Everything You Need To Know About Driving For Uber
Whether you’re doing it as a side gig in your free time or as your primary source of income, becoming an Uber driver is a great way to make money. However, from the initial sign-up process to the many trips you’ll be taking every day, there are a lot of important hurdles to prepare for and ways to optimize your earnings.
We’ve gathered together everything you should know before getting started with Uber, from how to get signed up to when the best times to drive are and more.
Before You Start: Have A Modern Smartphone
There are two major expensive items you’ll need to own before you even consider driving for Uber: a smartphone and a car. We’ll talk about the latter in a second, but let’s discuss the smartphone now.
Both on the driver and the customer side, Uber runs off of an app, so you’ll need either an Apple or Android-based smartphone. Specifically, Uber requires an iPhone 5 or newer, or a phone that can run Android 6.0 or higher. Generally speaking, the newer and more powerful the phone, the better. After all, if your phone runs slow or glitches out while you’re using it, that’s going to lead to problems doing your job, which means less money in the long run.
Beyond the phone itself, you’ll also need to make sure that your phone has a relatively large or flexible data plan. Since you’ll be on the move, your app will be using data at all times. You don’t want to hit a data cap or have to pay huge data overrun fees just because you were trying to work.
Before You Start: Have A Nice, Clean Car
Uber doesn’t require that you have the newest, spendiest car available, but you also won’t be able to get away with driving around a total lemon either. Uber lists the following vehicle requirements:
*Your car can be no older than 15 years old.
*Your car must have less than 150,000 miles on it.
*Your car must be four-door.
*Your car must not have commercial branding on it.
You’ll also want to make sure your vehicle is very clean and runs well, even if it lives up to these requirements. If you’d prefer to drive using the UberX, UberXL, Uber Select, or Uber Black services, there are more strict vehicle requirements that you’ll want to look up, with the benefit that you’ll generally make a little more money from these services.
Oh, and let’s not forget your driver’s license. Restrictions differ slightly from city to city, but generally, you’ll need a valid driver’s license either from the state you’re driving in or a neighboring state if your city is somewhat close to a state border.
How To Get A Car If You Don’t Have One
Let’s say you’d like to drive for Uber but you either don’t own a vehicle or don’t have one that fits the company’s requirements. All is not lost! Uber has a program called Uber Xchange, wherein drivers can rent vehicles from third-party services and use them to drive for Uber.
Using an Uber Xchange service can cost anywhere from $100 to $250 a week, so take note of how that will impact your overall pay. However, if you really want to get started driving, it’s worth looking into these services and figuring out what is the best option for you. Different cities have different valid Uber Xchange companies, so do some research into what’s available in your area and which has the cheapest fees.
How To Sign Up As An Uber Driver
Once you’re comfortable with the state of your phone and vehicle, your next step is to get signed up. The sign-up process begins at Uber’s Driver Requirements page.
This page lists various requirements for the job beyond what we’ve already gone over, including specific documentation you’ll need to provide in addition to your driver’s license. It’s also important to note here that Uber will do a background check that looks into both your criminal history and your driving record.
While this can all sound intimidating, the actual sign-up process is relatively quick and painless. As long as you have documentation ready, you can complete sign up in less than an hour. You’ll need to wait as much as a week or two for the background check to be finished, but once that’s done you’ll get access to the Uber Driver app and you’ll be able to begin driving immediately.
Look For Sign-Up Bonuses
Depending on when and in which city you sign up to be an Uber driver, you may be able to earn a major sign-up bonus. Uber often advertises sign-up bonuses for cities that have a shortage of drivers or prior to times like New Years when they know they’ll need more drivers than usual. These bonuses can be as high as $1,000, and all you need to do is sign up and complete 100 rides within your first month as a driver.
Provide The Best Experience For Riders
Even more so than other service-based jobs, being an Uber driver is all about giving your customers a top-notch experience. After each ride, a customer is urged to give a star rating to the driver and also is able to choose what level of tip they want to give you. If you provide better rides, you’re likely to get higher tips and higher star ratings, which are shown on your profile image when customers request a ride.
Providing a great drive for your riders can come in a lot of forms. First and foremost, you should make sure you’re taking your vehicle in for regular check-ups to ensure it’s a smooth ride. You should clean out your car every day, getting rid of any trash that might have been left over by riders. And you should take efforts to make your car smell nice using air fresheners or other methods.
Some drivers go even more above and beyond, providing passengers with bottled water, candy, or other treats. We’ve even seen Uber drivers with a functioning Nintendo and screen built into the back seat to keep riders entertained. Obviously you shouldn’t break the bank as you’re just getting started, but the more willing you are to go out of your way to make rides fun and hygienic, the better your chances of seeing big tips and high ratings.
Embrace The Flexibility
One of the best parts of being an Uber driver is that it’s an incredibly flexible job. You have no set schedule, no shifts you need to fulfill, and no set number of hours you need to work each week. If you desperately need a break, you can take any day off that you want. But on that same note, if you’re feeling like working, you can go online on the driver app and start going at any time.
This flexibility is a gift, and you should take advantage of it. Don’t burn yourself out on weeks when you’re not feeling up to it, but also feel free to shoot for extra hours on weeks when you’re full of energy. The job allows you to build your own schedule however you want to.
Look Out For Surge Pricing
While the flexibility is nice, you’ll definitely be busier (and thus making money) at certain times. If you try to drive late at night or during a slow mid-week afternoon, you may have to wait a while between ride requests. On the other hand, if you drive during surge times, you’ll make a premium on your pay.
Surge pricing is what happens when there are more customers looking for rides in an area than there are drivers, and it adds a multiplier to the cost of rides based on how busy it is. In other words, riders have to pay more during these times, but you make more. Common surge pricing times include rush hours before and after work, when big events like a football game or a concert let out, and immediately following bar close on weekend nights.
Because surge pricing usually happens in already high traffic areas, it can lead to more stressful driving and longer trips. If you’re willing to put up with that, however, you’ll definitely make more money than usual.
Get To Know Your City
If you haven’t already, spend some time driving around and exploring the city that you plan to work in for Uber. The better you know the area, the faster you can get riders to their destinations. Map apps are always helpful, but oftentimes strong knowledge of the city can help you finish up rides even faster or avoid getting turned around from vague or confusing directions.
Knowing your city will also help you pinpoint hot spots where traffic is high and pick-up requests are more likely. Every city has its own peak hours and busy areas, so there’s no one size fits all solution here; you’ll need to figure it out on your own.
Have A Plan For Cleaning Your Vehicle
No matter what, when you drive for Uber, you’re opening your car up to strangers of all sorts. Inevitably, you’re going to drive someone who is sick, can’t handle a bumpy car ride, or is drunk — especially if you’re driving after bar close! This is all to say that if you work for Uber, there are going to be accidents and someone will throw up or leave other messes in your car.
You should have a plan in place for how to quickly clean your vehicle so that it doesn’t get in the way of continuing driving. Ideally, you can carry all you need for cleaning in the trunk, so you can pull it out whenever you need it. It’s not the prettiest part of the job, but you should keep it in mind!
Track Your Tax Deductions
When you work for Uber, you’re technically an independent contractor, not a full-time employee. One of the things this means is that taxes are not taken out of your pay, so you’ll need to pay them yourself once every quarter. The tax process can feel intimidating at first, but don’t let yourself get overwhelmed. Your best bet is to carefully track your pay, how much you owe in taxes, and especially the many deductibles you can find.
Because you’re using your vehicle for your job, anything tied to maintenance and upkeep of the vehicle can be added to your tax deductions. Most notably, the IRS Standard Mileage Deduction allows you to add 58 cents to your tax deduction for every mile driven for work. You can’t include times when you’re not driving for Uber in this formula, but considering how many miles you could drive in a full year, this mileage deduction really adds up. There are many apps you can download to help keep track of your on-the-job mileage, along with other tax numbers. HyreCar has a great article on the best apps for Uber Drivers. Check it out here.
Know How Much Pay To Expect
Uber often advertises that drivers can make $20 an hour or more. While this is technically true, it’s definitely on the higher end of the scale and not terribly likely most of the time. Most drivers report making between $10 to $15 an hour on average, with that number climbing during surge pricing or going lower during slow times.
If you want to be on the higher end of that scale, you’ll need to carefully plan when you drive or devote more hours to driving. Also keep in mind that you need to handle taxes, as well as the cost of car maintenance, fuel, etc. Make no mistake, being an Uber driver can pay just fine, but you’ll need to be smart about it.
Find Local Driver Groups
In most cities, you should be able to find various online groups devoted to Uber drivers in that area. Facebook and Reddit are great places to look for these. These communities often include people who have been driving in the city for a long time, and they can provide tips on the best places and hours to drive, what to avoid, and more. Take advantage of that knowledge and use it to help you drive smarter!
Driving for Uber can be a fun and lucrative side gig or even a full-time source of income if you’re devoted enough. With these tips, you should have all you need to get started. The more you utilize this information, the more that you’ll be able to optimize your driving routine and get the most out of your time as an Uber driver.