In NYC, it’s Cheaper to Pay Someone $15 an Hour to Drive Your Car Around Than to Park It

And yes, there is an app ready to take advantage of this.

Photo credit: Jeramey Jannene, CC BY 2.0.

Earlier today we looked at Walmart’s decision to ask workers to become delivery drivers (using their own cars and insurance and the rest of it, natch).

Walmart Is Asking Workers to Drop Off Packages on Their Way Home

I want to compare this Walmart story to a recent Slate article about DropCar, a new startup that—like Walmart—is trying to solve the problem of driving:

This On-Demand Valet Startup Is Booming. Something’s Wrong with the American City.

DropCar offers two services: The first is called “Will,” a $15-per-hour valet who will drive or supervise your car for hours at a time. In a city where parking routinely costs $20 an hour and a 60-minute cab ride would eat your daily paycheck, that’s an astounding bargain. (The price, as it so often is with startups, does not appear to be sustainable.)

Just to make this clear: you are hiring someone to babysit your car. This valet does not park your car, because that would cost too much money. Instead, they drive your car around, because—well, I’ll let Slate’s Henry Grabar explain it:

The cheapest way to use a car [in NYC] is not to park it when you get out, which costs money, but to hire someone to sit in it and drive it around the block, which is free.

DropCar also offers a service called “Steve,” where someone picks up your car, parks it in “a Parking Facility that the DropCar garage partner database identifies as a ‘Steve Monthly Storage Service’ supported location,” and returns it. The Steve service costs $349/month and gets you 10 pickups/returns—so it’s not an option for someone who needs to park their car every day.

But I’m more interested in the idea that driving your car is cheaper than parking it. Is this true? Is the wear-and-tear on your car, plus the cost of gas, plus the $15/hour rate, still less expensive than parking? What about, like, emissions? Who is thinking about the cost to the environment? Or the idea that more cars on the road, especially cars that are only being driven because it’s cheaper than trying to park them, slows everyone else down?

(Also: it’s a little hard to tell whether DropCar valets are employees or contractors—Slate states they’re employees, so I’ll go with that—but DropCar does provide its valets with health insurance. No vacation/sick days, or at least none listed on the website. Still, that’s a plus.)

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