Uber is more than just your designated driver who’s always a finger-tap away – it’s also a source of income for hundreds of thousands of people across the U.S.
There were 327,000 active Uber drivers in the U.S. in September 2015, according to a Business Insider article. And I’m going to assume they’re not driving just for fun – they’re trying to steer their bank account in the right direction. Uber helps to make that happen.
Not only can you be your own boss by driving when you want, you can make good money doing it – according to Uber, at least. The Uber site references a national study by TechCrunch, which touts that “drivers on the Uber platform averaged more than $19 an hour in earnings across our top 20 markets.”
Sounds pretty good, but is it too good to be true? Not according to an Uber driver based out of Chicago.
She requested to remain anonymous, so let’s call her Natalie.
Natalie recently moved to Chicago. Her temp job only paid $12 an hour, so she turned to Uber in order to survive big city expenses.
She started off driving about 15 hours per week, which gave her an extra $300. It only took about a month for Natalie to realize that she made almost double driving for Uber than she did at her temp job. She decided to quit the temp job and started driving full time.
After a few months of driving, she’s experienced pros and cons that she shared with us. Here’s what you should keep in mind if you’re thinking about driving for Uber.
She’s able to make $20 – $30 an hour, plus tips – when they happen : “Only Lyft allows for tips to be added to a ride. However, I never pass on a cash tip if a passenger offers one. They range from $1 to $20, depending on the passenger. And they’re mostly from older couples who grew up tipping everybody.”
Incentives (Even more money)
Uber offers surge pricing and incentives so that drivers can earn bonus cash. For one incentive, Natalie earned an extra $300 for completing 35 rides in three days, but the incentives can change and also vary driver to driver: “Every driver is different. One guy told me his incentives are for 35 trips whereas mine are at 55. It used to be 35, but I have no idea how ir why they change it. I have one of the highest ratings in the city, too.”
Drive When You Want
Making her own hours really appeals to Natalie, who’s a working actress. So if she has shows scheduled, it’s easy to work around them: “It does help that I can make my own schedule, but to make money my hours are all over the place. Weekends it’s easier because most of the day and night is busy.”
The (Good) Passengers
Natalie likes being able to help people by getting them around, even more so when she has passengers who are kind: “Awesome passengers make my day. I’ve had people…(who) bought me coffee for waiting for them.”
Vehicle Wear and Tear
The mileage on your car can quickly add up, which means more and more routine maintenance: “I think I’ll have to get an oil change every month. It sucks, so I would not recommend you continue long days of work for more than a year or so. It’s not really a multiple year job/career. But it’s a great way to make some fast cash.”
It’s rare for a day to go by that she isn’t filling up her gas tank – so she tries to be strategic: “ if I drive toward the suburbs I fill my tank there. It’s a lot cheaper.”
The (Bad) Passengers
Rude passengers can take a toll. She’s given out a handful of one-star reviews, and admits that she’s even cried after some exceptionally rude ones. And then there’s the drunk people: “And I have yet to have anyone throw up in my car, but there have been some rides I’ve canceled due to how inebriated someone was, to the point I was outside their apartment and they called where I was, slurring, then literally passed out over the phone.”
Other Things to Keep in Mind
Save for Taxes
You’re literally working for yourself. Driving for Uber means that you’re considered an independent contractor, so you must plan and save for income taxes on your own.
Even though she mainly drives in the city, she likes venturing out to the suburbs where she’s the only driver. Those suburb drives are longer and lead to more money.
As with any job in service industry, you need to be patience because you’ll probably encounter your fair share of pushy – or like mentioned above, drunk – people
If you plan on giving driving for Uber a spin for yourself, Natalie offers a warning: “It’s a lot tougher of a job than people expect.”
But there are plenty of tough jobs out there, and not all of them can offer an upwards of $20+ an hour.
Before you decide on if you want to drive, check out our tips on how to budget with a variable income.
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