28 Lessons Learned From 28,000 Trips

How many trips have you given as a rideshare driver? Contributor-at-large Jay Cradeur has given over 28,000 rides during his time as an Uber and Lyft driver, and he’s definitely seen some things! In this article, Jay shares what he’s learned over the last 28,000 rides, including ways to streamline your rideshare business, earn more, and enjoy the ride. 

What a long strange trip it’s been.

I took my first drive in December 2015.  I returned from Thailand in September and had a severe medical issue resolved, and I wanted to get back to work. I was searching for something I could do without the demands of a regular job with a boss.

I had heard about driving for Uber and Lyft as a great way to make some money on my schedule, and I made an easy $100 on my first day driving for Uber. I was hooked.

Then I signed up for Lyft and moved from Sacramento to San Francisco to make the big bucks.  Since then, I have done over 28,000 rides. Today I will share with you 28 lessons I have learned over the years.

28 Lessons from 28,000 Rideshare Trips

#1- Put In The Hours

You can try all sorts of techniques and strategies.  However, the bottom line is you have to work the job and make money. When you put in the hours, you will learn how to do it better and better.

#2 Keep A Clean Car

You don’t get a second chance to make a first impression. If your passenger feels like they’re in a dirty car, you probably won’t get many tips and might get a low rating. So, once a week, get a car wash and shake out mats. Also, keep a bottle of air freshener handy.

A picture containing text, lotion, screenshot

Description automatically generated

Not sure what else you might need in your car? Check out our video on items all drivers should have in their cars: 10 Items ALL Uber And Lyft Drivers Should Have In The Car

#3. Start Each Day With A Full Tank Of Gas

It’s good to know you won’t need to deal with gas during your work day.  I learned this early in my career.  I remember the ride requests would be flying in, and  I was busy.  “But wait, I’m about to run out of gas!”  Then I lost my momentum.  My Honda Accord Hybrid gets 525 miles per tank.  I take comfort in knowing I am set for the day.


Description automatically generated

#4. Get A Big Mug Of Your Favorite Beverage

I have loved the Vanilla Sweet Cream Cold Brew from Starbucks for the past five years.  There is no better way to start the day than with a full gas tank and a Grande drink.

Graphical user interface, text

Description automatically generated

#5. Use Rubber Mats

I had some excellent cloth mats for a long time, and they got trashed.  Passengers get in and out of the car while depositing rain, mud, and dirt on my mats.  With the rubber mats, I can shake them off and, when needed, hose them off, let them dry in the sun, and I am all set for the next day.

Graphical user interface

Description automatically generated

#6 Minimize Expenses 

The first thing to do is find the cheapest gas you can.  If you are a full-time driver, consider leasing a car with unlimited miles. Uber just offered me a Tesla lease with unlimited miles. I drove over 300,000 miles in my Toyota Prius with unlimited miles.

This strategy saved me a lot of money because it covered the car, insurance, and regular tune-ups.

A white car with black text

Description automatically generated with low confidence
Text, letter

Description automatically generated

Looking to save money at the pump? Here are the best gas apps to help you save more in 2023:  8 BEST Gas Apps That Will Save You Money At The Pump In 2023

#7- Drive When Others Don’t

This has been one of my best strategies. Late nights have high demand, and let’s face it; most drivers don’t want to deal with drunk passengers.  Those drivers work late nights and make some good money.

I like to drive starting at 4 AM, and few drivers are on the road.  I am immediately busy, stay busy, and drive many folks to work and the airport.  The more you drive with a passenger in your car, the more money you make.  If you are the only driver working, you will stay busy.

#8 – Smile

Smiling sounds so easy, but it is not.  We drivers get tired.  I start to feel it after 6 hours.  My energy falls, and I can get a bit snippy.  The smile, like the cleanliness of your car, makes a positive first impression.  Flash those teeth to get your rides moving in the right direction.

#9 – Learn To Listen

This has been one of my biggest lessons.  Each passenger is an opportunity to practice my ability to listen, be compassionate, and be empathetic.  There are not enough of those qualities in the world.  It is a gift you can give to each passenger.

To put it bluntly, no one cares what I have to say.  They care about what they have to say and appreciate someone who listens and acknowledges their words, emotions, and feelings.

#10 – Learn To Shut Up

Yes, this is the same as #9.  But it is so important I wanted to state it again.

#11. Don’t Talk About Politics

Don’t open that door.  I made that mistake a few times, and I had to listen to rants from both the right and the left.  People feel strongly about political issues.  It won’t help you in any way to discuss politics.

#12- Don’t Talk About Religion

I still remember how one young man tried to convert me to his religion, invited me to a meeting he was attending, and left my car very upset when I declined.  Steer clear of any discussions of religion.

#13- Don’t Talk About Anything Of A Sexual Nature

I never bring up this topic.  I have had passengers bring it up.  I listen and nod.  I don’t engage.  One guy recently talked to me about an orgy he was attending.  He wanted to know if I was into that sort of thing.

I have had a few women approach me to meet after work.  Decline.  Nod.  Don’t get into it.  Fortunately, since I don’t drive late at night, it does not happen too often.

#14 Never Inquire Into Any Passenger’s Personal Life

Unfortunately, asking even formerly benign questions can trigger complaints from passengers.  I don’t even ask passengers where they work any longer.  I don’t ask anything construed as an “uncomfortable” question.  It is better to say something about myself and then let the passenger reply if interested.

#15 Enjoy The Moments – Sunrise

Wow.  Watching the sunrise over San Francisco Bay continues to delight me.

A picture containing sunset, outdoor, nature, sun

Description automatically generated

#16 Enjoy The Moments – Animals

I used to see coyotes in San Francisco all the time.  Each time was a treat.

#17 Enjoy The Moments – Sunsets

A sunset over a body of water

Description automatically generated with medium confidence

#18 Improve Yourself

You can rarely work a job and have many opportunities to learn, grow, get educated, and laugh.  Audible books and podcasts make this a reality for rideshare drivers.  Here are the podcasts I listen to between rides:

#19 Don’t Drive Dog Tired

Back between 2016 – 2019, I regularly drove 10 hours a day.  Some weeks, I would work seven days a week.  Looking back, I was careless.  I was lucky and never had an accident.

But now, I can feel when I need to stop, and it’s usually at the six-hour mark.  When I drive tired, I am not a pleasant driver.  Not only does my ability to drive safely suffer, but so does my attitude toward passengers.  When you are tired, stop.

A picture containing dog, indoor, laying, brown

Description automatically generated

#20- Use The Destination Filters To The Max

The destination filter was a blessing when Uber and Lyft launched the feature.  Before destination filters, getting home was a challenge.  I had to turn off the app and go home.  There was no certainty of getting a ride toward my home.

Back then, we only knew the destination once we started the ride with the passenger in the car.  I use the destination filters anytime I am a long way from home and when I am ready to end the driving day.  I use the two Uber and Lyft filters every time.

Learn how to use Lyft’s destination filter here: NEW Lyft Driver Feature: “Stay Within Area” Destination Filter AKA Area Preference

#21 – Drive With A Purpose

I have found it valuable to have a reason for driving.  At first, my purpose was to make good money and travel.  Then it became a way to fund my next business venture.

Now, rideshare driving is a way to get out of the house and integrate with human beings in person rather than through a screen.

#22 Carry The Essentials

I always have a spare phone charger and tissue.  That’s it.  Over time, that is all I need.

#23 – My Magic Question

 “Is the temperature OK back there for you?”  It lets the passenger know you care.

#24- Put Your Ego In Check

Always make your passenger feel superior to you.  In the past, a passenger would talk about a vacation, and I would share my experiences, which were often better.  That made the passenger feel bad.  No tips.  I should listen, be enthusiastic, and cool my jets.

#25 Be Grateful

I appreciate the opportunity to work and get paid, and I don’t have a boss. It is good to remind myself of this often.

#26 Learn From Your Passengers.  

I have learned so much from my passenger.  Lately, I have been learning more and more about Alzheimer’s from passengers who work in Memory Care units.  In addition, I have been struck by how hard people work and about challenges we face as Americans.  Every passenger has a lesson to teach me.

#27. Set A Goal For Each Day

This is something I always do.  It pushes me to be my best.  Usually, I set two goals, the number of rides (20) and revenue ($200).  This way, when I get to 17 rides and $160, I won’t stop.  I will drive for another hour or so and reach my goals.

Achieving my goals gives me more satisfaction in doing what I set out to do.

#28 – Enjoy the moments – Special conversations

Sometimes, and it does not happen very often, we drivers can experience a conversation that will impact us profoundly.  I recall driving someone to a funeral and driving someone else to a job interview.  These are a few profound memories I have.

My best ride ever was with a man named Jimmy Chin.  Some people don’t know who Jimmy is, but I knew when he got into my car near Alamo Square in San Francisco.

Graphical user interface

Description automatically generated

I recently watched his movie Meru which Tim Ferriss recommended.

A picture containing text, nature, outdoor, mountain

Description automatically generated

During that car ride, a 30-minute ride to San Francisco International Airport, Jimmy told me about the next movie he was directing.  It was called Free Solo.


Description automatically generated

Jimmy went on to win the Best Documentary Academy Award for Free Solo.  I was so excited and happy for him as I watched it on television.  Best Ride Ever.

Key Takeaways

I hope you enjoyed my walk down memory lane.  Ideally, you can pick up a few tidbits of information that you can use to get the most value out of your rideshare driving experience.  The thing that keeps me coming back to rideshare driving is each passenger.  They teach me, they humble me, and they often inspire me.

How many rides have you given as a driver, and what have you learned while driving?

-Jay @ RSG