Business

What to Expect as an Uber Driver

I’ve been driving Uber for nearly five years. It started as a side-gig and became my full-time job during the pandemic. People have many questions for their Uber drivers, especially if they want to become one. Here are the answers to my passengers’ most common questions about driving for Uber.

Note: Although I can only specifically speak for my own experience as an Uber driver, many of these answers likely also apply to similar services such as Lyft and DoorDash.

How Much Money Do You Make Driving Uber?

The question my Uber passengers ask me the most often is some version of “how much money do you make?” It always makes me a bit uncomfortable because it seems slightly rude to ask a perfect stranger that question. And the answer is never satisfying to anybody, including myself. Because it all depends on when you drive, where you drive, how long you go, and how busy it is. From my experience, you can expect to earn anywhere from $14 to $35 an hour, depending on those factors.

Of course, some driving times are more profitable than others. For example, the weekend overnight drivers usually make the most money per hour in my area. This is likely due to the high number of riders using Uber to get home safely after an evening of drinking and the relative lack of drivers willing to stay up that late working.

Uber has several tools that allow you to plan when you work to maximize your earnings and incentives to complete more trips, log in at peak hours, and be in the right place to get the trips you need to make driving worth the trouble.

How Do Uber Drivers Get Paid?

Drivers get direct deposits from Uber to their bank accounts. You can set this up to happen weekly for free through the app or Uber website. Additionally, you can cash out all your earnings at any time for a processing fee. Uber lets you cash out your earnings up to five times per day.

Does Uber Do a Background Check?

Yes. Uber does a background check when you sign up to drive. Additionally, the company periodically repeats the background check to ensure you’re still qualified to drive for the service. Uber runs a motor vehicle report and a criminal background check for all drivers.

Riders sometimes ask me if a felony conviction or bad driving record will keep them from driving for Uber, and I don’t know the answer. Uber’s official website is somewhat vague about what would be disqualifying. However, it does state that convictions for egregious crimes like sexual assault and murder are disqualifying for life.

What Kind of Car Do You Need to Drive Uber?

When I first started driving Uber in 2018, I recall the requirements were that a car needed to be nine years old or newer and have four doors to use to drive Uber X (the most common Uber tier). However, the guidance is much broader now. As of this writing, the requirements for an Uber vehicle in Salt Lake City are as follows:

  • 15-year-old vehicle or newer
  • Four-door vehicle
  • Good condition with no cosmetic damage
  • No commercial branding

Make sure you check your own local Uber vehicle requirements before signing up.

What is The Craziest Thing You’ve Ever Seen While Driving for Uber?

Sometimes riders love to hear a good story. If you drive regularly, some people will ask you to tell your “craziest experience” while driving for Uber. But, for me, at least, it really isn’t the adventure most people want it to be in their imaginations. It’s not that nothing interesting happens. It’s just that nothing crazy happens.

Sometimes you’ll talk to interesting people; sometimes, you’ll go somewhere you’ve never been; other times, you’ll go to a distant location. But, you’ll mostly be taking people to work, picking them up from the grocery store, dropping them off at the train station or airport, picking them up from a car dealership, and getting them back from the bar safely. It’s mundane stuff, which I’m often embarrassed to admit when people ask. I’ve considered making up a wild story of adventure and excitement to give them what they hoped for.

Do You Ever Feel Unsafe When Driving Uber?

No. I have never felt unsafe while driving Uber. I’ve had some shady characters, some creeps, and people who made me uncomfortable in my back seat over the years. But I’ve never felt like anyone would attack me, steal my car, kidnap me, or anything like that. There have been some occasions when I felt unsafe on the road. However, that was due to traffic, weather conditions, and other incidents that happen in the real world that have nothing to do with Uber.

That said, I know that should I ever feel threatened or unsafe, I can end the ride anytime for any reason. Uber also gives you several safety features in the app to alert the company if there’s an emergency situation.

Are Uber Drivers Independent Contractors or Employees?

Drivers are not employees of Uber. We are independent contractors. Drivers use the Uber app to log into the system, get matched with riders, get paid, and not much beyond that. Our association with the company is that of a platform to its user, not that of an employer to an employee.

It should be noted that there have been governmental attempts to change this relationship. For example, California enacted a law that would classify Uber drivers as employees. However, voters in that state approved an exception for Uber to that rule. Future legislation may change drivers’ relationship with Uber, but for now, we remain independent contractors.

Does Uber Reimburse You for Gas and Mileage?

Uber does not reimburse drivers for the price of gas or mileage on our vehicles. As independent contractors, drivers bear all the costs of owning and operating the vehicle.

How Do You Keep Your Uber Driver Rating High?

Currently, my rating is 4.96 out of 5 stars. Ratings are based on the last 500 trips. When people ask me how I keep my rating so high, I don’t have that much to say because I really don’t know. The best I can come up with are the following simple rules I follow:

  • Keep your car clean: Nobody wants to ride in a dirty Uber. Wash and vacuum your vehicle at least once a week, and regularly wipe down all the surfaces and panels.
  • Keep your car smelling nice: Humans stink, and they stink up your car. This is just a fact of life. I keep a spray bottle of Ozium in my car and give the interior a healthy dose at the start of every Uber shift. Plus, it comes in handy when you have passengers who stink up your vehicle. You might stink—wear deodorant! That might seem like obvious advice, but I’ve had several riders complain about the body odor of previous drivers.
  • Only speak when spoken to: Not everybody wants to talk to their Uber driver, and being overly chatty and personal when a person is trying to get some peace and quiet out of their day will ruin their experience. When someone gets in my car, I greet them by name, confirm the destination, and start the trip. If they want to chat, I’ll chat about whatever they like. If they don’t say anything, I say nothing.
  • Stay off your phone: That might sound odd considering you’re running an app from your phone. But, I mean don’t take personal calls while you have a passenger in the car. Don’t text and drive. Don’t interact with your phone in any way that would make your rider think you’re not paying attention to the road. Sometimes you may need to take an incoming call from a passenger while someone else is still riding, most people will forgive that. But, just chatting with your friends while you’re supposed to be paying attention to traffic puts customers off in a big way.
  • Be nice to people: Again, this sounds like obvious advice. But you may be surprised by some people’s horror stories about their Uber drivers. Being rude always gets you a ding to your rating.
  • Play chill music: I’ve experimented with different types of music for my passengers over the years. The best I’ve come up with is a playlist of low-intensity instrumental music. Blasting your favorite tunes may not provide the best experience for your riders. Plus, keeping everyone (especially yourself) as calm as possible with soothing music always makes your day better.

In my experience, a five-star rating is the default that most users give drivers. Something went wrong if you get something less than a five-star rating on a trip. And you’ll probably know which rider will give you less than five stars before the trip ends.

What Type of Insurance Do Uber Drivers Need?

Uber requires drivers to maintain their own insurance coverage on their vehicles—this generally means that you need “full coverage.” The definition of full coverage varies from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. But in general, you need to have a policy that contains comprehensive insurance, liability insurance, and collision insurance.

However, Uber separately insures every ride itself as well. And it should be noted that many auto insurance companies’ policies will not cover damages that happen when a driver is logged into Uber. However, most companies offer ride-share driver insurance to supplement Uber’s coverage. Be sure to check if your personal policy includes ride-share liability before you hit the road.

What are the Tax Implications of Being an Uber Driver?

Uber does not deduct state or federal income taxes from drivers’ pay. As an independent contractor, it is your responsibility to deal with the tax implications of your earnings. If you work Uber as a side-gig, that may mean asking your full-time employer to withhold extra taxes from your paycheck—but your regular withholding may already cover your tax liability.

You may also need to file quarterly taxes with the federal government. If you work Uber full-time and nothing else, you definitely want to do that, so you don’t owe a massive sum when tax season rolls around. Make sure to keep your receipts and look into some self-employment financial apps like QuickBooks (iOS, Android) to ensure you’re paying Uncle Sam as much (or as little) as you need.

What Happens if There’s an Accident During an Uber Trip?

When an accident occurs while driving Uber, treat it the same way you should treat any other incident. Just report the accident to Uber when you can safely do so. If you’re at fault for the accident, Uber allows you to use its insurance or your own to cover damages. If you’re in three accidents that are your fault within three years, you’re suspended from the platform.

Is Driving Uber Worth It?

People often ask me these questions because they’re considering becoming ride-share drivers themselves. (Whether for Uber or not—and, I assume that many of my answers also apply somewhat to other ride-share services such as Lyft and DoorDash.) When they finally come to the big question of whether or not they should try, I always say that they should suit up and hit the road. You’ll know really quickly if it’s something you enjoy. And beside some gas money and a few hours of your time, you’re not taking too much risk finding out.

I find it both enjoyable and a reliable source of income, whether working elsewhere or not. I’ve driven Uber part-time while working full-time, used it as a source of income during a period of self-employment, was my only source of income during most of the pandemic, and continues to be a side gig now that I write full-time for Review Geek.

It works for me because I love driving, listening to music, podcasts, and audiobooks, talking to people, and going places I’ve never been to before. I especially enjoy being outside and looking at exciting scenery like cities, mountains, deserts, forests, and all the other places I’ve traveled to driving Uber these past five years. Plus, when you drive Uber, you’ll meet people from all over the world who come to your town, which is really interesting for a guy like me.

Driving Uber also delivers a feeling of being central to the community. The vast majority of people you give rides to for Uber are your extended neighbors. You’ll get a much better sense of where you live, not just because you’ll learn the streets well, but also because you’ll know the people more intimately. Plus, driving Uber makes you a critical part of your area’s service infrastructure, which isn’t an unimportant responsibility.

How Do You Sign Up to Drive for Uber?

You can sign up to drive for Uber on Uber.com or download the Uber Driver App on your mobile device.


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