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Should I Become an Uber Driver?

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My local news was buzzing about Uber recently coming to town. You've probably heard of Uber by now. It's one of the new car-sharing services where average people turn their car into a taxi and make a little money on the side. It recently got funding at a 18 billion valuation making almost as valuable as Twitter.

I find making money on the side appealing, so I decided to do a little more exploring.

What's it Like to be an Uber Driver?

I've never even been an Uber customer. I have a lot to learn about how things work before I jump into signing up. I decided to see what other drivers and saying.

This GQ article made it sound fairly exciting (and perhaps very annoying). The author made $312 in a week providing 24 rides. I wish he would have broke it down to how many hours he worked, but that's better than a poke in the eye, right?

This article on The Huffington Post was decidedly negative, but much of it seemed due to the authors location near New York City.

Closer to home, this article about Uber in Boston gave some very helpful math from the company itself, "uberX drivers in Boston make about $25.93 an hour..." The article points out other important details such as the cost of gas, car maintenance and even tax write-offs. Factoring everything in (including Uber's cut) and the article says, "a $300 shift could ultimately net an UberX driver somewhere in the range of $150."

If that sounds like a lot, the article quotes a driver named Brian:

"'I usually drive between 6 p.m. and 1 a.m.,' Brian told me. On his best nights, he can make 25 to 30 trips, which net him in the area of $200 or $300, not including what it costs him to fill a tank of gas."

However, perhaps the best Uber idea came in this Washington Post article:

"Ibrahim who works full time at a university in the District, finds that turning on his Uber phone for two hours is better use of his time than trying to get home to Fairfax during the evening rush, 'I make some money, and then I can get home in 20 minutes instead of two hours.'"

There's certainly money to be made... at least in some places. Some people are obviously enthusiastic about it. Combine it with some other side hustles and it could be the building block of a 6-figure income. If I had a computer and tethered an Internet connection with my cell phone, I could be working even when I don't have fares.

Why I Shouldn't Become an Uber Driver

Any potential gravy train for me with Uber is going to depend on solving or at least managing a few problems. Here are just a few:

  • I Have Zero Sense of Direction - I can get lost anywhere... probably even on my own street. Fortunately GPS greatly mitigates this problem. Still, I imagine that riders tend to want their driver to know their way around the area.
  • Is It Legal? - That seems to depend on the area that you live in. However, every city that I know of regulates taxis and since this is a similar service, it is viewed by many as dodging car service regulations. My personal view is that regulations need to be updated if necessary to allow for this type of service. I could go on for another thousand words on this topic, but it seems like the regulations are simply there to create a moat to protect taxi businesses.
  • My Car is Typically a Little Messy - My car is typically clean enough for my friends and family to get from point A to point B. It isn't clean enough for a paying customer. On the bright side, this could be the kick in the behind I need to keep my car clean.
  • Pesky Car Seats - With two kids under two, our backseat has two car seat bases hooked in at all times. They are easy enough to take out and replace, but it would get a little annoying if I were doing it often.

At the end of the day, I don't know whether I'll go down this road or not. I think I could just to see if I like it. It seems like there's little harm in giving it a try.

Posted on June 25, 2014.

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8 Responses to “Should I Become an Uber Driver?”

  1. palffy (Former UberX NJ driver) says:

    It’s really not worth it. When you include expenses such as gasoline, car maintenance that you don’t expect (such as if you get a flat or a dead battery) and car detail, it works out to $12-14/hour at best (that doesn’t include the mileage you put on your car–which they generally expect to be pretty new for UberX). There’s also the added concern that your insurance may not pay out were you to get into an accident and you’re using your car for commercial purposes.

  2. Lazy Man says:

    Palffy, that’s part of what I’m thinking too.

  3. I ride in a lot of Ubers for my work, and I love talking to drivers about their ROI. For the most part, they have told me that it’s a temporary solution to an acute financial problem but it doesn’t really make them money. One in particular had just been laid off and he was driving a really nice car — not the typical Corolla or Camry I usually see Uber drivers driving! — and for him it was a losing investment but it paid some of his bills for the time being.

    I love the commuter’s strategy — I think that’s kind of brilliant!

  4. Lizzy says:

    UBER take away their employee’s CIVIL RIGHT to sue, with employee FORCED ARBITRATION. Please help pass ARBITRATION FAIRNESS ACT 2014.

  5. Lazy Man says:

    Unfortunately a lot of companies do this. I try not to do business with them.

  6. Martin says:

    I’ve been driving for Uber the past few weeks. I think that it’s a fine part-time gig if you enjoy meeting folks and don’t want to go out. Driving on a Friday night forces me to spend less money by not drinking. I get to make a few bucks, meet some people, and still get out.

  7. Kevin says:

    Uber is entering new Markets. One thing they don’t tell you is that even if there are regulations in your city that prevent them from doing business (taxi laws). They’ll sign you up. Just like any transportation business, they take 20% off the top (figure a 48.5% share) but wait. There’s more. Without your consent (unless its buried in the privacy policy of the terms of service) they’re going to send you (and charge you $200 +$10 a week for) a REFURBISHED iPhone 4S ($60 on amazon today) they have no contact information publically available and refuse to respond, even to the FTC and BBB. So OK.. How does this compare to driving a cab. Well… Look at the guy that did 25 jobs for $150 net. Let’s assume the average trip is 10 miles for easy math and the cab service charges $1 in +$1/mile. $275. In my area, they pay $50/day to use the cab. +$25 in gas (rediculous for 250 miles) so he net $200; $50 over Uber and his technology is included in his car rent. Uber makes you use your own car. To be fair, your state may say that if you are a Chauffeur, your vehicle is a qualifying business expense for the purposes of Taxes or Child Support. In these cases, I’d probably weigh my car payment into the equation. Another thing worth considering is the potential networking. Pick up Donald Trump, and who knows what might come of it.

  8. Martin says:

    There is a lot of talk around uber being safe and if it’s something people should get involved in at all. It really comes down to how much spare time you have and if you’re willing to work for an extra income without a huge investment of time.

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