3 Navigation Strategies for New Uber Drivers

If you thought navigation was as simple as turning on your GPS and following your map app, think again. Today, we have our first post from Victor Hoff, who shares his top navigation tips, and why they’re important to master, especially for new drivers.

Congratulations! You’ve figured out which rideshare gigs work best for you, you passed your background check and have had your car successfully inspected and now you’re ready to get on the road and start make money. Simple, right? Well, for the most part, it is. Driving for Uber, Lyft, Postmates or any one of a growing number of service-oriented rideshare opportunities that require a car have helped thousands of men and women like us turn our love of driving into a fairly reliable income stream.

But in order to really capitalize on the opportunity, we have to think of ourselves as less like independent contractors and more like small business owners.

So how do we do that? We market ourselves. And you don’t even require a degree in marketing to be successful at it. If you just follow a few simple core principles, most of the hard work has already been done for you by the thousands of drivers who followed the same path you are about to embark on. So without further adieu:

Get to Know Your City

Boise or St. Louis. Orlando or Dallas. Chicago or Minneapolis. I don’t care where you drive you or how many potholes, toll roads, detours or delays your hometown has, you need to understand your city’s grid first. For example, to outsiders, 3231 University Avenue means little. But if you’re going to be successfully driving in San Diego, you most likely already know that the address is on the south side of the block – odd numbers are on the south side of blocks heading east to west on the east side heading north to south – and the 3200 block is – you guessed it – near 32nd Street.

Granted, there are exceptions to every rule, but it is your responsibility to demonstrate a command of the road – a quality of every successful driver. If you don’t want to your pax (passengers) to have a bad experience and rate you poorly as a result, know your city.

Remember, every city has some pattern to it for mapping purposes and it’s your job to figure it out.

Learning on the job is most definitely important as well as unavoidable. But if you can minimize a pax’s discomfort, you’re already ahead of the game. The number one service you’re marketing is safety. Sure, everyone tells you you’re great with people. But no cares about that once you run a red light or miss a highway entrance or exit. So know your city.

An example of navigating downtown Boston

And while no one expects you to have a cartographer’s grasp of your hometown – you will constantly be discovering new places – try to minimize customer disruptions. Know which highways are busiest and when. Have alternative routes in your head – you won’t always be able to count on Google Maps, Waze, etc. – ask your passenger if they have a preferred route. All of this will come in handy, make it appear as if you are in command of the situation and will let your pax know that you know your city.

Related: In an unfamiliar part of town? Use FarePilot to get rides!

Act like a Tourist on Your Downtime

Quick. Can you name two or three popular Italian eateries? Where’s the best place to get craft beer? Is your home team playing tonight? Where are the best hiking trails? As a driver for Uber or Lyft, you are going to be asked those questions from people visiting as well as other locals. While no one expects you to know everything that’s going on, most tourists want to know the popular destinations. Sure, there’s Yelp and Google, Eater and Trip Advisor as well as a slew of other sites providing a city’s tourist attractions. But nothing quite replaces the advice of the locals.

I had two visitors ask me where a good jazz place was once. I had no idea because I’m not into that scene. But the gentlemen in the front seat took all of a minute to come up with a list of four spots in San Diego that cater to jazz lovers. You can bet I’ll never forget which ones there are for future reference.

Related: Want to get the low-down on events and concerts near you? Check out Rydar!

When it comes to restaurants – easily the most requested places I’m asked about – I always start with my favorites. Talk to other locals, too, when you’re driving to find out what they like. If you can, try to pick some out of the way restaurants (e.g. so-called ‘Speakeasies’ or pop-up dinners) or places with amazing views. (And don’t forget to have a few family-friendly places up your sleeve. Parents managing children will love you for it!)

Downtown San Diego

When is Your City the Busiest?

Eventually, you will find a rhythm for yourself about when, where and how long you’d like to drive. Depending on where you’re driving, you will have may not have the luxury of sticking to a particular area for any given period of time simply because your city is simply not big enough or, conversely, in the cases of Los Angeles, Chicago and New York, they’re so big you do want to focus on one area.

But here in San Diego, we do have specific areas that tend to be consistently busy at certain times and seasons of the year and they’re all within driving distances. The downtown area of San Diego, especially early in the morning and later in the afternoon (commuter hours) as well as late Friday and Saturday night (club hours) are popular driving times. The beaches, too, are popular destination and pick-up points.

But regardless of the your city’s size, you will need to figure out when the best times to drive are to help maximize your profits. Does your city have a convention center? Find out from their website who is coming and going (and when). These out-of-towners don’t know your city like you do, so they will need help finding places to eat and things to do as well as transportation to and from their scheduled events.

Does your town have any sports franchises? Rides to and from games are a reliable source of income and most stadiums now have predetermined PUDO (pick-up/drop-off) points. Make sure you know how to get in and out, how to communicate to your riders if there are delays and alternative routes for particularly popular events.

For example, the San Diego Gulls draw one type of crowd at the Valley View Casino Center but Lady Antebellum drew another crowd entirely at the Mattress Firm Amphitheater in Chula Vista. You can use an app like Rydar to view a Calendar of Events for upcoming events around you.

There is a lot more to driving and maximizing your earnings than I’ve outlined here. And there are plenty of resources for you to check out online. But, remember, you must know your city – how it is laid out geographically, where to go and when and what to recommend to people in your car, your pax, for you to really separate yourself from the average rideshare driver. And with any luck at all, and a lot of knowledge, you will soon realize that you are far and away a much better rideshare driver than most. See you on the road!

Readers, what was one thing you wish you knew about navigation before you started rideshare driving?

-Victor @ RSG