It’s hard to go anywhere these days without hearing about Uber. Whether it’s ads around town or online, news stories or even pop culture, Uber’s name is everywhere.
Uber is a ride-hailing smartphone app that connects riders with drivers. As one of the first “on-demand” services to operate on a smartphone platform, Uber has cemented itself as the leader in the rideshare market (with Lyft solidly in second place). For passengers, it’s a way to to get reliable rides with a private driver. For drivers, Uber provides an opportunity to make extra income.
Yet even though you’ve heard of it, you are still wondering how to use Uber. How does it work? How do you pay? Is it safe? These are just a few of the questions we’ll address in this guide on how to use Uber, which will take you from “I’ve heard of Uber” to “Oh, Uber, yeah I used that to get home last night.”
If you’re new to rideshare and don’t know how Uber works, read on this handy, in-depth guide covering this app and its functions.
- What Is Uber?
- How Does Uber Work?
- How to Use Uber
- How Much Does Uber Cost?
- Is Uber Safe?
- Uber Vehicle Options
- How to Take Your First Uber Ride
- Frequently Asked Questions
What Is Uber?
Founded in 2009 by Garrett Camp and Travis Kalanick, Uber has grown to more than 41.8 million users in the U.S. alone and 75 million worldwide (updated January 2021), spread across 789 cities in over 84 countries.
Uber works by relying on drivers (independent contractors) with their own vehicles. The company just provides the technology to connect a customer with a driver. According to their website, “Uber is a technology platform. Our smartphone apps connect driver-partners and riders.”
Uber uses GPS and digital mapping technologies to allow you to track the progress of your ride and estimate your arrival time. All payment is handled through the mobile app, ensuring that you never have to worry about having cash or letting a stranger handle your credit card.
For a long time, Uber’s catchphrase was “Your private driver,” which does a pretty good job of explaining the service’s premise. However, Uber isn’t a typical transportation company; they don’t own their own vehicles and they don’t manage fleets.
The company was originally intended as a service to hire high-end “black cars” at a cheaper price than traditional private driving services. Uber expanded its services in 2012 to include UberX, which allowed owners of non-luxury vehicles to drive for Uber after passing a background check and meeting the company’s other requirements.
UberX is now the company’s flagship service, though they have since expanded into food delivery and a variety of other rideshare options that we’ll discuss later in this article. The company is now run by CEO Dara Khosrowshahi.
How Does Uber Work?
If you’ve never used Uber, taking your first ride can seem like magic. While the service is a marvel of modern technology, the basic premise of Uber is quite simple. You pull out your smartphone, open the app and type in your desired location.
Uber will use your phone’s GPS to get your current location and provide an estimated cost of your ride to your destination. The cost depends on a variety of factors including the vehicle you select, the time, and your local market.
Once you’ve chosen the vehicle, you then request the ride. The app will contact nearby Uber drivers, and once a driver has accepted your ride request, you’ll see a notification that they’re on their way. You can see your driver’s current location on a map and stay updated on when they’ll arrive. The driver can also contact you if they run into unexpected delays such as traffic.
When the driver has arrived at your location, you’ll receive a notification. The app also will tell you the driver’s name and the make, model and license plate number of their car. This way, you can ensure that you’re getting into the correct vehicle. Many vehicles also display a sticker or sign in the window indicating that the driver is working for Uber.
Once you’re in the vehicle, the driver will confirm your destination and you’ll be on your way. During the ride, you can continue to use the Uber app to track your current location and the estimated time to your destination. This part of the process is pretty much like riding in a traditional cab, except there’s no need to worry about a meter or handling any cash — the rate is already set and paid through the app.
After the driver drops you off, he or she will then mark the ride as “Complete” and be on their way to pick up their next passenger. You’ll then have the opportunity to rate the driver on a scale of 1–5 stars, leave any comments or feedback, and give the driver a tip if you desire (more on tipping below).
There are a few more details that will vary based on your city and the type of ride you select.
Intrigued and ready to try it out for yourself? Then read on to find out how to sign up and take your first Uber ride.
How to Use Uber
If you’ve never used Uber before, or if you’re still new to the service, you may be wondering how to get the most out of the Uber app. While the Uber app is very intuitive and comes with extensive documentation on Uber’s website, there are certain key features of it that aren’t obvious.
Listed below are some of the most important features of the Uber app, including how to call an Uber, leave an Uber driver review, edit your Uber payment method, and much more. after reading through the tips below, you’ll know how to use the Uber app like a pro.
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Step 1: Download the Uber App
Before you can learn how to use the Uber app, you need to download it. While it is possible to use Uber without a smartphone, using the Uber app is far more convenient.
All you’ll need are the following:
- A smartphone capable of running the Uber app (most smartphones are capable of this)
- A working phone number and email address
- A valid credit card, debit card, or PayPal account
The app is available for both iPhone and Android devices on the Apple App Store and Google Play Store. Note that you need at least iOS 8 or Android 4.0.3 or newer to run the Uber app. Otherwise, the app may not function well (or at all).
Don’t have the Uber app yet? Download it here:
Once you’ve downloaded the app, it will walk you through the process of setting it up. As long as you have a phone number, smartphone, email address, and valid payment method, the setup process will be easy. Once you have the app set up, you’re ready to take your first ride.
Assuming you have all of the above, you’re ready to create your account.
- Fill in Your Information: Open the app and fill in the information that Uber requests. You’ll be prompted to input your first and last name, phone number, and preferred language. You’ll also need to enter your email address, create a password, and agree to Uber’s Terms and Conditions.
- Verify Your Phone Number: Uber will send you an SMS message to verify that the phone number works. The text message will include a verification code that you’ll be prompted to enter into the app.
- Add Your Payment Information: You’ll complete the process by adding your preferred payment information. Valid payment options include a credit card, debit card, or PayPal account (though this is not available in all countries). Uber will automatically charge all rides you take to the payment method you provide. We recommend using a promo code to get free credits towards your first ride.
- Confirm Your Account Information Via Email: Uber will send a confirmation link to the email address you provided. Once you click this link, your account will be fully operational and you’ll be able to take your first ride.
Step 2: How to Call an Uber
Calling an Uber takes just a few taps. Here are the steps you’ll need to follow:
Open the Uber app and select your destination. When you open the Uber app, you’ll see a screen like the following:
In the box that says “Where to?”, type your destination. The app will also show you places you’ve previously traveled in case you want to go to them again.
After you’ve typed in your destination, make sure to confirm that your pickup location is correct. By default, Uber will use your current location. Most of the time, this is what you want the app to use. If you’d like the app to use a different location for some reason, then you can type it in the first box:
Choose Your Type of Uber Ride
After you’ve entered your pickup location and destination, you’ll see a screen where you can choose which type of Uber ride you want.
The default is UberX, which is a basic ride that can seat up to four passengers. You can also choose other ride types, such as UberXL (rides that hold up to six people), UberBLACK (high-end vehicles with professional drivers), or UberSUV (luxury vehicles that can hold up to six people).
In some instances, you’ll also see an option to choose UberPOOL, which lets you save money by sharing your ride with other passengers who are headed in the same direction.
Below each ride type, you’ll see a fare estimate and an estimated arrival time at your destination.
Once you’ve selected the ride you want, tap the “Confirm” button.
The app will then ask you to confirm your pickup location one final time. If the location is correct, tap “Confirm Pickup” to make your ride request.
Meet Your Driver at the Pickup Location
Once you’ve requested the ride, Uber will match you with an Uber driver. When they’ve found a driver for you, the app will let you know and display the driver’s name, vehicle description, and license plate number. This helps you confirm that you’re in the correct vehicle.
Sit Back and Enjoy the Ride
When your driver arrives, be sure to confirm their name and vehicle information. Then, get in the vehicle and enjoy the ride to your destination.
Bear in mind that some drivers will be more talkative or sociable than others. If you’d prefer to sit in silence, your driver will understand (just be sure to be polite and communicate any necessary info about your destination).
When you get to your destination, the driver will drop you off, and you can be on your way. If you want, you can leave an Uber review, which is what we’ll cover next.
Step 3: Rating Your Driver
After each ride with Uber, the Uber app will ask you if you want to leave a review. This consists of a star rating from 1 to 5, as well as optional feedback. While you’re not required to leave a review, it’s a good idea both for your driver’s sake and for the Uber platform.
If you had a great driver, then let them know! If there was something they could improve, then make note of it. This helps make the Uber service better for everyone.
Here are a few quick things to know about Uber reviews:
- Most passengers leave a 5-star rating unless there was a problem with the ride.
- If you leave less than 5 stars, be sure to explain why. This helps drivers improve and (in extreme cases) helps Uber remove bad drivers from the platform.
- If you leave a rating of 3 stars or less, you won’t be matched with that driver again.
- All reviews are anonymous. Your driver cannot see who left a specific rating, and they can only see the average of their last 500 reviews.
- Your driver can also leave you a review. This affects your Uber passenger rating, and it’s designed to hold you accountable for your conduct when taking an Uber ride.
Step 4: Tipping Your Driver
After you leave a driver review, the Uber app will ask you if you want to leave a tip. Tips are optional, but they are a great way to show your appreciation for an excellent driver. Uber will suggest a few tip amounts, but you can also leave a higher custom amount if you think your driver really deserves it.
Remember, drivers are independent contractors, which means that Uber doesn’t reimburse them for their expenses. Furthermore, Uber takes a large percentage of each fare, which means that drivers make far less than what you pay. This means that tips are important to making driving for Uber a sustainable job.
Bonus: How to Cancel an Uber
Sometimes, you’ll request an Uber and then need to cancel it. This can happen for a few reasons. Perhaps you realize that your friend who you thought was right behind you has suddenly disappeared back into the bar. Or maybe you thought you needed to get an Uber, but then your friend offers to drive you home.
Whatever the reason, Uber realizes that sometimes people’s plans change. This is why they let you cancel rides. To cancel a ride that you’ve requested, tap the “Cancel” button at the top of the Uber app screen:
Then, tap “Yes, Cancel” to confirm the cancellation.
If you cancel a ride before you’ve been matched with a driver, the cancellation is free. If you cancel after you’ve been matched with a driver, however, you may have to pay a cancellation fee. The amount of the fee varies (usually it’s around $5), and it helps compensate your driver for the time they spent driving to pick you up (or waiting for you, if applicable).
Bonus: How to View Your Uber Trip History
Ever needed to look back and review how much you paid for an Uber ride? Trying to remember the name of that great restaurant you went to a couple months ago? Want to leave your Uber driver a tip after the fact? These are all reasons to check your Uber trip history, which is easy to do in the Uber app.
To check your Uber trip history, open the Uber app and tap on the menu button:
Then, tap “Your Trips”:
You’ll then be able to see a list of all your past Uber trips:
To view the details for a specific trip, tap on it. You’ll then see a screen like the one below:
How Much Does Uber Cost?
One common question new riders have is how much Uber will cost. Uber frequently markets itself as an affordable transportation option, especially compared to taking a taxi or hiring a limo or private driver. But is it really as affordable as the company claims?
Generally speaking, Uber is cheaper than a taxi. Because Uber doesn’t have to pay to upkeep a fleet of vehicles or reimburse drivers for any expenses, they’re able to offer lower prices to customers.
That being said, there are some situations when Uber will be more expensive than taking a taxi. If the demand for Uber rides is greater than the number of available drivers, it may create a surge. This can cause the price of an Uber ride to double or even triple. Taxi fares, in contrast, will stay the same regardless of how busy the area is.
We should also note that public transportation remains more affordable than Uber overall. On short trips, the cost of an UberPOOL ride might come close to taking the bus or light rail, but it still tends to be a bit more expensive once you factor in tipping your driver.
When comparing Uber to public transit, the key advantages are convenience and availability. You can get an Uber to come directly to your location at any time of the day or night. With public transit, in contrast, you have to travel to the nearest stop or station while also being at the mercy of the transit schedule. If you don’t mind a bit of waiting around and having to walk a bit to get to your destination, then public transit is still the clear winner in terms of cost.
Let’s break down the different factors Uber uses to calculates your fare to get a better understanding of what you’ll pay.
First, it’s important to understand that there are two ways Uber calculates your fares: upfront fares and post-trip fares. The type depends on your city. We’ll look at upfront fares first.
Upfront Uber Fares
The upfront fare is the most common, and it’s a major advantage of using Uber over a traditional taxi. The fare you pay will be displayed once you’ve selected your destination and pickup location. You know exactly what the ride will cost before your driver even arrives.
How does Uber calculate upfront fares? According to their website, upfront fares are determined using the following information:
- A base rate – This is the minimum amount you pay to take any Uber ride, which ensures that drivers always receive reasonable compensation. The base rate depends on your city and is subject to change. You can get a sense of your city’s base rate using a fare estimator, which we’ll discuss below.
- Rates for estimated time and distance of the route – These charges account for the distance (which can be known in advance using GPS) and the time (which Uber can estimate but is subject to change due to traffic, road closures, and other conditions that are difficult to predict).
- The current demand for rides in the area – Basic economics apply to Uber: the higher the demand, the higher the price. You can expect higher prices during rush hour, late at night when bars close, and if there are sporting events, concerts, or other events happening.
Let’s examine a theoretical trip in Nashville. Using Uber’s official Fare Estimate tool, here’s a breakdown of the price for a trip using UberX between two relatively central locations in the city:
Using all these variables, Uber estimates a trip cost of $14–$19.
If you’re curious to estimate fares for yourself, use Uber’s official Fare Estimate tool. Just put in any two addresses in a location where Uber operates, and Uber will show you estimated costs for all the types of service available in your area.
To make sure you’re saving money, you can also use the Ridester Uber Fare Estimator, which allows you to estimate both Uber and Lyft fares between different addresses.
Post-Trip Uber Fares
For some cities, local regulations don’t allow Uber to provide upfront fares. Instead, you’ll receive notification of the total trip charge once you’ve completed your ride. Other than that, the process of taking and paying for the ride is exactly the same as one with an upfront fare.
While post-trip fares can be frustrating, you can still use one of the fare estimate tools we discussed above to get a rough sense of what your ride will cost. If you use Uber regularly, you’ll gain an idea of what costs will be through experience.
Is Uber Safe?
There’s a lot that Uber does to ensure the safety of riders and driver partners. This is one of people’s biggest concerns when using Uber. How are you supposed to trust that the stranger you just got in the car with isn’t going to cheat, kidnap, or hurt you?
After a driver signs up to the platform, Uber conducts a rigorous vetting process, which includes background checks, training, and vehicle inspections. This ensures that both the driver and the vehicle comply with the rules set by Uber. Drivers need to have insurance and an American driver’s license. Those with a previous criminal record or serious driving violations are disqualified from driving. In general, the rules are pretty similar to those in place for taxi drivers (and Lyft drivers).
Here are a few more ways Uber keeps riders safe:
The Uber app works off GPS. The app will automatically find your location and direct a nearby driver your way, even if you don’t know your exact address.
Uber driver app shows minimal rider details, so drivers cannot decline a ride request based on gender, race, or destination.
Every driver has a profile with details about them and their vehicle. Information includes name, license plate number, phone, and rating, so you can ensure the correct vehicle is picking you up before you hop in. This information also helps if you left something behind in the vehicle and need to contact the driver again.
Share Your ETA
Once your ride begins, you can share your ETA and route with friends and families so they know where you are and when to expect you. You also will be able to follow your trip in real-time. In UberPOOL, you will always know who you share your ride with since every rider has to create an account with their basic details.
Driver Ratings System
Uber keeps drivers accountable with their star rating system. If a driver comes across as unsafe, rude, or displays undesirable behavior, you have the ability to give them a low rating and provide anonymous feedback on your poor Uber experience. Uber employees will review this, and that driver won’t be matched with you for future rides.
Note that if a serious incident occurs involving a driver (sexual harassment, criminal activity, etc.) you can call a special Uber phone number to get priority assistance (once you’ve contacted local law enforcement).
Riders can rest assured knowing there is an entire team standing behind them 24/7. There are many ways to contact Uber to report any issues, including general questions, safety issues, or even lost items.
While the news likes to highlight the rare stories from rogue Uber drivers, know that there are millions of Uber drivers all over the world working 24/7. It’s likely that even with the best safety measures in place, at least one of them will eventually do something newsworthy. But for the most part, Uber is safe.
Uber Vehicle Options
When you open up the Uber app and input your destination, you’ll be presented with a wide variety of vehicle options. All these options can be overwhelming, and it’s important to understand which is right for you so that you don’t choose the wrong one or pay too much.
The exact options will depend on your local market, but here’s a breakdown of the most common Uber offerings:
- UberX – This is the standard Uber service. It provides a private ride in a standard car for up to four passengers, and it’s available in most markets.
- UberXL – If you need to carry a larger group of people without spending a ton of extra money, then you can use UberXL. These vehicles can carry up to six passengers, making them perfect for nights out with a big group or for larger families.
- UberBLACK – This is a ride in a black luxury vehicle. You will pay substantially more for this option, but it can be nice for special occasions such as a date or important business meeting. This service is also widely available.
- UberSUV – You can think of UberSUV as UberBLACK for groups. This is a high-end service, and you’ll pay accordingly. UberSUV can accommodate up to six passengers, and the drivers tend to dress and behave very professionally, making it a similar experience to a private car service you’d use for a business function.
- UberSELECT – This service is somewhere between UberX and UberBLACK. The cars are high-end luxury sedans or SUVs, but they don’t have to be black and won’t cost you quite as much as an UberBLACK ride.
- UberLUX – This is the most high-end Uber option available. You can expect to ride in a luxury car such as a Rolls Royce or a Tesla Model X. When you need to make a remarkable first impression, this is the car to go for. Due to the high-end nature, availability is limited, and you can also expect to pay very premium prices — the highest of any Uber services.
- UberPET – If you need to bring your pet and want to ensure that your driver will be comfortable with it, you can use UberPET. This service is only available in select markets and you’ll pay an extra surcharge of $2 to use it.
- UberPOOL – If you’re looking to save money and don’t mind sharing your ride with other passengers, then you can use UberPOOL. The service allows you and up to one other person to request a ride at a discounted fare. Along the way, Uber will find other riders who are headed in the same direction as you, and the driver will stop to pick them up. This helps to keep costs down. While you should expect additional pickups and dropoffs during your trip, it’s also possible that you’ll be the only one on the ride; it just depends on the current demand.
- UberWAV – WAV stands for wheelchair accessible vehicle. This service will give you access to a van that can accommodate riders in a wheelchair. Uber also notes that “uberWAV driver-partners are certified by a third party in safely driving and assisting people with disabilities,” so you can rest assured that entering and exiting the vehicle will be a breeze. The service is available in select cities.
As we already mentioned, the precise vehicle options available to you will depend on the market. In some countries, for example, you can even request rides in boats or rickshaws, and Uber is also working on plans to offer helicopter service in the future.
In general, however, UberX, UberXL, and UberBLACK are the most widely available services across markets in the United States.
Let’s now look at the various types of car services Uber provides its riders in more detail. If you’re looking for an extremely detailed breakdown, check out this guide on the different types of Uber vehicles.[su_spoiler title=”What Is UberX?” style=”simple” icon=”caret”]
As the flagship service of the Uber brand, UberX is its most affordable and heavily used service level.
UberX cars are low-cost sedans that seat up to 4 passengers. Many UberX drivers will provide a few extras like bottles of water, light snacks, and phone chargers.
Uber requires that these cars be no more than 10–15 years old. Specific year requirements on this vehicle type will vary by market.
Typical UberX Cars
- Dodge Charger
- Toyota Prius
- Toyota Camry
- Kia Sorento & Optima
- Hyundai Sonata
- Nissan Maxima
Pros to Using Uber X
- UberX is very affordable.
- UberX cars are everywhere. Whether you are in the New York, San Francisco, Seattle, London, or anywhere else in the world where Uber operates, an UberX car is usually just around the corner.
Cons to Using UberX
- Surge Pricing can increase the fares.
- Since the driver earnings from UberX are low, many delay spending money on routine vehicle maintenance.
- UberX drivers may not have commercial insurance which makes it hard to claim insurance in the event of an accident.
- UberX drivers are not commercially licensed by the state, city or any governmental body. They only go through the background check provided by Uber. They aren’t fingerprinted or put through the more stringent background checks that state and city taxi laws require. This applies to most of Uber’s other service types.
- The UberX cars can only comfortably carry two mid- to large-sized suitcases. If you have bigger luggage than that you’d be better off calling an UberXL car.
UberPOOL lets you share your rides and split the fare with other passengers heading the same direction as you. The price is even lower than UberX.
If you’re the first passenger in your UberPOOL ride, chances are somebody else will be picked up along the way. They may drop the second person off before you depending on what the best route is between their pickup point and both of your destinations.
Typical UberPOOL Cars
With UberPOOL, you can expect the same comfortable sedans that you’d get with an UberX.
Pros of UberPOOL
- Cheaper than UberX since the fare gets split between riders.
- UberPOOL is a great way to meet new people.
Cons of UberPOOL
- There is no limit on the number of pickups and drop-off points a driver may make en route to your location. This delays the time to reach your destination.
UberXL are affordable SUVs that seat between 4–6 passengers. They are great for when you have a lot of baggage or cargo that won’t fit in an UberX. The fares for UberXL are generally 1.5x higher than UberX.
Typical UberXL Cars
- Kia Sorento
- Toyota Highlander
- Toyota Sienna
- Dodge Grand Caravan
- Chevrolet Traverse
- Ford Explorer
- Hyundai Santa Fe
Pros of UberXL
- XLs are SUV-sized vehicles that give you plenty of room for lots of baggage and other cargo. They’re perfect for airport trips.
- They give you two more seats than the four seats you get in an X car. So when you’re out with a large group of people, call an XL and you’ll be able to comfortably fit everyone in the same car.
Cons of UberXL
- They’re a little pricier than UberX – but not too much – especially considering UberX’s super low rates.
- The same cons that apply to UberX about licensing and background checks apply to XL.
- The same cons that apply to UberX about low driver pay also apply to XL because most XL drivers spend most of their time taking lower-paying X trips.
UberSELECT is a mid-tier luxury sedan with vinyl or leather interiors that seats up to 4 passengers. Rates are generally 2.5x higher than UberX but about 1.5x lower than UberBLACK.
Typical UberSELECT Cars
- Acura RDX/MDX/TLX+
- Kia K900
- Audi A3/Q3/S4/A6/Q7+
- BMW 5 Series & 7 Series
- Cadillac CTS, Escalade, SRX+
- Hyundai Genesis Sedan
- Infiniti EX/FX/QX/Q50+
Pros of UberSELECT
- You get a stylish car for an everyday price that falls between the cost of an UberBLACK and an UberX.
- Drivers that drive for UberSELECT are highly rated, so you can expect stellar customer service.
Cons of UberSELECT
- UberSELECT is not offered in all markets.
Although UberX is Uber’s most used service, UberBLACK was their very first product.
This luxury black car service is a perfect option when you are in need of an upscale ride for special events like wining and dining a big client or going out on a big date.
Typical UberBLACK Cars
- BMW 5-Series & 7-Series
- Mercedes S/G/GL/GLC-Class +
- Volvo XC90
- Infiniti Q70
- Lexus ES350
- Audi A6, A7, A8 & more
- Hyundai Genesis
- Jaguar XF/XJ
Pros of UberBLACK
- If you want a fancier luxury car option than a typical UberX, UberBLACK is the way to go.
- You’re also guaranteed a highly rated professional driver. Uber currently requires that BLACK drivers maintain at least a 4.80 passenger rating.
- The cars are well maintained, and the drivers are fully insured which means you will be protected in case they get into an accident.
- Unlike other Uber service types, UberBLACK drivers are professionally licensed and fingerprinted by local governmental bodies.
Cons of UberBLACK
- It’s more expensive. In most markets, it’s roughly two to three times as much as UberX. But UberBLACK prices are just a little bit higher than standard taxi service prices.
With UberSUV, you get a luxury SUV that’s perfect for a group with 6 people. It’s the most expensive class of Uber you can take in most cities. However, a small number of cities have another service called UberLUX which is even more expensive than UberSUV.
Typical UberSUV Cars
- Cadillac Escalade
- Chevrolet Suburban
- Lincoln Navigator
- GMC Yukon XL
- Infiniti QX80
- Mercedes GL-Class
- Lexus LX
Pros of UberSUV
- UberSUV drivers are fully licensed professional drivers and commercially insured. They also go through a rigorous city or state background checks that normally include fingerprinting.
- The SUVs are luxury SUVs and very comfortable.
- You can take up to six passengers, and there is room for lots of luggage or cargo.
- Drivers must maintain at least a 4.80 average passenger rating.
Cons of UberSUV
- It’s the most expensive Uber service.
- UberSUV drivers are allowed to also take requests for UberBLACK. So if you order an UberBLACK, you might end up with an UberSUV. Some passengers have expressed annoyance that they get an UberSUV instead of an UberBLACK. But if you must have an SUV, you should specifically order one, or you might end up with a sedan.
How to Take Your First Uber Ride
Now that you’ve signed up for the app, have an understanding of how much your ride will cost and know the difference between the various Uber vehicle options, you’re ready to hop in an Uber for the first time and start exploring your town. Taking your first ride can be intimidating. To take the mystery out of the process, here’s exactly how to take your first Uber ride, including what to do before, during, and after the ride.
Before the Ride
Let’s go into a bit more detail about how to request an Uber ride. Just follow these steps:
- Open the app.
- Type in your destination. You can also select a location on the map. It’s also a good idea to verify that your pickup location is correct, especially if you’re in an area with one-way streets or other unusual roads.
- Select your vehicle type.
- Tap “Confirm.” You can also a schedule a ride for later, which we’ll discuss below in the Frequently Asked Questions. Once you hit “Confirm,” Uber will match you with the nearest available driver.
- Wait for confirmation that the driver has accepted your ride.
- Await pickup.
While you’re waiting, you’ll be able to see the driver’s progress and your remaining wait time in the Uber app. You can also contact the driver via text or call if you have any questions or need to give them any special pickup instructions. The driver will also be able to contact you in case they’re running late or have a question about where to pick you up.
Tip: For easy pickup, be sure to wait in the spot you specified to the driver, especially if you’re in a crowded area or getting picked up at an apartment complex.
During the Ride
Once you see the driver, they’ll often roll down their window and confirm your name. They’re not required to do this, but it’s a common courtesy that ensures they’re picking up the correct person. This is especially important if they’re picking you up somewhere busy such as outside a club, bar, or sporting event.
Once you’ve verified that it’s the correct driver, you can get in the car. If you have a bag, suitcase, or other item that you’d like to put in the trunk, the driver may offer to assist you if they are able. If you’re traveling with a group, be sure to discuss who wants to sit where before the driver arrives in order to avoid a delay.
Feel free to make small talk with the driver, but don’t feel like you have to force it. If you’re traveling, be sure to let your driver know — they may be able to give you some recommendations about things to do while you’re in town. Above all, just be polite.
Don’t be afraid to ask the driver if there’s something they can do (within reason) to make your drive more comfortable, such as changing the music or adjusting the heat or air conditioning.
When the driver reaches your destination, they’ll do their best to let you off in the spot that’s most convenient for you. Of course, depending on the traffic and geography of where they’re dropping you off, it may not always be possible for them to get you directly in front of your destination.
After the Ride
Once the ride is over, the Uber app will send a message asking you to rate the ride. When the driver first accepted your ride, you may have seen a star rating next to their picture. These ratings are the result of previous riders’ evaluations of the driver, and now you have the opportunity to make your voice heard.
Once you’ve given a rating that you think is appropriate, Uber will also give you the chance to go into more detail. If you leave five stars, they’ll give you some options to describe what you liked about the ride; if you give fewer, then they’ll ask for suggestions on how the driver could improve in the future.
Finally, the app will ask if you want to give the driver a tip. While tips are not required, they are appreciated; they help drivers offset the cost of operating their vehicle. Not to mention, they’re a way for you to say thanks for great service. Uber will provide set amounts you can tip, and you can also input a custom amount. There’s nothing wrong with tipping the driver a couple dollars in cash before they drop you off if you prefer.
Frequently Asked Questions
You now have an overview of how to use Uber, and should feel confident taking your first ride. That being said, we know that you may still have further questions. To help answer them, we’ve put together the following FAQ.
What happens if I cancel a ride?
Sometimes, for a variety of reasons, you may need to cancel an Uber ride. Uber understands that this can happen, but they also want to make sure that drivers are compensated for the time they spent going to get you.
For this reason, if you cancel a ride anywhere from 2–5 minutes after you request it, you may be charged a cancellation fee of a couple dollars. The amount of time you have to cancel varies based on your city, and some cities do not allow cancellation fees.
To find out the policy for your city, visit Uber’s “Am I charged for canceling?” page.
What is surge pricing? How can I avoid it?
Surge pricing occurs when there is more demand for rides in an area than there are available Uber drivers. It can result from something as routine as rush hour traffic, but it can also be the result of construction, sporting events, concerts, inclement weather, or anything that might increase the demand for rides.
The policy is controversial, sometimes leading to fares of hundreds of dollars just to go across town.
That being said, Uber’s official statement on the matter is that surge pricing incentivizes drivers to make pickups in busy areas and also helps the supply of drivers keep up with the demand for rides.
Surge pricing is a reality of using Uber that you’re bound to run into sooner or later. Therefore, it’s in your best interest to understand how surge pricing works and how you can avoid it.
Uber calculates surge fares using a multiplier that they apply to the final fare for a trip. For example, if a normal Uber ride costs $15 but there’s a 3x surge, the fare will be $45. The precise amount of the surge varies based on the market and a variety of other conditions.
Luckily, there are ways for you to avoid surge pricing as an Uber rider. Often, the simplest way is to walk a few blocks to a less busy area and then call an Uber from there.
Finally, you can avoid surge pricing by being strategic about when and where you use Uber.
Yes, you can, with a couple conditions. First, the person cannot be in your location. Second, you have to specify that the ride is for someone else when you book it and input the contact information of the person you want Uber to pick up.
- Open the app.
- Enter the person’s location.
- Uber will ask you whom the ride is for. Select “Someone else.”
- Enter the person’s contact information. You can either select someone from your contacts or enter the person’s phone number.
- Confirm the contact information.
- Enter the person’s destination.
- Tap “Confirm Rider” and then “Request.”
The person will be able to receive text updates on the progress of their ride. They do not need an Uber account to use this service. However, you will be responsible for the cost of the ride and for the person’s conduct.
Is Uber available in my city?
To find out if Uber is available in your city, visit the Uber Cities page and type in the name of your city. You’ll be able to see the service options available in your area.
Do I need a smartphone to request an Uber?
While using an Apple or Android device is the easiest and most feature-rich way to request an Uber, it is possible to request one through the company’s website. This can be handy for riders who don’t have a smartphone or if your phone is out of battery.
Learn how to use your computer to request an Uber in our guide: Request Lyft or Uber Online.
Do I need to tip?
While tipping is not required, it is appreciated. Obviously, if you received poor service, then you should not tip (and you should make note of the poor service when you rate the driver).
However, assuming you had a good experience, giving the driver a few extra dollars to show your appreciation is a good gesture.
And don’t worry about tips affecting your rating or future service — drivers can’t see the tips until after they’ve rated you, and they can’t see any personal information associated with the tip. To learn more about tipping drivers, see The Complete Guide to Uber Tipping.
Can I pay using cash?
In all but a few select markets, no. One of the selling points of Uber is its safety and convenience for both riders and drivers, and a large part of this comes from all arrangements and transactions occurring through the app.
Because of this, you cannot pay for your fare using cash. You must pay with the credit or debit card on file with your account. As Uber puts it on their website, “Uber is designed to be an entirely cashless experience in most cities.”
That being said, it is perfectly fine to tip in cash if you so desire.
Is Uber available outside America?
One of the great benefits of Uber is that it’s available across the world. The exact type and extent of service vary depending on the market, but Uber is currently available in a variety of countries around the world. The exact number is difficult to pin down at the moment due to the recent sale of the company’s business operations in Southeast Asia, but Uber currently lists 81 different countries on their website.
How do I drive for Uber?
If learning about how to ride with Uber has gotten you interested in driving for the service, then check out How Does Uber Work? The Complete Guide For Drivers to learn how you can get started as a driver.
Can I split the cost of an Uber?
Yes, although you and the people splitting the fare will each be charged $0.25 for the convenience of doing so.
To split a fare:
- Request a ride.
- Swipe up from the bottom of the app and tap your selected payment method.
- Tap “Split Fare.”
- Enter the names or phone numbers of other riders.
From there, Uber will automatically split the cost of the ride among you and the other riders, though the other riders are not required to accept the split.
Are there age restrictions for riders?
Yes. As part of Uber’s Terms of Service, you must be 18 to use the app and request rides. All riders under 18 must be accompanied by another rider age 18 or older.
What is my Uber passenger rating?
In order to hold both riders and drivers accountable and ensure a safe, pleasant experience, Uber allows both parties to rate each other at the conclusion of a ride. Your rating ranges from 1–5 stars (though realistically you’d get banned from the app before your rating would ever go to 1 or 2 stars).
It’s up to your driver to rate you, and you shouldn’t worry about maintaining a 5-star rating; this is nearly impossible. As long as you maintain a rating above 4.5 stars, you’ll have no problems getting rides. Learn more about how to check your passenger rating (and how to improve it) in our How To Check Your Uber Passenger Rating guide.
Can I schedule an Uber in advance?
Yes. You can schedule an Uber up to 30 days in advance. This is perfect for when you need to get somewhere at a predetermined time such as catching a flight.
To learn how to schedule an Uber in advance, check out our How To Make An Uber Reservation guide.
Can I bring my pet?
According to Uber’s Pet Policy, drivers are not required to allow pets in their vehicles unless they are part of the UberPET service or the animal is a service animal. Note also that in U.S. markets, Uber adheres to the ADA definition of a service animal, which only includes dogs.
That being said, many drivers will be happy to accommodate pets, provided you let them know in advance. It’s courteous to do so, just in case a driver cannot have pets or other animals in their vehicle due to allergies, space restrictions, or personal preference.
Can Uber drive me to another city?
While Uber’s service focuses on transporting riders within one city, there’s nothing to stop willing drivers from taking a rider from one city to another. You will pay steeply for the service (which makes sense, given that the driver will have no guarantee of getting a return fare).
But provided the driver is willing to do it, you can take rides of long distances. Uber does note on their website that “trips may automatically end after 4 hours.” However, you can simply request a new ride if this happens.
What do I do if I have a problem?
If there’s an emergency, always contact local emergency services.
But if you have a less serious issue and need to notify Uber, you can contact Uber support through the app (find the “Help” tab), visit the Uber website, or call the 24/7 support phone number.
There are also a few other ways to contact Uber, which we explore in our full How to Contact Uber guide.
How is Uber different from Lyft? Which one should I use?
You may also have heard of Lyft, which is an Uber competitor available in the U.S. and Canada. To read a comparison of the two services and decide which one is right for your needs, check out our full, unbiased, regularly updated guide: Uber vs. Lyft: A Comprehensive Comparison.
What is Uber Eats?
Uber Eats is a food delivery service built using the same technology that enables Uber. It is a separate service from the regular Uber app. You can learn more about it here.
Does Uber have a referral program?
Yes, Uber offers a referral program for both new and existing users. New users can get ride credit when they sign up for the service using a promo code.
And once you’ve signed up for the service, you can also continue to receive discounts through referring new riders to the service. To do this, open your Uber app, tap the “Menu” button, and then tap “Free Rides.” You’ll see your Uber referral code and a variety of ways to share it.
The Uber App: Is It Worth It in the End?
Taking everything we’ve covered in this guide, we think that Uber is worth using if you’re looking for an alternative to a taxi or public transit. The company does have flaws, with its lack of phone support and limited options for people without smartphones being two of its biggest issues. Still, Uber more than makes up for these limitations with its convenience, safety, wide availability, and varied ride options.
This guide focused on whether or not the Uber app is worth using. If you’re looking for information about how to use the Uber app, check out our guide to nine Uber app features you must know.
Want to save on your first Uber ride? Check out our guide to Uber promo codes for a simple way to get a discount on your first trip.