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Being a rideshare driver (i.e. driving for Uber or Lyft) is a popular side hustle, and for many reasons. Years ago when I was looking for a way to pay a business debt, I decided to investigate what it took to make money as a rideshare driver. I had a friend who was looking to make extra money and he had gotten on board before me, so thankfully I had someone I could go directly to with any questions I had. I was driving at a time where the guarantees were strong (with Lyft) and I typically made between $200 and $300 for working about 10 hours, which was nice.
I decided to write this Rideshare Drivers Guide to help anyone seeking to get started as a side hustle and for those who are driving but may not be feeling successful. I am thankful to say that my experience has been both positive and profitable. You may find that is not everyone’s experience, and my goal is to help you avoid the mishaps and pitfalls that many new drivers fall into. To give you an example, on the difference in perspective, I am a part of a few rideshare driver groups and routinely hear people complaining about what isn’t working and how slow it is. Just last night some people were lamenting in the group that they “can’t get any rides” while I went out and made $90 in 4 hours. Sometimes experience makes the difference.
I still drive (very part-time) because I truly enjoy it. I enjoy meeting people and learning more about my city. Another thing I enjoy about it as a side hustle is that unlike a job or a business, when I am done, I am done. I don’t owe anyone any follow-ups and I don’t have work leftover to do the next day. I would imagine that is what some people like about doing it full time. I will cover the pros and cons and you can decide whether or not it is something for you, and whether or not it’s something you want to do full time or part-time.
What You Need to Get Started – What makes ridesharing attainable for so many people is that you most likely already have what you need to get the job done.
Here is what you need:
- A Reliable Car. The car needs to have at least 4 doors and the age of the car actually varies by state and by company. For example, here in Arizona, Lyft will allow your car to be as old as 2002, however they don’t offer Power Driver bonuses unless your car is at least a 2011. Now, you are able to rent cars to drive and there are companies out there that will allow you to do this. I don’t recommend it because it obviously cuts into your earnings and the costs are not insignificant. Currently, I am seeing $209 per week listed for a car rental directly from Lyft. You will be required to get an inspection of your car and update that inspection annually. They say it is to make sure the cars are safe, but in my opinion, the inspections are never detailed enough to know if the car is safe. I recall having an inspection where they were more concerned about a paint chip than driving the car or looking at the brakes. Hopefully, things have improved.
- A Smartphone. Rideshare companies run off of smartphone apps, so you need to have a smartphone to run the app required to drive. It’s also helpful to use a smartphone holder so you don’t have to look down at your phone (which is unsafe and could get you negative ratings). Here is the phone holder I recommend; it can hold both Androids and iPhones and you can purchase it on Amazon.
- A Valid Drivers License. No explanation needed. 🙂
- Insurance for Your Car. Rideshare companies will offer insurance, however, the deductibles are VERY high ($1,000 for Uber and $2,500 for Lyft) so you really should consider adding rideshare coverage to your personal insurance policy. Also, please know that you may not be covered in the event of an accident if your insurance company is not aware that you are using your car commercially, so you want to discuss this with your insurance agent before you get started.
- A Background Check. Rideshare companies will do a background check on any driver to make sure they don’t have a criminal record.
If you haven’t yet signed up, I recommend starting with Lyft (you will most likely get a bigger sign on bonus – and the amount varies by city). If Lyft is not in your area, then certainly sign up with Uber. You can use the links below to get a bonus to join either company:
Choosing a Rideshare Company
The two top companies in the market are Lyft and Uber. When I first started, Lyft made it very easy to get started by sending someone to my house to inspect my car, drive around the block with me, and answer any questions. I don’t believe they have this program anymore. Both companies offer video training to help drivers get started, but in the end, there is no training like giving rides. More on this later.
One thing to keep in mind is that as a rideshare driver, you are a business owner, not an employee. I know there has been lots of talk in the news about whether or not rideshare drivers are entitled to benefits and it always baffles me because drivers are not employees.
The most important thing to keep in mind about being self-employed is that you need to keep track of all of your expenses as some of them may be tax deductible. I am not going to attempt to give tax advice, but I will strongly encourage you to speak with an accountant.
A few things to keep track of (not saying that they are deductible):
- Mileage Driven while using the app as a driver
- Refreshments purchased for use in the car
- Car Washes
- Any car repairs
- Smartphone or related equipment
- Dashcam (I recommend the VanTrue N2 Pro which you can get on Amazon)
- Any accessory you purchase exclusively for use as a rideshare driver
Giving Your First Ride
You will most likely be a little nervous for your first ride, or even your first several rides. It can seem intimidating to juggle the app, finding your passengers, and potentially navigating in unfamiliar areas. I recommend just jumping in and get started and you will be a pro before you know it.
- Starting Slow. Some people may find it helpful to start during a slower time of the day. This will help you get used to using the app and just getting your groove as we driver without the pressure of not accepting rides (you will find that not accepting rides can impact your ability to get future rides.) It’s also helpful to start out when it is still daylight outside because it can be hard to see or find people when it is dark outside.
- To Tell or Not to Tell. You may want to let your first passenger or first few passengers know that you are a new driver, but you also may not. I recommend playing it by ear. If you can pull of your first ride without a hitch, then you are better than me. The first night I went out driving, I drove right past the lady who was waiting for me because it was dark out and I could not see her.
Rideshare Driver Success Tips
It takes some time to get in the groove of driving and knowing what to od in order to be successful. I am going to share several tips that I have learned along my journey.
- Have a Clean Car. One of the first impressions you will make is the cleanliness of your car. This is a must and it’s not hard to do. I will typically get a car wash and vacuum my car before I drive. One other point here… don’t overdo it with the air fresheners (or perfumes and colognes). Not everyone will like what you like in terms of scent and you can end up getting a negative review if you are choking out your passenger with strong scents.
- Reset Your Phone. Your smartphone will get a workout, so I like to power mine off and turn it back on to reset it. Many drivers report glitches during their rides which happens because technology is imperfect. I find that resetting your phone before you start a driving shift can help minimize those glitches.
- Gas Up! I recommend starting your driving shift with a full tank of gas. You never know where your rides will take you and you don’t want to have to stop for gas in the middle of a long ride.
- Dress for Success. You don’t need to wear a suit or a dress to drive, and in fact, it may seem odd. I do recommend looking professional, however. I typically wear a shirt with a collar and usually jeans. Because I live in Arizona (and no one would typically see my feet) I do wear sandals for comfort. I believe that the more professional you look, the more respect you will get and this is true regardless of what line of work you are in.
- Keep it Positive. Mindset has so much to do with success. I always start my evening by expecting that it is going to be good. I will confess that life isn’t perfect so I don’t always have a “perfect” night. I literally say out loud “this is going to be a great night… I am going to have fun, meet some fun people, and make some money.” You can develop your own saying, but I do encourage you to plant seeds of positivity before you start your driving shift.
- Learn The Best Times to Drive. AM and PM rush hour can be good times to drive. Weekend evenings are typically good, and if you can work the late night hours (i.e. 10pm – 3am) you will get lots of rides from people who have been out for the night and don’t want to drink and drive. Just be prepared for the super drunk passengers (more on that later).
Giving 5 Star Service
If you aren’t aware, passengers have the option of rating drivers at the end of a ride. You want to earn and maintain as close to a 5 star rating as you can because low ratings are typically evidence of poor experiences and can lead to being deactivated. Here are some tips for giving 5 Star Service, which can lead to ($$) tips from your passengers.
- Finding Your Passengers. Often it can be a challenge to identify your passengers, especially at a big event where multiple people are waiting on ride shares. It can make things worse if it’s at night as it’s just harder to see people at night. Don’t ever hesitate to call your passenger, to let them know you are there or are having trouble finding them. And when they do arrive, always ask their name to confirm that they are your passenger and not someone else’s.
- Giving a Smooth Ride. Always do your best to give the smoothest ride as possible. Simply put, don’t speed or take risks because you could end up in an accident or at a minimum with negative ratings.
- Making Conversation. Some people won’t want to talk but many will engage in conversation. Some may start it and with others, you might start by asking a simple question such as “how is your day/night going so far?” If you are giving an airport ride, you can always ask about their trip, whether they are coming or going.
- Music. It’s always best to ask your passengers if they would like music, or if you are playing music, ask them if they have a music preference. Some people may ask to plug their phone into your aux cable to play music from their phone. Many drivers carry these, but it’s a personal choice as to whether or not you want to allow someone to connect to your car’s system.
- Checking for Stuff Left Behind. So this is a big one that can save you lots of time and headaches. ALWAYS turn around and check the backseat for stuff left behind, especially cell phones. I have rescued a few phones this way. If you leave with someone’s phone you now have to either go back to where they are and find them or take it to a driver hub to turn it in.
Rideshare Driver Safety Tips
No matter what we do, we always want to be safe and driving is no different.
- Driving Late. If you drive late at night, just remember that there are more people who have been drinking on the road. Also, things are a bit harder to see at night, so always be alert.
- Driving Tired. It is never worth it to drive tired. There are enough risks in driving, and being tired means you will be that much less prepared to react to a situation that is out of the norm.
- Not Giving Out Too Much Info. Some drivers use driving as an opportunity to market their other business interests and will give out business cards and other contact info. I am one for privacy, so I don’t share any personal info in terms of where I work, and that is a personal preference. I recommend deciding what is comfortable to you and sticking to it.
The Dark Side of Driving for Lyft or Uber
I don’t want to scare anyone, but the reality is that you may encounter situations that you are not comfortable with. I recommend reporting all of them to the company so they can deal with the passenger (some with ban temporarily and can ban them permanently depending on the infraction).
- Drunk Passengers. This is bound to happen if you drive at night. We are there to make sure people get home safely, but that does not mean that we have to take verbal abuse or deal with someone messing up your car.If someone leaves bodily fluid in your car, the company will pay you to have it cleaned. Many drivers choose to clean their own car and pocket the cleaning fee. It is totally up to you. Just be prepared by having the items I suggested above with you.
- Getting in an Accident. More driving means a higher likelihood of having an accident (just based on statistics). I recommended having rideshare coverage because the deductibles are pretty high is using Lyft or Uber’s insurance ($2,500 and $1,000 respectively). It’s also why I don’t recommend driving while you are tired, just to make a few bucks.
Stuff You Will Want to Carry With You
There are a few items you will want to have with you, for your personal comfort. They include:
- Hand sanitizer
Driving can get messy, especially if you work the late night hour and pick up folks that have been drinking. You will want to have the following to deal with those issues:
- Carsick bags (These are the ones I recommend; they work great and you can get them on Amazon)
- Paper towels
- Grocery bags
Things to Avoid as a Lyft or Uber Driver
As a Lyft or Uber driver, there are some things you definitely want to avoid.
- Accepting Cash Rides. You may get offers for this, but keep in mind, it is against the rules and can get you deactivated. More so, if you are not in a ride, you are not protected by the company’s insurance, and from a safety standpoint, they won’t know where you are, who picked you up, or where you were headed.
- Picking Up Minors. Just don’t do it. Some people may look young, so it’s hard to judge in some cases, but if it is clear that someone has called a car for a kid, turn the ride down as it is against the rules.
- Not Using a Car Seat for Babies. Parents with children will need to bring their own car seats and if they do not have them DO NOT let them in your car. There is never a need to break the law or jeopardize the life of a child. The parent cannot authorize you to do this or demand that you do it.
- Anything Inappropriate. Use common sense. If you are single, I don’t recommend flirting with or dating passengers, and of course, never touch anyone, regardless of “how innocent” as it is violating that person’s space. It’s a good idea to use a dash cam to avoid any false allegations of such.
- Drinking / Drug Use. Do I really need to tell you this? 🙂
Have You Applied to Be a Driver Yet?
If you haven’t yet signed up, I recommend starting with Lyft. If Lyft is not in your area, then certainly sign up with Uber. You can use the links below to get a bonus to join either company:
Rideshare Driver Pro Tips
Using Destination Mode – This is a feature that both companies (Lyft and Uber) have and it allows you to set a location that you are headed towards. This is helpful if you are close to ending your driving shift and want to head towards home rather than away from home. Another way I have used this is if I am out and heading home and just want to see if I can get someone heading my way (this is my frugal hack to help pay for gas). In an age of data sharing, I usually enter a location close to my home instead of my home address.
Resist the Urge to Chase the Surge – “Surge” or “Prime Time” is the time when your rates will increase for areas where more drivers are needed. Human nature might encourage you to drive to that surge area, but it is likely that by the time you get there, it will be over and you may have missed out on other good rides. You will learn where and when the surge is in your area and you can plan on being there. You will see in this screenshot, that the rates can go as high as 500% of standard rates. This happens very frequently on holidays and especially on New Year’s Eve.
Let’s Stay in Touch!
I’d love to hear your success stories as you embark on your rideshare journey.
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