Car Hire: Boosting Businesses, Meeting Mobility Needs

Underground-car-services-6-3-16It is only natural that small businesses spring up to provide essential services to citizens, as the city develops. One of such is the car hire service. Generally regarded as a business patronized by the rich, car hire service provides employment for persons of the middle class or even those in the lower rung of the social ladder. And though it is usually located in cities, where the need for mobility is high, operators say they are not limited by location, as clients often take them to different parts of the country, including rural areas.

Patrick Udeaja, who has been in the business for a while, said it is not uncommon for drivers to take clients out of the city of operation to far-flung areas of the country. It is also a highly rewarding venture, especially if one is operating on owner-driver basis, though it is demanding and requires that one be alert always.

“Money motivates us to work. I have been to Akure, Kisi, Wawa and other parts of the country on charter from Lagos. Another time, I was away from Lagos for two weeks because a client wanted me to take him to where he carried out his business transactions, just like his chauffeur.

And because the vehicle is not painted in commercial colour, people tend to think that the client is the owner. This increases the client’s prestige, especially if is an exotic car.

“From such charter, I could make between N150, 000 and N200, 000. Aside this, I have never gone home with anything less than N3, 000 per day. And sometimes, when there are big events, such as the Lagos Carnival and Christmas, when a lot of foreigners and even Nigerians living abroad come home, I can make as much as N500, 000 in a month. This is because I drive the vehicle. Through the business, I have acquired three other vehicles, as well as build two houses,” he said.

Stevenson Ibe, who has been in the business since 1995 said car hire service is one of the moneymaking ventures more people are yet to discover. He informed that he makes between N40, 000 and N50, 000 some days.

“The least I take home daily is N5, 000 outside fueling the car, feeding myself and sometimes settling traffic officers, who just extort money from motorists,” he said. “The business entails that one knows the market, where to operate and how to project yourself so that you become one of the most sought-after drivers.

“If you are well-organised, clients will always call you whenever they need your services. Positioning yourself well means not focusing solely on making money. Once you have created your market and put other things in place, all that is required is just maintaining it and the money would come.”

But how does he end up making that much? “I have five regular clients I take to their different offices in Victoria Island and Ikoyi from Ikeja every day. I also bring them back home after work. I get N10, 000 from three of them and N15, 000 from the remaining two per week and the contract is just between 6am and 9am and then 6pm and 9pm. The period in between, I go to Onipanu area, where I convey traders to their destinations.

“Taking three or four of such paper and book dealers to Sango, Ijesha, Festac or any location in the city at N2, 000 to N3, 000 per passenger makes my day. And then I go back to complete my contract with the office workers for the day. One makes more money, when he plies business districts because not everyone goes there with their vehicles. So, they will surely patronise you,” he said.

Monsur Habeeb said the business involves knowing where the opportunity is and taking advantage of it. In his view, there is more money in servicing nightlife than daytime.

“I work four days in a week, Thursday to Sunday and I make between N150, 000 and N200, 000 per month. I also work during public holidays because night crawlers come out to enjoy the beauty of the city and have fun. Though it is strenuous working at night, but you encounter lesser obstacles in the form of police harassment and other traffic law enforcement agents. And then, the charges are usually high and the clients are willing to pay. You won’t believe a trip that should cost between N500 and N1, 000 during the day may go for as high as N5, 000 at night and the night crawlers will readily pay,” he said.

But is the night service so smooth all the way?

“No. I am just on top of my game. I monitor happenings and know too well that nightlife picks up from Thursday through Sunday. The remaining days, I just service my car or go for charter,” he explained.

Francis Edu also said the job does not require roaming the streets. He disclosed that registering one’s car with a busy hotel or just hanging around big hotels puts one in the position to get good clients. However, one’s vehicle should always be neat, well kept and in good condition to attract rich clients.

Said he: “Clients are always in a hurry to leave their hotels or get to their destinations and would not want anything to delay them. So, I ensure that I service my car and also keep it neat. These are my selling points. Besides, if the car is exotic, you are sure of getting a good bargain, as well as less harassment from police.”

On what it takes to be in the business, Bolarinwa Agbede explained that one must have a good driving skill, valid licence and be able to work even at night. According to him, clients sometimes hire for a whole day, but when they discover that the driver is not skilled or has invalid documents that would make traffic officials delay them unnecessarily, they begin to lose confidence in him and before long, they stop patronising you.

“The job is based on skills. You must be able to drive through different terrains, including driving at night. You must also have a very good knowledge of the state, where you operate because some clients depend on the driver to guide them around town.

“Most people do not know that if you have between N400, 000 and N500, 000, you can get a Nigeria used car to start the business. After acquiring the car, you register with a hotel or with the airport cab union. Whichever way you go, the business is profitable because mobility is like food, which people cannot do without. Businesses are hinged on mobility and the car hire services play dominant role in the life of a city,” he said.

In case it is difficult getting the money to buy a car in one lump sum, Harry Dieprieye said it is possible to work and save to start.

“It pays to start small. I worked for somebody for three years and was able to save N900, 000 for the first car I used in the business. I was on a N15, 000 contract per week then. I worked hard to make the money and before long, I was saving twice in a week, while I was still keeping to my master’s contract.

“The business yields quick returns. If you understand the market, regularly maintain your vehicle and have good customer relations, it is just like hitting gold. There are some people that would never use their private vehicles to convey goods or go to some places; may be because of the bad roads. This give us an edge,” he said.

What It Takes To Excel
• Do not paint your vehicle in commercial taxi colours.
• Obtain valid documents for yourself and the vehicle.
• Regularly service your car to keep it in good condition.
• Maintain good customer relations and never leave a client dissatisfied.
• Go for the type of market that would enable you put in your best and get optimum result.

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