There are countless numbers of these Top 5 vehicle review lists on the web, but I'm going to come at this one with a bit of a different, specific angle. The bias of this review is going to be heavily tilted towards using these vehicles commercially as a rideshare driver instead of how they might function for a civilian purchasing one for themselves or their family. I'm not only going to detail why these are the 5 best vehicles to use for Lyft XL, but also what categories they qualify for and how best to maximize driver earnings with them. I love cars, so if I get off in to the weeds a little bit on these evaluations you'll have to forgive me. I have owned several of the cars on this list, including two of them at present, but I'll try not to let my biases creep in too much. I haven't assigned them individual rankings as the best vehicle for me might not be the best vehicle for you. Enough already, let's get to it.
Buick Enclave (2015-)
Lyft Categories Qualified For (LCQF): Lyft, Lyft XL, Lyft Lux
Probably didn't expect to see this one on here did you? Sales for Buick haven't been overwhelming in recent years, but that's more of a branding and marketing problem than anything. Buick has actually been making some really great cars for quite awhile now, of which the Enclave is by far the most useful for rideshare driving. Surprising right? The Enclave is the more well-healed, corporate cousin of the Chevy Traverse, also an excellent vehicle. The (slightly) more expensive Buick is just a little bit nicer in all the areas that you would expect a pricier car to be: interior materials, build quality, driver and passenger comfort, and safety features.
What makes the Buick Enclave one of the best choices for Lyft drivers is of course the ability to receive both Lyft Lux and XL requests. The Enclave seats 7, with the 2nd row containing wonderfully comfortable captains chairs. Captains chairs are awesome for another reason though -- your passengers will just crawl through the middle pathway to reach the 3rd row instead of you having to instruct passengers how to manipulate a bench seat-- or worse you having to exit the vehicle and assist them with it yourself. You might not think this is a big deal, but I assure you it is. After one busy, rain filled night of weekend XL calls you'll never even think of using an XL vehicle without a middle pass through again. Having to explain to drunk people how to operate your middle row bench seat gets old after about three times. You end up just getting out and doing it yourself, which gets even older. Do yourself a favor and whatever version you buy make sure it has the middle row captain's chairs. You'll thank me later.
The Enclave is the largest 3 row SUV you can get before you cross over in to the land of full-size behemoths such as the Expedition and Suburban. It's basically a mini-van without sliding doors. You can fit actual adults in the 3rd row comfortably, which is not something you can say about most of it's midsize competitors such as the Acura MDX, Mazda CX-9, or Toyota Highlander. With 23 cubic feet of cargo room in the boot with all 3 rows up, you can even fit several carry-on bags behind the 3rd row, which again is not possible with any other vehicle in this class besides the Volkswagen Atlas. It is a wonderfully comfortable car to drive and live with, absorbing Seattle's war-torn pockmarked streets with little effort.
For a luxury vehicle, there are certain cabin materials which Buick definitely cut corners on. The leather is supple and comfortable, but there is far too much hard plastic in a vehicle at this price point. The infotainment is also clunky and not very responsive, with the digital displays resembling options from vehicles 10 years it's senior. Though power is adequate, don't expect to be drag racing any Model Y's. With a full complement of people and stuff, the Enclave feels down right sluggish.
Fuel Economy. This bitch is thirrrrrrrrsty. Rated at 15/22, the Enclave is essentially no different from a Suburban which is extremely dissappointing given that it's much smaller. For a vehicle powered by a V-6 not tuned for performance in any way, these numbers border on unacceptable. This is where a Highlander Hybrid starts to look real good. The earning potential of the Enclave is excellent, but expect to be putting a couple hundred bucks a week in to her if you're a full-time driver.
Though it has a couple of noticeable warts, the Enclave is an awesome vehicle for rideshare. It spacious, luxurious, and extremely comfortable for all occupants. Reliability has been excellent. The Enclave will leave you with some very happy customers, which doesnt just fatten your wallet with tips, it makes your work environment just that much nicer of a place to be.
Chevrolet Suburban (2017-)
LCQF: All of em'. Lyft, Lux, XL, Black, Black XL
As far as rideshare is concerned, the Suburban is a 3-ton Prius. They are everywhere, and with good reason. Suburbans fit all the people and all the people's things and do it in relative luxury. You can't buy a bigger vehicle. With 3 full size rows and 37 cubic feet of storage in the boot, you have no apologies to make to anyone if you can't fit it all in. It doesn't mess around about how it does it either, getting it's juice from Chevy's tried and true 5.3L V8 Vortec engine. While not overwhelming, it's got plenty enough umph for anything you're going to throw at it and is known to be next to bulletproof on reliability.
Being a Black XL vehicle, the Suburban of course qualifies for all ride types. You can have some very high grossing nights in a Suburban, but it's not the easiest way to make a buck. XL is hard work, whether you are schlepping the bags of a party of 6 into your cargo area at 430 on a freezing morning or carting around drunken groups of people who were knee high to a cowpie during Y2K. It is the un-sexy concrete foundation that makes a Suburban a consistent earner. If you aren't a full-timer, selective use of Black XL vehicles like the Suburban can make their payments in 2 well placed Saturday nights a month. While getting black fares is borderline intoxicating when it's busy, if keeping your vehicle close to spotless, working every Friday/Saturday night, and dressing nicer than you might normally dress sound like major pain points for you (for me they sure are), then Black XL life probably isn't for you. I myself tend to be more of the Hoodie in a Hatchback type than Ballin' in a Black Burban.' The Suburban is a supreme earning tool for those ambitious enough to maximize it.
Though Suburbans have now morphed in to $85,000 luxury vehicles, I'm always aware when driving mine (I do not have an $85k Burban' for the record) that I'm still essentially driving a Chevy truck. It feels like a truck, because it is. The body-on-frame design is what gives it off-road capability and stability for towing 8000+ pounds, but all that versatility comes at the cost of a bit of comfort and certainly fuel economy. Ride quality is certainly not poor, but don't expect it to be cloud-like as in the Enclave. Suburbans are a multi-tool sledgehammer, and when you try to be all things to all people, compromises are inevitable. Enclaves and Highlanders can't fit your family of 7, all your shit, and tow a horse trailer over a snowy mountain pass. Suburbans can. You just have to know that to be able to accomplish all this there are going to be some trade-offs.
While steering feel and turning radius are excellent considering the Suburban's massive size, there is no way around the fact that maneuvering this big gal around tight spaced urban environments can be a harrowing experience. You're going to have to get used to just turning on your flashers and hustling people in, as finding a spot to pull over for pickups in Betty (what my Burban' is affectionately named) is next to impossible. Be prepared for lots of honking and being told to do terrible things to yourself and your mother. Driving a vehicle of this size in densely populated areas comes with great responsibility, as having a traffic incident with a pedestrian, bicyclist, drunken bar hopper falling in to the street or whacked out transient in a Suburban is likely to produce a different result than these same things in a Prius. The safety of others aside, you don't want to be bangin' your Burban' in to anything, and all of that vigilence is taxing. A 10 hour shift in a Suburban might gross you $500+, but trust me when I say you'll have earned it.
The obvious, fuel. Though the 15/22 it's rated for isn't all that bad considering it's capabilities, trips to the gas station are painful and masochistic. Large Marge gonna need dat' charge card if ya na'mean. I feel a bit sheepish knocking the Suburban on fuel efficiency though. That's akin to critisizing a Lamborghini for having poor towing capacity. Of course it's going to be awful. You're trying to move a 3 ton brick down the road, and that's with nothing in it. If you have a car full of people all night and you are going from stop light to stop light up and down hills, expect to see substantially less than the EPA rated numbers. We're talking like 11 mpg. Thankfully you'll be making like five bucks a mile in these situations though, which takes a bit of the sting out of it.
Verdict: Though something like the gas-sipping Highlander Hybrid might get substantially better mileage, any reasonable sized person in the 3rd row is going to have to sit lips to naughty bits, and it looks like you could drive a Highlander up a ramp in to the Suburban and close the hatch.
Suburbans are bad-ass rigs capable of just about anything you could reasonably ever ask of a motor vehicle. Reliability is generally considered to be good to excellent, but you will get nicked (as I have) for some costly random repairs along the way which have nothing to do with the bulletproof drivetrain. A Suburban purchase is an investment in the rideshare long game, as you really need to lean on this land barge's rock-solid reliabilty over time to maximize it's value. If you're looking to make the leap in to full-time rideshare, a Suburban purchase will provide consistently high earning opportunities for you -- if you're willing to go hard to get them.
Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid
LCQF: Lyft, Lyft XL
In a lot of ways, the Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid is the perfect weapon for rideshare. It makes effeciently servicing the 2 far and away (Lyft and XL) most requested ride types a complete walk in the park. It's also really expensive. Frustratingly expensive. Say what you want about minivans, but it's pretty hard to argue they don't offer the easiest, most consistent path to high rideshare earnings.
In case you hadn't noticed, mini-vans aren't so mini any more, and they haven't been for quite awhile now. They are big, heavy people movers with appropriate sized engines to match. Normally, this translates in to fuel economy that lands the bulk of offerings in the segment to the low 20's at best in mixed driving.
Enter the Pacifica. The Pacifica is a true PHEV, meaning is has both a traditional gas/electric hybrid setup and also 32 miles of all-electric range available from it's 16kw sized battery. This pens out to a stunning 82mpg(e), however flawed that figure may be. (How the EPA gets to 82 mpg(e) for this vehicle is totally ridiculous but I'm not going to dive into that here) 32 miles of electric range goes pretty quick, but even after that the regular hybrid engine returns 30+ mpg. It's decently quick at 7.5 seconds 0 to 60, and the additional weight of the battery pack beneath the vehicle makes it feel very planted through corners.
Make no bones about it, the Pacifica is a luxury vehicle as its price point would suggest. Your passengers will be pampered by extremely comfortable seats and any other option you are willing to pay for. It's actually a shame that these newer minivans don't qualify for the Lyft Lux category as they have nothing to apologize compared to many of the vehicles that are currently on this list. This is an odd comparison I grant you, but as someone who recently sold a Tesla Model 3 to purchase a Pacifica Hybrid, I can't begin to tell you how much nicer the Pacifica is regarding interior quality and passenger comfort than my Model 3 was. Perception is everything, and minivans are not perceived to be luxurious. Nothing could be further from the truth with the Pacifica Hybrid.
You won't get the stated 82 mpg(e) of the Pacifica Hybrid or anything even close to that. What does this mean in terms of real dollars? The Pacifica is capable of saving you A LOT of money on gas vs a traditional minivan, but it's going to take you a long time to reach the crossover point of whether or not spending the additional dollars for the Hybrid is worth it. For the sake of this comparison, I'm going to assume the Pacifica Hybrid gets 40mpg. Why not use the 82mpg(e) figure? Because as a rideshare driver you are going to be doing most of your driving in the standard hybrid (non-electric) mode, unless you have a really rare schedule that allows you to constantly take 2 hour breaks to charge the on-board battery. 32 miles of EV range is nothing to sneeze at, but I would hazard a guess that 80% or more of your miles are going to be in hybrid only mode. You also can't choose when to use th EV miles, which might be the single biggest bummer about this otherwise outstanding vehicle. This means you have to use the EV miles first when the battery is charged, whether you are in stop and go traffic or rolling at 75+ on the interstate. If I could "wait" to use the EV miles until I got downtown and started clangin' and bangin' large groups around in gridlocked traffic on stoplight filled streets, along with having the ability to have some form of fast charging that was quicker than 2 hours, the case to spend $35-50k on this vehicle would be a lot easier to make. They didn't (and don't) make this vehicle for rideshare drivers though, they make it for families who drive 32 miles a day or less and buzz back and forth between activities in traffic filled suburbia. In that application, the Pacifica Hybrid is a buzz saw of people moving, luxury efficiency. You'll be driving this thing 150+ miles a day though. Let's take a look at what the difference between what 20 and 40mpg might mean for a full-time driver who drives 1000 miles a week, assuming $4/g for gas.
1000 miles @ mpg = 50 gallons used @ $4/g = $200 per week fuel cost
1000 miles @ 40mpg = 25 gallons used @ $4/g = $100 per week fuel cost.
Pretty easy math, but the point is here that you have to drive some pretty serious miles over the course of 3-4 years to justify spending this kind of coin on a minivan. $100 a week is real money for sure, but so is $50k for a minivan.
Price. Though they do qualify for the $7,500 Federal tax credit, (this is NOT a rebate! Make sure you understand the difference as an independent contractor who may not have sufficient tax liability to fully take advantage of this!) a new Pacifica hybrid is going to run you $50k+ unless you are a self-loathing cheapskate who hates creature comforts and technology in vehicles. To say that $50k is a lot for a minivan these days though is to show a misunderstanding of what these vehicles actually are. Newer minivans, especially in the upper trim lines, are luxury vehicles. They are spacious, powerful, comfortable, and have every creature comfort and goody you can think of. These vans now are not the wood panel Dodge caravans of the 1980s and '90s. I'm not telling you they aren't expensive, but in the context of the average new vehicle price in America soaring well above $40k, they still represent significant value.
Full disclosure, I own a Pacifica hybrid for one reason and one reason only. In my local market of Seattle, I am allowed to do XL pickups from the Lyft airport queue due to the high mpg(e) rating of the Pacifica Hybrid. This is a game changer for me, as even fuel efficient vehicles like the Highlander Hybrid and Sienna hybrid are not allowed this privilege at Sea-Tac airport as they don't technically cross the 40 MPG requirement put forth by the Port of Seattle. I purchased a low mileage used Pacifica Hybrid for around $40k, knowing full well I was paying a premium to do so. The Pacifica Hybrid arguably represents more value to me than any other potential buyer demographic of this vehicle. I never would have spent that kind of money on an XL vehicle if it wasn't allowed access to the honey pot that is the Lyft XL airport queue. Seattle is a very unique rideshare market in that there is very little premium for XL rides versus regular rides. The airport is a different animal however, making the Pacifica Hybrid an extremely powerful weapon for consistently high earnings here in Seattle.
Aside from all that rideshare nerd talk, the Pacifica Hybrid is a luxury vehicle that drives wonderfully and is very easy to live with. It makes any XL call a complete layup when compared to doing XL in any SUV. If you can take full advantage of the $7,500 credit and have access to home charging, the Pacifica Hybrid is a very compelling choice to use for rideshare. It's just really f'ing expensive.
Toyota Sienna Hybrid
Kind of a no-brainer, but it's a Toyota. The Sienna has been an awesome choice as a minivan since it's inception in 1998. Given that Toyota is the undisputed king of hybrids, it's rather shocking that it took the Sienna as long as it did to come to the party given its consistently strong sales. As the rampant demand for both the Sienna and Pacifica hybrids have indicated, the impression held by the Toyota brass that Americans would be uninterested in fuel efficient minivans couldn't have been more erroneous. They can't make anywhere near enough of these things.
Besides being a Toyota, fuel economy is obviously the reason you are going to buy this van for rideshare. It's rated at 36 mpg overall, with the all-wheel drive version coming in at slightly less. You won't achieve these numbers in the real world, but they roughly twice as good as any other available minivan besides of course the Pacifica Hybrid. Despite the posted numbers of the Pacifica Hybrid, the Sienna is actually a far more fuel efficient vehicle. If it matters to anyone, I also think it's the best looking minivan in the segment, with the Kia Carnival coming in at a close second. Minivans are ultimately purchased for utilitarian purposes, but the looks as a segment have come a long way in recent years. If I were outfitting one, I would choose the sportier looking XSE trim and spring for all-wheel drive. My (supposed) landed price after 5 minutes of configuring on toyota.com was $47,830. Screw it, you're in it this far, treat yourself a little bit.
Minivans are not performance vehicles, and the Sienna is not exactly heroin to drive. That being said, to call these vehicles gutless as some reviewers do is a bit disingenuous. The Sienna scoots from 0 to 60 in a time of 7.7 seconds if anyone cares, which no one buying this car will. 7.7 seconds is not slow. Go look up the 0-60 times of any of a number of random entry-level compact sedans. Priuses are slow. The Sienna could dart ahead of a Prius, hit the brakes and smack the back of its head and then run away from it again taunting it the entire time. For me, CVT transmissions always feel awkward at best and provide a weird driving experience. Like the Pacifica Hybrid, the Sienna does make some weird sounds getting to where it gets to, but the Pacifica Hybrid's traditional style transmission is a major feather in its cap when compared to the Sienna. Brake feel isn't great, and the rubber band feeling of the CVT transmission is something that I could do without.
Like pretty much any desirable vehicle these days, price and availability are eye-popping and frustrating. The fact that we are completely numb to $50,000 minivans says a lot about where we are in terms of new vehicle pricing. You also can't get one of these things. Checking with several local dealers in my Seattle market, I was basically told good luck getting one of these things in under a year for a new order. $50,000 for a minivan that you have to wait a year to get. Jesus H. Christ. Every market is different, but I don't think there is a single one of these sitting on a lot in America that is new and unaccounted for. Waiting that year might be preferable to trying to buy one in the used market though. Doing a quick CarGurus search for used Sienna Hybrids within 100 miles of Seattle produces 26 results. Keep in mind that Seattle is a terrible place to buy a car, and also one of the most competitive rideshare markets in the world, but expect to pay a $5-10k premium over expected MSRP for a NEW Sienna with up to 50,000 miles on it already. You're also competing with rideshare drivers that would buy anything made by Toyota, including a dump truck with three wheels and a flat tire if it has a Toyota badge on the front of it.
Toyotas are great cars who's reputation is well deserved. If you purchase a Sienna, you are going to have a rock solid vehicle that you can make a lot of money with. It's definitely an extreme long-term play though. Even with the outstanding fuel economy you are going to be looking at operating and holding costs in excess of $1,500 a month for a full-time driver. You've got to be a real banger to make that pencil out vs. a lower mileage used vehicle. If you can somehow separate the cost of acquiring this vehicle, you will likely be very happy with your Sienna purchase and have a near bulletproof vehicle to rack up big cash with.
Toyota Highlander Hybrid (2020-)
The Highlander Hybrid has been another nearly 20 year mainstay for Toyota. It's essentially a Sienna for people that just can't stomach having a minivan in the driveway and don't need the efficiencies that a minivan provides. Until the Sienna is produced at higher numbers, the Highlander Hybrid will likely be the most common vehicle used for Lyft/Uber XL. The unofficial eye test here in Seattle certainly confirms that.
(Copy and Paste). It's a Toyota. Set it and forget it for 250k miles with any sort of reasonably attentive maintenance. The Highlander Hybrid achieves outstanding everyday real world fuel economy without dealing with the hassle of electric charging or the complicated systems associated with being a plug-in hybrid. It's well built, nicely appointed even in lower base trims, and rides nicely. Toyota also understands who is buying these things. Highlander Buyers aren't going rock crawling in Moab in this thing, nor do they need a V8 engine to haul around their little booger eaters. It's a super efficient, highly reliable, unoffensive looking people mover. You can also expect a delivery date of 3 months or under on a new order, which in the land of crazy is pretty reasonable these days.
What else, price. It's going to be 50k plus to get any sort of reasonably optioned new one, but again in our Covid-19 ass end up world, this looks like a value compared to used ones. If you have to have it today, expect to pay 5 to 10K more per trim line for a used model than a new order, with some having significant mileage on them already. It also doesn't qualify for Lyft Lux, which is one of the major reasons why you would choose to use an SUV for XL instead of a more appropriate vehicle like a van.
As it pertains to rideshare, it's my opinion that the only redeeming quality of the Highlander is the overall mpg. Of the five vehicles mentioned in this review, it has far and away the smallest third row and rear cargo storage capabilities. It's more than fine for the target demographic upper middle class white suburban family that's going to buy these things, but for rideshare these are the make or break features that you will use on a daily basis. Yes, adults can fit in the third row, but if they are over 5 ft 6 and 140 lbs, they are not going to be happy. Luggage space behind the third row is also a joke for anything other than about three carry-on roller bags. If you are consistently putting four to six people in this car, there is no universe in which you will fit all of their luggage without them holding some of it. I realize that even in rideshare the scenario I just described does not occur all that often, but it does occur. I see drivers who worship at the altar of Toyota in the garage all the time trying to figure out how to make 7 fit into 4. During cruise ship season here in Seattle, it's downright hilarious to watch the Highlander guys try to fit 3 generations of cruise shippers and all of their associated shit in their undersized vehicles. Many times one or two members of the party need to order an additional vehicle just to make it to their destination. That's nonsense, and those drivers should be rated in a manner that reflects this. It's partly the fault of the rideshare apps for not distinguishing between passenger occupancy and luggage space, but I believe it to be a huge disservice to the customer to expect them to pay the same for a Highlander in which they will be holding their bags and may need to order an additional Lyft vs a more appropriate vehicle such as a van. If you are doing the Friday/Saturday night drunken people mover thing, the Highlander is an excellent choice since drunk people don't really care about being stuffed into a tiny third row for 8 minutes between bars and obviously don't have any luggage with them. If however you are transporting groups longer distances with significant amounts of luggage, the Highlander Hybrid falls short and is going to consistently put you in awkward situations and make for some very unhappy customers who will (rightly) trash your rating for bringing a knife to a gunfight.
The Highlander Hybrid is fine. How's that for intelligent, nuanced analysis? It gets outstanding mileage for a larger mid-sized SUV and will likely last longer than you care about. A vast majority of the time, the Highlander Hybrid is going to be able to service your XL customer just fine. Until it can't. Part of the reason why I enjoy this job is creating convenient and comfortable experiences for my customers. For me, the Highlander Hybrid simply creates too many situations where its cramped third row seating and storage capacity shortcomings leave a foul taste in the mouth of the customer.
Any of the five vehicles mentioned here and a host of others will earn you an excellent income in your XL business if you go about it in an intelligent way. That being said, there is no rational way to argue against the benefit of having a van for XL calls. They are made to efficiently move people and stuff, which is exactly what XL is. Using an SUV for XL absent of the full size options like a Suburban or Navigator will always create compromise. I would never spend significant dollars on an SUV for rideshare that also didn't qualify for at least Lux if not also the Black categories. It also depends just how sharp of a pencil you are trying to use when it comes to operating costs. I view my vehicle as my mobile office and prioritize my work environment and my customer's overall experience higher than many drivers I see. In my estimation, if I'm in a vehicle I'm not nuts about and the functionality of it creates difficult situations for me with my customers, what's the point of doing this?
It's pretty obvious to see where I land in the choice between using a van or an SUV to do XL. Everyone's priorities are different however, which is why I included the three SUVs I did in this review and didn't make it a clean sweep for minivans. I love doing predominantly airport stuff, but if you are a weekend people hauler the Highlander and Enclave are awesome choices. The Suburban is a battering ram that just does everything, albeit with a whole lot of effort and expense.
One of the many truths that I have learned in the six years I have been a full-time driver is that XL is the absolute sweet spot of rideshare. Having the right vehicle is essential to extracting as much candy as possible from the XL pinata, and these are the five best vehicles to hit it with.