance cover R625
Monthly other costs such as licence and parking R250
Total R5 868

Car ownership versus ride-hailing

Travel distance Car ownership
(Monthly fixed cost + petrol)
UberX Uber Go Bolt
650kms a month on 1 tank of petrol (15kms twice a day weekdays, 50kms weekend travel per month) R6 637 R6 480 R4 360 R5 080
1 850km on 3 tanks of petrol (45kms twice a day weekdays, 50kms weekend travel per month) R8 175 R15 160 R13 280 R14 880

Making your decision to own a car or ride-hail
Distance is an important factor to consider when you decide whether to ride-hail or own a car and will account for most of the cost of a ride-hailing trip.

Other factors to consider when you make your decision are:

The price of your car
The more your car costs, the further you need to travel to make car ownership the better financial decision.

Additional car costs
We kept the cost of owning and running a car simple and basic but you may have other costs such as tolls, fines (hopefully not too many!) and expensive parking, that will add to car ownership costs.

Options for two-car families
If you are a two-car family, it might be possible to scale down to one car, especially if you are mostly working from home. You could do most of the running around - school lifts, grocery shopping and so on - in the car, and use a hailing service from time to time when schedules clash and both partners need transport.

Holidays
Hiring a car for a week or two on holiday can add up to more than a few thousand Rands, especially if you travel some distance.

What your family needs
Having your own car is more convenient if you pop to the shops regularly or transport your children to school, friends and extramural activities. You may also want a car for emergency trips, for instance if you need medical care after hours or have a relative who might need assistance late at night. It’s also handy if you want to teach your kids how to drive. Self-driving may change the world in the years ahead, but right now a driving licence is a must for most adults, and occasionally a job requirement!

Where you travel
Depending on where and when you use the service, availability and waiting times will differ. In major centres and on popular routes, you might only wait a minute or two. If you travel to or from a place where there are not many Uber or Bolt drivers, you may need to add some time to your trips, which may become time-consuming and inconvenient. In small towns and remote areas, ride-hailing is probably not a viable alternative to owning a car.

Definitely worth a look
Owning a car gives you independence and flexibility, but they are expensive to run and usually lose their value very quickly. So, unless you really travel long distances it is worth working out the numbers for yourself to see if you benefit financially from ride-hailing.

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