The Cheapest Car Rental on the Planet

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Courtesy GM

In the cutthroat ride-sharing business, Uber is the gigantic Goliath to Lyft's David. But a push from General Motors may soon see Lyft's mustachioed cars go toe-to-toe with everyone's go-to ride service: Lyft and GM will rent you a car, kinda-sorta for free. It's called Express Drive.

Chicago drivers who want to spend $99 a week and $0.20 per mile can now rent Chevy Equinox crossover sedans for as long as two months from GM. If these drivers want to work for Lyft during their rental, picking up passengers who hail them within Lyft's app, the costs attached to the rental can disappear. If the driver completes 40 Lyft rides in a week, Lyft will cover the driver's per-mile costs. If they do 65 rides in a week, Lyft will also pay that week's $99 rental fee. Not too shabby, eh?

Lyft is trying to make it as easy as possible to be a Lyft driver, building its fleet of cars to be more robust and more available over Uber's fleet (never mind the fact that if someone is an Uber driver, it's a safe bet he or she is also a Lyft driver). Again, this is limited to Chicago for now, but it's a compelling idea that could easily be unrolled to other American cities after seeing how this experiment goes in the Windy City.

Even though some people are eager to drive for a service like Lyft, the company doesn't take just any old body. You have to be a licensed driver in good standing, and your car has to fit a certain bill as well: four doors, clean, no dents. Lyft says it denied 60,000 Chicago-area drivers from going to work for the company because they did not have proper vehicles. This free-or-cheap rental situation is likely to get many more people behind the wheel of an app-hailable car who otherwise might not have the means to do so.

GM invested $500 million in Lyft two months ago, and we are now beginning to see where some of this partnership is going. By getting more drivers on the road with the express purpose of carrying other people around, the companies are solving problems of economics and convenience all at once. And that's what it's all about.

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