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Amost everything you see on the internet written about driving for Uber and Lyft is geared to UberX and regular Lyft drivers (from here on out called “X”).
It seems like almost nothing is geared to drivers of their higher end luxury car services, UberBlack and Lyft Lux.
However, UberBlack and Lyft Lux (from here on out called “Black”), offer some of the most lucrative opportunities to drivers, so there should be a lot more information about them online. And we’re going to work to solve that problem!
UberBLACK: The Ticket To Earning More
Driving a Black car requires that you really be on your toes.
Because prices are so much higher – anywhere from two to four times the price of X – the pool of customers is much smaller. Consequently, Black car drivers have to be really sharp.
On X, you can pretty much just show up anywhere anytime and you’ll get trips. Most times the top strategy for these lower-end services is to simply show up.
Of course, smart X drivers know that there are strategies that can help you maximize your income, but even brand-new drivers can make money before they learn any tricks at all.
However, if Black drivers don’t have a tested and well-honed strategy, they could go literally all day without getting a single trip! To avoid this, they need to have knowledge of a wide variety of subjects.
Not only do they need to be intimately familiar with where the big money is in their city, they also need to be familiar with the work, entertainment and travel habits of their well-to-do clients. They need to keep up with special events, concerts, sporting events, etc., that more well-to-do people attend.
First, Know Your Black-Car Passengers
When I first started driving for Black I had been driving for X a couple of years already. I was amazed at how quickly I noticed a difference in the passengers.
I guess the best way to describe it is to say this… a typical X passenger gets in the car, gets on the phone and immediately starts complaining about their boss. A Black passenger gets in the car, gets on the phone and immediately starts complaining about their employees!
You must understand this first and foremost.
- UberX customers are more likely to be lower-level employees; anywhere from a fast food worker up to a middle manager.
- UberBLACK customers are most likely to be upper management types. And when I say “upper” that can go from regular “upper” to super “upper”! You may even pick up a few celebrities here and there.
This is very important because it totally changes the way you’ll troll for passengers. It will change the best times of day to drive and it will change the locations where you’ll drive.
Best Times & Places To Drive
Driving for UberBLACK really cuts back the number of active hours you’ll have in a day.
The best hours are generally very early in the morning until mid-morning. During the middle of the day, it’s typically dead. Business starts to pick up again in the mid-afternoon.
In other posts, we dove pretty deep into this topic, but here’s a high-level overview to get you thinking in the right way.
Your best hours will, of course, depend on your individual market. But generally speaking, they are between 4:00 a.m. – 10:00 a.m. And then again from 3:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m. After 7:00 p.m. each market will vary and it will vary by day of the week as well.
Like X the night time can be busy, depending on the night. But these are usually short trips – people going from home-to-bar or bar-to-bar or bar-to-home.
Your best trips will be in the eatrly morning hours when top business executives in your area leave for the airport. You want to find the wealthiest suburban area you can that’s as far away from the airport as possible.
You should be able to catch a fare from there to the airport netting you around $100. The trick is to get that trip as early as possible so you can go right back to that same suburb and try either for another airport trip or for a trip to your city’s downtown business district.
On a good day, you’ll get that early morning airport trip first thing, then you’ll go back to the suburb and get another trip that will put you in the downtown business district.
By then, you should have made close to $200. At that point you can troll around the city until about 10:00 a.m. and try to pick up a few short trips. If you get three minimum-fare trips you should earn around that should earn you around another $30-$40.
By now, you’ll be in the mid-$200s on the day and then you can take a 4-5 hour break!
Come back around 3:00 p.m. and start hauling people from work to home. You’ll have far less control here over the length of the trips you get.
You’ll pick up people from work who will live very nearby and if you get lucky you’ll pick up somebody who lives in those distant suburbs or possibly someone going to the airport.
Some days, all I get are very short trips, close to minimum-fare during these hours. But, if they come in pretty constantly, they do add up fast. If it’s a slow day on the other hand, they won’t add up to much.
One thing I’ve learned is that things can be very different from day to day, but if I work the same hours and same strategies, they’ll be very similar week to week. And month-to-month they’ll be almost exactly the same.
One day I might earn $500-$600 and the next day I might struggle to earn $150. But over the course of a week, that week will be pretty similar to the previous weeks.
In other words, there are a lot of ups and downs, but on average, you’ll come pretty close to making the same amount week-after-week on a weekly basis. And you’ll come very close to making the same thing every month. So, don’t worry about the slow days – they just mean a good day is right around the corner. (Usually)!
Shows & Concerts
Shows and concerts can produce big tickets for Black drivers. But not just any show. Again, you have to know your prospects.
If you show up for a Justin Bieber concert, you are most likely going to go home empty. The teenage girls who attend his concerts are not Black car customers. They’re just not. So, don’t waste your time.
Yes, sure a tiny handful of them may have rich daddies who want their girls to go home in style. But it’s going to be very, very few. And with other Black cars in the area you are most likely not going to get the one or two calls that may come from there.
Bon Jovi on the other hand would be a great bet! That’s because his audience is older and has had time to make a successful career – enough so that they can afford a Black car every now and then.
When you look at the ticket prices of these concerts of artists from the 70s and 80s, you’ll know that for the people who attend them, it’s a big night out!
They’re spending a lot of money and the likelihood that they will want a nice ride home is high. Not only is it likely they’ll want a nice ride home, but more importantly is the likelihood that they can afford it.
Any show or concert that features an artist or star whose hay day was in the 70s or 80s is usually a good place for Black car trips.
Professional sporting events are also a good place to look for UberBLACK car trips. Uber and Lyft are working out deals with stadiums around the country to setup a special lot for drivers which is making pick-ups much easier.
In New York where we have multiple teams in almost every sport, however, not all teams are good for Black cars.
For instance, Jets fans have a well-deserved reputation for being primarily blue collar. And yes, while blue collar people can afford and sometimes do take Black cars, they usually don’t.
I can attest to this, after trying my luck at two Jets games and never having received a Black call! I won’t be going back. Instead, I’ll be hanging out at Giants games.
Soccer attracts a usually well-heeled audience, so if you have a Major League Soccer team in your city, check out those games with your Black car. There’s an Eastern Conference and a Western Conference.
These are the teams and cities of the Eastern Conference:
- Chicago Fire SC
- Columbus Crew SC
- D.C. United
- Orlando City SC
- Montreal Impact
- New England Revolution
- New York Red Bulls
- New York City FC
- Philadelphia Union
- Toronto FC
- Atlanta United FC
And these are the teams and cities of the Western Conference:
- Colorado Rapids
- Dallas FC
- Houston Dynamo
- Los Angeles Galaxy
- Minnesota United FC
- Portland Timbers
- Real Salt Lake
- San Jose Earthquakes
- Seattle Sounders FC
- Sporting Kansas City
- Vancouver Whitecaps FC
Know Your City’s Real Estate Market
Now, I’m going to share with you a few tips and tricks that will give you an edge over other Black drivers who don’t put so much time and effort into it.
The first tip is to become intimately familiar with the real estate market in your city.
It wasn’t until one day when out of curiosity I went online to do a little research on real estate prices in my area, that my driving for Black started to turn around for the better. My first few months were okay, but I wasn’t making the killing I had thought I would.
I work in Manhattan – and relatively speaking the whole island is wealthy. We locals know though that there are some areas that are wealthier than others and some that lend themselves more towards Black cars than others. For instance, hanging out near a University is not going to yield a lot of Black car business at 4:00 in the morning!
But, what I didn’t know was that there were some small pockets in Manhattan that were far wealthier than the rest of the island. And when I say “small pockets”, I’m talking just a few blocks in all directions. When it comes to Black car service, you need to think small – as in micro! “Small pockets” of wealth and high-end business activity are what you want to look for.
It is so competitive in New York City that moving your car over just two or three blocks can make a world of difference. When I learned what the truly wealthy areas of Manhattan were, based on real estate prices, I literally moved about four blocks from where I usually hung out and suddenly I was getting call after call.
Not in the same way you get call-after-call on UberX, where sometimes you literally have no wait time at all in between calls. But call-after-call in the Black car sense which means I would wait no more than 10 or 15 minutes, during rush hour, for a call in these areas.
Sometimes on Black you can wait an hour or more in between calls. So to get a call within 10 or 15 minutes was pretty awesome!
I thought about the poor guys four blocks away who I knew would be sitting there for 45 minutes to an hour before they got their next ping and marveled at how easy it was to slide into an area that was far busier – simply by having more information than they had.
They didn’t know the super wealthy area started just a few blocks over from where they were. And since Uber & Lyft send calls to whichever driver is closest, this difference can make or break your day.
Remember, you really want to zero in on the areas that have the highest-priced real estate you can find. And sometimes you’ll find a small section of a wealthy area that’s far wealthier than the rest of the area.
The easiest way to start is to go on Zillow.com and type in the zip code or name of the area you want to look at. Here’s what Manhattan looks like:
The entire area on this map is very wealthy. But there are some areas that are much wealthier than others.
Here’s what I found for the area I used to hang out in – that I thought was one of the wealthiest parts of Manhattan:
The price on apartments for sale in this area range from $1.25 million to about $5 million with most units averaging around $2.5 million. So, I could be forgiven for thinking that was a very wealthy area, right?
A Black car driver will get business from this area, but if he’s smart, he can find an even better area that will keep him even busier!
Look at what I found next:
This is also in Manhattan and notice the top price in this area is $34.5 million! And there are several that are selling for $10 million or more. Turns out the first area is where the poor people live! This is where the truly wealthy people live!
You may think you know the wealthiest areas in your city – and in a general way you probably do.
But Black car driving is so competitive that if you go online and do a little research it will give you an edge over other lazier drivers, who think they already know it all!
Driving Black Car is Super Competitive:
UberBLACK is just like sports.
If you play softball on the weekends with some buddies, you are not going to pay too much attention to clothing and equipment. You’ll use whatever glove you have and probably any pair of sneakers is fine.
But if you played professionally, you would spend hours of time researching and trying out every last component of clothing and equipment that you’ll use. You’d also spend tens of thousands of dollars.
You have to get every possible advantage over other players because professional ball is so much more competitive than goofing around with your friends on the weekends.
It’s the same with driving.
Driving for X is the equivalent of playing softball on the weekends with your buddies. Driving for Black is the equivalent of a professional major-league sport. You really have to be on top of your game and you’re going to need every little advantage you can find.
Know Your City’s Top Executives
The thing about Black cars is they are almost exclusively used by top-level corporate executives who expense it to their company.
Most people don’t pay for Black out of their own pocket. Some do of course, but it’s the exception rather than the rule. So, you want to know as much about business in your city as you can.
There are two sides to the corporate gig. I’m assuming you know the first one – which is where the major companies are located in your city.
Those are good places to wait for a trip in the afternoons where you’ll get calls from people going home or going out to a nearby restaurant or bar.
The other side of the corporate coin is knowing which areas the top corporate executives live in and heading there in the early mornings for trips either to the airport or to their offices.
This is a trick another driver told me he uses, that I never actually tried because by the time I got around to it Uber & Lyft had changed everything so that it was no longer possible to do.
But, in New York, where so many Fortune 500 companies are headquartered or at least have a substantial presence, he would research the companies and their top executives.
The first part of the research involves finding out which of the top companies have contracts with Uber or Lyft.
Any company that has a contract with either Uber or Lyft will let their employees expense their trips with them and you will therefore be likely to get a high number of trips from their employees. Their Black-car eligible employees will always be allowed to put Black car trips on their expense accounts, so you want to try to find out where these high-level employees are likely to be.
This information isn’t easy to find because they don’t usually publicize it, but search on some of the top companies in your city and put the words Uber and Lyft after the name and just see if anything comes up.
We found one large bank that is headquartered in New York that has a partnership with Uber and we learned that all of their employees who are entitled to company-paid ground transportation are allowed to use Uber and that includes their upper management.
In addition to the obvious, which would be to hang out near these companies at the end of the day, my friend showed me how he goes on Google and does searches like this: “Who is the CFO of BigCompanyName?”
He’ll get the Chief Financial Officer’s name, then he’ll look up his name on LinkedIn or Facebook and try to find out what wealthy suburb outside of New York City he lives in.
He would then go on Zillow to find the wealthiest neighborhoods in the area and head to them early the next morning knowing that there was a good chance he’d get a call from that area.
If not from the specific person he had searched on, then from someone else like him who lived in the same area. If you can find the general area where one person like this lives, you will then know where other people just like him live.
And that will be a high-potential earnings area for you. This method allows you to target areas where people with the highest potential of using Black cars live.
You may think you don’t need to do all that research because you already know where these kinds of people live and you know where the wealthy areas are. And if that’s the case, then go for it!
But, what we found was that although we thought we knew everything we needed to know, these methods gave us a little more information than we already had and helped get us even closer to where the customers were.
And getting just a little bit closer can give you just the edge you need over other drivers.
What’s the Best Car to Drive for Black?
You can choose from the list of eligible cars for your city.
However, just because Uber says it’s an eligible car doesn’t mean it’s the best car you can drive.
First though, you want to consider the following:
1. If you don’t already have a Black car – do not buy a new one just to drive for Black.
The cheapest way you can get into a Black car is to purchase a used one, if your finances and/or credit will allow it.
There is no need to spend $40,000-$60,000 on a brand new car when you can get something almost as good for $25,000-$35,000.
Remember, driving for rideshare companies can be very unstable. Things can change in a minute and the great money you earned yesterday could turn into no money tomorrow.
So, you definitely don’t want to get in over your head.
2. Another option is leasing a car.
First, you have to find a company that’s willing to lease cars for commercial use. There are companies in larger cities that will do this, but they’ll charge you an arm and a leg.
Leasing is a longer-term commitment, usually 2-3 years. And what you’ll pay is sky high. Some guys are paying up to $800 a week for a Black car.
This will take a big bite out of your earnings and if you get sick for a week or two, you may not be able to make the payments which could wreak havoc on your credit score and financial situation.
3. Renting a car is also another option to consider.
Again, you need to find a company that rents cars to rideshare drivers. The rental costs will generally be as high as leasing, but you won’t have a long-term commitment.
You can rent from week-to-week or from month-to-month. Every company has different deals, so if you don’t like the deal at one company, look for another one.
Renting is also not a good option as you’ll be paying more than twice what you would pay if you purchased the car.
4. The final option is to work with a limo company and drive their car.
If you do that, however, they will take a good chunk of your Uber/Lyft earnings as their commission – for the use of their car.
They may also have other requirements, like a dress code and things like that. On the positive side, they will also give you their own trips.
However, you won’t earn as much on these trips as you would with Uber/Lyft because you’re using their car so they’ll keep possibly more than half for themselves.
Things To Consider If You Buy A Car For UberBLACK
If you decide to buy your own car for UberBLACK driving, there are several things to consider:
- What Uber/Lyft services you’ll be able to drive for.
- Total cost of vehicle ownership in relation to what you’ll be able to make.
- Cost of running and maintaining the car.
Which Service To Drive For
The first thing to consider is which Uber car services do you want to drive for?
When I got my Black car, I got the Lexus ES-350. I didn’t want an SUV because I find them to be hugely wasteful on gas and I find most of them simply too uncomfortable.
They usually have very rough rides which would make for an unpleasant experience not only for my passengers but for me as well. And I’m the one who would have to sit in the thing all day and I didn’t want to be uncomfortable!
The Lexus ES 350 is very comfortable and my Black car passengers generally love it. In fact, they’ll often tell me how glad they were they got a true Black car sedan, rather than an SUV. They too complain about the uncomfortable SUV rides.
I should back up here and explain that if you get a vehicle that qualifies as an Uber or Lyft SUV, it will also qualify as a Black car and it will qualify for XL as well.
A lot of times passengers call for a Black car Uber and Lyft will send them a luxury SUV but what they really wanted was a black car.
They don’t want an SUV and if they had wanted an SUV they would have requested one. So, a lot of customers are very happy when a true Black car sedan shows up.
As a driver though, you need to know that if you get a luxury SUV, that it also qualifies as a Black car. Most SUV drivers accept Black trips and SUV trips. Ninety percent of their trips though will be Black.
But it’s good to know that an SUV can also accept Black calls. In fact, an SUV can accept all calls, X, XL, Black & SUV.
Total Cost Of UberBLACK Vehicle Ownership
From an earnings perspective though, there are vehicles that qualify as SUV/Black that are more comfortable and have better rides than the typical SUV and I’m thinking now that I probably should have gotten one of those.
At the time though, I saw the earnings of my friends who had SUVs and they just didn’t get very many SUV trips so it didn’t seem like I’d be losing out too much by not having one.
The reason I say that is, although SUV trips are few and far between because they are the highest priced service, they do still happen. And if you get a $200 SUV trip twice a week, you’re not going to complain about the extra $400.
The main reason though to own a black SUV is for the flexibility it gives you. It gives you the ability to drive for SUV, Black, XL, and X. You can drive for all of Uber’s services with a Black SUV.
And that can give you a lot of added flexibility with your driving strategies. You can work on strategies that drivers of other vehicles can’t.
Use your knowledge of rates for the different classes of service to mix and match your strategy for maximum income.
|Mileage Rates for Each Class of Vehicle||New York||Los Angeles||Dallas|
For instance, when you drop someone off at the airport, if you set the app to only accept Black/SUV calls, you will most likely sit there for several hours before you get a trip.
Usually a minimum of two hours and sometimes, if you’re at the wrong airport, you could sit for 4-6 hours! You might get a nice long Black or SUV trip that will make the wait worth it.
But most likely, you’ll get an average trip and make somewhere between $50-$120. If you only waited two hours, the $120 trip might be worth it. But if you waited for four or six, it’s definitely not worth it.
But with an SUV, you can set it to accept XL calls in addition to Black and SUV calls.
At a busy airport, you’ll get an XL call far sooner and you might be out of there within a half hour. You may only make $40-$60 on the trip, but that’s okay because you didn’t have to wait long for it.
Plus, if you got a $100 fare to the airport, a $40-$60 immediate turn-around fare back to town is just a bonus on top. So, if you use it strategically, having the XL capability can add up to a nice bonus by the end of the week.
I would also recommend, if at all possible, getting a hybrid vehicle. This can be your last consideration, but if the kind of vehicle you want to get comes in a hybrid version, definitely get the hybrid version.
UberBLACK/SUV Rating Requirements
In the last year or so, Uber has initiated a requirement that all Black/SUV drivers must have at least a 4.80 rating.
If you don’t currently have a 4.80 rating you will not be eligible to receive Black or SUV calls.
However, if you’re determined to drive for Black, you could still get a Black car and drive it for X. That in itself could help your ratings go up because passengers rate higher for nicer cars.
However, you must figure out why your ratings are low and you must accurately assess your potential to get your rating up.
You should also remember that at any time Uber or Lyft could change the requirements that would make you no longer eligible to drive for Black.
Your rating could also go back down and you would be left with the expenses of luxury car and only able to drive for X.
Black Car Recommendations
All of the cars that are eligible for Black are decent cars – with the notable exception of the Buick LaCrosse. The LaCrosse is definitely on the lower end of the Black cars that are eligible. It’s not a bad car, but we’ve found around here that customers give lower ratings to drivers who have them.
Passengers are paying a much higher rate for a Black car and they rightly expect a certain level of comfort and luxury. The LaCrosse just doesn’t deliver on this and you will notice the difference in your ratings.
This is also something you have to consider in light of the 4.80 rating requirement. You definitely don’t want to end up with a car that is responsible for bringing your ratings down!
SUVs are a tricky subject because some of the most popular SUVs are some of the worst.
For instance, the Suburban which is probably the most popular Black SUV driven by Uber and Lyft drivers, along with the Chevy Tahoe and Ford Expedition are notoriously unreliable.
After about 50,000 miles you will constantly have it in the shop getting one thing or another fixed. The transmissions don’t last long and it’ll cost you around $4,000 to get it replaced.
These cars are just not made for this kind of driving. The transmissions don’t last long if they’re constantly in start and stop city traffic. We strongly recommend you look at one of the other alternatives.
The Infinity QX60 is a good choice. You can pick up a 2014 for around $27,000. That’s a huge savings off the new-car price. New, they run around $60,000!
You also want to look at the warranty on any new car you purchase.
But keep in mind, all consumer warranties exclude any vehicle that is used for any commercial purpose.
So, if you need to take it in for work, don’t mention that you Uber or Lyft with it!
But since all Black cars and SUVs have to be commercially licensed there is a chance they’ll know when they see your plates or any stickers you’re required to put on the outside of your vehicle.
We have found that most dealerships don’t care because they get paid by the manufacturer, so they’re just happy to have the work. But don’t rub it in their faces.
Another little trick you might try is taking it to an out of town dealership that’s far enough away that they wouldn’t normally deal in commercially licensed vehicles in your city. They may not recognize the plates or stickers as being indicative of a vehicle used for commercial purposes.
Commercial Licensing, Insurance and Regulations
Most cities where the UberBLACK car service is offered require that you and your car be commercially licensed and insured the same way limo service cars are licensed and insured.
Requirements vary by location, so you’ll have to check this out on your own for your city. But you should be aware that there will probably be some additional costs that you will have to incur before becoming eligible to drive a Black car.
It’s not possible to list all the requirements for every city here, so you should check out Uber’s website for the details for your city. Each city has different licensing and insurance requirements and different vehicle eligibilities.
We’ve given you a good general overview here but for the rest of the information you need, check out the page on Uber’s website for your city.
Do you drive for UberBLACK? What car do you have, and what are some strategies you use to increase earnings? Let us know in the comments below!
Jonathan Cousar began driving for Uber in 2013 when the ride-hail company first began operations in New York City. He has booked more than 7,000 trips. In 2014 he created Uber Driver Diaries, which was the first blog by an Uber driver describing the highs and lows of driving as well as offering tips and tricks and information on the industry as a whole. In 2016 Ridester acquired the site, and Jonathan began writing full-time about the rideshare industry and the gig economy. He has also done extensive research into driver issues related to pay and working conditions.