A swab test conducted by Netquote, an insurance aggregator website, determined the relative yuckiness of ride-hailing cars, rental cars and taxi cabs. Netquote swabbed the seatbelt, door handle and window buttons of three randomly picked taxis and three rideshare vehicles, and did the same to the steering wheel, gearshift and seatbelt of three rental cars — the touch points are different on a rental drive than on a hailed ride. After the swabs were sent to lab testing, the results were provided as colony-forming unit numbers, CFU for short.
To provide some context, a typical bathroom toilet seat would have around 171 CFU per square inch, making it far less of a threat to your health than many other things. A toothbrush holder can have over 2 million CFU per square inch (eww), and a coffeemaker can host over 32,000 CFU/sq.in. Not all of the found germs are bad for you, but the more there are, the bigger the likelihood that some might be downright nasty for your health.
Firstly, the taxis were found to have an average of 27,000 CFU/sq.in, which is not clean, but not toothbrush holder level horrible. The seatbelts were dirtiest on them, which should not be taken to mean you shouldn't buckle up in the back of a taxi cab, however. Door handles and window buttons seem to get wiped down more often, as the results on those were relatively minuscule.
On rentals, we get down to the dirty stuff. The three rental cars yielded CFU levels of over 1 million, both on steering wheels and gear levers. Seatbelts were nearly toilet clean in comparison, with just 403 CFU/sq.in.
But it's the ride-hailing cars that get the worst marks here. Over 5 million CFU/sq.in on the window controls and over 1 million on seatbelts, with the door handles comparably clean at 1,810 CFU/sq.in average.
What can we learn from this? For one, it's not a bad idea to wipe the controls of the next rental you get, and for ride-hailing drivers, this can be taken as a reminder that the seatbelts and window buttons really are worth wiping down as often as possible.
And everybody, wash your hands. Just wash your hands.