You may be struggling for work or sick of your current job, and driving full-time for Uber looks like a good option. I've been there.
I was a full-time driver for Uber in Edmonton, Alberta (Canada), driving roughly 40 – 60 hours per week.
A Full-Time Uber Driver Strategy
I started driving for Uber for two reasons.
- I was unemployed due to a downturn in the Canadian Oil Industry, and finding work in my field was challenging.
- I was also building an online business part-time, but it wasn't making money yet. Uber gave me the flexibility to earn what I needed and pull back from full-time to part-time as my business grew.
You're not going to get rich driving for Uber though. Living costs aren't getting cheaper, so full-time driving can be a challenge depending on your income needs.
But it is possible. You just need a strategy.
Think of Yourself as Business Owner… Not A Driver.
Driving for Uber is often compared to a minimum wage job, but it's more than that.
At a job, you're stuck. You have no flexibility.
When it's slow, you have to “look busy.” You have to show up when you're told. You can't take time off to improve yourself or work another side hustle.
Being clean and professional rarely brings in consistent tips and regular customers.
You also have few opportunities to meet new people, have honest conversations, and network with business owners, executives, authors, etc.
These are all things you can do as a full-time Uber driver though.
For example… I've met musicians, a TV show host, an author, a comedian, many business owners, and others who had succeeded in ways I wanted to. If you're polite, professional, and show genuine interest… people will enthusiastically share their wealth of knowledge and experience with you.
I also had a couple good-paying regulars in the mornings I could count on.
Think of yourself not simply as a driver but as a business owner who provides a professional service.
Turn on Uber Eats In The App
In the Uber driver's app, you can increase your income opportunities by choosing to accept requests from both riders and Uber Eats,
You may even make more only delivering Uber Eats if you live in a heavily populated Urban because your expenses will be much lower. A car is unnecessary. You can deliver food on an electric bike.
An Uber Driver Also Drive for Lyft
Yes, many rideshare drivers diversify their income and minimize their downtime by driving for Uber and Lyft. Especially if they're driving full-time. Both of these companies treat their drivers as independent contractors, so there are no issues driving for both.
Drive For Uber and DoorDash?
Yes, you can drive for both Uber and DoorDash, but it's difficult when it's busy. Like driving for both Uber and Lyft, it's a great way to minimize your downtime and increase your income. However, if you have more rides and deliveries than you can handle, you will have no choice to but turn some down, and both companies track your acceptance rate.
Although there are no specific penalties for having a low acceptance rate, there is anecdotal evidence it could impact the number of ride and delivery opportunities.
Even if that's not the case though, as an independent contractor, you are a small business owner, and professionalism matters. And, when it's that busy, you'll find it more efficient and less stressful when sticking with one app/service.
Advertise While Driving Uber
Uber has an ad platform called Uber OOH in select cities, which pays up to $400 – $500 a month if you install a cartop ad on your vehicle.
Of course, no one really wants an ugly billboard on their car, but money is money, right?
Uber currently pays $300 one-time to install an ad board on your car and $100 every week you drive at least twenty hours.
Do Freelance Gigs During Your Downtime
Rather than driving for another service to maximize your earnings, you can work non-driving gigs between rides.
As a full-time driver doing the day shift, there were definitely slow times. Edmonton isn't the biggest city on the planet, but it's still a million people. Relative to the number of Uber drivers waiting around in parking lots and sub-divisions for a ride, it's probably not that different than much larger cities.
So you might have slow times as well.
As I mentioned above, I used my downtime to build an online business, which eventually replaced and overtook my Uber income.
But you can also supplement your income with freelance work.
There are many freelance gigs you can do between rides, such as edit videos, design book covers, data entry work, manage social media accounts, etc.
Do Airport and Other Unique Runs
When I started driving, I spent the first few months going wherever the next ride took me. That worked out for me financially, but it didn't give me as much downtime as I would have liked.
Eventually, I started earning some money with my online business. Not a lot at first, but enough that it made more sense to do airport runs almost exclusively, which often gave me two hours or more between riders.
That's when I pulled out my laptop and worked.
Edmonton's airport is unique because it's roughly 20 minutes outside of the city. Edmonton is also a large city, so the average fare, anywhere other than the southside, could be as high as $50 – $80.
A few of those a day, along with my income online, was sufficient at the time.
So, if you have a freelance gig or a way to make additional money while sitting in your car as I did, you can combine both incomes by doing airport runs or other unique (infrequent) runs as I did.
The other benefit of doing airport runs, in my experience, is that your riders are generally more pleasant.
Minimize Your Expenses
You've heard the saying, it's not what you make; it's what you keep. Another way to say it is, it's not what you make; it's what you don't spend.
At the end of the day, your income must meet or exceed your expenses. So if driving for Uber full-time (and supplementing with other gigs) doesn't pay you enough, your only other option is to reduce your expenses.
As an industrial electrician, I earned a good six figures in the Canadian oil industry. But to be honest, I was happier making far less driving for Uber.
I didn't hate my job. Most days, I liked it. Especially the people I worked with.
What I did hate though, was working out of town and being away from my family. I hated being a prisoner to someone else's schedule, and I hated not having time to do anything other than my job.
Uber solved all of those problems in my life.
It allowed me to stay home with my wife and kids, and it gave me the time and freedom to create the life I wanted. It wasn't easy though. First, I had to downsize significantly, which I did (and not entirely by choice).
The point is, it's all about what you want out of life. If money and “stuff” are your priorities, Uber will probably disappoint as a full-time job.
If more freedom and independence are what you want, it's a great solution.
You may have to give up your expensive apartment though, and the dozen media services you subscribe to. You might have to eat at home more often and cut back on restaurants, bars, and movie theatres.
If you're young and single with no kids or huge debts, driving for Uber full-time is not difficult if that's what you want.
If you're older like I was though, with a family, a mortgage, and multiple car payments, it's not easy, I know. But it is possible.
What Is The Average Salary for an Uber Driver?
So you know how much money you need each month, the question is how much can you make?
In a 2018 Ridester survey of 2,625 Uber drivers, an average of roughly $14 per hour before vehicle expenses was reported. The study was conducted by independent driver-earning experts and accounted for income from both passenger fares and tips.
The data collected for this survey also included earnings screenshots from 719 drivers.
These findings are relatively consistent with my own earnings.
Keep in mind, a $14 average does not mean all drivers earn $14/hr. It means half earn more than $14 and half earn less.
Where you live, when you drive, and your driver rating can impact your earnings. Service levels (UberX, UberSelect, etc.) and the condition of your car matter too.
The Ridester survey provides some fantastic data about driver earnings, even breaking it down by city.
The ten best earning cities are:
- Honolulu – $25.55
- Seattle – $24.88
- Long Island – $24.85
- Pittsburgh – $24.09
- Westchester County, NY – $22.74
- New York City – $21.92
- San Francisco – $20.45
- San Diego – $18.00
- Chicago – $17.81
- Boston – $17.52
The ten worst earning cities:
- Buffalo – $9.74
- San Antonio – $9.74
- Tulsa* – $9.17
- Oklahoma City – $9.16
- Indianapolis – $9.04
- Tampa/St. Pete – $8.95
- Springfield, MO – $8.78
- Houston – $8.67
- Raleigh/Durham – $6.62
- Akron, OH – $4.94
If you haven't already, you must check out the complete Ridester Survey if you're serious about becoming an Uber driver (or even if you're just curious about it). It's by far the most comprehensive survey I've seen on this topic.
It goes much deeper than hourly wages though. It also covers statistics on how long people have been driving for Uber, earnings by service level, a breakdown of expenses, driver satisfaction, age, education, and so on…
How Uber Calculates Pay for Rideshare Services
Uber calculates earnings for drivers using metrics such as the standard fare, per minute, miles driven, and a surge pricing multiplier, which can range from 0.5X to 5.0X. Uber also supplements the standard fare with tips from customers, paid through a tipping feature in the driver app.
Drivers who work in an area (and time) with low demand will earn less than those who work in a high-demand area (and time) and take advantage of surge pricing. However, you can waste time and fuel chasing surge pricing because it's not always easy to predict.
I had zero success chasing the surge.
You'll see a map with the higher paying surge areas highlighted in red on your driver app. In my case, whenever I'd drive into those areas, the map would go back to normal, along with the rates.
I would have been better off just sitting where I was saving fuel instead of driving around chasing higher rates.
When Does Uber Pay?
Uber pays drivers once a week. From within the driver app, you can monitor your daily earnings. They will be deposited to your bank account on Thursdays (sometimes Fridays depending on your bank) for the previous week's pay.
Uber also offers Instant Pay, which allows you to cash out up to five times per day on your personal debit card ($0.50 per cashout) or an Uber Visa Debit Card (free cashout).
Instant Pay should be immediate, but it can still take a few business days, depending on your bank.
I kept it simple and stuck with direct deposit once a week, which was more than sufficient for my needs.
Is Uber Worth It?
In my experience, yes, driving for Uber was worth it. I had a great time doing it, and it provided me with the income I needed while building my business on the side.
You are NOT an Uber employee though. You are an independent contractor. Yes, you set your own hours, but you are also responsible for taxes, insurance, commercial licensing, mileage tracking, vehicle expenses, and pretty much anything else a small business would be accountable for.
It may be intimidating at first, especially if you've never had a side hustle or a business before.
Once you set everything up though, and you're making money on your own without a boss or someone looking over your shoulder, it's tremendously empowering.
Even though Uber paid me significantly less than what I was accustomed to, the freedom, independence, and realization I didn't need a “job” to earn money became an addiction. That was (and still is) one of the best feelings I've ever experienced.
That freedom for some drivers has been controversial. For example, there are questions about whether Uber drivers should be classified as independent contractors or employees.
So it's not all rainbows and roses. There are both benefits and drawbacks to being an Uber driver…
Benefits of Driving for Uber
The benefits of driving for Uber in my experience have been:
- Work when and where you want. Set your own schedules, whether it's weekdays, weekends, or holidays.
- You can do it full-time or part-time
- Weekly and daily pay options are available.
- Earn additional money through referrals with your Invite Code.
- Combine it with other driving gigs, like Lyft, or entirely different side hustles like freelance writing. I built an online business working on my laptop between rides.
- You don't need to own a car. While it's better to own one, in my opinion, you can also lease or rent one specifically for Uber.
- It's not like searching and applying for a job. You can sign up today and start driving within a few days. This means you can be earning money within a few days as well.
- Meeting new people. As I mentioned earlier, I've met musicians, a TV show host, an author, a comedian, many business owners, and CEOs. Of course, not every great conversation was with a person who had a unique profession.
- You can use Google navigation or Waze with Uber's driver app.
- Listening to podcasts and audiobooks (when driving to or from locations with no passengers).
- You don't have to freelance work or build a business between rides. You can play games, watch movies, take an online course, exercise outside your vehicle, meditate, or whatever. When doing airport runs (which I mainly did), there was a lot of socializing among drivers and simple sports being played like frisbee.
- Earning an income on your own without a boss is empowering and can lead to other side hustles.
Drawbacks of Driving for Uber
The drawbacks of driving for Uber are:
- Wear and tear on your vehicle. The high mileage annihilates the resale value.
- Vehicle maintenance costs and expensive rideshare insurance. I was lucky my vehicle was new, so my only maintenance costs were limited to oil changes and car washes.
- Competition with other drivers. A good hack here is to use the Uber Rider's App, which shows you where the other drivers are. Instead of sitting in a parking lot with a dozen other drivers, you can find a location where you're the only one.
- Slow days when earnings are minimal.
- Dealing with traffic and unfamiliar areas. Several times, Uber's navigation put me in a challenging situation, having to cross multiple lane main roads during rush hour, for example.
- Uber doesn't care who you are or how well you represent them (although they do care how bad you represent them). It wasn't a big deal to me. It could be an issue for those motivated by recognition though.
- Idiots, rude riders, and drunks. One advantage of driving full-time is working Monday to Friday during daylight hours when riders are generally more pleasant. You may even get some regulars during the morning rush hour.
- The Uber app may damage your phone screen. When I was driving, I used a Samsung Note 8. The app icon buttons, bottom address/offline bar, and earnings oval at the top were permanently burnt into my screen. If I were to drive again, I'd use a cheap phone that wasn't my primary phone or a cheap LTE tablet.
Uber Driver Requirements
Uber requires you to have a driver's license, one year of driving experience (or three years if you're under 23), and an eligible vehicle.
The minimum age to be a driver in the US is 21.
You must also have rideshare insurance or insurance that meets Uber's liability requirements.
The drivers must go through a multi-step safety screen that checks for criminal and driving violations, as well as any incidents of impaired driving. These checks are done annually, and you will have to submit your documents to access the app.
Some requirements may vary by state and change from time to time. For the most accurate information, visit Uber's website.