Best auto for a rural postal carrier


Every day in every rural area in America, private contract rural mail carriers are out there going from box to box delivering the mail in rain, sleet, snow and sun, putting their life in the hands of other drivers. If you don’t believe it, you need to get out of the city and see the USA (as they used to say in your Chevrolet). Highway patrol are not on gravel roads and non state highways and no Sheriff in his right mind would ticket a mail carrier if he likes being Sheriff.

We just had Veteran’s Day and a tribute to the vets, but I think we also need a Mail Carriers Day as a tribute to these hard working folks. I’m in town but have a mail box and mail delivered by an actual postal employee. One day last year when it snowed hard and the road hadn’t been plowed yet, he came walking around our circle delivering the mail. I said I hope you get a bonus for that and he said he was afraid he’d get stuck so decided to just walk the route instead of driving. I gave him a Christmas bonus.


Subaru’s are popular for this. They can be converted to Right Hand Drive with surprising ease…There are specialty companies that do this…They import the necessary parts from Australia, steering rack, brake pedal mounting stuff, a few other bit’s and pieces to get everything mounted and connected. Stick with an automatic transmission, leave the instruments and dashboard alone. Build a wooden box across the left seat and console to put the mail tray on…You are good to go…Have a magnetic sign (U.S. Mail Carrier) made to stick on the back, and a mag mount yellow strobe light…


Could you guys get back to the topic? Looking for a solution in the name of a car! I agree it is a bad deal, but it gets her foot in the door and can become full time. I like the idea of a driver’s ed car. That is a good one. The jeeps are expensive and poor gas mileage. I couldn’t find a Subaru, but will keep and open mind.


jr4488 did you do a google search for right hand drive used vehicles ?


I don’t think the steering wheel is the problem, more the brake and gas pedal that probably a local can convert, but I did find a company that has DIY right hand steering conversion kits. About $2000 and essentially a new wheel mounted on the right, a pulley on the old wheel and a V belt between the two.


Check out ebay!


Bench seats are pretty much gone on current cars. The Mazda5 has never come with one to my knowledge, nor the Accord or Camry of recent decades. The last cars I remember them on were some big GM models of some years ago, and some trucks. I think the future carrier should talk to other rural carriers and get their advice on what works and what doesn’t. I suspect putting some sort of cushion on the seat would help make it easier to stretch her leg across to the other side. It would help get her up above the seat bolster and center console. A column shift would be preferable to the usual shift position. Some minivans and even the Prius have the shift on a stalk extending from the dash. That might be workable. The current Prius has a big swoopy thing between the seats that would be in the way, but the previous generation might be very good for this use as there was very little between the front seats ahead of the armrest. It’s also a very reliable car with unsurpassed gas mileage in start and stop driving. Some of the cheapest cars don’t have an armrest or much of anything between the seats except the gearshift, which might be far enough forward to be OK.


Around here Jeeps and Subarus seem to be the most popular.
As to the comment about not being able to deliver the mail in a left hand drive car while sitting on the right I have to say au contraire.

Over the years I’ve seen a number of rural carriers around here sitting on the right and driving a left hand drive vehicle. It may seem awkward to the person doing it at first but I’m sure after a while it becomes second nature.
One guy in my area used an early 80s full size Ford pickup in this manner.

At one time several carriers told me they get a monthly stipend to offset car expenses. Whether or not that is still the case I do not know.


I suspect the mileage allowance is a significant part of the carrier’s pay.


you have to keep tons of paperwork and it complicates your taxes tremendously

This is pretty much why “independent contractors” are becoming more and more common. The gummint red tape is very costly to an employer as is the cost of benefits. People take on the independent contractor jobs because they think they are making decent money. They usually aren’t because now the REAL cost of Social Security comes out - 12.4% - not the hidden 6.2% your employer “pays”. That 6.2% really comes out of your pocket, most people just don’t know it. The other hidden costs is the records keeping and tax preparation and health insurance and vehicle insurance and on and on. Not to mention the liability for safety regs. As an independent contractor, YOU are responsible for those safety regs, not the company you contract to.

If you are used to earning $20/hr and take an independent contractor job for $25/hr, you as taking a pay cut. You will need to earn roughly $35-40/hr to break even.


I Would Consider A “Stake-Out” Of The Post Office Parking Lot When The Rural Carriers Are Leaving Or Returning In Their Private Vehicles.

I’d look for any signs or trends that a certain kind, body style, brand, make or model vehicle was a popular choice of the carriers.

I remember from years ago that a Mr. Pinkwater, a rather rotund weight-challenged individual, called Click & Clack for advice or comment about cars that were easier to get in and out of for “heavy” people. Anyway, a stake-out of a donut shop parking lot revealed that a Volkswagen New Beetle was one of the best choices.



None Of The Rural Carriers Here Drive Very “Valuable” Cars.

These cars get “mail box” rash on the passenger front door and sometimes scratches to fenders, etcetera, trying to approach mail boxes during adverse weather conditions.

Also, I suppose that if one drives a $2,000 vehicle then the largest major expense for say, a new engine or transmission, will not exceed $2,000. At the point of the major repair, the individual, instead, moves the license plate to a different $2,000 vehicle and begins again.

As I’ve said, many here drive full-sized Buicks with the venerable 3800 V-6 and pretty reliable transmissions (except the one a recent contributor was complaining about), and they are pretty safe. These cars are often fairly low-miles (usually gold for some reason) senior citizen owned used cars and are plentiful and inexpensive. They are boring and perhaps that’s why they’re a bargain.

Throw on a set of steel rims and winter tires from Tire Rack and a magnetic strobe light, put a set of brake pads in the glove compartment, and away you go!



I’m not sure what their compensation package is. They may be independent contractors or I read that some are paid hourly and get mileage reimbursement. Mileage reimbursement is great and not taxable. I used to get reimbursed for 3000 miles a month at close to 30 cents plus per diem and all tax free on a car with over 300,000. It was a profit center for me. Of course all good things end.


How much time is left on the current contract? When it expires, YOU will have to BID on a new contract. They don’t renew them automatically…The games played can get rough…


Those Buicks were probably some of the most recent cars available with bench seats. And cheap, of course. The only problem is that they need to have reliable transportation. The mail must be delivered. So if they have something old and creaky they’d better have two of them. None of the courier drivers I’ve known, also working under a contract, drive anything all that ancient. Nor new, either. Three to ten years or so. Older than that was seen as too unreliable. They also appreciated recent fuel economy. I don’t know how many miles a rural postman puts on, but for courier/delivery drivers in many places gas is a major expense. A big Buick would be too thirsty. I use Lyft a lot instead of cabs and talk to the drivers about their cars. A few of the part-time drivers just drive what they had, but the serious career drivers almost all have a Toyota hybrid, Prius, Camry, or Prius C. I’ve seen a very few other Japanese makes, not hybrids, but not many. The cab companies here also are required to use hybrids, but their fleets vary more. There were quite a few Escapes, but now it’s mostly Priuses, Camrys, Fusions, and C-Maxes. The C-Max makes a very comfortable cab. I haven’t heard whether they’re holding up.


We will get paid mileage. We think a bench seat is best, but those Buicks are getting older and the seats are low relative to the height of the post boxes. A Prius is too small in my view, especially if you get hit. The only right-hand drive cars out there are big, thirsty, unreliable Jeep brand.

Bottom line, safety is my top priority in making this decision. One’s life is more important than money.


I, too, over the years have seen rural carriers with their bodies twisted, driving with the left controls. The ability of human beings to adapt to extreme circumstances amazes me.

Bottom line, safety is my top priority in making this decision. One's life is more important than money.

You’re going to be driving, like 10MPH between mailboxes. Most any vehicle can survive a hit at those speeds.


For endless stop and go driving that delivery vehicles make, I would get a Prius or some other hybrid vehicle with kinetic energy recovery braking. You’ll save both fuel and brakes. I have heard that taxi cab companies using hybrid cars claim that it’s worth it for reduced brake wear alone.


A 1982 Mercedes Benz 300SD Turbo! Like new!

How bout a subie outback?