By the time you read this, I will no longer be an Uber driver. I know there are some here in San Antonio who will continue to drive, both legally in the municipalities and illegally in the city proper, but the risk for me far outweighs any benefit so I'm bidding a somewhat fond farewell to the TNC industry.
I do want to share some of the key things I learned from this forum and from actually driving because all of it is just theoretical until you experience it for yourself.
Don't quit your day job – Unless you are willing to give up having a life, Uber is not going to bring in enough in most markets to pay the bills for most people. It can be a great way to pay off bills, pad your savings account or save up for a vacation.
Don't buy a car just to Uber – If you don't already have a car that will qualify and be profitable, don't get deeper into debt just so you can drive. The market is continually in flux with fare cuts and Uber being kicked out of cities. It isn't income you can count on on a long-term basis.
Do the math – Since rates, gas prices and MPG vary so widely, you're going to have to do your own math ahead of time to determine if Uber will be profitable for you. Very few scenarios work out with X being profitable, but it isn't impossible. There is a higher margin for profit on Select (Lux) or XL. There are other platforms that vary by region so look into all the ones that your current car will qualify for and then run the numbers. Don't forget to include the cost of wear and tear on your vehicle in your figures.
Be aware of the risks – There is a huge gap issue with Uber's insurance. Know what your risks are before you accept that first ping. Some areas have insurance you can get yourself for ride-sharing which should also be figured into your costs. Aside from the insurance gap, there are other risks involved such as having unaccompanied minors as pax, intoxicated and out of control pax, pax who ask you to do questionable things. Driving only during the day helps eliminate many of these, but you really never know what you're going to encounter so be prepared.
Ratings reality check– Ratings matter and then again they don't. So few pax understand the rating system and they can't see their own rating so many don't even know you can rate them. Uber looks at your rating and people have been deactivated after they hit a certain point, but that, too seems to vary by region. Some drivers have become so jaded that they give all pax a 1 if they don't tip and only give 5s to those who do. Since the pax can't see their rating, I'm not sure it matters to them, but it does to drivers. Rating appropriately is important. Don't 1 star someone just because they didn't give you a tip, but don't 5 star everyone either. The pax ratings should be used to help drivers so they know what they might encounter, but it's been abused so much that good pax are being ignored due to a low rating that they don't even know about.
Gaming the Guarantees – Driver beware. They keep changing the game and they are wising up to the drivers who do this. If you can't make money without gaming the guarantees, it's time to start looking for something else.
Pick the Cherries – If you're in a market where the X base fare is not profitable, wait for surge fares. It may take some time to know where they occur most commonly and you can expect your rating to reflect the surge rate, but even a 1.5 surge can make a fare profitable if you're close to the pick up. If you can drive other platforms (XL, Select, etc), but are still required to get X pings, ignore the X pings and wait for the higher platform (unless they are surge which translates into more money in your pocket due to the lower percentage cut for Uber).
Chasing the Surge – Let me make this as simple as possible. Do not, under any circumstances, chase a surge, period, end of discussion.
Make the most of your rider network – Most drivers have other things they do or are trying to get going. Vistaprint delivers cheap, high quality business cards. Keep them with you at all times so the next time you have a pax who needs a service you provide, you won't have to face palm yourself for not having business cards.
Quit while you're ahead – If rate decreases or just the annoyances of pax in general start to make logging onto the app a chore, then stop. Step away from the app, uninstall it if need be. Your sanity is worth more than a $4 base fare any day of the week.
Uber can be profitable in some scenarios so, if you can make ubering work for you, then by all means, uber on, but if you find yourself deeper in debt or netting a loss, then it's time to follow in the footsteps of those before you and uber off.
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