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How Does Uber Work? Complete Rider And Driver Guide 2021

Last updated: September 2, 2021
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vector graphic showing how does uber work

Even if you’ve taken an Uber ride or work as an Uber driver, you might still have questions about some aspects of the ridesharing platform.

Riders often wonder how drivers get paid.

Drivers sometimes wonder how their passengers can use the service without truly understanding how their behavior impacts the person providing the ride for them.

The more passengers and drivers understand the Uber app and its nuance, the more drivers can provide an experience that riders benefit from and appreciate.

If you’re asking, “how does Uber work” then this article will clear everything up for you.

Things to Understand About Uber

Let’s start by looking at Uber from a broad perspective.

From there, we’ll explain specific details that affect both Uber drivers and their passengers.

uber rideshare vehicle, uber eats delivery driver, and package delivery - Uber monthly pass featured image

First, you should know a few background facts:

  • The Uber app launched in 2009, predating other apps like Lyft.
  • Many people immediately started to prefer using it instead of taking a taxi service.
  • The platform exists in more than 10,000 cities worldwide, such as Chicago, Los Angeles, Tokyo, Seattle, Montreal, London, Dubai, Paris.

1. Uber Is a Rideshare App

Unlike a cab, a person can’t see an Uber driver parked on the street and ask for a ride.

Instead, Uber uses smartphone app technology to connect passengers and drivers via a car-for-hire method.

Concept of Ridesharing

The concept of ridesharing includes quickly finding a driver when you need a one-way ride to work, school, a friend’s house, a concert, the beach, or the supermarket.

All you need to do is download a free app on your phone and tell it that you want someone to pick you up.

The app’s technology connects you with a nearby driver.

The driver picks you up a few minutes later, and you’re on your way to where you need to go.

Drivers Are in Personal Vehicles

Uber drivers don’t use a company car as taxi drivers do.

Drivers aren’t required to have any special licenses to drive for Uber.

They use their personal vehicle, making it more like getting a ride from a friend.

Convenience of the Service

The process offers more convenience than calling a taxi company and waiting for a long time for the car to show up.

You don’t need to call anyone when using Uber.

You open the app, tap it a few times, and a driver shows up for you.

2. The Level of Service Determines Cost and Ride Amenities

Uber offers more than one service:

  • UberPool: Share rides with other passengers to save on fares via discounts
  • UberX: Uber’s primary way to get your own affordable ride (up to four riders)
  • UberXL: More expensive than UberX for non-shared rides (up to six riders in a minivan or SUV)
  • Uber Comfort: Get a newer car with more legroom
  • Uber Green: Get picked up in a low-emissions electric or hybrid car
  • Uber Select: Seats up to four people for luxury rides (Mercedes, BMW, Audi, and other such cars)
  • Uber Black and Black SUV: A luxury car or SUV picks you up for an extra fee
  • Uber WAV: Riders needing wheelchair accessible vehicles
  • Uber Eats: Uber’s food delivery service, similar to Grubhub or DoorDash

3. The App Is a Seamless Process

Most people love the simplicity of opening an app, telling it where they are and where they want to go, and then seeing an Uber driver show up in a matter of minutes.

When the ride finishes, they can tip their driver inside the app, hop out, and they’re on their way without finding a place to park.

How Uber Works for Riders

Uber looks different depending on whether you are a driver or a rider.

Let’s start with how Uber works for riders.

The Uber Process

Uber makes the process for requesting and getting a ride simple.

1. Requesting a Ride

Download the Uber app to your iPhone or Android smartphone if you haven’t already.

Open the app.

You’ll see a “Where to?” field—type in the address of where you’re going.

Immediately, you’ll see whether drivers are available and how much your trip will cost you.

Uber bases prices on distance and the time involved.

Confirm that you’ll accept the price and that you want to start the trip.

2. The Pickup Process

You’ll see who your driver is.

The app shows their name and the type of vehicle they’re driving.

Uber tells you how long it should take for them to arrive.

There’s also a map where you can follow their car as they approach.

Once the driver arrives, the app notifies you that it’s time to get into your ride.

3. During the Ride

Expect a different ride each time.

Some drivers are chatty and will talk with you.

Others don’t like to talk too much.

Also, you don’t need to talk if you don’t want to.

It’s your ride, so you’re free to speak with your driver, sleep, or watch a movie on your mobile device.

4. The Dropoff Process

Often, your driver will ask you where you want them to let you out.

You can direct them to the exact spot, thank them for the ride, and hop out of the car.

After the Ride

The driver ends the ride officially on their driver version of the app.

Your app notifies you that the ride ended.

1. Tipping your Driver

The app asks you how much you want to tip your driver.

You have the option of selecting a preset percentage, such as 15%, for example, or just entering your own figure.

You also have the option not to tip.

However, you should know that drivers depend heavily on tips to make enough money to make the job worthwhile.

Think of it like not tipping your waiter.

2. Rating your Driver

After your dropoff, the app then suggests the Uber rider rating process.

The app asks you to rate your driver.

Uber pays close attention to these ratings.

If a driver’s ratings go too low, then drivers might face an Uber deactivation, dropping them from the job.

Unless your driver was horrible, be mindful of giving less than five stars and affecting your driver’s ability to earn their income.

How does Uber Payment Work for Riders?

As an app, you may be wondering what forms of payment Uber accepts and how exactly you pay.

vector graphic of a man and woman using an uber promo code on their smartphones to save money on the service

Here is the rundown:

Types of Payments Uber Accepts

Uber accepts these forms of payment for rides:

As a note, Uber does not take cash payments from riders.

Does Uber Charge by Time or Distance?

Uber’s algorithm uses both but weighs base fare prices more in favor of the distance.

Does Uber Charge your Card Right Away?

Uber sometimes places an authorization charge at the start of the trip.

However, they will not officially charge you until after the trip ends.

Why Did Uber Charge Me If I Didn’t Ride?

You were probably charged approximately $5 for a canceled ride.

These come in the form of Uber cancellation fees, which are a charge incurred by riders when they request a ride but fail to take it.

Here’s how that works:

  • Uber Pool: You get charged if the driver waits longer than two minutes for you and cancels or if you cancel the trip more than one minute after accepting the ride.
  • UberX: You get charged if the driver waits longer than five minutes for you and cancels (Comfort rides = 10-minute driver wait) or if you cancel the trip more than two minutes after accepting the ride.
  • Black or Uber BlackSUV: You get charged if the driver waits longer than 15 minutes for you and cancels or if you cancel the trip more than two minutes after accepting the ride.

Beware of scams such as the Uber code text scam. If you were charged and you think it’s fraud, inform Uber ASAP.

Interesting Features for Uber Riders

Here are some things you might like to know if you plan on getting a ride with Uber.

1. Ride Scheduling

hand holding a mobile phone and in the process of getting a ride by using the schedule uber feature on the screen

Did you know that you can schedule Uber rides?

If you have any anxiety at all about whether a driver will be in your area when you need them, then you can use the ride scheduling feature.

Schedule your time ahead of time.

Uber then makes sure a driver gets notified to pick you up in time.

This works well when you need to go to the airport or live in a less populated area.

2. Uber Safety Features

Common questions we get revolve around whether or not Uber is safe.

You can use a Trusted Contacts section of the Uber app to tell those closest to you about your Uber ride.

It even lets you set reminders to make sure you share the trip details with them.

That way, your friends and family know exactly where you are and which driver you were with if something unfortunate happens.

Suggested: Is Uber safe?

3. Ride Cost Splitting Feature

You can split the cost of your ride with a friend or two.

This works great when you and a few people share the ride, and you want to split the cost equally with one another.

Tips for Uber Riders

Uber can be a little scary the first time you use it.

Listed below are some tips to make sure your ride goes smoothly.

vector graphic showing how does uber work

1. Treat your Driver with Respect

Remember that your driver provides a service to you.

Even if you’re having a great time, drinking, partying, or happy about going to a concert, for example, you should keep in mind that your driver must remain on alert as they pay attention to the road.

Some riders, unfortunately, mistreat their drivers or look down on them.

Most people driving for Uber have families and use the driver app to help their loved ones afford what they need in life.

Treat your driver as a human being who puts their own vehicle at risk to provide you a safe ride.

2. Listen to your Driver

Drivers know all the Uber rules and best practices.

They’re focused on staying safe.

Listen when they caution you about how they can’t fit your party of eight in their Prius, for instance.

They’re looking out for your safety as much as their own.

3. Be Aware, Alert, and Smart

Of course, drivers aren’t perfect.

Make sure you’re paying attention.

If a driver does something that makes you uncomfortable, let them know and ask them to modify their behavior or driving habits.

You can’t stay safe if you’re not alert and aware of your surroundings.

How Uber Works for Drivers

Uber provides its drivers a way to earn either a full-time or part-time income for their families.

vector graphic showing uber light in windshield of car driving down road

The Uber Process

New drivers must go through an Uber background check process.

Uber looks into each driver’s criminal and Motor Vehicles record to check for felony convictions or DUIs.

The driver’s vehicle must get inspected to make sure it operates correctly, and all safety features work.

The Uber team checks the turn signals, brake lights, brakes, tire pressure, and other vehicle safety aspects.

Once a driver passes the vehicle inspection and background check, they can drive for the Uber platform.

1. Accepting a Ride

Once you’re out on the road as an Uber driver, you need to turn on the driver app.

It picks up your location and starts matching you with nearby passengers looking for rides.

Your app will make a noise and flash when you match with your next passenger.

You simply swipe the screen to accept, and you’re on your way.

The app tells you the rider’s name and address.

You can choose to use Uber’s navigation feature, or you can attach Waze or Google Maps to the app.

Depending on your map’s navigation setting, you’ll automatically see your route show up.

Start following the map to your rider’s location.

2. The Pickup Process

As you get near your passenger’s pickup location, the app notifies them that you’re close.

It also tells them when you’ve officially arrived.

Anything can happen next.

The best-case scenario is that you see your rider waiting for you at the curb.

If that doesn’t happen as you pull up to the house, apartment, restaurant, business, bar, or other location, then find a safe place to pull over and wait.

Most of the time, your rider will appear within a few seconds.

You’ll see a counter on the app telling you how long you’ve waited.

You can cancel and receive a cancellation fee if UberPool riders don’t show up within two minutes.

You need to wait five minutes for UberX rides and 15 minutes for UberBlack and BlackSUV rides.

If it’s getting close to the time limit, the app lets you text or call your passenger to find out where they are.

Once your rider or riders hop into your car, you can swipe the app to officially start the trip.

The app tells you where you’re taking your passenger and maps out the route for you.

Pull away from the curb and start the ride.

3. During the Ride

It’s a good idea to gauge your passenger to see if it seems like they want to talk with you.

Even if you’re not a chatty person, remember that you’re in the service business when driving for Uber.

Engage customers who want to talk because it increases your opportunity for a better tip.

  • Always keep your attention on the road.
  • Follow all safety rules and traffic laws.
  • Make your passenger feel safe.

If you’re an aggressive or fast driver when alone, you need to change that behavior while driving people.

Nothing causes a bad rating more than scaring passengers with bad driving habits.

4. The Dropoff Process

Pay attention to how long it’s going to take to arrive at your passenger’s destination as you get close.

Steer any conversations to a conclusion so that you can ask them where they want them to pull over when you get there.

Don’t ask this question as you’re whizzing past their desired drop-off point.

Pull over safely, thank them, and tell them goodbye or that you hope they have a great day or night.

Watch out for their safety by telling them to hold off on hopping out if you see a car about to hit the door as they try to exit.

After the Ride

Don’t end the trip on your Uber app until the passenger is completely out of the vehicle and the door shuts behind them.

Once you finish the ride, the app immediately puts you back into the queue and starts looking for another rider to match you with.

Rating Your Passenger

Rate your passenger when the rating window pops up.

It’s a good idea to have a lenient attitude with passengers.

You’re in the customer service business with Uber.

If you’re not naturally inclined to pay attention to people’s feelings, then take it upon yourself to learn more about them.

Read blog posts or watch videos about how to work with the public.

Use empathy with anyone who may have acted a little rude or became short with you.

Is it possible they’re having a bad day and didn’t mean anything personal concerning you and the ride?

Most passengers are good people.

You’ll run into people you could classify in the “jerk” category here and there.

However, you’re going to meet a ton of people doing this.

Don’t get worked up about rating a three or four.

Most people deserve a five.

The genuine “bad” people can get a low rating.

The point is you don’t have time to spend much time rating people when you’re pulling back onto the road in the middle of rush hour.

How does Uber Payment Work for Drivers?

If you drive for Uber, you want to know when and how you get paid.

Here are the basics.

a vector image of a man giving out loans for uber drivers to an uber driver accepting it standing by his car

When Does Uber Pay Drivers?

Uber calculates pay weekly.

Each week begins at 4 AM on Monday and ends on the following Monday at 3:59 AM.

If you start a new trip after 4 AM on a Monday, then it will appear on your next week’s earnings.

You can have the app automatically pay you once per week, or you can choose to cash out earnings more frequently.

Weekly earnings process each Wednesday evening.

The deposit then happens in your bank account on Thursday.

However, you might not see the funds show up in your bank account until Friday.

It depends on which bank you use.

The cash-out option means you can get paid up to five times per day after your Uber account reaches a balance of at least $1.

You control how often you want to get paid.

Many Uber drivers see these daily deposits show up instantly in their bank accounts.

Some banks take as long as three business days.

How Does Uber Pay Drivers?

You will connect your bank account to the app for the weekly deposits.

The daily cash-out earnings option requires either a bank account or your bank account’s debit card number.

Either way, you’re paid by Uber directly into your checking account.

Tips for Uber Drivers

If you focus on these next three points, you have an increased chance of enjoying driving more and getting quality tips from riders.

1. Go Above and Beyond for Riders

As mentioned above, driving for Uber places you in the customer service business.

Some Uber drivers look at themselves merely as drivers.

That’s a mistake.

You’ll perform a better job, get higher ratings, and gain increased tips if you take the time to go above and beyond for your passengers.

Pay attention to what’s needed at any given moment.

For example, hop out of the car and open the door for an elderly person or someone carrying a large package.

Help anyone going to the airport by putting their luggage into your trunk.

2. Listen to your Passengers

Listen to their special needs or requests.

Put yourself second sometimes, even if you think a passenger requests something a little selfish.

That doesn’t mean you need to put yourself or your car at risk, however.

Just be willing to help riders by listening to and granting reasonable requests.

3. Trust your Gut

Take action if your gut tells you that you’re dealing with a very unreasonable person.

It’s OK to pull over and end the trip early if you’re worried about your safety in any way.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do riders pay tolls during Uber rides?

Yes, riders must pay their tolls.

Uber drivers pay for tolls, and then Uber reimburses the driver for those fees after deducting the amount from the passenger’s fare.

Can anyone work for Uber?

Anyone who successfully passes the Uber background check and has a safe, working vehicle can work for Uber.

If you don’t have a car to drive, you can use the Uber leasing option or an app like HyreCar.

Wrapping Up

How does Uber work?

You should now have a better understanding of how Uber operates for both drivers and passengers.

It’s always a positive thing when people on two sides of a customer service business know how things work for one another.

Everyone can enjoy a better experience when that happens.

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