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If you’ve just started driving for Uber or Lyft (or are thinking of doing so), then you’re probably wondering what you can do to set yourself up for maximum rideshare success. Specifically, you want to make the most money possible while providing an excellent experience for your customers.
If you’ve never been a professional driver, however, it can be hard to know what to do to give passengers the best experience possible (and maximize your profits). Sure, some things are obvious, such as being on time to pick up ride requests. Others, however, are things you only learn with time.
With this article, we hope to help you bypass some of the initial learning curve that comes with being a new Lyft or Uber driver. We’ve compiled a list of 16 tips and tricks for Uber and Lyft drivers, along with links to articles that will give you more detail on each.
Here’s the list:
- Be Polite and Courteous
- Be on Time
- Communicate With Passengers
- Report Inappropriate Passenger Behavior
- Drive During the Busiest Times
- Offer Small Amenities to Passengers
- Improve Your Driving
- Have the Right Gear
- Choose the Right Car
- Set Aside Money for Taxes
- Understand Your Available Tax Deductions
- Look Into Rideshare Insurance
- Drive for Both Uber and Lyft at the Same Time
- Understand How Surge Pricing Works
- Boost Your Earnings With Driver Referrals and Bonuses
- Get Advice from Experienced Rideshare Drivers in Your City
Unless otherwise noted, each of the above tips applies equally to driving for Uber and Lyft.
As with other sharing economy products like Airbnb, being a rideshare driver is as much about reputation as it is about money. The Uber and Lyft apps work precisely because of their decentralized nature, since it simplifies the process of becoming a driver.
For this decentralized system to work, however, there has to be accountability for all parties involved. Uber and Lyft both employ star ratings for drivers and passengers. After a ride, each party involved has the opportunity to rate the other and leave comments. As a rideshare driver, it’s imperative that you maintain a high rating (as close to a five-star rating as possible). Otherwise, you risk deactivation.
The best way to keep your driver rating high is to be polite and courteous to your passengers while providing excellent customer service. You don’t have to step out of the car and open the door for them, but you should greet them when they enter the vehicle and maintain a pleasant demeanor as much as possible. This makes a world of difference in how the passenger experiences their ride, and their rating (and tip) will reflect that.
One of the biggest draws of rideshare apps is the convenience. All someone has to do is open the passenger app, tap a few buttons, and then get into the ride once it arrives. This convenience factor only exists, however, if drivers are on time. Without it, a passenger might as well have called a cab. Do your utmost to be on time to pick up passengers.
Sometimes, of course, elements out of your control will delay you. In this case, it’s best to contact the passenger via text or phone to let them know why you’ll be delayed. Waiting for a ride is frustrating, but it’s far more frustrating if the passenger doesn’t know why they’re waiting.
We already hinted at it in the last tip, but communicating with passengers will do wonders for your ratings and tips. You should communicate with them if you’re going to be late to pick them up, but you should also continue that process of communication right until you’ve dropped them off safely.
You don’t have to be super chatty (some passengers won’t want to talk), but you should ask if there’s anything you can do to make the passenger’s ride more comfortable. You can also offer them any amenities you have available (more on this later) and clarify where they want to be dropped off (especially if you’re taking them to an apartment complex).
While you should always be polite, you should never tolerate inappropriate Lyft or Uber passenger behavior. If someone is rude or messy, you can make note of it when you leave them a passenger rating.
If someone does something more serious (such as threatening or assaulting you), then you should report it directly to Lyft or Uber. You should always contact the police or emergency services in an emergency situation, but after that, you can contact the rideshare company to let them know as well. Here’s how to do that for Lyft and for Uber.
Weekend nights and rush hour may not be the times you’d prefer to be on the road, but they are some of the best times to drive if you want to earn maximum rideshare profits. This is because people tend to be either out on the town or heading to and from work during these times.
The result is an increased demand for rides, as well as the potential for surge pricing. It may be a bit frustrating to drive on a Saturday night due to all the extra traffic, but you’ll be rewarded for your extra time in the form of extra money.
Human beings are wired for reciprocity. If someone gives you a gift, you’ll want to repay the favor. This applies even if the gift is small. As a rideshare driver, you can use this tendency to your advantage by offering amenities to passengers.
They really don’t have to be anything fancy. Try gum, candy, mints, or bottled water. You can also have an auxiliary cord on hand for passengers to play their own music (though be wary of what you may end up hearing). If that’s too much of a risk for you, then you can also ask passengers if they have a particular radio station or genre of music they’d prefer to listen to.
We don’t want to accuse you of being a bad driver. In all likelihood, you’re not. However, we bet there’s something you could do to be a better driver. Maybe it’s braking just a bit sooner before stop lights, coming to a full stop at stop signs, or taking curves a little more slowly. Whatever it might be, improving your driving translates into a better experience for your passengers, which means higher ratings and tips.
While you technically just need a smartphone, eligible vehicle, and the right driver requirements to be an Uber or Lyft driver, there are some other pieces of equipment that will make your rideshare gig safer and easier.
You should definitely get a phone mount, to start. This will keep your eyes on the road and out of your lap or passenger seat. Curious which phone mount to get? Check out our guide.
Finally, we suggest getting a phone plan with unlimited data. This will help you immensely, as rideshare apps use lots of bandwidth when you’re in driver mode. Have a look at our comparison of the best phone plans for Uber and Lyft drivers to see which is best for you.
While we don’t think you should necessarily buy a new car to drive for Uber and Lyft, you should consider if the car you’re using is the best for the job (especially if you have access to a couple different vehicles). You want a car that’s reliable and gets the best mileage possible, as fuel expenses can really eat into your profit margins. It’s also good to choose a car that’s cheap and easy to maintain, since high ongoing repair costs can also hurt your bottom line.
Mind you, the above might not apply if you’re driving for a premium service such as UberBLACK or Lyft Lux. The cars for these services will be less fuel efficient and more expensive to maintain, but the additional earnings from driving for these premium services will help offset these costs.
If you’ve never been an independent contractor or run your own business, then you’re probably not familiar with how taxes work for Uber and Lyft drivers. Since you’re not an employee of either company, they won’t take taxes out of your wages.
You’ll need to put aside money for taxes yourself and report your earnings when you file your taxes. This isn’t complicated, but you do need to be diligent about it. If you’re not, then you could be in for a rude surprise when tax season rolls around. To figure out how prepare for tax time, consult our guide to self-employment taxes.
While you do have to pay taxes on your rideshare earnings, you’ll also be eligible for a variety of tax deductions related to your work. You can deduct the expenses of operating and maintaining your vehicle, as well as any equipment you need to do your rideshare gig.
To learn more about these deductions, check out our guide to tax deductions for Uber and Lyft drivers. We also suggest consulting an accountant if you have any doubts, since tax deductions can get complicated.
If you’re a new driver for Uber or Lyft, you may think that your personal auto insurance and the rideshare company’s insurance are enough to protect you in the event of an accident. While this is mostly true, there is one crucial gap in this coverage that occurs when you have the app in driver mode but aren’t transporting a passenger.
In situations like this, you could be liable for damages that result from colliding with a vehicle or property. To protect yourself from the financial ruin that could accompany such a situation, it’s worth looking into rideshare insurance, a supplementary form of coverage that most auto insurance providers offer. Check out our guide to rideshare insurance for more information.
As a rideshare driver, you’re allowed to drive for both Uber and Lyft at the same time. Not only are you allowed to do it, but we recommend you do so. It will increase your chances of getting more ride requests, thus boosting your overall income. To learn more about how to drive for both platforms, consult our guide.
Uber and Lyft are businesses that experience supply and demand, just like any other. This means that in some cases, the demand for rides will be greater than the supply of available drivers. For instance, a sporting event in the downtown area of your city will probably cause demand to exceed supply when it ends, since a large volume of people will be looking for rides.
When such a situation happens, the rideshare companies need to find a way to reduce demand and increase supply. Their solution is to use surge pricing (or “prime time,” as Lyft calls it), in which the base fare that riders pay increases by a multiplier based on how high the current demand is.
As a driver, surge pricing can be a lucrative opportunity, provided you use it correctly. You should not chase surge fares around the city, as you’ll often find that they’ve disappeared by the time you arrive. However, the Uber and Lyft driver apps will show you what surges (if any) are occurring near you using a heatmap.
If you’re near an area with a surge, then by all means go to it and reap the benefits of the higher prices. Just be smart; don’t waste lots of gas driving across the city to a surge area unless you’re fairly sure it will continue based on your experience.
So far, we’ve discussed a lot of ways to increase your earnings from driving passengers around. This is the area worth the most of your time, since a lot of it is in your control. However, transporting passengers isn’t the only way you can make money as an Uber or Lyft driver. You can also earn additional money through referring other drivers and claiming bonuses.
Driver referrals work like they sound. You open the Uber of Lyft app, get your unique referral code or link, and share it with other people you think would want to drive for Uber or Lyft. When the person signs up with your code and gives rides, you get a commission. If you’re smart about how you refer people (using social media to boost your reach), you can make a nice additional side income just from referrals. Learn more about how to do this here.
Less well-known than referrals, however, are driver bonuses. Some of these are simple driver earnings guarantees that you can claim when you use another driver’s referral link. Others, such as the Lyft Power Driver Bonus, require you to give a certain number of rides during certain times. You’ll receive information on these promotions each week in both the driver apps and your email.
We can give you all the advice we can based on our experience and knowledge of rideshare driving, but there will be plenty of specific driver advice that’s unique to your city. For instance, each city will have its own areas that experience higher demand for rides than others, as well as certain areas that are a waste of time to drive in.
The only way to find this information is either through trial and error or talking to more experienced rideshare drivers. Experienced drivers can give you loads of information that would be difficult and time-consuming to discover on your own.
To have these conversations, your best bet is to take a few rides as a Lyft or Uber passenger and chat with the driver about their experience. If they’ve given lots of rides, then you can mention that you’re also a rideshare driver and ask if they can offer you any advice.
Odds are, they’ll be happy to help, since most riders have no idea how rideshare works on the driver’s end and it’ll be a refreshing change to “talk shop” with another driver. Just be sure to take any advice you get with a grain of salt, as some drivers will give better advice than others.
Become a Top-Tier Rideshare Driver
We hope this guide has given you a good idea of how to take yourself from novice to expert rideshare driver. By implementing just a few of the tips in this article, you’ll be able to distinguish yourself and earn higher tips and fares. There’s no need to do everything in this article at once, of course. Just start with one or two, and before you know it, you’ll be way ahead of the typical Uber or Lyft driver.
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.