What's It Like Driving for Uber and Lyft?

Written by:  • Edited by: Tricia Goss
Published Nov 1, 2016
• Related Guides: Prius | Windows

Ride sharing is an industry that did not exist a few years ago. Uber launched its smartphone app in 2011 and Lyft followed the next year. Is driving for Uber or Lyft a legitimate job? What do I need to do it?

How Do I Get Started?

Simply head to Uber.com or Lyft.com. Each has a “drive with us" or “sign up to drive" button. Click and give them what they need.

You'll have to be a licensed driver at least 21 years old. You'll need a clean driving record and criminal background. You'll need proof of insurance, registration and driver's license.

One major difference between services: Lyft requires an interview with a Mentor. An experienced local Lyft driver will set up a meeting, check out your car and verify you're not a weirdo.

You'll need a four-door vehicle with five seat belts. The required age varies from state-to-state, but your car should be less than ten years old.

You'll need to pass a basic vehicle check, which can be done by any ASE certified mechanic. It will take a half-hour or less and cost about $20, but you may be able to get one for free.

Basically, your car needs to be in safe working order with good brakes, tires, windows and doors.

If you wouldn't get in the car with a stranger driving, don't expect anyone else too.

Turn the Key

Once you're approved and have the app downloaded, tell your phone and the world you're ready to drive.

Hopefully, you'll soon get a message from a rider. You'll get a first name, a location and an approximate time it will take to get there. Accept the ride and get moving.

They'll get your name and picture plus a basic description of your vehicle.

You have the choice to be navigated to the rider. This is a good idea. You want to take the swiftest route there. Your rider doesn't want to wait longer than the predicted time.

When you get there, your passenger should be looking for you. Yet it could be a crowded place. If a concert or game just got out, there may be a bunch of people looking for Uber of Lyft drivers.

I like to stop somewhere visible, turn on my hazard lights and look around. Once you find each other, start the ride on your app.

You will be paid to drive to your rider. You are only paid based on the time and mileage that the rider is in your car.

About Pay...

Rates vary from city to city. A dollar is worth more some places and less in others. In addition, rates vary based on demand. When there are more riders than drivers, the price goes up. Uber calls this “Surge" and Lyft calls it “Prime Time." This is a good time to drive, if you can predict it.

Both pay automatically to your bank account the week after you earn. Both give you an option to cash out instantly with a small fee.

Lyft give riders the ability to tip through the app. Uber does not. Some riders tip cash, although don't expect it. Some drivers have experimented with tip signs in their cars. Try it if you like.

What Car Is Best?

In short, I'd say the car you have. Depending on your city and what you expect from a ride-sharing job, your experience may be great or it may not be. I would not spend money to get into it outside of a vehicle inspection.

If you make money and love it, then consider making it a lifestyle.

A very popular ride-share vehicle is the Toyota Prius. It's roomy, cheap to find used and, most importantly, easy on gas.

All the costs for operating your vehicle come out of your pay, so a low cost of driving is key.

Therefore, miles per gallon is very important in the short term. Reliability is very important in the long term. You don't want all your hard-earned dollars to go to the gas station or mechanic.

Both services have higher pay for rides with more than four passengers. Uber calls it XL and Lyft calls it Plus. Only drivers with larger vehicles can take those rides, giving the mini-van or full-size SUV driver an advantage.

If you drive a bigger vehicle, you can also take solo riders but you'll be giving up money in gas.

Both services offer various benefits for buying or leasing a car, so if you become serious, definitely take advantage.

If you are picking a ride-share car, look at the overall cost of ownership: payment, insurance, fuel and maintenance.

Something sharp will make a good impression on your riders, too, so keep that in mind. And keep it clean, whatever you do.

Trial and Error

I can't tell you what your experience will be like. Each city is different. You may make a lot and you may not. You may find weekdays more profitable or maybe weekend nights.

Keep notes on what you do and find the most lucrative times to do it.

Good luck out there. It's a big topic to cover, including advice on how to get good ratings, how to protect yourself from trouble and what dangers are out there.

Give it a shot. At the very least, you'll meet some fascinating people.

 
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