Why Uber’s Xchange Leasing Program Is A Bad Idea

High turn-over creates demand for an endless supply of drivers, even those with no access to their own car. Don’t be one of them.

Uber's Xchange leasing program


Let’s face it. The recession of a few years ago opened a huge can of whoop-ass on millions of hard-working people. If you watched your family go through the recession or if you went through it yourself, the changes in the job market and the overall economy were hard to miss.

Some  of those changes involved  the emergence of the gig economy, or “sharing economy.” The latter just means that some rich kids in Silicon Valley or Silicon Beach developed a service-based app and hired a bunch of independent contractors to do their bidding, usually for less than stellar pay and no rights or benefits.

Ahem. Anyway….

Uber is by far one of the most successful service-based apps, with a worldwide presence.So successful that you no longer need to have your own car to drive for Uber. You don’t even have to have decent credit to get a car to drive for Uber. How did that happen?

Enter Uber’s Xchange short-term leasing program.

A sweet deal…at first glance

Unlike a conventional lease whereby you pay the first month’s payment, a security deposit, plus tax and license, Xchange only requires a $250.00 payment up front.

Hell, even I can scrounge $250.00, but I’m not so sure I’d want to spend it on this.

Here’s where the program gets you in the shorts: lease payments range from the mid-$100s to $200.00 weekly.

Unlike a traditional lease where you’re bound to the car for the term of the lease, Uber’s Xchange lease allows you to turn in the car within 30 days, pay a $250.00 disposition plus any remaining balance, and walk away.

They make it sound so…easy.

After all, it’s no skin off their back if for any reason the car is repo’ed.

Still tempted?

Time for a little math. Let’s assume that you want to lease a 2016 Toyota Corolla  or Honda Civic through the Xchange program and use it for Ubering your ass off. Let’s also assume you have a bad week and don’t pick up a lot of fares. Instead of the $200 week you were hoping for, you only clear $100 after Uber takes their cut.

Weekly lease payment:                               $150.00

Your total Uber haul for that week:        $100.00

Remaining balance:                                    $ 50.00

The remaining balance of $50.00 gets rolled over into the following week’s lease payment, leaving you $50.00 in the hole right out of the gate.  Uber has also cut their fares, making it harder for drivers to make a profit over and above Uber’s deductions and any lease payments.

In plain English, if you have a couple of bad weeks, you’re screwed. Fall far enough behind or have your Uber account randomly  deactivated, and you can be on the hook for hundreds of dollars that you didn’t have in the first place.

Just like payday lenders and buy here/pay here dealerships, Uber’s leasing program targets financially vulnerable people who have few other options and very limited access to decent cars.

Don’t let the easy-peasy friendly language on Uber Xchange’s website fool you. There are other side-gigs out there that actually let you keep the money you earn and not piss it away on weekly lease payments.

You  got your hours cut and need a side gig to feed your family or to pay for tuition. You want some holiday money. You need to pay down a medical bill.

I get it. I really do.

However, Uber’s Xchange leasing program isn’t the way to go about it. Honest.

(For the economic nuts and bolts of the program, check out Bloomberg’s post).

The Rookie’s Guide To Walking An Auto Show

Getting ready to walk your first big-city auto show? Follow these tips to preserve your sanity and budget while gazing at the cars of your PowerBall-fueled dreams.

You may think that walking a car show is a piece of cake and you’ll get a chance to see everything, but most big-city car shows are have several football fields worth of cars and displays. Here’s how to enjoy a large-scale car show with your wallet and sanity intact.

Detroit Hosts Annual North American International Auto Show

2015 North American International Auto Show in Detroit, MI

  •  Follow them on social media: Most car shows organizers rely on social media to communicate with attendees and to announce discounts, giveaways, and other treats. It’s also a great way to reach out to organizers with any questions. I messaged the staff of the Orange County International Auto Show with a question and got a reply that same day.
  • Look for discounts: Some shows will offer same-day discounts while others will offer Early Bird discounts, large group discounts, and student/senior discounts. Every little bit helps.
  • Devise a game plan: Grab the show map from the show’s website and decide which stands to hit first. If the crowds get to be too much later on, you will have at least seen your favorite cars or must-see displays.
  • Dress for the show hall, not the weather outside: The outside weather at the OC Show was a scorching 95 degrees, but the show hall was much cooler. I froze. Lesson learned.  Even with more than a few shows under my belt common sense took a back seat.
  • Go on a weekday: True, this is next to impossible if your employer doesn’t offer sick pay or vacation days, but if they do, go for it. Crowds are smaller and it’s much easier to see everything you wanted to see and then some.
  • Get there when the doors open, especially on a weekend: Most big-city shows open at 9:00 a.m., so beat the crowds and be there when the doors open. Car shows are much more fun when you’re not jostling for space with thousands of other people.
  • Make a day of it. If the show hall is within walking distance of other attractions or places of interest, make them a part of your day. There is nothing like a “daycation” to make the week go by just a little faster.
  • Pack your own snacks. Show hall food is expensive and not all that tasty.
  • Wear comfortable shoes. You will be walking. A lot. Seating is scarce in the show hall.


    “Honey, it wants to follow me home. Can we keep it?”

  • Take it all in. If you’re a true car geek, very little compares to having acres of cars at your disposal. You’ll see the cars of your dreams up close with no hovering salespeople. The vibe at the shows I’ve been to has always been laid back and friendly. Enjoy the hours-long break from the “real world.”
  • Make sure your camera works. I tossed my camera into my backpack only to find out that it had a dead battery just as I walked into the show hall. My cell phone camera sucks, so fortunately my partner in crime shot some great pictures.

Nothing beats a big-city car show for a one-day getaway from the real world. My day job bores me to tears, so the one day I spent at the OC Show did wonders for my outlook. A big-city car show is an instant vacation that doesn’t cost a fortune.

Should You Take That Older Car?


“It just needs a ‘little work’ but it’s yours!” Minor warning or famous last words?

When a beggar needs to be a chooser

A friend, a grandparent, or  a co-worker’s cousin’s best friend heard that you’re hard up for a car and has offered you their old car for next to nothing. People mean well, they really do. After all, they’ve seen you struggle to get around and they’d like to help.

You’ve known that you need a car to get to and from/work, school, and as a means of picking up a side gig. Besides, you’re sick of bumming rides and/or relying on mass transit.  An old car is better than no car, right? Should you go for it?

Five reasons why you should:

  1. The car is in great shape. Your mechanic checked it over and said “Take this thing and run! It just needs some new brake pads and you’re set!”
  2. You have some pocket money. If you can comfortably shoulder the costs of the needed repairs and ongoing maintenance, go for it.
  3. You have the tools and the time. If you’re lucky enough to have the tools, skills, and space to perform your own maintenance and routine repairs, go forth and get the car.
  4. One of your friends in an automotive genius and has offered to help you with major repairs/maintenance.
  5. You can live with ambiguity. Old cars carry a lot of uncertainty, especially if they need repairs, or if there are no reliable maintenance records on file. If the prospect of the unknown doesn’t faze you, the car might be a good risk after all.

And five reasons why you shouldn’t…

    1. You’re tight on cash. You have just enough left over each month to cover food and other essentials. If a tail light goes out on the car or if the battery dies, you’re hosed.
    2. The car isn’t safe. At the very least, the car should have Electronic Stability Control (ESC), operational air bags, Anti-Lock Brakes (ABS) and secure child seat latches if you’re hauling a kiddo around. All the safety features need to be fully operational. Don’t kid yourself into thinking you’ll never have to rely on them at any point in time, because chances are you will someday.
    3. It needs work. Lots of it.  Deferred maintenance and repairs quickly add up, taking the car from a means of transportation to a money pit quickly. Thank the seller or gift-er and move on tactfully.
    4. It would be a nightmare to insure. Some cars, no matter how old they are, can carry a high theft risk (Google 90’s Hondas and you’ll see what I mean). Some older cars may also carry a salvage title. Either scenario means your insurance agent will freak out and hike your rates considerably or drop you altogether.
    5. Parts are scarce or insanely expensive. Search online or call around to see if current or future replacement parts are readily available and affordable. You could be in for a very expensive awakening otherwise.

If you’re offered an older car for nothing or next to nothing, you may be tempted to grab it. Keep a cool head instead and treat it as you would any other used car by asking yourself whether the financial risk and potential repair bills are worth it in the long run.

A car should be a pathway to financial gain, not financial ruin.

So Many Shiny Toys: My Day at the Orange County Auto Show

The OC Auto Show was the happiest place on earth for a car geek like me.

(All photos are courtesy of catmomma/Flickr)

Located within walking distance from the Disneyland resort, the Orange County Auto Show at the Anaheim Convention Center was a delight from start to finish. I sure as hell can’t afford Disney, so I opted for the automotive Fantasyland of the Orange County International Auto Show.

Although it doesn’t have the cachet of the Los Angeles International Auto Show, the OC show offered acres of shiny toys, interactive displays and activities (including test drives) and a variety of cars to suit nearly every need, budget, and taste.It was a stellar show in its own right.

Of course, I couldn’t just go by myself, so I asked a friend and fellow car geek Cheri to come with and to make a day of it. After a quick ride on Amtrak and an even quicker Uber ride, we were at the show hall when the doors opened.

The first time stepping into the show hall is magic for me. Between the lights and the new car smell, it’s car geek heaven. It never gets old. The day it gets old is the day I need to find a new hobby.

We agreed to walk the show from one end to the other so as to not miss anything. Our first stop with the Chrysler-Fiat stand, featuring the much-anticipated Fiat Sypder 124. It didn’t disappoint. In one word: Whoa.

We also came up close with the Fiat 500e, which is a favorite here in CA. I test-drove one and it’s a peppy, eager to please treat. For those of you like me who weren’t feeling the orange paint, the 500e has additional colors to choose from.

Psst! Wanna ride?

Typically, one can’t test drive a new car unless they’re willing to put up with a dealer sales pitch, or if they’re a journalist with access to a press car. Fortunately, several of the automakers offered test-drives to car geeks like myself.

After a quickie survey, a breathalyzer test, and a scan of my driver’s license, I was in the driver seat of a Fiat 500e, accompanied by Chrysler-Fiat rep Mya riding shotgun. The 500e fun to drive and I was surprised by its liveliness.

Cheri road-tested a  Fiat Spyder and I don’t think she’s stopped smiling since. At about $27,000, the Spyder is a roadster within reach for most car buyers.

While other automakers such as Kia, Nissan, Mazda, Honda, VW, and Toyota also had test-drive kiosks, we decided to keep moving in order to beat the crowds since the hall was quickly filling up.

Tonka Toys come to life at Camp Jeep

My partner in crime headed for Camp Jeep, an interactive display in which show-goers were treated to hills, stairs, bumps, and a variety of other obstacles while riding in one of Jeep’s models. I’m a huge chicken, so I opted for terra firma. Still, it was a blast to watch as Jeeps full of people tackled the course. Beats the hell out of sales pitch.

Honestly, it was hard to contain ourselves as we moved from one stand to another, ogling cars and/or sitting in them. Seriously, when else am I going to have the chance to sit in a $53,000 Kia K900 or a Volvo S60? Not unless I’m at a car show.

We both enjoyed the well-laid out show floor, clear directional signs, clean cars, attentive staff, and of course, the cars themselves.  I’ll admit I’ve thought of the Orange County Auto Show as the L.A. International Auto Show’s poorer cousin, but no longer.

This one is a sure bet to be on my calendar for next year. My only complaint? The show website had out of date public transit links from last year. Aside from that, this show was top notch and a definite keeper.


Happy Name Your Car Day!


“Dude. The name’s Filmore. How’s it goin’?”


Leave it to social media to create holidays. (Siblings Day, anyone?) Today is a “holiday” I can relate to: Name Your Car Day! My social media feeds are lit up with car names that range from the endearing to the downright weird. Here are the cars who have graced my driveway at one point in time or another:

Raspberry: A 1992 Ford Escort LX that I bought with my own money. Loved the purr of the Mazda engine under the hood! I drove that poor car into the ground. Those were my serious road-tripping years.

Vanilla Bean: A white 1997 Ford Escort Sport. Raspberry’s successor. Vanilla Bean rose from the dead, but not in my driveway, unfortunately. More to follow on that one.

Kismet: A 1996 Volvo 850 GLT wagon that I bought in 2007 after Vanilla Bean’s demise. Kismet was totaled a few short months later by a girl yakking on her cell as she plowed into me. You could say Kismet died protecting me, like a true Volvo. I walked away without a scratch.

Nigel: A 1991 Volvo 750 base and Kismet’s successor. I bought him just as the recession was beginning to gather steam and most of us (me included) were packing up our desks and heading toward the door. Nigel was my side-kick during a fruitless job search and my eventual return to school. I miss him every day.

???: My next car. I think they name themselves. I have no idea what the future will hold or who will land in my driveway next, but you can be sure they’ll have a name.