UDrive and Ekar pay-per-minute rental car services launched in UAE
Two new rental car services have been launched in the UAE that offer a by-the-minute payment option if you don’t need a rental car for the whole day.
Both smartphone app-based services, UDrive and Ekar both offer essentially the same deal, sprinkling their marked cars around Dubai (mostly near RTA Metro stations) and some in Abu Dhabi that can be reserved and used for as long as you need it, for a maximum of 6 hours. Beyond that, it is generally cheaper to get a traditional rental car for the whole day.
Strictly speaking, only UDrive offers true pay-per-minute payments, while Ekar forces you to pay by the hour, although both offer similar rates.
If you’re taking a one-way trip, the rate is 50 fils per minute, but is reduced to 40 fils per minute if you are taking a round trip and returning the car to where you started off from. Ekar charges Dhs 30 for one-way and Dhs 24 for a round trip (and their site mentions a third option at a rate of Dhs 6.5 per minutes).
Interestingly, free petrol fill-ups, insurance and an A-code parking card are included. However, you will be slapped with admin fees on top of any fines or damages you may incur, as well as if you leave the car unlocked, drain the battery, spill your coffee inside or lose the keys. Salik costs Dhs 5 per crossing. You also have to pay for parking in places like TECOM and Deira Fish Market, where the A-code card is invalid. There are also fines for keeping the car longer than 6 hours.
Each outfit also charges a Dhs 20 monthly membership fee, although both have offers running currently that waive the fee for a month or two and/or offer free minutes of drive-time.
Both offer basic cars, with UDrive having a fleet of Peugeot 207s and Toyota Yarises, while Ekar has Nissan Tiidas, Sentras and Jukes. However, the GPS-based technology for unlocking the car is pretty high-tech, all accomplished using your phone.
UDrive had launched late last year first, but had to suspend their services due to regulatory hurdles. But both UDrive and Ekar are now fully approved by the RTA. Each outfit currently have a hundred cars.
These are great services that cut down on taxi costs if you cannot bear the pace of the crowded Dubai Metro and have to get somewhere quickly. Obviously they don’t make much sense if your job involves driving around all day, or if the monthly membership costs exceed your potential use as a temporary ride while your own car is in for servicing. But otherwise, as long as the cars are stationed near your home or office and you don’t mind battling the streets behind the wheel, this is definitely the wave of the future for those who have no interest in owning a car.
You can find more information about both on their respective sites at udrive.ae and ekar.ae, as well as their apps.