Question: I intend on driving on the weekends. I have a car that meets their standards for my area and I’ve just been notified that I’ve passed their background check. Is it really worth it though?
Driving for Uber, the get-a-ride service that’s giving the traditional taxi industry a run for its money, is probably one of the most popular side hustles in the country. With website jargon like, “Got a car? Turn it into a money machine,” it’s pretty hard to resist the idea of driving your way to a little extra pocket change.
So, to help you decide if joining the world of Uber is worth your while, we went straight to the source for advice: current and former Uber drivers.
“I decided to do Uber because I thought it would be a good break away from sitting in front of a computer all day,” says Peris Meeks, a Los Angeles-based freelance web developer who’s been driving for Uber for about two months. “I also needed an extra form of income, and I thought it would be a good, flexible alternative to a 9-5 (job).”
Flexibility is perhaps one of the biggest draws to becoming an Uber driver. They set their own schedules and put in as many hours as they like. And becoming an Uber driver is relatively easy. Meeks simply signed up online, submitted his license, registration, proof of insurance, and pictures of his license plate, and then arranged to have a free local auto inspection to insure that his car met Uber’s safety requirements.
Heading out for your “shift” simply requires downloading and turning on the app. You’ll get a beep if someone sends a pick-up request in your area, and if you decide to take the fare, then you drive to the rider’s location and give him a lift to his destination.
But the big question is, “How much money am I going to make?” And the answer is, “It depends.” Meeks, who logs a little less than 20 hours behind the wheel every week grosses about $300-$400/week. But once you factor in the cost of gas, the number drops to a net of about $100/week. And while $400 per month is nothing to sneeze at, remember that gas isn’t your only expense.
“You have to factor in the wear and tear on your car, the insurance, and all of the other costs associated with it,” continues Meeks. “And as a non-employee, that may be a big deal.”
Uber drivers are independent contractors, not employees, which means that they’re responsible for keeping their cars in working condition. So, every mile you drive brings you closer to paying for oil changes, tire rotations, and other expenses that can eat into your profits.
The non-employee issue seems to be the primary reason why Uber is best left as a part-time gig rather than a full-time option. “Unless you like driving your car around all day and having to pay for gas and maintenance…stick with part time,” says Tremayne Alston, a web/graphic designer and former Uber driver in the Washington, D.C. area. “Full-time should be very temporary unless you have a vehicle dedicated to just Uber driving.” Alston drove for about eight months between 2014-2015 and made $400-$500/week (again, that’s gross, not net) by driving about 20 hours/week.
One more thing. Unlike taxi services, Uber does not encourage tipping, so don’t go thinking that you’ll be flush with cash at the end of your shift.
For all of the non-employee issues and no-tipping policies, thousands of Uber drivers do make income from it. Alston is even considering getting behind the wheel again soon to earn some extra holiday cash. And remember that if you do decide to drive for Uber and then discover that it’s not the right fit—you can always simply walk away.
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