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The Boston Globe


Could you afford a taxi medallion?

Could you own your own cab? At today's prices, it depends on how rich you are.
Monthly finances until medallion is paid off
$0 - $0 - $0 = $0
Income Medallion Expenses Total
Every taxi in Boston must have a medallion (pictured) screwed into the vehicle — and there are only 1,825 medallions in the city, making them extremely valuable. But the more valuable the medallion, the harder it is to break into the industry. See how you fare in this difficult business.
I'll help you out with some tips.
Click next to start.
Medallion available!
A medallion is available for:
This chart below shows medallions sales prices for the last 30 years:
Medallions in 2012 cost about $560,000
159 cabs bought for $175,000
The value of a medallion has outpaced the trading price of gold over three decades. This makes it very tough for the small guys to buy into the market today, which means the fleet owners who bought decades ago have seen their investments soar.
Speaking of large fleet owners, a guy named Edward Tutunjian is the biggest player in this industry with 372 medallions.
Click to see Tutunjian's fleet
Pay for the medallion
Your down payment will determine which lenders will accept your business. Even the most lenient lenders will insist you pay it off in 25 years.
How much can you pay up front?
Length of loan
There are conventional lenders, for people who can put down a big down payment — and then there are other lenders, who charge high interest rates. Be careful here.
Monthly payments for medallion
Your monthly payment is:
You can either drive the car yourself or lease the medallion. Either way, your taxi will be on the road about 26 days a month. Also the city limits how much you can charge to rent your medallion; those maximum charges are specified below. Check out your options below:
 Rental PeriodMax chargeOwner income per hour
12 hours
$77.00/12 hours$6.42
24 hours
$139.00/24 hours$5.79
One week (one driver)
One week (two drivers)
One year, medallion-only
You only pay insurance
Owner operated
$1484/week from your fares
$700/week from a second driver's lease
Usually fleet owners, like Tutunjian, lease out the car in shifts. The car maintenance is on the medallion owner, but no matter how much the driver earns, you bring in the same amount of money.
You can also buy a medallion and drive the car yourself. But these days, if you're financially secure enough to buy a medallion, you're probably not a driver.
Pick your car
There is a list of approved cars (PDF) on the Boston hackney division's website, but the biggest decision may be whether to get a hybrid vehicle or not:
Non-Hybrid Sedan
ProLess expensive to buy
ConDrivers (and perhaps customers) prefer hybrids; more expensive to maintain
Cost$23,000 + $2,000 a year in maintenance
Hybrid Sedan
ProSaves gas, but drivers are responsible for gas
ConHigher costs up front; lower maintenance costs
Cost$30,000 + $1,600 a year in maintenance
A hybrid costs more up front but uses much less gas. But drivers who lease the vehicle pay for gas. Do you care how much they pay?
Monthly expenses
These expenses were adjusted for the car and income model you chose:
Expense Monthly CostNotes
New car every six years $700If you've chosen an annual lease, the driver provides the car
Insurance $540
Gas $520Drivers pay for gas
Other costs (operation, maintenance, etc.) $140Drivers pay this if lease is annual
Fleet owners have expenses of between $15,000 to $20,000 a year per medallion, according to the city.
Total Costs/Income
Mr. Insider says...
Based on your decisions, I've analyzed your financial situation.
CategoryMonthly income or cost
Medallion payment
Total income per month
To read more on this topic, see the series here.
Medallions aren't for every-day people anymore; they are mostly for wealthy investors. As a driver, you probably won't be able to raise enough money to buy your own medallion.
That said, at what point will the bubble pop? At what point will the medallions stop increasing in price? Some experts think prices are starting to flatten a little, but prices are still rising.

SOURCE: Brookline Bank and Boston Police hackney unit

Alvin Chang and Matt Carroll / Globe Staff

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