Fulltime Uber/Lyft Driver
Hey everyone! I want to first start off by thanking Nate for having me here at EntreResource.com!
Nate asked me to write about my experiences with the rideshare platforms Uber and Lyft.
I live in Columbus, Ohio. I currently drive full time, and I am developing blog and video content which go into greater details about my experiences, CRAZIEST rides, problems I have encountered, and exploration of topics to outfit your vehicle and maximize your profits.
This will be an introduction to how I got started with rideshare and my experiences with the platforms, what you can expect if you become a driver, tips to get up and running as fast as possible, and which platform I prefer for newcomers.
How I Got Involved with Rideshare
I got started the way that most people do, just driving part time. I am a major night owl. I needed a little extra money. I always loved the show Taxicab Confessions. And driving late night bar crowds for some extra cash seemed like a fun way to make some extra cash.
I started driving just Friday and Saturday nights. I would start around 9pm-10pm, and stay out until about 3am after the bars closed and everyone got home for the night.
I eventually started driving more and more hours and made the switch to driving full time. I really value the freedom and flexibility I have. I literally can drive anywhere in the State (depending on the platform). I can make all my own hours. I meet lots of fun, interesting people, and it gets me out of the house every day. I love it.
Whether it is a part time gig for extra money, or you are considering a career move to be a driver full time, this experience is incredibly fun and rewarding for me.
What to Expect When Becoming a Driver
A big question people have is about the income possibilities. There are plenty of guys out there who will tout rideshare as this endless pool of money.
I have always considered myself a severe realist and hate being oversold for anything I invest my time and money into.
Both Uber and Lyft provide you details each week of how long you were logged in, how many total rides you did, and your earnings. Using these numbers, I was able to calculate the weekly hourly payment for each week.
My least profitable week I averaged just under $17 an hour, and my highest week averaged about $25 an hour. That being said, I have also had special days such as Halloween, Buckeye home games, etc, where I have made $30-$35 an hour, and New Year’s I averaged out for $42 an hour! Those amounts are not exceptionally common, but if you’re smart about when you drive, you can really maximize your profits with limited wear and tear on your vehicle.
It is definitely possible to make $50k a year driving. I can do $1000 a week full time, which is about 45 hours a week. Not rich by any means, but certainly comfortable.
I would not recommend driving full time to support a family, but for some extra money on the side, or as someone without kids, it is fantastic.
Safety As a Rideshare Driver
One of the biggest fears people have is about the safety aspects of being a driver and picking up strangers. I find this is especially a concern with potential female drivers. So let's talk about some of the safety features that Uber and Lyft integrate into the platform as well as steps you can take to increase your safety.
Both Uber and Lyft offer a feature to have police dispatched to your location immediately in the event of an emergency. On the Uber platform, this is accessed by clicking the black and white shield in the bottom of the driver screen
And on Lyft, the emergency dispatch is accessed by expanding a menu in the upper right hand side of the driver app and pressing the only available option, which is for emergency assistance
Uber also has a feature available for both passengers and drivers where your location can be shared with someone. This is especially helpful, so a friend or spouse can check on you during your shift. For passengers, you can use it to make sure a friend riding by themselves got home safely.
Both Uber and Lyft prohibit the carrying of firearms. This applies to both passengers and drivers. Lyft also indicates that their policy MAY apply to other types of weapons such as stun guns, knives, and tasers. Lyft reserves sole judgement as to what may be classified as a weapon and urges users to contact them with questions.
Neither platform bans pepper spray explicitly, but this could very easily be considered a type of weapon. My opinion is that pepper spray is not going to be a safe option inside a closed vehicle. The vapors will quickly fill the cabin of the vehicle, and it will get in your eyes and lungs. IF you decide to carry a variant of pepper spray, I would suggest pepper gel. It has similar effects to spray, but it is more like a small super soaker. The burning agent comes out as a gel, which can be aimed at the eyes and mouth of an attacker. If using inside the vehicle, I would still get out as soon as you can, as there will still be some vapors from the gel, which can have an effect on you.
If you still are concerned, there are some steps you can take to protect yourself even further.
- Drive limited hours like morning rush hour, evening rush hour, or during daylight. Far less crimes occur in daytime
- Decline calls in sketchy areas. When a call is offered to you, it will tell you where the customer is located. If a customer is in a super crime ridden area, decline it. Just note that each platform requires your acceptance rate to be a certain percentage; otherwise you may be deactivated
- Set yourself to no new calls if a customer drops in an unsafe location. Calls are dispatched to you if you are the closest available driver. You may pick up a passenger in a nice bougie part of town, and they may be going somewhere super sketch. You can’t see the destination until you pick them up. This is done so that drivers don’t deny the short calls. If you see the passenger is going to an area that makes you feel unsafe, set yourself to no new calls and as soon as you drop that passenger off; you will be logged out
- Monitor the locks on your door. My car has a feature where the doors automatically lock if I am driving. Likewise, they automatically unlock when I shift to park. Check your vehicle owner manual to see if this is something that can be enabled, and if not, get in the habit of locking your doors yourself
All that being said, I feel very safe as a driver. This could be because I am a man, but I have never had an experience that made me feel unsafe caused by a passenger. The only time things have gotten dicey have been when other drivers on the road catch a little bit of road rage. In those few cases, I have been able to de-escalate or drive away before anything serious happened to me or my passengers.
If you still think this may be a good fit for you, then let’s move on.
Where do I Start?
Full disclosure, I do get a bonus for each new driver that signs up using my referral codes. If you find the information helpful, I would really appreciate the use of my link.
With that in mind, I will honestly say that not using a referral code to sign up is CRAZY! It is the number one area where I see drivers leave money on the table.
Looking back, it was honestly one of my biggest regrets in getting started because I missed out on HUNDREDS of bonus dollars by not using an existing driver’s code.
By using my referral codes to sign up and become a driver, you get financial bonuses for completing a certain number of rides in a specified time. The bonuses will vary based on your city and certain promotions being offered at the time you click.
I personally recommend starting with Uber. The app interface is, in my opinion, more user friendly and simple, and the bonuses available to new drivers have lower thresholds to meet compared to Lyft.
Once you’ve gotten the hang of using an app while driving, navigating the local streets and common pick up areas of your town, then you can migrate to Lyft and do that exclusively until you max out new driver bonuses.
Once you’ve maxed out and gotten all available bonuses from each app, then you should have the experience necessary to keep both apps open and toggle for maximum opportunities (something which will be explored in future posts).
ESSENTIAL Gear to Start
Going full time, I have all kinds of gear to maximize the experience for my customers. I have handheld vacuums, upholstery cleaners, tire plug kits, and air compressors, so that I don’t have to wait for tow trucks if I break down, etc.
Most of these are just tools to help maintain my car and are not essential for driving success.
There are, however, some tools which are required by the platform and others which are not specifically required, but you are CRAZY if you don’t use
1. Cell Phone Mount
A hands free mount is not only a requirement from both Uber and Lyft, but it may be legally required depending on the city or state you are driving in.
Don’t think you can get around not having one. If you drive without one, the apps WILL know.
My first week of driving I was sent a new driver report card. The report said I was doing good, they weren’t sensing any rapid acceleration or braking, or any other adverse issues, BUT, they said they could tell that I wasn’t using a mount.
The apps are incredibly sensitive, and they measure the gyroscopic tilt of your phone, so they can tell if you are picking it up and putting it in your lap throughout the day.
Additionally, passengers may report that they feel unsafe; and you 100% are able to focus more on driving with your hands free.
I personally like the vent mounted options. There are mounts that stick on your windshield and dashboard, but I don’t care for them. My windshield visibility is already minimized from the trade dress stickers in the window, so the windshield mount is a no go. And the dashboard is taken up by my Lyft speaker box. Adding a mount up there just looks cluttered and messy to me.
This is the mount that I use, and I have had a lot of success with it
P.S. For those wondering about the Lyft speaker box for the dash and why not all drivers have them, you only get it if you complete a certain number of rides. So if your driver has it, they have likely been a driver for a while
2. Phone Chargers
I personally own a Google Pixel XL. I use a USB-C cable to charge. AT MINIMUM, you need a car charger for yourself. Keeping your screen on using maps and such will drain your battery super-fast, and you need to stay juiced up to stay running.
I would also very strongly recommend that you carry charges for multiple types of phones. Iphones are by far the most common, and Android has the USB micro and USB-C outlets.
To be safe, I keep the USB-C for myself (and unplug to let my customer use it if they need), 2 Apple chargers in case multiple passengers need to charge Iphones, and a USB micro cable. I generally get the 6 foot lengths, so that customers in the back seat have plenty of line to work with.
I keep all 4 plugged in at a time and run them through a 4 way outlet. I fish the cables through my center console, so that when they are not in use they are retracted and out of the way improving the appearance of the car. Hard to describe in writing, but I plan on making videos showing the set up of my car, and I will show it off at that point.
As far as the cables, I like the braided ones. They are solid and have yet to cause me any trouble. The Amazon Basics brand is great
3. Unlimited Data
Most of us probably have unlimited data these days. But in case you don’t, I’d definitely suggest changing your plan.
You are burning data on navigation, mileage tracking apps, calling customers using data if you are so inclined, running a music app (Pandora, Spotify, AmazonMusic, etc), so your data will get maxed fast.
I would also suggest getting a plan through a major national carrier, so that you don’t have to deal with throttling speeds or anything like that.
Uber currently offers affiliate discounts with Sprint, AT&T, and Verizon. Lyft does not currently offer discounts, but this is always subject to change
4. Car Deodorizers and Air Fresheners
If you drive for long periods of time, your car will eventually pick up a musk. You also have passengers getting in and out all day with different perfumes and colognes, cigarette smoke on their clothes, people dropping an occasional piece of food, etc.
The most effective measures to keep your car smelling fresh are honestly a good thorough vacuuming and occasional cleaning of the upholstery.
But you can stretch out the frequency of the deep cleans if you invest in a couple things.
This is honestly one of those items I bought just because I was curious and it was a low investment. But I am always shocked coming out to the car in the morning and smelling nothing as weird as that sounds. It is much better to have your car smell clean and free of anything offensive than to smell bad.
I keep this in the water bottle holder area on my passenger side door. Once a month I take it out and leave it on my dashboard to “recharge” in the sunlight, and it is great.
When I need to cover up someone’s bad cologne, cigarettes on their clothes, or just to freshen up the car a bit, I use Ozium Spray.
A single 8 oz can lasts about 4 months. I use 1-2 real quick sprays since it is so concentrated, and it freshens up the whole car. I like the original scent personally. It kind of reminds me of Spree candies or yellow Skittles. The scent is not overpowering or obnoxious, and just doing a real quick spray will keep it from being overwhelmingly strong like a mirror hanging air freshener might be.
5. Mileage Tracking App
If you drive for Uber or Lyft, you are an independent contractor. This means that you get to deduct business related expenses from your taxable income. As you first get started, the only real expense you will have to deduct is your mileage. As time goes on you will add up the costs of new charges, car cleaning equipment, candy, and amenities for your passengers, etc. But your mileage is likely going to be your biggest expense.
There are several apps out there which perform very similar functions. Some of the most popular ones are Stride, MileIQ, Everlance, and Quickbooks Self Employed. My two favorites are Everlance and Quickbooks.
All of these apps give you the ability to classify trips for business, personal, charity, etc.
I suggest no matter which one you go with that you disable any sort of automatic trip detection. Just make it part of the beginning and end of your rides for the day to start and end tracking. If you allow them to track every single movement, they will detect when you go for your morning jog, or a quick run to the store, and it gets messier to track your trips as business related.
Regardless of the app you choose, you will want to occasionally check the mileage on the app to your odometer. None of these apps are 100% accurate.
Signing Up, Background Check, Platform Requirements
Getting started as a driver on each platform is a fairly easy and straightforward process. Sign up using the links below, and they will guide you through the application for each platform.
In general, drivers need to be at least 21 years old, have clean motor vehicle reports, no major violations (DUI, driving on suspended license, etc), carry sufficient insurance as required by your State, and have a 4 door car within specified age limits (generally 10 years or less, but you can also use older junk cars for UberEats, Door Dash, etc). No sports cars, smart cars, etc.
You will also be required to pass a background check to make certain you are not a criminal. There are certain types of crimes which will be automatic denials or removals from the platform, such as murder, sexual assault….these seem pretty obvious.
Other types of crimes restrict you from joining the platform until a certain amount of time has passed from your conviction. These vary based on the State, the platform, and the crime. Check Uber and Lyft directly for the most up to date terms for background checks.
Uber vs. Lyft: Which Platform is Best?
Each platform has their own pros and cons. There are technical preferences which may cause someone to like Uber over Lyft or vice versa. Preferences can also be dependent on the customer base in your particular city.
For example, I drive in Columbus, Ohio. In my experience, I would say Columbus is much more of an Uber town. In an average day, I would say about 60%-65% of my rides are Ubers, but I generally make more per ride on Lyft.
Opinions about the platforms are almost entirely subjective. And the aspects which have a higher degree of objectivity may just be dependent on my particular marketplace
Easier, Simpler App
Better Navigation Tool
Increased Volume of Calls
Surge More Frequently
Can do UberEats on Slow Days
As of January 2019 Available in Entire State of Ohio
Ability to Message Customers in App
Lower Minimum Per Call Rate
Clientele Less Prone to Tipping
In regard to the app, Uber app does certain things like automatically marking me on location and alerting the customer that I am there. There is less involvement that I need to do during the ride.
One of my only issues with the technical aspect of the app is that the app will ask me while I still have a passenger if I want to take another call as soon as I drop my current passenger. I much prefer Lyft’s system where as long I am logged in, calls will keep queueing without me doing anything.
Uber also recently announced that they have expanded coverage to the entire State of Ohio! Woot!
This means on the rare occasions where I get a ride that goes way out of town, I can try to run calls locally. I don’t have to drive all the way back to Columbus to be inside the dispatch area again.
Higher Minimum Call Rates
Partnership with VistaPrint for Cards
Calls Automatically Add to Queue as Long as I am Logged In
Customers Tip More Frequently
Tend to Get Much Longer Rides
More Clunky Maps System
Too Many Taps!
Limited to Major Ohio Cities at This Time
When it comes to tapping on a small screen, it is not something you want to do a lot of while driving. Lyft navigation (which is just integrated with Google Maps), requires the driver to tap when they arrive, tap again to start the trip, tap to end the trip, and then tap to confirm that you wanted to end the trip. And there is additional tapping that is required if customers have added stops to their trips. I just want to focus on driving.
If I was to list out the longest rides I have done, 4 of the top 5 would be from Lyft. I have had a handful of long rides on Uber that go up to 30ish miles, but I have had several Lyft calls go 50, 60, even 70 miles, despite the fact that I have completed FAR more Uber calls than Lyfts. Again, this might just be a central Ohio thing, but it is something to consider.
And I LOVE Lyft partnership with VistaPrint. Both Uber and Lyft offer passenger referrals and driver referrals. However, Lyft gives a cash commision, while Uber gives the driver a $5 credit on their next use of the app as a rider.
The fee earned from Uber and Lyft passengers is $5-$10 each, and that price is dependant on their home city. I.E. if they live in an area that is just starting to grow with ridesharing, they will increase the referral fees you earn from those drivers. Lyft has a partnership with VistaPrint to make AWESOME business cards, which I pass out very frequently. I make about $50 a week in new rider referrals. I have Uber referral cards as well, but they don’t look as stylish, and I would prefer a quick and easy partnership with a company like VistaPrint.
For the ease of use and lower thresholds for new driver bonuses, I suggest starting with Uber and migrating to Lyft after you learn the ropes. Your experiences and details of your city may vary, but that is my suggestion based on nearly 2000 rides.
Referral Info for Drivers and Passengers
If you have never used Uber or Lyft as a passenger, I have promo codes below which will give you $5 off your first ride on each platform. Feel free to spread those around as much as you’d like!
I am also available to answer any questions you may have about this opportunity, and I appreciate again Nate letting me use his platform!
Brad’s Contact Info
Brad is currently in development of the website www.buckeyerideshare.com. He will be posting future blogs there in the future.
You can also reach him at [email protected]
PS: Slightly off topic, but did you know there's a service that can let you facilitate your own Uber type business? Check it out here.