On Tuesday, December 22 I broke down and finally completed my application to become an Uber driver. In August and September I started the process but never completed it for personal and business reasons. Over the holiday break I got a whim to see what it was like to drive for Uber in Chapel Hill, Raleigh and Durham. Here is how it went.
Signing Up to Become an Uber Driver
The sign up process is extremely easy. Go to this Sign Up to Drive link and use the Invite Code JESSEW240 to get started if you want to drive. After signing in Uber will ask you three basic questions. How old are you? What kind of car do you drive? Where do you live?
Once these questions have been answered Uber will know where to “place” you in their system. You will be Uber, UberX, UBERXL or Uber Black depending on your vehicle. More on that later. You will then be asked to verify that Uber can do a background check on you. They use the company Checkr which will send you an email shortly after you verify with Uber.
While your background check is being run Uber will ask you to submit three documents – your driver’s license, proof of insurance and a vehicle registration. You can take a picture with your smartphone and upload them to the Uber app. You can also scan them and email them or take them into an official Uber location in your city. I used the smartphone upload feature which is extremely easy.
Uber will also ask you to take a picture of your vehicle license plate and the interior of the vehicle. After verifying that you own the vehicle and the vehicle is in good condition to drive you will have to wait. I waited all of three (3) hours to drive for Uber. Yes, three hours! It really was that easy.
My First Trips with Uber
Living in Chapel Hill, I assumed the majority of my Uber riders would be college students. That said, I was starting over the Christmas break so how many students would really be in town? I found out. Not many. My first few Uber trips were taking business professionals from dinner to their homes. One individual didn’t have a vehicle in the area as he was traveling. A few others were just going to the bar and didn’t want to drive to and from.
On my first night I experienced my first “drunk drive” in which two females and a male has already been drinking around 9:30 pm and wanted to go out. It was not a bad experience as they were very nice, just giggly and loud.
I quickly learned that I will not be driving after 10:00 pm. I took some late trips (after 10 pm) during my first few days of Uber. I won’t go into details but I will not be doing this again. As someone once said, nothing good happens when being out after midnight. Well, you get no good Uber trips when driving after 10:00 pm. Keep that in mind if you plan to drive for Uber.
If you want some funny drunk stories or don’t mind being around those under the influence you will get plenty of trips; they just are not worth it for me.
How Many Uber Riders Are Drunk?
I have given about 25 rides in the first week of driving with Uber and have had four individuals or groups that were “drunk”. All but one were extremely nice and thankful. All four were trips that took place after 10:00 pm. I have never had a trip during the day that was not fantastic. In fact, if you like to meet new people and just want to get out of the house, driving for Uber prior to 10:00 pm is a wonderful experience.
If you are driving only at night and in a college town I would imagine 23 out of 25 trips would include drunk riders. One of my friends told me she actually threw up in an Uber one time when she was drunk. She ended up having to pay a $75 cleanup fee. The first Uber rider to throw up in my car will be the last Uber ride I give.
UberX vs UberXL vs Uber Black
One of the most common questions I get when I pick someone up is “why are you driving a BMW 5 Series for Uber?” I explain that driving for Uber is simply a way for me to get out of the house and enjoy driving and being social at the same time. My BMW 5 Series is consider an UberX. An UberXL would be any vehicle that can hold six or more people. Uber Black is a luxury vehicle that is black. If my BMW 5 Series were black instead of grey it would be considered Uber Black.
When deciding what type of ride you want in the Uber app you can change the settings when looking for the closest Uber driver. The only reason you would want an UberXL is if you have a group of people going somewhere. I find that most people are looking for UberX in the Chapel Hill and Durham area.
Male vs Female Uber Riders
Something I get asked quite a bit is how many guys are there vs girls or males vs females. So far, it has been split 50/50. In fact, about one third of my trips have been couples going to dinner or to downtown Durham for the evening. I have had about five individual females and five individual males with the remaining 15 being couples or groups of people.
An interesting piece of psychology is that women tend to get in the backseat of my car while men want to sit in the front. About 25% of my individual riders will ask where I would like them to sit. Of course, I always leave that option to them.
When UNC and Duke get back in session I would imagine there will be more female Uber requests but I could be wrong. I will keep you posted on that as the month of January progresses.
Can You Make a Living Driving for Uber?
Probably not. You would have to drive for about eight hours a day and would put quite a bit of wear and tear on your vehicle in the process. I have driven about three hours each day and tend to bring in $35 to $50. If I really wanted to bust my ass and drive a lot I am positive I could make $100 a day but that would be a job. I don’t want a full time job.
In Chapel Hill, I have many trips driving a short distance which equates to about $5. It takes a lot of these trips to make any kind of money. I will get trips to Raleigh and Durham during the day but a $30 fare is not that often. In fact, I have only had two out of my first 25 trips.
If you plan to make a living driving for Uber I would strongly suggest using a car that gets great gas mileage and needs little maintenance. A Toyota Prius or Honda Civic would be ideal. That said, I am not certain that you would get as many requests without a luxury vehicle. Those that drive non luxury vehicles will be able to better answer that question.
Uber is a great way to get out, learn your area and meet people. It is not a great way to become the next millionaire.
January 2016 Update:
Uber has worked very hard to get me to drive more. During the month of January I took a week long golf vacation and have been out of commission because of Winter Storm Jonas. I do not need the money from Uber so driving in the unsafe conditions wasn’t even considered. Recently, I received an email explaining the busiest hours in both Durham and Chapel Hill. Here are the numbers:
As you can clearly see, the cost of the fare was down in December 2015 when compared to December 2014 but the number of fares increased. One of my complaints about making money on Uber is the low cost fares. I often pick up college students riding from Chipotle on Franklin Street to their dorm on the other side of campus. This is a $3 fare for me which ends up being a waste of money because of my time and the wear and tear on my vehicle.
I will continue to document my Uber driving over the next few months. If you have any questions, do not hesitate to leave them in the comments below.