Advice from Uber Drivers

rideshare

Do drivers actually make any money through ride hailing applications (apps) like Uber and Lyft?

There’s lots of controversy around the business practices of Uber and Lyft. A lot of our clients do these jobs. Some of us might provide them information about the opportunity. Is it a good income generating option for our clients, though?

Click here for background information and a presentation that Catholic Charities in Arlington, VA shared with us in 2014.

I’ve been taking a lot of Ubers over the past three months since I broke my ankle in March, so I conducted an informal two question survey.

Question One: Are drivers really making any money after expenses and wear and tear on their vehicle?

Close to half of my 20+ drivers were first generation immigrants. Four were refugees or asylees.

Only threee said they kept detailed financial records or had solid information about whether they were actually making money after expenses.  One said he made enough to pay for his weekend motorcycle rides. The second said it paid for itself and he did it to stay connected in retirement. A third said he made money to augment his retirement income, but not enough to support a family.

What I found out isn’t scientific. I formed an opinion, though:

Driving for a ride share app can be a great second job and a way to build U.S. driving experience for a resume. It could also be an effective way to  practice English and customer service skills. Without multiple sources of customers and a chauffeurs license, I’m not convinced that it can generate a full-time living wage. If you do it right, you can make some income.

Question Two: Can you share any insider tips to help refugees around the country succeed in this job?

Some of these could help your clients make the right decision about driving for Uber and help them be more successful if they do.  Here’s what I learned:

 

one star Those 5 star rating emails are important.  If a driver falls below 4.5, they can be penalized or even fired.  Just a couple of 4 star ratings and one 2 or 3 can hurt you.  All of the drivers agree about this and offer different ways they try to get 5 stars every time.

  • Drive safely. If people are scared in your car, you won’t get a good rating.
  • Keep your car clean but don’t use those stinky air fresheners because many people are allergic.
  • Don’t dress like a slob – or like a jerk in a suit. Somewhere in between is the best.
  • Get out of the car to help them open the door or put their bags in the trunk.
  • There is not agreement about offering water, mints or wifi access, About half of the drivers surveyed had something like that in their car.

 

Screen Shot 2016-06-09 at 10.55.52 AMPay attention to surge pricing and traffic patterns. You can make more money if you can drive more often when the rates are high, but they don’t stay high for very long.

  • My favorite driver, Eliades, came to the US from Cuba during the Mariel boat lift in the 80’s.  He doesn’t accept any requests for rides right before the daily afternoon surge so he doesn’t miss the higher rate and says he makes more money that way.
  • Uber has a trip calculator for customers to estimate the cost of the trip.  Three drivers used it to know if they wanted to accept a ride request to a far destination they didn’t know.
  • All of them agree that knowing the best roads to avoid traffic and not get lost is important.
  • There was no agreement about driving during rush hour or avoiding it.

 

Prfuel_meter_2006ofessional drivers know how to conserve fuel and be kind to their vehicle.  Several of the drivers I questioned had professional chauffeur licenses. That gave them a certain bias, but some of their advice made sense.

  • Don’t ever drive over the speed limit.
  • Don’t slam on the breaks when someone stops in front of you.  Slow down slowly.
  • Don’t gun the engine to get ahead when the light turns green.
  • Don’t keep a lot of extra junk in the trunk of your car  Extra weight burns more gas.
  • When you’re waiting for a customer (idling) for more than 5 minutes, turn off the engine.
  • Keep your tires fully inflated and keep your car well maintained.

 

 

customerserviceCustomer service is the most important thing.  Everyone I asked agreed on this but it was the hardest to explain.  You have to like meeting lots of people.  If you don’t, you probably won’t be an Uber driver very long.

  • Always be polite and friendly.
  • Don’t make or accept cell phone calls while you are driving someone.
  • Don’t ever get mad or take their behavior personally.  Just think about the 5 stars.
  • You have to be able to read their mood quickly and adjust your behavior to match it.  If they don’t want to talk, don’t do it.  If they don’t like your music, change it. If they’re cold or hot, change the temperature in the car.

 

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Comments

  1. This was helpful. However, I am finding that refugees do not understand contract work and at the end of the year are being hit with enormous tax bills. please include a warning about this next time. I am afraid to send this publication out to our East Bay Refugee Forum list serve without that important information included. Thanks for all the other great publications.

    • Lorel Donaghey says:

      Thanks for keeping us honest, Blythe. (and for reading!) The tax issue was mentioned a couple of times, but I couldn’t figure out how to write it up so it was valuable information but not too prescriptive since every situation is different in the end. I’ll circle back and, perhaps, edit the post so you can send it out. Would you take a look to be sure the addition/correction is accurate when I have it ready?

      Lorel for Higher

  2. Way to go Lorel. This is a very helpful post. I have a colleague who’s thinking about joining a lot of Uber drivers now and asking me some tips and advice as an Uber driver. I told him what I know according to my experience but I guess I missed some points and this post is just the perfect stuff for him to read. Thak you so much for sharing!

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