Nothing is more frustrating than when you’re rushing to an appointment and open the Uber app to order a ride, only to get the dreaded “No Cars Available” error.
Depending on where you live, you may have never experienced this, but it happens all the time to many people.
Read on to learn why this happens, what it means, and what you can do about it.
Table Of Contents
- What Is the “Uber No Cars Available” Error?
- What Does “Uber No Cars Available” Mean?
- Why Does Uber Show No Cars Available?
- Covid-19 Impact on Driver Supply
- Are There Always Uber Available?
- What to Do If Uber Has No Cars Available
- How Do I Know If Uber Is Coming?
- Why Is Uber Not Working? Other Common Errors
- Plan for the Future: Schedule an Uber Rider
- Frequently Asked Questions
- Final Thoughts
What Is the “Uber No Cars Available” Error?
The Uber No Cars Available error can show up when trying to order a ride.
It means there is a driver shortage and no Uber cars around.
Instead of showing you the estimated number of minutes that it will take for an Uber driver to reach you (which the app usually shows before ordering a ride), you’ll see “No Cars Available” in the black box instead.
What Does “Uber No Cars Available” Mean?
The Uber No Cars Available error means that there are no drivers active around you and available to pick you up.
Remember, Uber drivers are independent contractors, not employees, and can log on or off whenever they want.
Even if there were drivers available a few minutes ago, they might have logged off, or they might be busy assisting other passengers.
This Uber down error is more common in smaller cities and towns.
However, it can happen anywhere, though it isn’t very common in large metropolises like New York City.
Why Does Uber Show No Cars Available?
Usually, there are two main reasons Uber displays the No Cars Available error.
Sometimes, even in larger cities or towns, Uber might not have any drivers available if there is overwhelming demand.
Picture it: It’s cold and raining cats and dogs, and it is rush hour.
It’s eight in the morning, and everyone needs to get to work on time.
The subway or public transport system is experiencing delays due to closures and construction.
So, everyone is ordering an Uber to get to work on time.
The high demand may overwhelm the system, and there may be no cars available at any particular moment.
The problem isn’t that there aren’t enough drivers; the problem is that there are too many passengers.
Uber drivers are driving them around and unavailable to accept new rides.
Or, imagine you just landed in a busy airport, and many other flights landed at the same time.
The bus from the airport is not functional, or there are no more buses available that day.
All passengers are trying to order an Uber, as the airport is 30 miles (ca. 48 km) from the city.
In that type of situation, the overwhelming demand may cause you to see the Uber No Cars Available error.
Few Drivers on the Road
At other times, there may not be enough drivers on the road, even if there is not much demand.
This problem is very common in smaller towns and villages, and it can even occur in larger cities at certain times of the night, such as at 3 AM, when most drivers are sleeping.
Or, sometimes they only like to drive during the best times to drive for Uber – such as weekends or nights.
Covid-19 Impact on Driver Supply
Another compounding factor that may play a role in what is causing people to see the Uber No Cars Available error is the impact Covid-19 has had on driver supply.
Let’s talk about that.
How Has Covid-19 Impacted Driver Amount?
The pandemic has impacted the number of drivers on the road for a few reasons.
Fewer Drivers for Ridesharing
There are fewer drivers on the road.
Some drivers are still worried about contracting Covid-19, so they stopped driving and looked for other jobs.
Drivers Are Either Not Driving or Switching to Delivery
Many drivers stopped driving during the pandemic.
Since everything was under lockdown and restaurants closed or were doing takeaway only, many drivers were not making enough money.
So, they stopped driving for Uber and switched to other jobs.
Many drivers signed up for unemployment insurance, and some of them are still on it.
Other drivers switched to working as food delivery drivers for Uber Eats or DoorDash.
During the pandemic, people were ordering food instead of going out, so it made sense, and many drivers found that they enjoyed the peace that Uber Eats involves.
After all, they don’t need to deal with rowdy passengers anymore.
Also, Uber Eats involves less human interaction, which makes many drivers feel safer.
Uber has launched a program to give drivers incentives to start driving again.
However, many drivers now realize that driving for Uber took a large toll on them and tired them out.
They’ve moved on to other things in the past year and aren’t coming back.
Some were tired of being gig workers — some found they prefer to work for the minimum wage instead of unsteady pay.
It remains to be seen how things will play out in the long term.
As more rideshare drivers get vaccines, they may return to work as full-time drivers.
Are There Always Uber Available?
No, there won’t always be an Uber available.
That greatly depends on where you live.
In major cities like New York City, Los Angeles, San Diego, and even Boston, there are almost always drivers available, barring rare exceptions, especially if you are close to the center.
In some suburbs, cars are unavailable quite often.
What to Do If Uber Has No Cars Available
So, what exactly should you do if you get this error?
Fortunately, there are a few fixes you can try.
1. Wait and Try Again
Uber gives you the error when there are no cars around to pick you up.
If you wait a few minutes, cars that were transporting other passengers might drop them off and become available again.
Drivers who are driving around waiting for a hit might drive closer to you — close enough for Uber to put you on their radar.
2. Move Locations If Possible
If you can, consider moving a few blocks down to see if that changes anything.
The reason this works is similar to what I explained above — you might get close enough to an Uber driver idling on the side of the road for them to show up as a potential driver.
Also, if some roads are one-way roads, an Uber driver who is not that far away might need to drive a longer distance to get to you.
Walking a few blocks down can change that.
You don’t need to physically walk down the block just yet.
Instead, you can move the pickup location pin on your map to a location close by.
For example, if you are at a shopping mall, there might be exits to two different main roads.
Driving from one shopping mall entrance to the other might take a long time, but walking through the mall might not.
Place the pin at the other exit to see if you get any hits.
3. Check Out Lyft
A quick solution might be to check Lyft.
Uber and Lyft usually have different drivers.
Just because there are no drivers on Uber, that doesn’t mean none are available on Lyft.
In fact, in some areas, more people might drive for Lyft than Uber.
Alternatively, there might be less demand for Lyft drivers than Uber drivers, so there may be more available.
You can also look into rental options if this problem happens often.
How Do I Know If Uber Is Coming?
If you order a ride, you will be able to see the location of the driver in real-time as they move towards you.
Sometimes, it can show that they are not moving when they are, due to GPS and internet connectivity errors.
However, that’s rare — usually, you will see the driver moving towards you on the map.
Why Is Uber Not Working? Other Common Errors
There are other reasons Uber might not be working for you.
If you don’t see the Uber No Cars Available error, but you still can not request a ride, you might have an outstanding payment for a previous ride.
That can happen if they declined the payment method you used last time.
In that case, all you have to do is make that payment, and you will be able to order another ride.
If the app isn’t working properly, and it is not showing the map, or it is loading slow, you might have an internet connectivity issue.
Your mobile data might be slow, or you may be out of mobile data.
Try switching to Wifi to see if that helps, or go outside for better reception.
Your GPS may be off.
If you are using a fake GPS app, delete it and then try again.
If your Uber app keeps crashing, your phone might be out of memory.
This problem is very common with older phones or phones with low RAM.
Try deleting other apps or photos and videos from your device.
You can also try closing other apps from operating in the background.
Plan for the Future: Schedule an Uber Rider
If you live in a less populated area, or if you are going to need an early morning or late night ride, consider taking steps to schedule Uber in advance.
Why Scheduling a Ride Solves This Issue
Scheduling a ride doesn’t guarantee that there will be a driver available.
However, it will give you a 10-minute window in which the app will search for nearby drivers.
During those 10 minutes, a driver might become available and instantly accept your ride request.
Benefits of Scheduling an Uber Ride
Scheduling a ride on Uber allows you to be better prepared.
If you wait until the last minute, you might not have a driver available.
Schedule a ride a bit in advance, so you have time to find a ride and even order a Lyft or take public transit if, for whatever reason, you still can not find an Uber driver.
Scheduling a ride has other benefits.
For example, prices lock if you schedule at least an hour in advance.
Sometimes, if there are only a few drivers available and a lot of demand, the cost of a ride can go up drastically.
If you schedule it in advance, however, you will be locked in to the original, lower price.
Frequently Asked Questions
Here are some answers to frequently asked questions about Uber.
Is Uber more expensive at night?
Often, it is cheaper at night than at certain times of the day.
Uber doesn’t change pricing based on the time of the day.
Rather, it raises the price of rides when there is a lot of demand and not enough drivers to meet that demand.
Therefore, when it is raining and at busy times like rush hour, pricing is generally higher.
So, you will usually find prices to be very high around 9 AM and not as high around 9-10 PM, when there are usually still a decent number of drivers on the road but not much demand.
It does depend on the city, how far you want to go, and other factors.
Nevertheless, the time of the day is never the main factor in Uber pricing.
What time of day is Uber cheapest?
The cheapest time to ride Uber is when there is not a lot of demand.
That’s usually when people are already at work.
For example, 11 AM and 2 PM are good times.
While Uber drivers are working, most people do not request rides at those times.
Late evening is often a good time as well, as long as it’s not Friday night.
During the week, most people stay home and go to sleep early.
The most expensive time of the day is when there is surge pricing due to high demands.
During the week, that’s usually in the morning, around 8-9 AM.
Is Uber reliable at night and early in the morning?
It depends on where you live, but Uber tends to be less reliable early in the morning, especially in less urban cities.
That’s because there are fewer drivers on the road.
Also, Uber isn’t always reliable during rush hour, because there is often a lot of traffic, and Uber drivers are busy.
The nearest available Uber driver might be further away than usual, and the heavy traffic can compound that.
If you see the Uber No Cars Available error, don’t panic.
Wait a few minutes and try again — often, that’s all you need to do.
If that doesn’t work, try Lyft to see if any drivers are available there.
In the future, schedule rides in advance.
That will reduce the chances of this happening and give you time to find an alternative mode of transport if it does.