In the past decade, ride-sharing services such as Uber and Lyft have exploded in popularity, not only as a mode of transportation but as a way to make money. The premise is simple: drivers use their own cars to pick up passengers, who pay a fare that is often much lower than that of a taxi service. In turn, drivers can usually keep a sizeable chunk of the fare and tips, as well as earn bonuses and incentives.
As with any job, there are important factors to keep in mind when considering whether to become a ride-share driver.
Students, stay-at-home parents, retirees, or just people looking to make some money alongside their regular jobs cite ride-sharing services’ flexibility as the main attraction. Drivers can literally work any time they want, although services set a limit as to how many hours they can drive in a day.
Living in a city or a college town can be lucrative after entertainment venues close late in the evening. Those who live in popular tourist areas will also find lots of business by taking people to attractions or to the airport.
Drivers can get paid through direct deposit every week—both Uber and Lyft pay on Wednesdays, for example—or choose to get immediate payment through a debit card. A small fee of fifty cents is assessed for an instant payment, but if someone needs cash quickly, it’s a good option.
Incentives and bonuses
Sign-on bonuses are routinely offered to new drivers, which often involves completing a certain number of rides by a particular date. When demand is high, drivers get paid a surcharge that may even double their earnings for that ride. Incentives based on the number of trips within a time frame pop up fairly frequently.
Good driver support
Ride-sharing services strive to solve problems quickly, either through email, texts, or phone support. The majority of issues typically can be resolved within a couple of hours and sometimes sooner. Driver apps are easy to navigate and keep track of many things, from fares to total driving time.
Extroverted individuals might find that driving for a ride-share company can be a lot of fun. Drivers will meet people from all walks of life and can have some great conversations with them.
Ride-sharing services require drivers to use relatively late-model four-door vehicles with exteriors in good condition. Drivers also must undergo background checks and provide proof of registration and insurance. If potential drivers run into any difficulties, they will not be allowed to drive until the issues are cleared up.
Drivers are contractors, not employees
Ride-share drivers do not work for the company directly. Therefore, there are no benefits like health insurance and no possibility of advancement. Also, drivers are expected to track their own earnings and pay the necessary taxes on their income; ride-share companies do not deduct these for drivers.
Expenses can be high
Since drivers are contractors working in their own vehicles, that means they are responsible for all costs related to car maintenance. Even a short shift can result in a lot of mileage, and drivers can find themselves needing to have oil changes and tire rotations frequently, which can cut into profits.
Destinations aren’t given until a passenger is in the vehicle
This is one of the largest issues for ride-share drivers. The only alert a driver will get is if a passenger’s destination is more than 45 minutes from the pickup location, but it won’t specify exactly how far. These don’t happen often, but they do happen; drivers need to be prepared for them.
Passengers can be difficult
While the average ride-share passenger is pleasant and happy with the service provided, every ride-share driver has a story about a “bad” passenger, as is the case with anyone who works in the service industry. These experiences may range from general rudeness to damage done to the vehicle and even crime. Such instances can be limited by carefully choosing hours and territories, but anyone driving regularly will have a few less-than-perfect passengers.
Drivers are making less money and under more scrutiny
The media frequently portrays ride-sharing drivers as making a ton of money, and at one time the main ride-share companies were letting drivers keep 70% of their fares. These days, however, it’s closer to 50%. Since so many people want to drive, current drivers can be pulled off the road for low ratings (a 4.5 rating out of 5 is considered questionable) and minor passenger complaints. Bans can be immediate.
Being a ride-share driver can be interesting and profitable, but it does have its challenges. However, those who can handle those challenges, enjoy people, and want to be their own boss may want to consider ride-share driving as an employment option.