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Dirty driving: Ride-hailing services worst culprits for germs, study says

Harriet Baskas, Special to CNBC
Paul Simcock | Getty Images

You might want to think twice the next time you call for a taxi, Uber or Lyft — or at least bring along some sanitizer.

A recent study suggests taxis, rental cars and ride-hailing vehicles are full of germs. The report echoes similar findings in recent years that show how various means of public transportation, primarily buses and subways, can be hotbeds of bacteria.

A swab-yielding team from NetQuote, an insurance comparison site, took samples from seat belts, door handles and window buttons on random taxis and ride-hailed vehicles. NetQuote swabbed the steering wheel, gear shift and seat belts in three random rental cars.

The testing was done in South Florida, "a region in which a strong driving culture is present, but also one in which rental cars and ride-sharing services are quite commonly used by locals and tourists alike," according to NetQuote.

Testers expected taxis to yield the highest amount of bacteria, as cleanliness seems to be the biggest complaint people have with taxis. But when lab results came back with counts for the number of colony-forming units (CFUs) and bacteria present, it was actually ride-hailed cars that turned out to be the germiest. The study found more than 6 million CFUs per square inch on average, while rentals averaged a much smaller amount of 2 million CFU/sq. in. Taxis had an average of just more than 27,000 CFU/sq. in.