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Why Otto Car gave me £10k – and a Tesla

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Isaac Yageneh explains why his recent part-exchange deal with Otto Car was super smooth, reveals his most famous passengers and how to grow mushrooms.

We met up with him at our new driver hub in Hendon, which opened just the week prior.

How did you hear about the Otto Car part-exchange offer? 

About six years ago, a friend recommended Otto Car and I purchased a Toyota Prius on Rent 2 Buy. I recently decided to exchange this to the Tesla that I have now. 

Wow. A lot of PCO drivers love the idea of a Tesla – and you have one. What’s it like?

It is comfortable and very reliable. Obviously, it’s got prestige too. You find people turn and look at the car and you.

Are the riders surprised that an Uber driver has a Tesla? 

Normally, yes. They don’t expect a Tesla to turn up and we chat about this. People never know how to open doors or close doors. It’s fun but they’re happy and always tip. 

The Tesla is quite expensive. Can you still make a living with it?

Yeah. If you put in the hours, you can. But I enjoy driving the car for personal use, too.

PCO driver Isaac smiling in his new Tesla Model 3 with Otto Car

Did you enjoy the Otto Car part-exchange offer?

Everything was smooth. Within a week, I had the new car and I’m very happy.

Were you pleased with the deal you got? 

Yes. The price for my Prius was slightly below market rate if I sold it privately. But it was much easier and the £250 voucher topped-up the value. 

Tell us about yourself and what you did before being a PCO driver? 

I’m originally from Iran, from a place called Bandar Abbas, which is a port city in the Gulf area. I came to the UK to study and then stayed on. I’ve been here for over 40 years.

That’s amazing. How old were you when you arrived?

I was a teenager – and I studied initially in Manchester. Then I went to university in Edinburgh, Scotland. So I could say: I’m a wee bit Scottish. 

What subject did you study? 

By qualification, I’m a thermodynamic engineer. I worked in the agricultural industry, growing mushrooms for seven years. I was organising the production line. 

Tell us something about how you grow mushrooms in a greenhouse? 

There is no greenhouse. Mushrooms are fungi and they don’t have chlorophyll, so there is no need for sunlight. But you must control the temperature, oxygen and carbon dioxide. 

PCO driver Isaac smiling next to his new Tesla Model 3 with Otto Car

It’s a big leap from that career to being a PCO driver. How did that happen? 

I went to live in Paris, teaching scientists to speak technical English. When I got back, I worked as a chauffeur and then I set-up a minicab company in Twickenham.

What made you change from science to PCO driving?

I suppose by necessity, not by choice. There were more opportunities, because in London there are no mushroom farms – and I couldn’t teach English people how to speak English.

What’s the best thing about being an Uber driver?

Flexibility and meeting different types of people. In the Borough of Richmond, where I’m based, you meet lots of well-known people. For example, Attenborough.

Do you mean David Attenborough (TV presenter) or Richard Attenborough (film director)?

Well, Richard’s dead – so it was David. I picked him up once from Teddington Studios. Robert Kilroy-Silk, too, back when he had his own TV programme, before he was sacked. 

Any other famous passengers? 

Andi Peters, the children’s TV presenter who now does the competitions, was a regular. He’s very chatty in real life – just like on the television. I know him personally now.

PCO driver Isaac with the Otto Team at the Hendon Hub

What tips would you give to a new driver about PCO driving? 

Be professional – communicate well, and be on time. Think about reliability and cleanliness. Presentation is important. As you see, I’m well-dressed. It’s a whole package

What advice do you wish someone had told you when you started? 

To enjoy what you do and don’t cut corners. If you drive just to earn money, that’s not the way. You either do a job with joy, or you don’t do it at all. People appreciate service.

Where’s the best place in London to have Iranian or Persian food?

There is an upmarket restaurant called Diba in Richmond. Food is great, service is good.

On the Harrow Road, there is a big one called Paradise but they don’t serve alcohol there.

What food would you recommend if we went for a meal together? 

My favourite dish is called Baghali Polo Ba Mahiche. This is made with juicy lamb shank, broad beans and rice. It is delicious. 

Finally, what’s your overall experience like of working with Otto Car?

They are professional people and they look after their drivers. For instance, during Covid, you only had to pay half the weekly price. I’m not sure how it worked but it was generous. 

Find out how much your car is worth with our new Part-Exchange Valuation Tool here

Want to learn more?

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