I'm sure this will come as a big surprise, since I haven't mentioned anything about it before. A couple weeks ago I was looking at an empty work calendar and wondering what I would do with all the free time. Sure, my kitchen remodel needed to be done, but I dread spending all that money when none is coming in. Summer is a slow season for hospitality jobs, and mystery shopping is burning me out. Then I remembered talking with Andy from www.tightfistedmiser.com about how he's dipping his toes into the Uber pool. I thought, why not give it a try? I live in a tropical paradise, full of people on vacation.
Signing up was super easy and only took a few minutes. I had to pass a background check and motor vehicle check, which took two days. I uploaded copies of my license, vehicle registration and insurance card, as well as a photo of myself. I was surprised that my Chevrolet Aveo, a really small car, was accepted, but the folks at Uber approved me right away.
Once I was approved, I started reading www.uberpeople.net, the Uber Drivers Forum. I was looking for tips and tricks on how to be successful. One of the first things I realized was that the Aveo wasn't going to get me good ratings, and ratings are everything. After someone takes a ride with Uber, both the driver and the passenger are required to rate the experience on a 5-star scale. Anything less than a "5" is a failing score for the driver, and if your rating drops below 4.7 you are subject to being kicked out. That's tough, because some people will rate you a "4" thinking that's a good score. If your vehicle isn't comfortable, riders will mark off for it.
I spent a few days debating whether I should buy another car, one dedicated to Uber driving. Truth is, I never liked the Aveo. The only reason I bought it was because my Chevrolet S-10 was about to become ineligible for mystery shops, and I needed a replacement (in 2013, I drove that truck across the country on a mystery shopping marathon). Some online research lead me back to Hertz Car Sales, where I ultimately bought a used 2015 Huyndai Sonata. For now I am keeping the Aveo for personal driving and mystery shopping. The trade-in was not valued high enough to interest me. I financed the Sonata for 48 months at 1.99% interest. As the interest is fully tax-deductible, it wasn't hard to justify tying up the bank's money instead of mine.
The most important thing I learned from the Drivers Forum is that I'm not going to get rich driving for Uber. In Tampa Bay, passengers pay a base fare of $1 plus $.95 per mile and $.13 per minute. The problem is, that's not what drivers are paid. I don't receive the base fare - it goes towards the "Safe Riders Fee" which is used to do background checks. Uber then takes a 20% commission off the rest of the fare. As an example, my lowest fare on my first night was $6.48. From that, Uber deducted $1 plus $1.10 of what remained. I receive $4.38. That ride took 7 minutes and was 3.7 miles. I am only paid when I have a passenger, so downtime and dead miles are unpaid.