You have probably seen reports about how Uber has changed the marketplace for Taxi service in major cities and has become a way for people to save money while empowering others to make cash on their own schedule
If the thought of becoming and Uber driver has enticed or excited you then this guide will provide you with all the information you need to determine if this is the right opportunity for you and a few tips to maximizing your earnings.
The application process is pretty painless. Once you fill out the online application, you will be submitted for a background check. Uber does the background check themselves and is examining any criminal history as well as your driving record. This give Uber a layer of security to protect both you and the riders.
To drive for Uber you have to be at least 21 years of age and have at least three years of driving experience. This may seem a little unfair to our college friends who are 19-20 years old and have been driving since age 16, but this brings the companies liability down significantly since they do provide insurance coverage for their drivers.
That being said, you will need your own personal insurance. You do not need a special form of commercial insurance to be an Uber driver, but your insurance has to be from the same state that you are driving for. For example, Charlotte, NC is right next to the border of North and South Carolina. People who live on the South Carolina side cannot go into Charlotte and pick up riders. You can however, pick up riders in South Carolina and take them into North Carolina.
You will also need a smartphone. The driver app connects you to the service and allows you to find riders.
Your vehicle must be a 2001 model or newer. In some states you will be required to have a 2006 model or newer. They do make exception if you have an older luxury car.
Uber also requires that you have a car inspection. This is a pretty simple and inexpensive process and can be done at any local dealership or repair shop. If you are in a state that requires automobile inspections, then you probably already have one on file.
Requirements for Specialty Uber Drivers
The standard Uber service is not the only one that is available. If you want to drive for these higher paying services, then you will have to meet some additional driver or vehicle requirements.
- UberPlus – This is an upgraded service for owners of nicer vehicles. There are no additional driver training requirements.
- UberXL – XL means extra-large so your vehicle will have to comfortably sit six people including you. These are typically vehicles with third row seating like large SUVs or minivans.
- UberBlack – UberBlack is a chauffeur service and is only available in select cities. Drivers will need a commercial driver’s license, an airport permit, and TCP.
- UberSelect – This is for drivers who have four door luxury sedans.
- UberSUV – An extension of the UberBlack service, but it is geared solely at higher end SUV models. You must meet all driver requirements of the UberBlack service to apply
- UberLUX – Another extension of the UberBlack service. Expect to need a high end luxury car to qualify. You must meet all driver requirements of the UberBlack service to apply
What to Expect When You Start Driving
When you start driving everything revolves around the app. You let Uber know you are available to drive by turning on the app. The app will notify you when there is a ride available and give you coordinates. You accept or decline and go from there.
Most people will decide to engage in small talk with you and most of the questions will probably start with talking about Uber. Uber has become its own social community and people who use it regularly are used to the social side of the ride-sharing phenomenon. Once you complete your ride, you tell the app you are available again and start all over.
I have seen many places where people describe their first ride like picking someone up for a blind date, but we can all get used to the initial discomfort and it becomes second nature after a while.
How Much Can I Expect to Make as a Driver?
This is the most common question anyone asks when looking into becoming an Uber driver. The answers across the internet will vary greatly. One thing to remember is that if you qualify for the specialty services you will make more per ride.
The highest claims I have seen are $25-$30 per hour. The consensus seems to be that drivers will make $16-$19 per hour with some saying as low as $13 per hour. For a side gig that is much better than minimum wage.
I think the biggest difference in the hourly estimates come from taking into account how much you get paid vs all the expenses. Since you are an independent contractor you are responsible for gasoline and wear and tear on your vehicle. When you take those expenses out it reduces what you are actually making per hour.
How do You Get Paid?
The Uber system is very well done and has streamlined everything that it can. This includes how people pay for the service and how the drivers get paid.
The whole system is set up through the app and requires no cash exchanges. Instead, the rider is required to register a credit card and all payments are made automatically through the card.
When you are a driver, you will get paid weekly through direct deposit. This has two benefits. The first is that people are used to paychecks and this system gives you the feeling of a paycheck that most of us are used to. Second, this eliminates the exchange of money between rider and driver. For many people this is a very awkward situation and it makes them feel better to avoid it.
Understanding the Uber Rating System
Ratings have become a huge part of the Uber experience. Not only to riders get to rate the drivers, the drivers can rate the riders. Getting low scores can have consequences for both parties.
Uber Driver Ratings
Having good ratings is a must for any driver. If you consistently average less than a 4.6 out of 5 starts you will have a “retraining meeting”. If you ratings continue to be low after that, then you will eventually be dropped from the program.
Uber Rider Ratings
Just like the drivers get rated by riders, the riders also receive ratings from drivers. When a person comes up on your screen you can see their location and their rating. If a person gets lower than a 3 for an extended period of time they will be dropped from the Uber system. This protects drivers from having to deal with unruly customers.
Tips for How to Become a Successful Uber Driver
Once you are past the phase of how to become and Uber driver and are on the road making money, there are several ways you will want to maximize your earnings. Use these tips as a great starting point for becoming successful in your new gig.
Keep Good Records
If you are going to be working on your own schedule you want to make sure you are working when you can make the most money. Knowing the best times and locations to get customers will become key to your success.
Watch Your Reviews Carefully
Getting 5 star reviews is imperative to keeping your driver status. If you fall below the 4.6 threshold then you will get a warning and will eventually be deactivated as a driver. Uber is very rider focused as they try to expand the company. This means abiding by the customer is always right mentality will go a long way to you keeping your driver status intact.
Track Your Costs
Don’t just count gasoline as your only cost of being an Uber driver. Make sure to take into account added wear and tear on the vehicle, new tires, new brakes, car cleaning, state taxes/fees, maintenance, and whatever else may come up. Once you understand your total costs, subtract them from how much you made to get your actual compensation. Also remember that you get to deduct 54¢ per mile from your taxes. This is a major deduction and part of the equation for determining your net pay.
Learn How to Handle Upset Passengers
You need to know how to handle people who are not in the best mood without them ruining your rating. Situations will come up that you have no control over so you need to be prepared to make sure you don’t get blamed, and thus, end up with a lower driver rating. Try to agree with them as much as possible and then explain how you wish whatever the problem is could be changed. So if they are angry about hauling luggage down to the taxi area where you pick someone up at the airport, agree that the policy is dumb and you wish you could have picked them up at a more convenient location.
Recruit New Riders
Uber gives each driver a referral code that people can use when they sign up for the first time. Drivers are then rewarded for these new signups once the person pays for their first ride. By using your code, the rider gets a discount on their first ride.
You can get business cards made that have the referral code written on them and where the rider can sign up for service. This can lead to a nice side income that you don’t even have to be out driving to get.
Safety Tips for Uber Drivers
In any situation where you are alone with a stranger there are some safety tips you should consider. These tips are specifically for Uber drivers.
Report Good and Bad Rider Behavior
As I mentioned above, drivers have the same opportunity to rate riders that riders can to rate drivers. If a person has a low rating then you and other drivers are going to be less likely to accept the pickup. By all the drivers working together to report rider behavior, everyone is protected from bad riders.
Install a Dash Cam
You will need to check into the laws of your state as far as laws with dash cameras go, but they are a great way to discourage bad behavior from the rider. You want to position the camera so that it can see all passengers in the car.
Take a Break
The downside to working your own hours is that you can overdo it sometimes. Make sure you are getting out of the car to stretch and that you are drinking enough water. If you do not want to stop and get a meal from time to time, make sure you have snacks so you can get some energy between your rides. Being tired can lead to poor driving, so know what your limit is.
Select Your Rides with Care
People will frequently overlook the safety of the pickup when money is at stake. View information on the passenger and take careful note of the area that the person is asking to be picked up from. If it is a bad area of town and late at night, you might want to consider passing on that one.
Talk to an Insurance Agent
You get a limited amount of extra insurance from Uber during the time a customer is riding with you. What you want to make sure is that you have the proper insurance to cover you if the Uber policy does not cover all that you expected. Talk to your insurance agent to make sure you are covered properly.
History of Uber
Uber was formed in 2009 as an app that connected a rider and driver through GPS. It has gotten more sophisticated, but is pretty much the same concept. Since its birth, the company has grown to have more than 150,000 drivers across the globe. The company was valued at $41 billion dollars in 2015 making it one of (if not the) fastest growing companies in the history of the world.
Is Uber The Perfect Side Gig?
I don’t know about perfect, but Uber definitely provides a great way to make money on the side with little commitment other than maintaining your vehicle. If you enjoy driving and like meeting new people then you should give it a shot and become an Uber driver. If you find you do not like the experience you just turn off the app and never look back.
I have found Uber to be a great opportunity for stay-at-home moms, college students, and anyone who is between jobs trying to make ends meet. If you live in the right areas you can make a very nice living off service as well. Overall, Uber has been a breakthrough in giving people access to a reasonable income with little ramp up time and out of pocket expense.