The pros and cons of becoming a rideshare driver

The pros and cons of becoming a rideshare driver

With so many possible side hustles available in today's gig economy, how do you decide which to choose?

Today, I want to make the case that driving with for a rideshare company is a plausible choice for several reasons. But there are also some major distractions that you should be aware of before signing up.

My name is Josh Overmyer. I've completed over 2900 rides as an Uber/UberEats driver-partner since 2014. I know what you're thinking: “That's a lot of rides!” It is. And I've learned a lot in that time.

Here are my biggest takeaways from four years as a rideshare driver.

The Pros of Becoming a Rideshare Driver

Here's the good news. You likely already have the knowledge and equipment necessary to be a rideshare driver!

Josh Overmyer's Uber ProfileAll of these services are app-based and run on a smartphone, by drivers like you who successfully navigate their communities daily. You probably already know where the popular hang-outs are located, how to get around on your city’s streets, and maybe even alternate routes when roads are backed up.

The particulars of the vehicle will change depending on which service you're signing up to drive for. But for passenger trips, you usually need a four-door vehicle, while food/parcel delivery may be possible with a two- or three-door car. (Drivers are subject to a criminal background check and a driving record check.)

As with any independent contractor gig, the amount and timing of the hours you drive are completely up to you, within regulations.

  • Some people will be comfortable driving the late-night crowd, which can be lucrative for rideshare drivers because of increased demand when passengers may have been out drinking.
  • Other drivers may stick to daytime hours and handle a more business-like crowd of people heading to/from jobs, doctor appointments, church, the grocery or the airport. Since your pay will generally be influenced by the number of trips you complete, when you need to make more money, you'll probably want to drive more hours.

Some of the networks now allow the driver to set a destination and get trip requests heading in the same general direction. This helps you to maximize both your time and mileage driven for the maximum possible gain, since you'd be driving those miles with or without a rideshare app running on your phone, such as your daily commute or when you are running errands.

Speaking of maximizing time and costs, driving rideshare could allow you to turn certain everyday life expenses into qualified business expenses.

As I mentioned above, you'll need a smartphone with a data plan, which you probably already have. Now it could be a deductible business expense! Miles driven or other driving expenses could be deductible as well, but you'll need to keep meticulous records.

The Cons of Becoming a Rideshare Driver

There are some downsides to becoming a rideshare driver.

  • Simply driving with a rideshare company means extra wear and tear on your vehicle. Every additional mile you drive is one less mile that your car will last over the long-term.
  • Extra driving means more fuel costs, more wear and tear of consumables such as tires & brakes, and you'll need more frequent oil changes.
  • As a result of all these extra costs and wear on your vehicle, you may face the additional cost of replacing your vehicle sooner than you had previously planned.

A good way to think about rideshare is that you are force-depreciating your current vehicle, which is to say you are extracting value out of your current vehicle to hopefully put money away for your next replacement vehicle.

Here's another thing to consider: inviting total strangers into your personal vehicle.

Josh Overmyer as Uber driverFrom my experience, most passengers will be normal, everyday people just going about their lives: trips to school or work, to the grocery store, church, or to the airport (or beach in my community). But they are still complete strangers, getting into your personal space, and often strangely sitting right behind you, the driver. It can be creepy!

Even worse are the strangers getting into your car who are not on their best behavior. Some are simply loud and obnoxious, and you get used to that from the young twenty-somethings. Some have spent hours at a cigar bar and reek of cigar smoke that permeates your car’s interior and the smell can linger for days.

Worse yet are the drunks who can’t handle their liquor; sometimes you'll be lucky and they'll give you enough warning to pull over to the side of the road — but other times they'll make a mess in your car.

You might have read the last two paragraphs and decided that you don’t want to deal with unruly passengers but would still like to run a side business doing food or parcel delivery.

I've delivered some food orders with Uber Eats, but I ended up with very smelly foods that would stink up my car just before a typical passenger Uber trip, and I had orders that included ice cream or milkshakes that weren’t sealed properly by the restaurant, resulting in a sticky mess.

I had a trip that took me upwards of 40 minutes to complete from the time of food pickup to delivery because the restaurant didn’t have the food ready and the recipient’s phone was dead, and for my troubles I made $6…before costs.

Also remember that you're purposely placing yourself in traffic, which we all hate.

Not only do you sit there idling, wasting time and fuel, but it drives up your blood pressure and stress. You’re also more likely to get involved in a fender-bender when there are more vehicles on the road, and when you are rushing to a pickup or trying to find a convenient parking spot near the food establishment, so you don’t waste too much time circling the block.

Even when you aren’t in bumper-to-bumper traffic, you may experience eye strain from constantly searching for obscure addresses or watching for pedestrians in congested areas such as downtown, at concert venue, or in entertainment districts. Combined with low-light situations, this makes you more likely to end up in an accident.

The Bottom Line

That's a long list of pros and cons. After all of that — and after four years of driving rideshare — what's my overall impression of this side hustle?

Rideshare is a pretty easy gig to get started in — but it won’t make you rich, despite what the radio and TV commercials were telling us all a few years ago. After all operational costs are considered, almost anything else you could think of trying would pay more!

That said, rideshare driving could be a good fit for someone in a temporary cash crunch and who isn’t worried about the longer-term impacts to their transportation budget.

As for me, I stopped driving rideshare after I got a new higher-paying day job last year. If you'd like to read more about the ups and downs of my 2,900+ trips as an Uber/UberEats driver-partner, check out the three-part series about my first side hustle, and why I ultimately decided to quit.

More about...Side Hustles

Become A Money Boss And Join 15,000 Others

Subscribe to the GRS Insider (FREE) and we’ll give you a copy of the Money Boss Manifesto (also FREE)

Yes! Sign up and get your free gift
Become A Money Boss And Join 15,000 Others
guest
29 Comments
Oldest
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Sequentialkady
Sequentialkady
1 year ago

I have a friend who drives for a service to take people to/from medical appointments. That wear and tear absolutely adds up on a vehicle. If you choose to do this, consider these factors carefully.

I will also add that when you use these services, do the driver a favor and tip them cash.

J.D. Roth
Admin
1 year ago

Here’s a point of etiquette regarding using rideshare. I noticed that when Kim uses Uber or Lyft, she tends to give four stars to the driver by default. I get why she does it — she wants to reserve five stars for outstanding service — but I disagree. I think the default rating for all drivers should be five stars and you should dock drivers stars if they do something wrong/bad. Otherwise, you end up lowering a driver’s rating when they’ve done nothing wrong.

Thoughts? Am I being silly here?

Josh Overmyer
Josh Overmyer
1 year ago
Reply to  J.D. Roth

JD, that’s exactly how I rated my passengers, and how the system expects passengers to rate us. If we drop below 4.6 as a driver, we have to take “classes” or online tutorials with Uber to get our rating up to acceptable levels. A standard 4.0 rating sounds decent, but is substandard.

Adam
Adam
1 year ago
Reply to  J.D. Roth

I saw an internet meme that summed it up neatly…

Five stars: A taxi ride happened.
Four or fewer stars: I enjoy screwing with people’s livelihoods.

Treo
Treo
1 year ago
Reply to  J.D. Roth

This brings back memories to “Nosedive” in Black Mirror… The rating system(s) is/are a sham in my view, because there is no recourse for either side. In early days of Ebay (think late 90’s, early 2000’s), you could refute bad ratings / clarify them, but they did away with that (I think, haven’t used Ebay in years) and you no longer get rated as a buyer. That system had merit, because while someone could call you out for doing something bad, you had a chance to answer, clarify, and refute. I’ve been an Uber user for years (and Lyft as… Read more »

JoDi
JoDi
1 year ago
Reply to  J.D. Roth

I completely agree. This is how ratings work for most retail workers too. Anything less than the highest score is considered a bad rating by the employer. I learned this from multiple friends and relatives who spent some time working in retail sales/customer service. This isn’t like tipping where you give X% for good service and X% for outstanding service.

JoDi
JoDi
1 year ago
Reply to  JoDi

I completely agree *with you.* (Sorry, didn’t state that explicitly in my comment, but it should have been clear from what followed!)

Chris
Chris
1 year ago
Reply to  J.D. Roth

JD, you are right. I drive for UBER and LYFT in retirement and can tell you that a 4 star rating is a fail. To stay a driver for Uber you need a 4.6 rating. Simplified, if you transport two people and one gives you a four and one gives you a five, then you can be suspended. I try to be extremely professional, drive a nice clean car, engage the riders when they wish to talk and maintain a 4.95 rating yet there are people who have rated me a 1 without a word of criticism or request for… Read more »

S.G.
S.G.
1 year ago

I found this article fascinating. I am way past the age and career status where I would consider rideshare. But conceptually just the thought of someone puking in my car made it a nonstarter. I’ll take any food mess over that. I’d also think it would be easier to contain with some of your own packaging. For some reason people hate to be shoved into coolers to keep my carpets clean… I find side hustles really interesting, and sometimes only from a sociological perspective. What do people consider “good money”. What are they willing to do, and what is their… Read more »

Coopersmith
Coopersmith
1 year ago

I love the point of the following logic

As kids we are told 1.Never get into a strangers car. 2. Never meet someone in person over the internet.

Using ride share we used the internet to have a strange person come pick us up and we get in there car.

Boggles the mind….

Josh Overmyer
Josh Overmyer
1 year ago
Reply to  Coopersmith

Have you ever used a Taxi? Ride share not infinitely better than that, whereby payment takes place automatically (cashless), a picture, first name, description of car, license plate number, and a crowd-sourced driver rating are provided…

S.G.
S.G.
1 year ago
Reply to  Josh Overmyer

I think his point was simply about the irony of the arrangement.

And I dont teach my kids not to talk to strangers. It doesnt work and I dont think it would actually make them safer. I teach them what behavior is appropriate from people they know and people they dont (kids are WAY more likely to be abused by someone they know than some random perv)

FoxTesla
FoxTesla
1 year ago

There should be a note about increased auto insurance costs. I’ve never researched what the increased cost would be, but every policy I’ve had the past few years has asked “is this used for business purposes”, and I have to believe any claim you tried to file would be denied if you lied in this regard.

teinegurl
teinegurl
1 year ago

I have a full time 9 to 5 job and then I started doing Grubhub of April 2018 with Ubereats as a backup platform. I will say it gets very tiring and looking around for addresses and Grub hub tends to pay its drivers more than Uber/Ubereats. One thing you left out is that gig drivers also don’t get benefits such as sick/ vacation/PTO , health medical insurance which you can pick up your own plan in the marketplace but that might add to expenses and lessen your profits but It can be very easy money and its been great… Read more »

Deanna
Deanna
1 year ago

Ubermyer!!! I need to take a ride with ya one of these days but the funny thing is that when you are in Cleveland I’ll be picking you up! Thanks for the insight into the pros/cons of doing rideshare as a side-hustle. I have a question and that is what if someone calls Uber for a ride to the emergency room. Are there rules against taking people to the ER on an Uber call? For example what if someone dies on an Uber ride on the way to the ER? I had an emergency this winter and didn’t want to… Read more »

Melissa
Melissa
1 year ago

Are you also responsible for cleaning costs if someone pukes or otherwise messes up your vehicle? S the customer or uber take any responsibility? I’m also leery of these sort of side hustled for women drivers, who sometimes have to deal with harassment and/or inappropriate behavior from (sometimes drunk) men.

Adam
Adam
1 year ago

What’s the impact of longer rides? I understand drivers don’t know the destination until pickup happens, and let’s say I’m on one side of town trying to get to an airport an hour on the other side of town… am I screwing over that driver? Is it conceivable that a driver could get strung out to a couple hours from where they started and waste that time getting back home at the end of the shift, or can a driver set boundaries for how far they’re willing to take a fare from a particular point?

Josh Ovemyer
Josh Ovemyer
1 year ago
Reply to  Adam

Most drivers enjoy the longer rides, unless they’re in a hurry to get somewhere, in which case they’re permitted to decline the ride. I’ve had rides that took me 2.5 hours away, but I made $180 on one ride, so I took my time coming back home and caught a few short rides in other areas.

Katelyn
Katelyn
1 year ago

I was hoping this article would break down the pay and costs to give a realistic estimate of what a driver could make. I know there are a number of variables to take into consideration, so pay would be different for each driver. But I’m sure the author has an estimate of how many hours he drove each year, whether he was primarily driving the day crowd or night crowd, and his tax returns would show business related costs and earnings, yes? This article definitely piqued my interest and I have a lot of follow up questions 🙂 How much… Read more »

Josh Ovemyer
Josh Ovemyer
1 year ago
Reply to  Katelyn

Katelyn, I’d really like to have done that, but Uber’s pricing is different in every market, and they’ve changed their prices pretty much every year that I drove. I can respond that in my market (Fort Myers-Naples FL), Uber took the first $3.25 of every ride, then 20-25% of the reminder (depending on when the driver signed up). Sorry to pick and choose which questions I’m answering, as I’m currently hanging out at the beach with some family friends. The Uber interface was sometimes buggy, but not too bad usually. I had a car charger and a phone mount, so… Read more »

Katelyn
Katelyn
1 year ago
Reply to  Josh Ovemyer

Thanks Josh!! This is very helpful! 🙂

UberAlly
UberAlly
1 year ago
Reply to  Katelyn

You basically earn about 85-1.00 per mile when you are DRIVING a passenger. NOT when you are picking them up or driving around waiting for trips. After paying for your gas, insursnce, tires, oil changes, depreciation….your net earnings are about half of what you get paid. The good news is…you are taxed on your net…not your gross. The bad news is….all the money you don’t have to pay Uncle Sam….you’re going to have to use to replace the car you just put 50k miles on in ONE year to TRY and make a living. You won’t get rich as a… Read more »

Christine
Christine
1 year ago

I’ve had experienced a rideshare and there are pros and cons into it.
Pros – you will get a chance to meet people and your car ride will not be so lonely Cons- you are really meeting a stranger at that and some people are just not that friendly
It was a nice experience, and if you may ask if I’ll do it again? Of course!

El Nerdo
El Nerdo
1 year ago

What about insurance price increases? Are they tax deductible? Any special requirements for it? Are there mileage limits? Does the company pay/cover any premiums or liabilities? Where are the lines drawn?

Carol
Carol
1 year ago

What about paying income tax on your 1099 earnings. This is probably almost half?

Tod
Tod
1 year ago

Hi, this is my story, back in 1972, I was married with 2 young children, lost my job and the only job available was being a mini cab driver (similar to Uber in 1972) here in London. I found working nights best, less traffic more drunks bigger tips. I decided to treat the job as a business, buying cars from car auctions 3 years old and running the car for 12 months and selling it on, this minimised depreciation. I drove every type of passenger you can imagine, I gain great people skills and a superb knowledge of London. Most… Read more »

UberAlly
UberAlly
1 year ago

Ratings shpuld be PASS or FAIL since nothing inbetween really matters anyway! Uber Driver 13k trips in 4 years.

David
David
10 months ago

I’m kind of surprised at the low total of rides for the years driven. I currently drive Uber and Lyft in Stillwater Oklahoma. I started in May 2017, or 2 ½ years ago. I have given over 8,500 rides and I only do it part time. However, since Uber restructured surge pricing to only a couple of dollars for a surge ride, the big bucks are gone. Some nights I do good to make $10. But on an event day I can do a couple of hundred. So that keeps me going.

shares