How to drive for Uber

woman driving car and smilingImage: woman driving car and smiling

In a Nutshell

Becoming an Uber driver is a simple process if you meet the company’s minimum requirements and have access to an eligible vehicle. While it may seem like an easy way to make some extra cash, you don’t get to keep the full fee your riders pay. And you’re responsible for covering expenses such as gas and maintenance, which can eat into your earnings.
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To drive for Uber, you must meet the company’s minimum requirements, have access to an eligible four-door vehicle and complete an online driver screening.

If you’re approved, you choose when and how much you want to drive. When you log into the Uber driver app, you’ll be notified when someone nearby needs a ride.

But before you get started, learn more about the company’s driver and vehicle requirements and the pros and cons of becoming a driver — along with how much you can earn and how to get a car if you don’t already have one.



How do I start driving for Uber?

Getting set up to drive for Uber is a pretty simple process, but you — and the vehicle you plan to drive — must meet some basic requirements set by Uber.

Uber driver requirements

To drive for Uber, you must meet the following requirements:

  • Meet your city’s minimum age for rideshare drivers
  • Have a valid driver’s license
  • Drive an eligible four-door vehicle
  • Have at least one year of driving experience if you’re 23 or older and at least three years if you’re under 23
  • Pass a background check
  • Get a vehicle inspection if your area requires one

In addition, many states and cities also set certain requirements of their own for rideshare drivers.

Uber vehicle requirements

Your vehicle must meet the specifications for the Uber tier you plan to drive in. This criteria can also vary by location, so it’s important to check Uber’s website for the requirements in your area.

In general, here’s what you can expect.

  • UberX — To work as an Uber X driver, your vehicle must have four doors that open independently and five factory-installed seats and seat belts with no aftermarket modifications. Your car must also have air conditioning and windows that open and close. And depending on where you live, Uber doesn’t allow drivers to use salvaged or rebuilt vehicles, vans, box trucks, taxi cabs, government cars or other marked vehicles.
  • UberXL — To drive in the Uber XL tier, your vehicle must meet the Uber X requirements, plus have seven factory-installed seats and seat belts instead of five.
  • Uber Black — Uber Black drivers must maintain a rating of 4.85 or higher and drive a vehicle that’s no more than five years old. It must have a black exterior with black leather or vegan leather interior and seat at least four passengers. All windows and air conditioning must work properly, and the car must be in good condition with no cosmetic damage, missing pieces or visible stains. Uber Black drivers must have commercial insurance.
  • Uber Black SUV — To drive in the Uber Black SUV tier, your vehicle must meet the Uber Black requirements, plus seat at least six passengers instead of four.

Uber application process

You need to complete a few simple steps before you can start driving for Uber.

  1. Sign up online. Provide some information about yourself and your car.
  2. Upload the required documents. Uber needs copies of your driver’s license, registration, proof of residency, proof of insurance and a driver profile photo. You’ll also need information for a background check, which includes a review of your driving history and whether you have a criminal record. Major driving violations, such as a DUI, or several minor violations could disqualify you, as will convictions for felonies, violent crimes or sexual offenses.
  3. Get the app. If you’re approved to be an Uber driver, you get access to the driver app, which is where you log in to get matched with nearby riders.

Is it worth it to drive for Uber?

As with any job, there are pluses and minuses to driving for Uber. Here’s what you need to know.  

Benefits of driving for Uber

Driving for Uber gives you an opportunity to earn some extra cash — especially during surges when you can earn more than the standard fare. You get to be your own boss and set your own schedule, so you can work when it’s convenient for you. And your earnings are deposited directly into your bank account, sometimes as quickly as the same day.

Drawbacks of driving for Uber

While driving for Uber may seem like an easy way to make money, consider these factors.

  • Fees and expenses. Uber charges drivers a fee for every trip. A 2018 report from the Economic Policy Institute found that this fee amounts to about a third of what passengers pay. Plus, you’re responsible for paying for gas, routine maintenance and vehicle repairs, which could add up faster than usual since you’re putting extra miles on your car. As an independent contractor for Uber, you may be able to deduct some of these expenses from your taxes, but they’ll still eat into your profits.
  • Auto insurance. While Uber provides liability coverage to drivers when they’re using the app, it also requires you to maintain a personal auto insurance policy. It’s important to notify your insurance company if you become a rideshare driver because it might require you to upgrade your personal insurance coverage to a rideshare policy. Even if it’s not required, you might want to add this coverage to cover gaps in coverage between your personal policy and the insurance Uber provides.
  • Smartphone data. Typical data usage for Uber drivers is up to 3GB a month, according to Uber. Fees for exceeding your smartphone’s data limit can add up quickly.  For example, Verizon charges $15 for every GB of data you use over the limit. You can get an 8% to 22% discount on your smartphone bill if you use AT&T, Sprint or Verizon while driving for Uber. But it may make sense to upgrade to an unlimited data plan to help you avoid overage fees.
  • No benefits. Uber drivers aren’t employees of the company — they’re independent contractors, so you won’t get traditional employee benefits such as health insurance, paid vacation or a retirement plan.
  • Taxes. Because Uber drivers file taxes as independent contractors, not full-time employees, the company doesn’t withhold taxes from earnings. But you still need to pay taxes. Depending on how much you earn, you may need to make quarterly payments.

How much money can you make driving for Uber?

After deducting Uber fees and vehicle expenses, driver compensation averages $11.77 an hour, according to the 2018 Economic Policy Institute report. But average earnings may vary based on when you drive, where you live and how many miles you log.

How to get a car to drive for Uber

If you want to become an Uber driver but don’t have a car to use, here are a few options to consider.

Used car

Given the low average hourly rate for Uber drivers, buying a used car probably makes more sense than buying a new one since used cars are generally less expensive.

But if you don’t have enough cash saved up to buy a car outright, it’s important to consider your financing options carefully. Mileage is a key factor in calculating the depreciation of a car’s value, and the more miles you put on your car driving for Uber, the faster it’ll depreciate. If you need to finance all or most of the purchase price, you could quickly become upside down on your loan, meaning you owe more than the car’s worth.

Lease

Some automakers and car dealerships offer leasing programs — such as BMW’s Car & Ride Sharing Lease — specifically for rideshare drivers. If you choose to lease a vehicle, be mindful of the mileage limits on your lease, which generally range from 12,000 to 15,000 miles per year.

It may be tough to stay within the limit as an Uber driver, and if you go over, you’ll likely be charged a fee at the end of the lease. Excessive mileage fees typically run 10 to 25 cents per mile.

Car rental

Uber has partnerships with Avis, Hertz, Getaround, Kinto and Zipcar so people can rent a car to drive for Uber. But keep in mind that a rental may not be the most cost-effective option. Weekly car rentals from one of Uber’s partners cost approximately $150 to $235, and that doesn’t include taxes and other fees.

A monthly payment on a used vehicle loan would likely be lower than the monthly cost of renting a car. The average monthly payment on a used-car loan was $413 in the fourth quarter of 2020, according to the Q4 2020 Experian Automotive Finance Market Report. Our auto loan calculator can help you estimate your monthly car payment.


Next steps

While driving for Uber might be a good way for some people to earn extra cash, it’s not right for everyone. Before signing up, it’s important to check the average earnings in your area and compare the amount of money you could make with the costs you’d incur.

And don’t forget to check your local area’s vehicle requirements to make sure the car you own, buy, lease or rent meets Uber’s driving requirements in your region.


About the author: Jennifer Brozic is a freelance financial services writer with a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Maryland and a master’s degree in communication management from Tow… Read more.