Study: Consumers may buy fewer cars when Uber, Lyft available

Study: Consumers may buy fewer cars when Uber, Lyft available

The availability of ride-hailing services such as Uber and Lyft may cause fewer people to buy their own vehicles, according to a new study.

To assess the impact of transportation app companies on personal car ownership, researchers polled residents in Austin, Texas — where Uber and Lyft stopped operating for about a year due to a local ordinance. 

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The researchers found that 41 percent of respondents began using their own vehicle in instances where they would have normally used a ride-hailing app, while 9 percent actually purchased a new car in the wake of Uber and Lyft pulling their services.

The findings suggest that many residents were relying on ride-hailing services instead of their own vehicles, which could lead consumers to buy fewer cars in areas where the service is available.

The study also found that people in Austin reported taking fewer trips, generally, after Uber and Lyft left the market: The average number of trips decreased from 5.65 to 2.01 per month.

"Our findings show that these ride-sourcing companies do change behaviors," said Robert Hampshire, a professor at the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute and lead author of the study. "While this study isn't generalizable to the entire city of Austin, or to other cities, it provides crucial insights that are relevant to policymakers.”

The study, which is one of the first to determine how the explosion of ride-hailing firms might be influencing consumer behavior, was conduced by the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute, Texas A&M Transportation Institute and Columbia University.