Dear friends—many of you have asked me what it’s really like to drive for Uber. I’m here to tell all.
WHAT I KNOW YOU WANT TO HEAR
You want me to say it’s amazing and I’m making so much money I’m practically swimming in it, and I feel free as a bird with my scheduling, and all of my riders have been incredibly kind, and this is the magic bullet to kill all your debt.
It’s not bad. It’s definitely a job. The money isn’t great (more on this below), and it is really nice to only do it when I feel like it. My riders, for the most part have been teenagers. This has been surprising to me, because well, I’ve used Uber exclusively when travelling, and I’m not a teenager. Haha. It never crossed my mind that teens use this as their alternative to designating a driver when they’re going to be drinking. Maybe this varies based on what part of the country you’re in, but this has overwhelmingly been my experience. Driving for Uber is by no means a magic debt-killer, but having a second job sure does help put extra money in the bank.
THE DEETS: SIGNING UP AND PREPARING
It’s very easy to sign up to drive. (Considering it? Tell me in the comments below and I’ll email you a referral code—we’ll both get extra money!) You use your existing Uber account (or create a new account if you’ve never been a rider) and go to partners.uber.com.
They make everything pretty easy. You’ll consent to a background check. You’ll need to upload pictures of your driver’s license, vehicle registration, and proof of insurance. (They email and text you incessantly if you’ve forgotten one of these, or if there’s a problem. For example, my insurance card still had my maiden name on it. They informed me I’d have to get it updated in order to be approved. I got it changed and re-uploaded the picture, and I was good to go.) You also have to give them your checking account information—they direct-deposit your earnings every Monday.
I would recommend starting all this about a week before you want to start driving. The approvals take a little time.
Uber then sends you ONE video (which you can watch on YouTube here) that you are required to watch. That’s it. You download the app and “go online” (which means you’re available to pick up riders) and hit the road.
Did I feel completely unprepared when I started? You bet. But I started anyway, and quickly got the hang of things.
THE DEETS: PICKING UP MY FIRST RIDER
I was so excited about my first day. It felt like the first day at a new school or a new job (duh, because it was)! I got in my car in the driveway and turned on the app, and… nothing happened. That one tutorial video said the app would beep at me if a rider wanted me to pick them up. I was confused. Why wasn’t my app beeping? I drove to the next town over. Still no beeps. I pulled into a parking lot and re-watched the dang video because I thought for sure I was doing something wrong. Nope. The video said to just drive around and wait for a beep. At this point I was about 30 minutes in.
I decided to head toward the airport. Surely people would need me there. Aha! Then I finally got a beep! It was loud and clear. I accepted the request and the app navigated me to where my rider was waiting. A nice lady was at the front door when I arrived, and got in my car. The app already knew where she was going. We exchanged hellos, and I confirmed her name, and we headed out. She had headphones in with loud music so we didn’t talk. I didn’t want her to know it was my very first ride. It was about a 35 minute ride. I arrived at her destination, she thanked me and got out. I heaved a sigh of relief.
I decided to try heading to the airport again. More beeps. The evening progressed.
THE DEETS: THE SUBSEQUENT RIDERS
I’d say my first ride went beautifully. My second ride, not so much. I picked up two teenagers at a Burger King. They talked the whole time, mostly about how much weed they had on them and how much they were about to get… I felt very uncomfortable. I didn’t mean to be eavesdropping, but obviously, didn’t want to have illegal substances in my car either. They verbally navigated me to an address other than what they had put in the app. This also made me nervous. Would Uber know where I was? I was happy to drop them off quickly. I must say, this was an anomaly.
It was a Wednesday, and the rest of the evening progressed without incident. After each ride, I’d head toward the airport, but would end up pretty far away based on rider pickups and drop offs. The rest of the riders were young people. Teenagers, or maybe early 20s. They were invariably going to parties or dinner. None of them talked to me. I’d have quiet music on in the background. They’d talk to each other or on their phones.
Around 11pm, I was tired. Fortunately, a rider had been dropped off pretty close to my house, so I turned the app off and went home.
I’ve driven after work almost every day since then. As you’d imagine, some nights are busier than others. Some riders are rowdier than others. Some want to talk to me a lot—I don’t like giving a lot of personal details. Some want to know all about Uber—I’m happy to oblige. Some tip, some don’t. I really have not had any rude riders at all. On weekends I drive all day just outside of NYC, in Hoboken or Jersey City. Here, I pick up mostly young tourists. People are usually very thankful. I almost always turn off around 11pm or so. I find this is when passengers start to get rowdier, and I’m just not in the mood for that.
THE DEETS: BEING IN TOUCH WITH UBER
Being in touch with Uber post-signup sucks. Here are two examples:
I started driving on a Wednesday. The following Monday, I got a text message saying that because I drove 18.5 hours in my first week (which apparently ended on Sunday), I qualified for the $250 bonus, so they were putting $3 in my account. I was like, “huh?” I emailed their support team, and was told that there had been a signup bonus when I started. If I drove 10 hours, they’d guarantee me $250. I made $247 in that first week so they gave me the extra $3 to get to the promised $250. Here’s the kicker: If I had driven 20 hours, they would have given me $500, and if I had driven 40 hours, they would have given me $1000. I was furious. I would have been happy to drive another 1.5 hours to get to the $500 bonus. None of this was ever communicated to me in advance. I can assure you I read everything head to toe. When I emailed them to say I was upset I didn’t know about this, their response was basically, “don’t worry, we do promotions all the time.” Grrr.
My driver’s license expired on my birthday (last Friday), and I applied for a renewal online. I got a confirmation—a legal document issued by the state of Louisiana as proof that my license has been renewed, and that my new expiration date is in 2021. This serves as a temporary license while I wait for my new one to come in the mail (can take up to 30 days). Uber won’t accept the temporary license, so my account is now suspended. I’ve been back and forth with their support team, and they won’t budge. I guess I just have to wait til my new license comes in the mail. Grrr.
As far as the level of detail available in my account online, everything you could ever want is there. Maps and times of my trips, how much I earned, how much I paid and was reimbursed in tolls, my rating, etc.
Also, at the end of every week, they email me a summary of my week that looks like this:
This is all very helpful. What’s not helpful is their customer service/driver support staff. Grrr.
THE DEETS: THE MONEY
This is what you’ve all been waiting for, I know! As a rule of thumb, you receive 80% of what the rider was charged. I’m keeping very careful track of my earnings. Being the meticulous-Excel-lover that I am, I haven’t let you down. I’m including real numbers from my first week, below.
I have a detailed spreadsheet in which I make note of how long I was on the road, how many miles I drove, how many trips I took, how much I earned. I also break it down by how much I earned per hour, per trip, per mile.
But what about wear-and-tear on my car? I’ve taken that into account, too. I figured out it costs me about $0.122/mi to operate my car. This is based on:
- gas costing $2.50/gallon (it’s usually less than that)
- my car getting 25 mpg (I usually get more than that)
- needing new tires ($400) every 50,000 miles
- needing a $70 oil change every 5,000 miles.
And so I have my net-earning per day and per hour calculated as well.
What am I doing with the money? Every Monday, Uber deposits the money into my account. I take only what I’ve calculated to be my net-earning, and I move it into savings.
I’ve felt incredibly safe. What I hadn’t thought about is that there is a certain barrier to entry. To be a rider, you have to have a smartphone, be relatively tech savvy, and have a credit card. This weeds out a lot of people, and has left me with (for the most part) extremely pleasant passengers.
I really like driving. I might have mentioned a long time ago that I used to deliver pizzas for Domino’s back in college? This was more than 10 years ago, before smartphones and GPS. How I ever got around, I don’t know—but I remember loving it. The open road, the freedom, my music, time to clear my head, and just think. This is very much the same, but with the added plus of occasionally getting to chat with interesting folks.
Though it’s kind of unpredictable to a certain extent, the money is attainable. The good thing about a normal job is that you know if you work this many hours, you’re getting this much money. With Uber, you could drive around for an hour and not have any passengers (this has happened). That kind of sucks, but it’s the trade off you make to get the other perks, I suppose.
All in all, because the hours are totally flexible, it’s perfect for me. My mom was in town recently (for my birthday!) and on those days, I just didn’t sign in, didn’t drive, and it was totally okay. I’m going home one weekend each month. No worries about getting my shift covered or vacation time approved. If I’m tired or don’t feel like driving, I don’t have to. There was one day that after one rider, I came home. I was in a bad mood and just didn’t feel like it. How often can you go to work, and then go right home if you don’t feel like being there? Yep, it’s pretty cool.
What else do you want to know? Would you ever consider driving for Uber? Have you ever been an Uber rider? I want to know!