Rideshare Vehicles Are 35,000 Times Dirtier Than A Public Toilet: Study
Updated: Feb 21, 2020
You’ll probably find yourself traveling in a rideshare vehicle, taxi, or rental car at some point, whether you’re on a trip or enjoying a night out. But comfy as they may be, you’re far from the only person who’s rolling down windows, buckling seatbelts, and grasping door handles and steering wheels in these vehicles.
We wondered just how bacteria-laden these types of vehicles are. To find out, we mobilized a team to hail taxis, request rideshare vehicles, and secure rental cars, and then we swabbed various surfaces in the cars (nine vehicles total) to gather samples. Just how many germs are sharing your ride? And what are the potential health implications? We’ve got the dirt on each type of vehicle below.
Glossary of Germs
Not all germs are harmful – but their mere existence on surfaces indicates the potential for problems. The higher the bacteria level, the more likely that some of the microorganisms are harmful. In our study, we swabbed surfaces to find out how many colony-forming units (CFU) were present per square inch on each surface and determined the breakdown by germ type.
Our samples revealed the presence of various germ types – some of which are potentially harmful: bacillus (a type that can cause infections and food poisoning); gram-positive rods, including cocci (which is linked to skin infections, pneumonia, and blood poisoning); gram-negative rods (which tend to be harmful to humans); and yeast (which under the right conditions has the potential cause skin infections, especially in people with compromised immune systems).
The Germiest Rides
Of the vehicles we tested, rideshares yielded the highest bacteria levels by far – more than 6 million CFU/sq. in. on average. The rental cars averaged more than 2 million CFU/sq. in., while the taxis had an average of just over 27,000 CFU/sq. in. To put it in perspective, rideshares averaged almost three times more germs than a toothbrush holder. Toilet seats and coffee reservoirs both contained fewer microorganism than rideshares and rental cars.
As far as bacteria type breakdowns, 50% of the germs found in our rental cars were gram-positive cocci and 50% were gram-negative rods. Taxis yielded 65% gram-positive cocci, 29% gram-negative rods, and 5% yeast. Rideshare vehicles hosted the most equal distribution of germs: 34% bacilli, 33% gram-negative rods, 16.5% gram-positive rods, and 16.5% yeast.
Rental Car Germs
In the three rental cars we tested, the steering wheels and gear shifts yielded extremely hig