Personal Finance

How to Make Money Becoming an Uber Driver

cash car keyDo you own a late model automobile? Got a smartphone? Then you too can be an Uber driver! The ride-sharing service has revolutionized everything from public transportation to the impact of the mobile app and millions of riders a year rely on the many benefits Uber provides its clientele. The popularity of this alternative to the typical taxicab has hit global proportions, as Uber is now available in 71 countries and 429 cities around the world.

With so many people using the Uber app on a daily basis, the prospects for making money as a driver are better than ever. But how does one go about working for the company and how much money can you really make doing it? These are just a few of the questions that we’ll cover as we explore the employment opportunities of becoming an Uber driver.

The Uber Model

The popularity of mobile apps has blossomed exponentially over the past five years as our smartphones are now capable of affording us the ability to do everything from shop online to book travel to watch movies and more. So it’s no surprise that someone would invent a mobile app that could take you from point A to point B anytime, 24 hours a day. But that’s just what the folks behind Uber have done, designed an online method of connecting drivers and riders through an easy to operate mobile app.

To get started, just download the app from the Google Play or iTunes App Stores and set up an account. You’ll link up a payment option, such as a credit card or PayPal account, and in seconds you’re ready to set your pickup location and grab a ride.

But for drivers, the mobile app experience is a bit different in that it enables them to get calls for pickups whenever they want to work. That’s one of the many benefits that Uber offers their drivers – you make your own hours and work whenever you want. The company’s app is the main platform that lets customers request a ride, which is then sent drivers in that immediate region. One of them accepts the call, goes to pick up the customer and take them to whatever location they have entered into the app beforehand.

There is no physical payment transaction made between the driver and the rider, no money changes hands at the drop off, but instead the fare is automatically deducted via whatever payment method was linked to the rider’s account. That’s it. After the ride, customers can rate their driver and the service he or she provided. The rates are reasonable, far more so than hailing a traditional taxicab, and customers claim that they prefer Uber because the ride is more enjoyable than riding in the back of a city cab.

The vehicles that Uber utilizes are all personally owned by the drivers and are subject to the company’s cleanliness and appearance standards. They must be from a model year of 2006 or newer and have four doors to accommodate multiple riders at one time. The company offers one service – ride-sharing – but there are four tiers to that service ranging from taking a car pool with other riders to having your own private ride to riding in luxury in a Mercedes-Benz or black SUV.

Getting Started

So you’ve never really contemplated driving a taxicab for a living, but there’s something awfully appealing to you about becoming an Uber driver. Maybe you’ve been a rider so often it seems like it might fun to be behind the wheel for a bit, perhaps you’ve heard how much money drivers can make, or you just have some extra free time on the weekends. Whatever your reason for wanting to get in with Uber, there are a few things you’re going to have to get squared away before you can hit the road.

But first things first, you’ll need to go to their website and fill out an application. It’s a pretty easy form to fill out, asking you standard information that you need to complete in full (or to the best of your ability). As you may have guessed, it starts with your vehicle. In addition to your vehicle being a year 2006 model or newer (although they do make some exceptions for classic or vintage cars in pristine condition) and having four doors, the car must pass a basic inspection which can be performed at any mechanic’s garage.

For drivers who want to be eligible for the higher services including UberBLACK, the company’s executive luxury tier, your vehicle has to be commercially registered for livery use and needs to pass an even more rigorous physical appearance inspection. This is so demanding that cars can be rejected for having one single dent the size of a penny anywhere on the body exterior. The interior of every car has to be clean, without rips or tears in the upholstery, and all seat belts must be accessible.

Once your vehicle has undergone a full audit, the attention turns to you. You must be 21 years of age and Uber mandates that all drivers have a valid driver’s license and personal automobile insurance, both of which are things you need to legally drive in the United States anyway. Uber will handle the commercial auto insurance to cover you and them in the event you get into an accident while you’re on the clock.

If you meet all of those basic requirements, then the company will perform a criminal background check. They want to make sure you’re not a former convicted axe murderer or wanted in 12 states, and furthermore they need to know if you have any DUI convictions or any other marks on your driving history. But if everything comes back clean, then congratulations, you can drive for Uber. Now you just need to make sure your smartphone is technologically advanced enough to work the mobile app and you’ll want a GPS app like Waze or Google Maps on there as well, to help you find your way to and from pick-ups and destinations.

Once you’ve been accepted into the fold, the company doesn’t make you sign any type of contract but you will need to put your name on a standard driver agreement which defines your working status for them and the various terms that you must abide by at all times. Just to be clear, you are not exclusive to the company so you are free to sign the same agreement with another service such as Lyft and there are many drivers who work different hours for both companies.

Working for Uber

Your car has passed inspection and so have you, the paperwork is signed, and your smartphone has the Uber app installed. You are ready to hit the road and pick up your first fares. All you have to do now is log on to your Uber driver account through that app and switch it on. Once you do, you’re on-call. Pick up as many or as few fares as you want. When you’re ready to work, you just enable the app. Don’t feel like driving today or you have an appointment and you can only work in the morning, turn the app on when you’re ready to drive and then log off when it’s time to head to your meeting.

The great thing that most drivers love about working for Uber is the ability to make their own hours. As long as the app is on you’ll be notified of calls because the computer has you as active in the system. So the longer you’re active, the more money you could potentially earn.

The Uber Rules

5 star serviceEvery Uber driver is subject to a customer rating. Once the ride is over, customers receive an electronic receipt to their app and they are asked to rate the performance of the driver on a scale from 1 to 5. If you want to continue your employment with Uber, the company mandates that all drivers maintain an average overall rating of 4.6 or greater. So one bad review won’t torpedo your standing entirely, as long as the rest are all good to great. It’s only when a driver has consistent ratings of 2 or 3 that Uber will then intervene and, unless the rating isn’t elevated quickly, their driver account could be deactivated and they will no longer be allowed to drive for the company.

Poor reviews are not the only reason an account could be deactivated and you could be fired from Uber.  In fact, there have been recent controversies with drivers being subject to nebulous rules that aren’t entirely clear, so when a driver’s account is suspended they weren’t aware that they had done anything wrong. As of April 2016, Uber published a more transparent and easy to understand set of policies for deactivation which has helped to reduce confusion.

In this updated directive, in addition to the minimum customer rating, drivers can find their accounts shut down if they have a cancellation rate higher than 4%. Cancellations make the company look unreliable so drivers are discouraged from aborting a pick up after they have accepted the job. There are obviously things that can come up so a cancellation here or there is understandable and acceptable, but if a driver starts making a habit out of it for whatever reason, that can be grounds for deactivation.

Similar to the customer rating mandate, Uber will send the driver notifications that they have fallen below the permitted cancellation rate based on their driving area and they need to fix the problem immediately. If the driver does not comply after multiple warnings, they are barred from driving for the company any longer.

Conversely, a driver can be deactivated if they consistently deny accepting trips as well. High denial rates are not conducive to the smooth operation of the company and, therefore, if a driver shows a pattern of non-acceptance of rides he or she can be in danger of having the account shut down. If a driver is inactive for more than 90 days without picking up a ride or even turning on the app, the account can also be deactivated.

Then, of course, there are other grounds for deactivation and outright termination from the company for committing offenses such as fraud, unsafe driving, racking up traffic violations, drinking or doing drugs during a shift, carrying firearms in the vehicle (registered or not), and any other non-compliance with state or federal laws. You know, stuff that would get you fired from pretty much any other job.

If you are a driver whose account is deactivated, you will receive a notification of such when you try to log into the app to start work. This can be a jarring revelation, despite having received warnings to step up whatever your particular issues were that could get you deactivated. For some drivers, they may have their account deactivated because Uber is still waiting on some minor issue like updated paperwork and once that’s turned in, the account is reactivated.

That’s right, there are ways in which you can get your account reactivated if it is shut down by the company. Some offenses are worse than others, however.   For instance, if a passenger lodges a serious complaint against you or you blatantly broke one of Uber’s policies, then you’re likely not going to get your account reactivated. But for other minor issues you have the ability to appeal to Uber via email and find out exactly why the account was deactivated.

This can be a lengthy process depending on the offense, not to mention it usually takes a contact from Uber a few days to respond to emails, but there are some reasons that come with possibility for reactivation.  Updated paperwork is an easy fix and if you received lower customer ratings than the company minimum of 4.6 on average, Uber offers a class that teaches you the do’s and don’ts of driving for the company. Sort of like a training program to get drivers on the right track. Take that course (it costs $100) and you are usually reactivated after completion.

Finally, if you were deactivated due to inactivity then contact Uber and tell them you want to start driving for them on a regular basis once again. They’ll usually switch you back on without any problems. Just try to correct the problem as quickly as possible, keep an open dialogue with the company, stay courteous and respectful, and you should be okay. If they ultimately decide not to reinstate you, then you can always jump over to another ride-sharing company instead.

driving behind the wheelThe Not So Great Side of Uber

Drivers can make some decent money and find consistent work depending upon what city they are driving in. But there are some definite drawbacks to driving for Uber. The first being excessive wear on your vehicle. You’re going to be putting a lot of miles on your car, more so than normal if you’re the only one who owns and drives the vehicle. Some might argue you would put the same amount of miles commuting to a 9-5 office job for an hour or two every morning and afternoon, and this is a better alternative for their lifestyle.

Unfortunately, since you own the vehicle and work as an independent contractor for Uber, you are responsible for all of the expenses that come with maintaining the car. Gas ain’t cheap, either, and with prices reaching over $3.00 a gallon in some parts of the country, that can really start to eat away at your earnings.

The other big drawback can be the customers. While you’re trying to provide the best possible ride to get the highest ratings, you can often encounter some clientele who aren’t as committed to being the ideal rider. If you’re driving at night (and particularly on the weekends), you will inevitably pick up a few folks who have had a few too many drinks at the bar. After all, Uber has diminished the need for designated drivers as of late and people take the service to go out instead of driving themselves, especially when they know they will be imbibing during the evening. For the most part these experiences can be generally harmless, but there have been incidents with riders getting violent or being difficult to get in or out of the vehicle. Then there’s always the chance one of them will throw up in the car. I don’t have to go into detail about how unpleasant that can be for drivers.

Making Money with Uber

So you’ve read through all of the necessary steps to start driving, the rules you need to know, and the benefits and drawbacks to driving for Uber. Now you want to know how much you can actually make driving for them. That is entirely up to you, of course, since you set your own hours and you drive on your schedule. This will have the biggest impact on how much you can make, but on average it really depends on who you ask.

The company says a driver can make around $70,000 a year if they live in a high traffic city such as San Francisco. They also claim that UberX drivers can make about $25 an hour driving in New York City. But ask the drivers directly and you may find widely disparate responses, with some saying that they’ve made $500 in one night to others claiming they can pull in about $20-30 an hour, on average. Those numbers are not consistent, of course, they can fluctuate based on peak or off-peak hours and surge rates being implemented temporarily during periods of high demand.

But there have been an increasing number of drivers who complain that they are barely bringing in minimum wage once they factor in all the costs that come with driving for the company such as gas and maintenance. That’s why you can sometimes find more people choosing to drive with Uber and Lyft at the same time and limiting their activity to part time work, mainly on the weekends, often for a little extra income “on the side”. Choosing Uber as a full time gig may require you to drive for far longer hours than you may expect if you want to pull down a serious income with any real consistency.

Much like it is with passengers paying for their rides, drivers are not paid in cash after they have put in a pay period’s worth of work. The company only deals with direct deposit, keeping everything digital, there isn’t even a need to hand in an invoice or a weekly ride report. Uber’s computer system tracks all rides and collects the information throughout the week. Drivers are then paid at the end of each week based on what they made from picking up customers. So the weekly payment schedule is a definite plus.

Our Final Thoughts

The popularity of Uber is likely to continue growing as the company branches out to new countries and cities on a regular basis. With greater acceptance and usage all over the world, more riders will undoubtedly continue to forsake a traditional call to a taxi company in favor of requesting an Uber.

So the opportunities to work for them will increase as well. This type of work may not be for everyone, but for those of you who relish the idea of driving strangers around town and making some decent money doing so, then check out their website and start the application process. It’s easy work to do and you will meet all kinds of new and interesting people each day and night.

The flexibility is also a big bonus because it allows for individuals with other employment or commitments to earn some additional income on their own time. Just be sure you can pass the background check and if your driving record is spotless then you’ll have no problem getting accepted by Uber. Good luck and happy motoring!

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