Why Driving for a Car Service Is a Great Side Gig

Jul 1, 2017

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Uber’s been in the news a lot lately, but it seems like for all the wrong reasons. Internal scandals and lawsuits have plagued the company, and it all came to a head when Uber’s CEO resigned from the company.

But when it comes to driving for Uber, we’ve noticed all of this turmoil has had little effect on riders and drivers. While I definitely get more questions from riders — who ask things like “What do you think about Uber’s (former) CEO?” — ride bookings on Uber actually grew 8.7% to $7.5 billion last quarter. And typically things heat up in the summer with lots of travelers ordering rides. So bad press aside, it would seem like now is as good a time as any to get started as a driver.

Driving is the Most Flexible Job in the World

If you’ve been thinking about driving for a service like Uber, know that one of the lesser-known benefits of the gig is the flexibility. I like to call it the most flexible job in the world, since there are no minimum hours you need to work and you can literally log on whenever and wherever you want. This is one of my favorite parts of driving for Uber since I like to put in some extra hours right before I go on a trip. It’s always nice to have extra spending money when you’re traveling, which I’ll then spend on food!

You’ll Become a Business Owner

For busy travelers, this may be the perfect side hustle, since the requirements are pretty basic and you’ll instantly become a business owner. Uber and Lyft drivers are paid as independent contractors for ride-share services, meaning you’ll get a 1099 at the end of the year and you can use your newfound business income to apply for a business credit card and rack up those points.

A Driver’s Requirements

Sometimes I like to joke that if you have a pulse and can pass a background check, you can drive for Uber. But in reality, the application process has a little more to it. There are no costs or fees, but you do have to apply online and go through a standard online background check. From there, you’ll need a smartphone and an eligible vehicle — any smartphone will do, but since you often run multiple apps at once (Uber, Lyft, GPS/Navigation, etc), having the latest generation is a good idea. Some cities have special Uber requirements, but for the most part, you can drive for Uber with a 2002 or newer vehicle in cities like Los Angeles, San Francisco and Chicago that is in good running condition. This means no large dents, damage or chipped paint.

How Much Do Drivers Make?

If you’re wondering how much you can get make as an Uber driver, you’re not alone. Pay for drivers can vary, but I’ve found the average driver makes around $16-$18 per hour before expenses. But there’s a lot of variation depending on when and where you drive. Big cities like San Francisco tend to be busier and more profitable than smaller markets, with the average driver reporting earnings of $23 per hour. And if you don’t mind driving the “party hours” on Friday and Saturday nights, you can take advantage of Uber’s surge pricing, which will give your earnings a huge boost. All those 3x surge rides that you hate as a passenger are great for drivers, since they make 3x as much!

Downside Alert: You’ll Have to Cover Expenses

The one downside that you need to be aware of is that Uber drivers are responsible for all of their expenses. So although you can use a four-door gas-guzzling SUV to drive for Uber, you’ll want something that’s more efficient in order to maximize your net income. Believe it or not, you will put a lot of miles on your car (full-time drivers easily do 1,000 miles a week) so a hybrid vehicle is a popular choice.

5-Star Driver Ratings

Driving isn’t rocket science, but it is a little harder than it looks. Since you’re rated by passengers at the end of every trip, it’s important you provide great customer service. Most people don’t know this, but drivers actually have to maintain a 4.6 rating in order to stay active on the platform. You get some leniency during your first 100 rides, but if you focus on safe driving and navigation, you should be able to stay above the cutoff. Most riders who leave low ratings say it’s due to these two issues, so practice your GPS driving, make sure you know where the top landmarks in your city are, and have a good sense of direction.

Related Post: How to check your Uber passenger rating

Fringe Benefits

I know of drivers who have leveraged their side gig of driving into networking opportunities, new jobs and even significant others. While most of us do it for the pay and flexibility, there are still plenty of hidden benefits you can take advantage of. Sometimes it’s just an interesting conversation or getting someone home safely, but the fringe benefits are why many retirees enjoy driving for Uber and other ride-share services.

So if you’ve been thinking about driving on the side, I’d say give it a shot. The barrier to entry is low, and if you’re only looking to do it part time, the flexibility is unmatched. Travel can make it tough to have a side hustle, but driving for Uber can be profitable, flexible and more!

Harry Campbell is a former Boeing aerospace engineer and founder of TheRideshareGuy.com, a blog for rideshare drivers.  Harry has been driving for Uber and Lyft since 2014 and his site reaches hundreds of thousands of drivers every month.

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