5 Things You Should Know About Uber’s Xchange Leasing Program & Its Costs

Last summer, Uber launched a car leasing program that aimed to remedy the one big obstacle for anyone who wanted to sign up as a driver and hit the road — if you don’t have a car, you’ve got nowhere to put passengers. Nearly a year after Xchange Leasing began connecting would-be drivers with new vehicles, experts say the program may not be all it’s cracked up to be for already financially vulnerable drivers. 

Xchange Leasing, a wholly owned subsidiary of Uber that offers short-term leases to drivers by partnering with dealerships, recently received a $1 million credit from Goldman Sachs that aims to expand the program to more drivers, Bloomberg reports.

When the program launched last year, there were few details available aside from the fact that it would involve multi-year leases with the option for drivers to return their vehicles without penalty after 30 days.

While Uber contends that the program offers people who may otherwise be rejected by traditional lenders an option to obtain a vehicle and make a living, consumers advocates and financial experts express concerns that Xchange may be causing more harm to drivers than it is providing an outlet for them to make money.

Bloomberg spoke with several advocates, advisors, and drivers to glean a bit more understanding about the risks and benefits of Xchagne. Here are five things we learned from the report.

#1. The Terms — Leasing a vehicle can be a more expensive option for any consumer looking for a new set of wheels. Under an Xchange lease, which features 28 pages of terms and conditions, drivers pay a $250 upfront deposit and weekly payments to Uber over a three-year period.

The weekly payments are automatically deducted from the driver’s Uber earnings. If the driver wants to keep the vehicle after the three-year term is up, they must pay the residual value, Bloomberg reports.

#2. Returning The Car — After 30 days, an Uber driver taking part in the leasing program can return the vehicle to Uber with two weeks notice. The return doesn’t incur an additional fee but the driver is on the hook for the remaining payments.

#3. All-In-One Program — In addition to partnering with dealerships, Xchange handles advertisements to drivers, manages risks, and pays repo men to collect vehicles when drivers stop making payments.

In the case of Xchange, where payments are automatically deducted from Uber driver’s take-home pay, the lessee has stopped driving for the company.

#4. A Predatory Program? — Auto experts tell Bloomberg that while Uber contends the leasing program offers flexibility and option that otherwise wouldn’t be available, the costs are significantly higher than other leasing programs.

For examples, Experian estimates the average weekly payment for a new car lease is $96, while a 2013 vehicle through Xchange costs $130 a week.

“I’d say the cost is greater than the benefit for your average driver,” said Mark Williams, a lecturer at Boston University’s business school who reviewed the terms of a blank lease agreement provided by Uber, along with some average weekly lease payments and a driver-reported account. “The terms, the way they’re proposed, are predatory and are very much driven toward profiting off drivers rather than to facilitate an increase in drivers.”

After reviewing the terms of one lease, experts estimate that a driver would pay $25,210 plus $5,000 for the residual value for a 2015 Honda Civic, far more than the Kelley Blue Book fair purchase prive of $18,142.

#5. The High Costs — One driver tell Bloomberg that the high weekly cost, coupled with Uber lowering the cost of rides simply make his lease unaffordable.

The driver, who leased a 2016 Toyota Corolla, paid $155 a week for the vehicle. Two months after starting the lease, the company slashed prices and he began having trouble keeping up with payments.

“It got to the point that I would drive just to meet my payment,” he said. “If you were short on your payment for a week it would roll onto the payment for next week. It starts adding up.”

In the end, he stopped driving for Uber and asked Xchange to come get the car. However, he says it stayed in the parking lot for several months, until one morning it was gone.

Another driver tells Bloomberg that two weeks after entering a lease with Xchange, Uber deactivated his driver account with no notice.

While he has kept the vehicle, keeping up with payments has been difficult. If he continues with the three-year lease, he’ll pay $31,200 to Uber. And if he wants to keep the car after the term is over, he’ll need to pay an additional $6,000, Bloomberg reports. Conversely, the average purchase price for the car — a 2016 Chevy Cruze — is $16,419.

Inside Uber’s Auto-Lease Machine, Where Almost Anyone Can Get a Car [Bloomberg]

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