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This post is part of our Uber Driver Training Mini-Series, designed to help drivers get through the application process, and earn more once on the road. In this post we’ll discuss how you can maximize Uber earning, including Uber guarantees, saving money on taxes, and even saving on gas.
The biggest difference between drivers that give up on driving for Uber and drivers that make a full time living is that the professional drivers figure out ways to maximize their income. Some drivers drive for one or two nights and quit, without realizing that they are novices with much to learn. To maximize their income, they need to learn to be a professional driver.
In this unit we’ll offer you techniques to maximize your income just like the full-time drivers, and better your chances of increasing income, tips, and efficiency.
Maximizing Uber Earnings
This post will address a handful of ways that you can maximize income behind the wheel:
- Tax Deductions/Mileage Tracking
- Hourly Guarantees
- Surge Pricing
- Saving Money on Gas
- Times of Day
Let’s dive right in.
Tax Deductions/Mileage Tracking
Most drivers don’t understand the importance of rideshare taxes, and oftentimes overlook important elements such as deductions, write-offs, and properly classifying themselves when filing a tax return.
Tax deductions are SUCH an important factor to maximize Uber earnings that we did an entire unit on Uber driver taxes alone.
We feel that most drivers can save significantly through using all tax deductions available. Mileage tracking, for example, can allow you to save up to 54 cents per mile driven! For more information on tax deductions while driving take a look at our guide to how much Uber drivers make.
Hourly guarantees can be a great way to maximize your Uber earnings.
What is a guarantee? An hourly guarantee is when Uber wants to encourage their best drivers to hit the road. Uber’s goal is to reduce the amount of time passengers will be waiting for a ride, and they offer a way for this demand to be met when they know that they will have high demand from passengers. They know that if passengers wait too long for their ride, they will switch to a competitor.
Guarantees are often times around certain events.
Do you have a professional sports team in your town? Or a major university? Is there a convention in town or music festival? Uber will often provide a guarantee to encourage drivers to drive and help people get to/from these events. Uber will also offer guarantees in some areas during “bar closing” time. Especially during holiday weekends.
Typically, a guarantee looks like this:
Tip: You need to opt-in by clicking on the link they send you (similar to the screenshot above) and enter your information. YOU WILL NOT RECEIVE THE GUARANTEE UNLESS YOU OPT IN.
To qualify for Uber’s guarantees, you must:
- You must complete the opt-in to participate
- You must maintain a 90% acceptance rating for the entire week
- You must maintain a 4.7 rating during the guarantee period
- You must complete at least 4 rides during the entire 2-hour period. (Sometimes the blocks are bigger but they also require more rides.)
- You must be in driver mode at least 108 minutes of the 2-hour period.
You can qualify for the guarantee during each time block. In this case, there were a lot of guarantees during “bar close” time. The bars closed by 2 AM so Uber knows that there will be a lot of extra passengers during these time blocks.
You do not need to qualify all three days. For example, you could qualify on Thursday and Saturday but not on Friday you’d get paid the guarantees except for Friday.
The guarantee will show up as a bonus in your check. Uber will add the amount to your check to make up for the guarantee.
Thursday 1 AM – 3 AM you had 4 rides. The total billing was $40. Uber would give you an extra $10 in your check to make up for the guarantee. ($25 an hour * 2 hours = $50 total.)
Also note that you need to maintain a certain acceptance rating. You also need to maintain a 4.7 driver rating. This is all to prevent drivers from trying to commit fraud.
Some cities may not qualify for guarantees, and guarantees can change every week.
Some cities may only offer the guarantee in a certain section of the city. This is because that part of the city is where Uber expects there to be a high demand. Uber does not feel you should qualify for a guarantee if you are driving out in the suburbs but the demand is downtown.
In short, Uber driver guarantees are a great way to increase Uber earnings. Some weeks you may have 10-20 hours’ worth of guaranteed hours, so driving during these times can allow you to make significantly more than driving during off hours.
If you’ve been a passenger with Uber, you probably know what SURGE pricing is. SURGE pricing is when there is a high demand from passengers and Uber wants to encourage more drivers to get to that area. Again, Uber wants to minimize the amount of time passengers are waiting for rides.
Passengers agree to pay a higher than usual fare, which encourages drivers to travel to the location where the higher passenger demand is. It may even encourage drivers to stay on the road longer than they planned. Instead of heading home early they may stay out for a few extra hours to make maximize their earnings for the evening.
As you can see from the screenshot above Uber is paying up to 1.4 times the normal rate to get drivers to west Beverly Hills. They’re also paying 1.2 in east Beverly Hills and Los Angeles. The light yellow part of Hollywood is to show that the demand is increasing. Surge is probably at 1.1. It hasn’t reached the 1.2 x price.
One word of warning: Don’t chase the SURGE. Many times you’ll be sitting, in Hollywood for example, and you’ll see that the surge is 1.4x in West Beverly so you start driving over there. By the time you get there the surge has gone down because all those passengers requesting rides were picked up. Meanwhile back in Hollywood where you just came from, the SURGE has gone up to 1.4x. If you had just waited there you would have gotten it!
If you don’t chase the SURGE, how do you catch the SURGE?
The biggest tip I can give you is to learn where the SURGEs take place. You will find that SURGEs commonly take place in certain parts of the city. Once you learn this you can plan to be in the area. If you’re going to be waiting for a ride you might as well park and wait in an area where you expect SURGEs. Those areas will probably have a lot of requests even if the price isn’t surging yet.
That’s not to say that if you’re having a slow day it doesn’t make sense to move towards a SURGE. Just don’t be surprised if the SURGE is over by the time you get there.
ALSO, SURGE maps are NOT updated in real time.
This is kind of confusing to people. I’m in a SURGE and I get a request but the price is standard price… or maybe you got a request in a non-SURGEarea. You check your waybill and find you got paid for a SURGE. The reason for this is the map is not updated in real time. The map on your app is only updated once per minute or so. The surge may already be over by the time your request came in.
Saving Money on Gas
One of your biggest expenses as an Uber driver is gasoline. In theory, if you can save money when you purchase gas you can maximize Uber earnings.
Download the GasBuddy app for your phone. This app will show you the price of gas near you. You can choose to sort prices by distance, or price. You can also choose whether to show prices for economy gas, mid-grade, or premium.
Uber has a special fuel card with savings for drivers. This is available only to top drivers. You can find out if you qualify for an Uber fuel card here.
I use the gas buddy app even if I save money using a fuel rewards card. Often times I can save more money by using Gas Buddy. I may also be able to use the fuel rewards card in addition to the savings I get from finding a cheaper gas station.
The way I use GasBuddy is this:
- Sort by grade. I need to use midgrade for my car. Some of you may prefer to use regular/economy grades.
- I sort by distance.
- I compare the price of the cheapest gas to the price of the closest location.
- I usually won’t drive more than a mile per 1 cent saved on gas price.
- If you are good at math you can calculate the exact price/per mile. I can give you details on how to do this if you want. It may end up being 1 cent per 1.5 or whatever to be more precise
You can also save on gas in other ways. One is by how you drive. Many drivers drive in ways that hinder their earnings and ratings, oftentimes without realizing they’re doing it.
Do you drive fast? The slower you drive the more you save on gas. Do you gun the car when you start from a red light? This uses more gas than starting slowly and gradually. Do you use the cruise control? This usually saves and improves gas mileage.
Another way to save money on gas and maximize Uber earnings is to watch how you spend your time between trips.
You will spend a lot of time waiting on ride requests. Do you keep your engine running in order to play music, use air conditioning or heating? If you keep your engine on idle you are burning gas and lowering your gas mileage. Do you drive between locations trying to find a “hot spot”? Again if you spend a lot of time driving around looking for rides you are wasting gas. If you can park somewhere close by you will lower your gas expenses.
How much time do you spend driving without a passenger? I live in the suburbs but I know the downtown area is where there are more ride requests. I know that there are a couple areas with a lot of nightlife which are great for rides on weekends. I also know the university, concert venues, and convention center are all downtown. I try not to head downtown without a passenger.
I may know that my goal is to get downtown so I can maximize my income. However, if I drive downtown with an empty car it’s dead mileage. I’m not getting credit for this mileage. I prefer to drive downtown or at least in that general direction with a passenger. Then I can finish the ride downtown with less dead mileage. Or if I get a request from a passenger to take them downtown I may stay there.
Finally, do you ride back and forth a lot? If the hot spots are downtown and you live in the suburbs, how many times a day do you head back home? Do you head home to feed the dog? If you have to make lots of trips back to your home without a passenger you are burning extra gas.
Watching your gas mileage and the distance driven without passengers is a great way to maximize Uber earnings.
Driving During Events
We’ve mentioned this a little bit already, but events are a great way to make extra money driving. SURGE pricing and hourly guarantees often happen around events. I actually know people that even take off from their day job just to be able to drive for events.
What kind of events? Depending on your city events may include:
- Professional Sports
- College Sports
- Trade Shows
- Music Festivals
- Political Rallies
I’m sure you can come up with some of your own events based on your city. But to help drivers, each week Uber will send out an email to drivers that discusses potential events coming up in the city that week.
Some events are bigger than others. For example, a concert may be a one-night event while a music festival may be a weekend long or even multiple weekend event. Larger events attract out of towners. They typically don’t come in for a single day but make a longer trip out of it. This gives you more opportunities to give rides.
Tip: Since they’re from out of town, this is also a great way to cross-promote other services and make money on passenger referrals if you drive for both Uber and Lyft.
You don’t want to cancel work for a single event. However, if you know that it is a multiple day event and Uber is offering a lot of guaranteed hours, you may want to consider taking some vacation time.
Some people may even come in from out of town to drive for these large events. We have several events in town that are multiple day events. Some drivers from nearby cities will rent a hotel room and come to town for the weekend to try to maximize Uber earnings.
Locations / Times of Day
One of the biggest advantages experienced drivers have over new drivers is knowledge. They know which locations have more passenger requests. They are able to use this information to maximize Uber earnings.
You can use SherpaShare heatmaps to determine where the most trips are in your city. They pool this data from all the users of the SherpaShare app.
This will only tell you general areas where you can expect rides. It won’t tell you specific places. Here are a few rules I use:
During early morning hours:
Hotels are a great place to find passengers heading to the airport.
Large apartment complexes are a great place to find passengers heading to work. Some of the apartment complexes near me have 3000 or more people living in them. Plus, you can find areas where several large apartment complexes are clustered together.
Colleges/Universities are always a great place to find passengers. During the school season you will find students who need rides to class.
Afternoons from 3-6 PM:
Office complexes are a great place to find passengers heading home from work. I will frequent some of the office complexes that have a lot of technology companies. I find these employees are more likely to use Uber than others. They also have a lot of contract workers. If someone is in the US for 3 – 6 months it may not be worthwhile for them to purchase a car. They are better off using Uber.
Early in the evening you want to be where the people live. Again apartment complexes and residential neighborhoods. Some of the high rise condominium complexes. These are people leave to go out for the evening. You also might try your local university.
Late at night you want to focus more around the night life areas. Focus on restaurants, bars, and night clubs. By closing / last call many patrons will be headed home. These can be some great rides that let you maximize Uber earnings.
Final tips to maximize Uber earnings
Two tips to maximize Uber earnings:
- Drive when there is demand.
- Drive when other drivers don’t want to drive.
Obviously, you want to drive when there is a high demand from passengers. Certain times of day are going to have higher demand. Learning what time to take people to work, or pick them up, or drive them to the bar will help you maximize Uber earnings.
You also want to drive when other drivers are less likely to drive. For example, when the weather is bad a lot of people don’t want to drive. I grew up in Louisiana and am comfortable driving in the heaviest rain storms. Other drivers are afraid to drive during the rain, so this was a great time for me to maximize my Uber earnings.
A lot of passenger requests come in when it is raining because people don’t want to walk even short distances in the rain. Demand spikes up, and fewer drivers are on the road. This usually leads to SURGE pricing.
I can go non-stop picking up and dropping off passengers in the rain, and I even keep 3 umbrellas with me in the car to assist with picking up passengers in the rain. This can lead to an increase in tips. It’s a win-win for me!
There are many strategies to maximize Uber earnings while driving. When you start out as a driver you may not make as much money simply because you don’t know these tips.
Track all your tax deductions including mileage driven. Learn which locations in town are best for picking up passengers. Different areas of the city will be busier during different times of day.
If Uber offers guaranteed hours, make sure to sign up to drive them. Even if you don’t drive them you want to be registered. If you aren’t registered, you won’t get paid for them! Even if you can only drive some of the hours the money will add up!
Finally, drive when other drivers don’t want to drive. Driving in inclement weather such as a rainstorm can frequently lead to surge pricing. Fewer drivers will be on the road and more passengers will be requesting trips.
What is your favorite way to maximize Uber earnings? Let us know by dropping your opinion below!
Brett Helling is the owner of Ridester.com. He has been a rideshare driver since early 2012, having completed hundreds of trips for companies including Uber, Lyft, and Postmates. In 2014 he acquired Ridester.com to share his experiences with other drivers. His insights are regularly quoted by publications such as Forbes, Vice, CNBC, and more. He is currently working on a book about working in the Gig Economy, expanding his skill set beyond the rideshare niche. Read more about Brett here.