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Uber Driver Review: A Worthy Side Hustle? [2023]

Updated: Jul 18

Affiliate Marketing Disclosure

The emergence of the gig economy has made it possible to build side incomes in ways that would have been unthinkable even fifteen years ago. And Americans have responded in large numbers. Some have embraced the flexibility to create your own hours, while others have turned to it as a way to make ends meet.

The most famous gig economy job is driving for Uber.

This post will answer the pressing question: is driving for Uber still worth it in 2023?

What is Uber?

Uber is an on-demand transportation service, focused primarily on ridesharing and food delivery services (through Uber Eats). Founded in 2009, Uber has exploded in popularity worldwide and now operates in thousands of cities worldwide.

Its’ mobile app allows users to request a ride in participating areas. From here, the system will pair you to a driver in your area to come pick you up and drive you to your final destination. Riders can access navigation and other tools to track their driver and estimate their arrival time to their destination.

The Uber Eats app offers many of the same technology, but is instead used by users to order deliveries from restaurants, grocery stores, and convenience stores in their area. The Uber Eats offering is designed to compete with DoorDash, Grubhub, and other food delivery services operating in an area.

How does Uber work?

As mentioned, Uber pairs drivers with riders that need to get somewhere, but don’t have their vehicles. Once you become a driver, you create your own schedule, which is incredibly attractive for many people.

When you’re ready to work, you’ll use the Uber Driver app to activate driver mode. This gives the platform an indication that you’re looking to work and complete rides.

From here, you’ll get offers to accept rides starting in your near vicinity. You’ll have the option to accept or decline the ride.

Once you’ve accepted a ride, the driver app will navigate you to the agreed upon pickup point. Once you’ve successfully picked up your passenger(s), the app’s navigation will update to provide you turn by turn directions to your passenger’s final destination.

Payment will be completed through the app, and you’ll get to keep 100% of the tips designated to you. More on maximizing your tips in a minute.

How to start driving for Uber

You may think that registering as a driver for Uber is a difficult and lengthy process. In reality, it is much easier than that. Once you decide you're ready, there are just 3 steps left standing in your way:

  1. Complete the application process: You'll need to provide the app with your driver's license information, auto insurance. and agree to a background check. You'll also be asked to upload a picture of some photo identification. The background check may take up to 10 days to complete.

  2. Install the Uber driver app: There is a specific app for platform drivers, different than the one that users use to request rides. This will be your central location to track your earnings, monitor the number of rides you've completed, and find trips to complete.

  3. Start driving: Once your driver profile is active, you'll just need to enable driver mode in your driver app. From here, you are ready to begin completing rides.

Uber driver requirements

There are a few requirements you'll need to meet in order to drive. Among these are:

  • Having an active and valid driver's license

  • Car insurance if driving your own car

  • Passing a background check

You'll also need to have been licensed for at least a year, or three years if you are under 23 years of age. But if you don't have an issue in meeting these base requirements, you should be good to go.

How much do Uber drivers make?

The Uber drivers that I know have reported making different average hourly rates, depending on where and when they work. I’d say the average hourly Uber rate is between $10-$15 per hour, though there will be times when you make more or less.

These rates fluctuate because there is actually no flat hourly rate paid by Uber to its drivers.

Rather, drivers are paid per ride they complete. This is known as the standard trip fare. In addition to this figure, drivers may also earn more based on:

  1. Surge pricing: When in the Uber driver app, you’re likely to see red areas on the map at times. Head into these red areas, and you’ll find higher earning potential due to the demand for rides in a certain area.

  2. Cancellation fees: Last second cancellations stink, but there are a part of driving for the Uber platform. It may vary by ride, but most times, you will earn some sort of cancellation fee to reimburse you for the time you may have spent getting to a pickup location.

There are two additional notable financial benefits to the Uber pricing model however.

First, the company oftentimes offers promotions for drivers that hit certain metrics. For example, completing a certain number of trips over the course of a week may entitle you to a financial bonus.

The most recent bonus I saw advertised a $30 bonus for those that completed twenty trips in a single week.

The other cool pricing tidbit is that Uber can actually forecast your projected earnings for your first 200 trips. And if you earn less than expected, the company will actually pay you the difference!

Plus - similar to both DoorDash and Grubhub, Uber pays its drivers weekly, rather than biweekly. If you’re in desperate need for money now and don’t have the time to wait for payday to come around, you may use Uber’s Instant Pay product up to 5 times each day, though it will cost you $0.50 per transaction, which could drastically eat away at your already slim margins.

Increase your Uber earnings

If you’re serious about maximizing your earnings through Uber, you’re definitely going to want to do what you can to max out the tips you’re able to earn. Over the past couple of years or so, I’ve seen a number of strategies have success in this area:

  1. Consider airport runs

  2. Be personable

  3. Wait for rides near you

Consider completing airport runs

My first tip is to consider doing Uber runs to and from commercial airports, if available and allowed in your area. Here’s why. People are used to taking taxis for these routes, and tipping is popular, as are other parts of the airport experience, such as checking bags with an outdoor sky cap.

By offering a perk, such as complementary water and a snack or two, you may be able to earn that investment back and then some in tips.

Be personable

Show a bit of personality to your riders. Some passengers will dig it, while others will want to keep to themselves. But if you strike A good balance, you just may find yourself financially rewarded for doing so.

Wait for rides in your area

Particularly if you are in a city, I do not recommend that you drive away needlessly waiting for rides to come to you. Doing so will burn gas and more than likely leave you frustrated as you wait for rides to come across.

Rather, I recommend that you position yourself near where there tends to be activity, particularly on weekend nights. This way, you’ll save gas and be prepared to financially capitalize as bars and clubs empty out.

Avoid rush hour

In the era of guaranteed rates for riders, you’ll need to focus on avoiding traffic by any means necessary. Not only will it be incredibly frustrating for you, but you’re unlikely to earn any extra money for the time wasted in traffic.

Making things worse is the extra gas that you’re likely to burn through.

Be flexible with your work hours

Obviously, one of the perks of Uber is being able to work hours that work best for you. And this is 100% true, but it does not mean that you’ll make the same money working 10-11 AM on Sunday as you would 10-11 PM on Friday.

If you’re looking to get out of the house for a few hours during the make a few dollars, your current schedule may work well for you.

But if you’re really looking to make as much money as you can, you may consider working earlier or later hours, depending on the type of trips you’ll perform.

Costs as an Uber driver

Uber drivers need to be prepared to encounter a number of expenses that can really limit the amount of profit you’ll earn. Among these forgotten about expenses include:

  1. Gasoline: Your car will need gas from time to time, and you‘ll need to pay for it in order to keep your car on the road and able to complete additional trips. In times of extraordinary gas prices, in some markets, Uber has added fuel surcharges around $0.50 per mile to help drivers out.

  2. Maintenance and repairs: No car is invincible. And it is simple math that the more mileage that you put on your car, particularly in a short period, the more likely it is that you’re going to need some vehicle maintenance performed. Things like brakes and tires aren’t cheap, either.

  3. Auto insurance: You can't drive for Uber, or any other company for that matter, without an active and current auto insurance policy. Consider it a cost of doing business.

Driving for Uber frequently asked questions

There is a lot of things to think through before you decide whether driving for Uber is a good side hustle for you. Along these lines, here are some answers to the most frequently asked questions about the Uber platform.

1. Can you Uber full-time?

This question has a two-pronged solution. Yes, you absolutely can drive for the platform full-time, since you have full autonomy over where and when you want to work. That said, if you're hoping to replace 100% of your current income, you may be disappointed.

2. Is driving for Uber worth it?

Ah, the million-dollar question. Yes, in my opinion, building out a side hustle from driving for Uber can be a great option for those looking to make some extra money driving around.

No two rides are going to be the same, and you're sure to get to meet some interesting people along the way!

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About Nathan Zarcaro

Nathan Zarcaro is the founder of The Student Debt Destroyer and is passionate about personal finance related causes.  A 2018 graduate of Providence College's Liberal Arts Honors Program, Nathan studied Finance, and worked for one of the world's largest asset management firms before starting his own consulting practice.  In his free time, Nathan enjoys playing golf and traveling with his wife Brigid.

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