How to avoid buying a used Uber or Lyft car

How to avoid buying a used Uber or Lyft car

If you are looking to buy a used car—beware!  Former Uber and Lyft vehicles are popping up in used car lots without any warning to you, the potential buyer.

Experts tell us their wear and tear is worse than what typical used cars experience which could lead to costly repairs and maintenance for the next owner.

West Palm Beach resident Ben Sturgell is searching for his next vehicle at a used car lot off Old Okeechobee Road.  He wants to know the history behind the one he'll eventually buy.  "I don't want to get a car that is a lemon," said Sturgell.  "I want to find something reliable, something safe."

For that history, like many Americans, Sturgell turns to Carfax—a web-based company that supplies vehicle history reports on used cars.  Sturgell said it's important to know a car's story because before vehicles end up on used lots they could belong to people like Uber driver David Hall.  Hall said on a busy night he could have 40 passengers, "You're constantly letting people on and letting people off."  That type of driving with extensive city miles can do some damage, according to Angel Borges, owner of Angel's Auto Care.

"Especially the idling," said Borges.  "So that's added mileage onto the engine that's not really recorded on your odometer."  That is why ferrying vehicles like taxis and limousines, said Borges, are required by law to be labeled as a commercial vehicle in their history report, to protect consumers.

Although Hall's car is used in the same was as a taxi, when we pulled his Carfax online it was labeled as a "personal" vehicle.  Was this a mistake?  We purchased three other Carfax reports for actual Uber rides we took in West Palm Beach.  All three were labeled as "personal" vehicles.

Currently ride-sharing services don't have to tell the next owner that countless strangers sat in the back seat, said Borges, and state lawmakers need to step in.

"I'm not going to say Uber is doing it intentionally, but because they're not being mandated it's something less they have to worry about and something less they have to do," Borges said.  "That does affect the buyer."

If those cars are ever sold Burges said the buyer would get stuck paying up to 35% more than the car is actually worth.

"They're going to be up against more maintenance items," he said.  "It's an out of pocket expense that wasn't expected."

That potentially leaves people like Sturgell with lighter pockets and a car he never wanted.

"It's a buyer's nightmare," he said.

We reached out to Florida Representative Emily Slosberg about the issue and she said ride sharing services need to be held to the same standards, "I'm looking into filing legislation to make the playing field level," she said.

But until then here are some red flags to look for to avoid purchasing a used Uber or Lyft vehicle.

  1. Check the Carfax.  If you see an excessive amount of miles in a very short amount of time that’s a red flag
  2. Check the backseat.  If you see extensive wear on the upholstery and door handles that’s a red flag.
  3. Check the front window.  If you see leftover residue from an Uber, Lyft, or airport permit sticker that’s a red flag.

As for the engine, Borges said to always have a mechanic check for things hidden from an untrained eye.

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