I started driving for Uber recently when I realized they offer a $100 bonus after 15 trips. I’m now nine trips in and the experience has been mixed. First off, the money is great when you count that bonus. I figure it will take about 5 hours to hit 15 rides and I’ll pull in about $35/hr. Aside from the bonus, I’m at about $15/hr, so it’s hardly worth my time, and that’s not counting wear and tear on the vehicle, etc. When I get lucky and the trip is a bit longer, the money is pretty decent. This next screenshot shows a time when I was on-track to make $18/hr.
I like to turn on the app, aka “Go Online”, on my way to or from work. I drive right past the city center, which is always a hotspot, so it’s not too hard to pick up 5 bucks before and after work. At first, I was morally conflicted about wasting extra time and gas on the road, but then consider that if I don’t pick somebody up, they are likely to take a less-efficient car to their destination. I get about 35 mpg while Uber-ing, so that qualms my concern.
Uber pops up these “hot spots” when rider demand is extra high and you get a “surge multiplier” on your fares. I’ve found this to be pretty gimmicky; the hot spots are only active for like 15 minutes, so by the time you drive to it, they will generally disappear. It definitely doesn’t seem worthwhile to chase the hotspots. In fact, I’ve only hit one so far and it was by completely random chance. I got an extra dollar from it. 🙁
The people have been cool so far and some are really fun to talk to. Others will just ignore you, which is fine. I had an interesting conversation about machine learning, Amazon, and online retailing with a software engineer the other day. There have only been two stressful situations so far:
- I picked up a British man in the center of downtown. There are a lot of one-way streets downtown and I had to circle around the block– I could tell visibly that he was getting ticked off. Plus this was only my third ride, so I was still a little nervous. But, once I finally did get turned in the right direction, he calmed down and it was fine. I still got a 5-star rating and it probably only cost him an extra 20 cents.
- I was nervous when I pulled up to my destination and saw four hefty rednecks waiting for me. We’re talking 4×200+ pounds. They managed to cram in my little sedan but I got a lot of grumbles about how small the car was. I wanted to say something about, “You know they have an Uber XL, right?” But wisely decided that would not help. I ended up with a 5-star rating from them, too, but I don’t want to repeat that experience.
In the end, I don’t think I will continue with Uber after the bonus. I would be more tempted if they made some changes:
- The app should say how many people I’m picking up because I would turn down all trips with 3 or more.
- The app should tell me the rider’s destination early. Since I’m driving N-S along my commute, for example, I don’t want to pick up a rider heading North.
If you are tempted to try Uber for yourself — and I recommend you at least get the $100 bonus — do me a favor and use this link. It will give both of us a referral bonus when you complete 15 rides.
Update from 3 months later
During the past few months, I became one of the highest-rated Uber drivers in the city at 4.92 stars. For me, it was not very difficult to maintain a good rating. I enjoy talking to people, but I keep it professional and let them steer the conversation. I also keep the car clean and just try to be efficient for my riders, in general.
Occassionally I made decent money, and occassionally it was amazing- like when a got a surge ride to the airport, making $56 in 50 minutes. But there have also been many frustrating periods, times when I would make $10/hour. The only viable path I see to really be successful with Uber is to drive during peak hours only, which happens to be around 2am. No thanks for me!
The picture below is from one of those frustrating periods when I turned my app on during a high surge period… and sat there for 10 minutes without any pings. That shouldn’t happen.
I wish I could provide the reader with a long-term average of my earnings per hour, but Uber doesn’t make that easy, as far as I can tell. I would guess I’m averaging about $16/hour. I will now be switching to Lyft to take advantage of their $500 bonus after 40 rides.