Are you thinking about working as an Uber driver? Uber has become one of the most well-established side hustle platforms since it launched in 2009. Driving for Uber is a flexible way to make extra money, but you still might wonder if Uber is worth it for drivers.
We’re helping to answer that question by outlining nine things every Uber driver needs to know. You’re going to learn how Uber works, how Uber is handling rising fuel costs, about driver pay, tips for success, and more.
1. What it’s like to drive for Uber
Uber connects drivers with passengers who need rides, and passengers order rides and pay through the Uber app. Uber’s driver-partners are paid based on the length (including time and distance) of each ride.
What many drivers like about Uber is that you’re in control of your schedule. You can drive when you want and for how long you want. That means you can drive when you have an extra hour or an extra six hours.
Here’s how Uber works when you’re on and the driver mode is activated:
- Uber matches you with nearby passengers, and it's typically whichever driver is closest is who gets the ride. You don’t get much information about the fare, but you can accept or decline any passenger requests.
- Once you accept a ride, the Uber driver app will give you turn-by-turn directions to pick up the customer and then navigate to get them to their destination.
- Customers pay and tip through the app, and you keep 100% of your tips.
Uber pays its drivers weekly, but you can also use Instant Pay to cash out up to 5x per day. It costs $0.50 for each Instant Pay, but it’s free if you sign up for the Uber Debit Card from GoBank — this is free for Uber drivers.
2. How much do Uber drivers make?
It’s impossible to tell how much drivers make, and driver reviews vary wildly when it comes to pay. Some say drivers earn $8-$10/hour, and others say it’s more like $11-$15.
Because pay varies so much based on demand, location, season, and what’s happening in the world, let’s break down Uber driver pay to give you a better understanding of why it varies so much.
First of all, Uber drivers don’t earn a flat hourly rate. Uber pays drivers per ride, and here’s how Uber says it calculates driver earnings:
- Standard trip fare: This is a base fare plus amounts for how long and how far you drive. The per-minute and per-mile rates vary by city.
- Surge: Surge pricing is when ride demand is high, and you will see surge pricing show up in the driver app like a heat map. The redder the color, the higher the driver pay. Surge prices are calculated as a multiplier to standard rates, an additional surge amount, or an upfront fare. It depends on the city you’re driving in.
- Other types of earnings: Uber says you can earn by additional passenger pickups on Pool, while waiting for riders, or minimums on shorter trips.
- Service fee: Uber takes a service fee of 25% from every ride. This fee covers the use of the driver app, collection and transfer of fares, credit card commissions, and distribution of invoices to clients.
- Booking fee: Riders pay this fee to help cover safety, regulatory, and operational costs.
- Cancellations: Having a passenger cancel at the last minute is a bummer, and Uber will pay you a cancellation fee in most cases.
Uber offers driver promotions when you complete a certain number of trips. For example, you might get paid an extra $30 for completing 20 trips in a week. There are also bonuses for driving during busy times.
To get an idea of what you can expect to earn, Uber tells you how much you can expect to make for your first 200 trips. It’s not a guarantee, but Uber will pay you the difference if you earn less than estimated.
I ran the numbers on a few cities in the U.S., and here’s the expected driver pay is on the first 200 trips (this is based on the time of writing and will vary over time):
- $1,700 in Houston, TX
- $2,480 in St. Louis, MO
- $2,220 in Nashville, TN
- $1,860 in Newark, NJ
3. Driver expenses
To understand what you’ll be earning and whether or not driving for Uber is worth it, there are some costs you’ll need to factor into your earnings. You’ll see these expenses across the board for Uber, Lyft, and on-demand food delivery services like DoorDash and Instacart.
Here are the expenses you’ll need to consider as a rideshare driver:
- Wear and tear: You’re going to be using your car a whole lot more than normal. You can expect to do more frequent oil changes, brake pad changes, etc.
- Rideshare insurance: This special policy covers any gaps in coverage between your personal policy and the policy Uber uses to cover its drivers. Rideshare insurance is typically around $15/month or more.
- Fuel: Does Uber pay for gas? No, they don’t. However, Uber has started charging riders a fuel surcharge of $0.45 to $0.55 to help drivers cover rising fuel costs.
- Cleaning supplies: Every successful Uber driver will cite a clean car as one of the keys to their success. This isn’t a major expense, but it’s worth noting.
- Taxes: Rideshare drivers are considered independent contractors and are responsible for paying self-employment taxes, which is approximately 15%.
The good news is that your expenses can be deducted at tax time, which is why Uber drivers should keep good track of their expenses.
I highly recommend Everlance for automatically tracking your mileage and expenses. It keeps track of everything for you, and you can run a report at tax time to make sure you’re taking the most accurate deductions.
4. Is it safe to be an Uber driver?
The unfortunate reality is that there have been serious attacks on Uber drivers in the past, but that’s a reality for many kinds of workers. Uber is committed to safety, and they offer drivers safety features like:
- 2-way ratings so you can check on passengers before accepting a fare
- Phone anonymization so no one ever has your phone number
- Emergency assistance button
Uber drivers also aren’t paid in cash, meaning the threat of robbery is minimal.
Seasoned Uber drivers recommend installing a dashcam if you’re concerned about safety. Uber does not mind if its drivers have them, and it’s a good way to keep people on their best behavior. Here’s a good security dash camera if you’re interested.
Uber’s driver policy also states that drivers may carry non-lethal stun guns and pepper spray, as long as they are legal in your state.
Is Uber driving worth it from a safety standpoint? That’s up to you. Like I’ve said, Uber has safety features and encourages drivers to protect themselves with dashcams. There are plenty of other great side hustles for anyone who has serious safety concerns when it comes to driving for Uber..
5. How to make the most of your time
There are a few rules you’ll hear from veteran Uber drivers about the best ways to use your time. They are:
Rule 1: Don’t drive around looking for rides — let the rides come to you
You will burn through fuel driving around looking for rides, so it’s better to position yourself where people will come to you (or, at least close to you). You’ll learn where the most fares are coming from the longer you’re working for Uber.
But think about what major events are happening in your area, where the restaurants and bars are, and so on.
Rule 2: The airport queue isn’t usually worth it
While the airport is typically a great place to find rides, it’s not always worth it to wait around for passengers. Fares from the airport are generally higher overall, but you can spend a lot of time waiting. Plus, some airports have specific and confusing rules about where Uber drivers can wait.
Rule 3: Make the most of your drive home
One of the best tips I’ve heard from Uber drivers is to use your drive home to pick up a fare. You can use “Destination Mode” in the Uber driver app to see which passengers are headed in the same direction you are.
If you have a long drive home, you can use the last few miles off the highway on the main road to find rides. They might not always lead on your exact path home, but they can get close.
You can use the same strategy throughout the week when you’re on your way home from your day job, if you find yourself with extra time between appointments, and so on.
Rule 4: Avoid traffic
Uber’s dynamic pricing model charges riders based on a number of variables, including time and distance. However, it doesn’t do a great job of accounting for traffic. Sitting in traffic also leads to higher driver expenses, like fuel costs and vehicle maintenance.
Traffic isn’t 100% avoidable, but if you drive just before or after rush hour, you can catch some fares while avoiding gridlock. Also, make a mental note of whenever you see signs about upcoming roadwork. If you know your normal route is going to see 3 weeks of construction, try another route.
For more ways to make money, check out Best Gig Economy Jobs for 2022.
6. The secret to happy customers
Here’s the secret: a clean car, a safe driver, and a phone charger.
Listen, getting in a messy car is gross. So is getting in a smoker's car if you’re not a smoker.
Getting in a car that looks like it recently took a group of preschoolers home from Mcdonald's would be a huge turnoff, and I like kids.
Uber drivers are expected to act like professionals, and that starts with a professional work environment. There should be no visible dirt or stains, no stray pet hairs, and no foul smells. You don’t have to clean your car daily, but keep it tidy. Keeping your car will be an important time investment to getting better tips and maintaining a 5-star rating.
Now, safe driving. It’s obvious but worth stating. Uber drivers are responsible for safely delivering their passengers from point A to point B, and people don’t feel safe with fast stops, running red lights, or cutting people off.
Finally, get yourself an extra-long charging cable and all three major phone adapters. This is a nice touch when someone gets in and realizes their battery is almost dead.
I can’t promise you that these things will lead to good tips 100% of the time, but they will certainly help.
7. It can be a fun and rewarding way to make extra money
Whenever I take an Uber, I ask the Uber driver why they’ve gotten into it, and I typically hear something like “I wanted to make some extra money for [fill in the blank].”
I once talked to a guy who was an immigrant here in the states driving for Uber to help his son pay for med school. The guy was already doing well financially and just wanted to help his son get through school without taking on too much student loan debt. He figured he had the time to drive for Uber, so why not give it a try.
This driver told me that he enjoyed driving and helping his son gave him a tremendous amount of pride.
Another time I talked to a driver who picked up my friends and me after a late night out. She said she started driving for Uber because she liked the idea of helping people get home safely and making extra money at the same time. She also told us some pretty hilarious stories about dealing with late-night riders.
All of that stuff — driving for noble causes, being able to make extra money, and meeting new people — are the kinds of things that make Uber driving worth it for many people.
It’s all about finding a job that fulfills you, and some people find that with Uber.
8. How Uber compares to similar apps
Uber might not be right for everyone, and here is how Uber compares to similar side hustles:
Get paid $10-$15/hour
Get paid $23/hour, national average
Get paid $15-$20/hour while on delivery
Get paid $15-$22/hour
Drivers are required to have a newer model 4-door vehicle
Deliver using any vehicle you want, including a bicycle or motorcycle in some markets
Minimal vehicle requirement for full-service shoppers, but Instacart doesn’t require a vehicle for in-store shoppers
Must have a reliable vehicle model year 1997 or newer
9. Pros and cons of working for Uber
One of the best ways to decide answer the question “Should I drive for Uber?” is to weigh up the benefits and disadvantages, so let’s get into them:
How to start driving for Uber
If you’ve read through everything and have decided Uber is worth it for you, here’s how to get started:
1. Make sure you meet all of the Uber driver requirements
Uber has a few minimum requirements for drivers, which include:
- Meet the minimum age to drive in your city
- Have at least one year of licensed driving experience in the U.S. (3 years if you are under 25)
- Have a valid U.S. driver’s license
- Use an eligible 4-door vehicle
There is a tool on Uber’s site to see if your vehicle is eligible, but the general rule is that it needs to be 15 years old or newer (10 years old or newer in some cities).
If you don’t have an eligible car and still want to start driving for Uber, no problem. Uber has partnered with rental companies to help you find affordable rental vehicles, including Tesla rentals through Hertz. Rental fees will cut into your driver pay, but it’s worth knowing about all of your options.
You can also find a rental through the peer-to-peer rental marketplace HyreCar. These are rentals from private car owners, and you can find options for around $30-$40/day.
2. Sign up to drive for Uber
You can sign up for Uber here, and it takes just a few minutes to get started. Uber will ask you a few questions about yourself and your vehicle.
Uber needs you to provide the following documentation to process your application, and I recommend having it ready to save time. You’ll need:
- Proof of residency in your city, state, or province
- Proof of vehicle insurance if you plan to drive your own car
- A driver profile photo
4. Consent to a driver screening
All Uber drivers must complete a driver screening that reviews their driving record and criminal record. We have an in-depth guide about the Uber and Uber Eats background check if you want to learn more.
That’s it! Uber will review your documents, and you’ll hear back via email once your screening is complete. It can take up to two weeks, especially during busy periods.
The final word: Is Uber driving worth it?
Overall, driving for Uber is still a worthwhile side hustle for many people. You’re not going to get rich driving people around in your spare time, but it’s a flexible way to make extra money.
You’ll want to pay attention to driver expenses, and Uber is now charging passengers a fuel surcharge to help drivers with rising fuel costs. It’s an extra $0.45 or $0.55 on each trip, and 100% of it goes to drivers.
If working as an Uber driver doesn’t sound like it’s worth it for you, I also recommend delivering for DoorDash. The driver requirements are the same, except there aren’t strict vehicle requirements.
And for other high-paying side hustle ideas, check out 40 Best Side Hustles for 2022.
Uber is now available in more than 10,000 cities across the world.
Working as an Uber driver is a relatively easy way to make extra money as long as you can keep your car clean and don’t mind talking with strangers.
Drivers are responsible for many driver expenses, which cut into your pay. These are expenses like fuel, frequent maintenance, and rideshare insurance. Fortunately, you can write off all of these expenses.