Sunday, February 1, 2009

Nuts and Bolts

Since I don't start driving until tomorrow morning, I figured today would be a good day to answer a bunch of the questions people always ask me about how the economics of driving a cab work.

I am going to be a full-time driver, which means I will keep my cab with me 24/7. To do this, I pay Red Top a daily fee of $98 plus a variable fee that depends on how new the car is (a 2009 is $10, 2008 is $9 and so on). So, depending on which year car I get tomorrow morning, I'll be paying between about $104 and $108 to Red Top every day to rent the cab. Red Top gives us Sunday as a free day, so it comes out to around $625-$660 every week. The rental covers the insurance, the cab's maintenance and repairs and a daily carwash, but not gas. I can fill up at Red Top though, which has gas that's usually twenty-some cents cheaper than regular gas stations. With the gas costs, it probably runs an extra $20 or so every day, so we'll make that a little less than $800 every week in total costs.

When I get a "fare" (a passenger), I get to keep everything, though - the meter reading and the tip. Having to make well over $1200 or so every week is ambitious, but the guy who ran my training the other day said that in 32 years of driving a cab, he never once didn't make enough money to pay the rental fee for the day.

For example, the fare from Arlington to Dulles airport usually runs about $50, and with a good tip, it can come out to $55 or $60, and that's a hell of a productive hour or so, even counting the trip back to Arlington. When cabbies talk about a fare to Dulles, they get a misty look in the eye, as in: "Never turn down a call. You don't know until you get there - maybe they're going to Dulles....." or "Crystal City is a good area to pick up. Lotta people go to Dulles...." And, a trip to BWI is too sweet to even say aloud - it's the Holy Grail for Red Top drivers. I won't even tell you how much that fare is because I don't want to jinx it.

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