Everyone thinks it’s easy to get started driving with Uber and Lyft, but the truth is, there is some thought that goes into becoming a rideshare driver – especially if you want to be successful. Whether you drive full-time or part-time, there are some basic (like signing up!) and not-so-basic (like insurance) things that new rideshare drivers should consider before they get on the road. Today, RSG contributor Melissa Berry outlines her experience signing up to drive with Uber and Lyft, how long the process takes, and what you should do while you wait to be approved to drive.
I recently started driving for Lyft, at Harry’s recommendation to drive for Lyft before Uber, and have found it very interesting, to say the least. In case you don’t know me, I’ve been editing all the blog posts, podcasts and videos around the site for the last two years! And now I’m joining the rank of rideshare drivers.
Since Harry and Christian signed up a few years ago, things have changed pretty dramatically with Lyft and Uber. So, I thought I’d share my experiences signing up for both Lyft and Uber. It’s easy to sign up and become a new Uber or Lyft driver, but at the same time it’s not as easy as I thought it would be.
For those of you thinking of signing up to become a rideshare driver, here are five things you should do before you hit the road.
Before You Start Driving, Get Rideshare Insurance
Before you start driving, make sure you have rideshare insurance! There are many reasons why you need rideshare insurance, and I personally wasn’t comfortable driving without it.
If you’re struggling to find cheap rideshare insurance, here are a few ways I worked to lower the costs associated with rideshare insurance:
- Find an agent familiar with rideshare insurance – I found agents through the Insurance Marketplace, and there was no hassle at all explaining what “rideshare” means because all of the agents are vetted and understand the difference between “Uber” and “Lyft”
- Bundle with your homeowner’s or renter’s insurance – by bundling my home and auto insurance, I saved a ton
- See if you qualify for good driver discounts – I qualified for some good driver discounts based on my driving history and, if I chose to, I could have saved even more by putting one of those “speed monitoring” systems on my car
By doing all of this, I found an insurer in Arizona who offered me additional rideshare insurance protection for $8 a month. Yes – $8 per month (in addition to regular auto insurance costs). It’s possible!
I’ll write more about this in a future post, but I ended up going with Allstate here in Arizona. Arizona drivers can find AZ-specific insurers here and, if you’re looking for insurance options in your state, you can check out the insurance marketplace here.
Be Prepared to Spend Some Time Getting Approved
Once you’re ready to sign up with Uber or with Lyft, make sure you’ve gone to get an inspection, have your driver’s license and vehicle registration handy, and have a photo of your face (no sunglasses or other people in the photo) ready.
One word about inspections: you can get a free inspection from Uber and your inspection form from Uber will work for Lyft! At least, it did for me. I used my Uber inspection form to get qualified for Lyft, and Lyft had no problems with accepting Uber’s form.
Note: This may not be true everywhere. Another writer had an issue using the free Uber inspection form for Uber and Lyft, so your results may vary.
Once you’ve signed up, you’ll upload all of your documents and… wait. Uber and Lyft will let you know when the background check has been processed, and when your photo and licenses are all approved, but it may take a few days.
Getting approved by Uber was faster: I was approved in two days while Lyft took four. Part of the reason for that was, while I was applying to drive for Lyft, they initially required new drivers to take a “test drive” with a Lyft mentor. I dragged my feet on doing that, and then a day later, Lyft dropped the requirement for driving with a mentor! In most cities, Lyft no longer has mentors 🙁
On one hand, if you’re a new driver, it was comforting to know that you could get started with Lyft and drive with a mentor. However, if you’re busy or want to get on the road right away, it was a hassle to schedule time to drive with a Lyft mentor. I’m not sure this is a great change, as I think a mentor provides reassurance and can answer questions, but you always have RSG to answer your new driver questions!
Prepping Your Car
Once you’ve been approved to drive, you could get on the road and start driving but… have you looked at your car?
Until I realized I was actually going to take strangers in my car, I hadn’t really looked at it. Looking at it from a stranger’s perspective made me realize I needed to clean it out.
Think about it like this: what would your grandmother say about your car? Would you feel comfortable driving around your grandmother or other respected family member in your car? Harry’s number one piece of advice is to take a ride as a passenger, and I highly recommend you do that. What kind of condition would you like to see a vehicle in as a passenger?
Also, car washes and car air fresheners are also tax-deductible, so keep your receipts for tax time.
It will take several days for your stickers, aka “trade dress”, to arrive anyway, so you might as well spruce up your car while you wait!
Either before or once your trade dress for Uber/Lyft arrives, seriously consider downloading some helpful apps.
Based on these recommendations, I downloaded Stride Drive immediately to start tracking my car wash, air freshener, and other expenses. I still plan on hanging on to my paper receipts just to be sure, but you can input your receipt information into Stride to start documenting.
Another great tracking app is QuickBooks Self Employed, which tracks mileage, expenses, and automates business transactions while syncing with TurboTax. This means at tax time, you can easily upload all your information, sync it and get on with finishing your taxes faster.
I already had downloaded the Lyft and Uber driver apps, which are different from the passenger apps, and started getting familiar with the features (especially Lyft’s destination filter!) One app I really wanted to download was Mystro, but I have an iPhone and (for now!) they don’t have an iPhone version of Mystro yet.
Finally, I added Spotify to my phone, so I could easily put on chill music when passengers got in the car. I realize a lot of passengers will probably want their own music, but for those who don’t care, I figured I could be in control of some peaceful music – and listen to my own music when I don’t have a passenger in the car!
You Will Want This One Item
I started driving before reading John’s post on new driver mistakes and let me just say… he is 100% right about the phone mount.
I started driving without a phone mount, and my very first passenger almost gave me a heart attack. She got in the passenger’s seat up front, where my water bottle and phone were resting in the two cup holders. She took my phone out of the cupholder, gave it to me, and put her water bottle in its spot.
So… I tried putting my iPhone 7 in the driver’s side handle, except my phone is too top heavy and fell out. While I was driving. I ended up resting my phone on my Prius’ cloth console, which mostly worked, but it wasn’t safe at all. Even the passenger, clearly familiar with rideshare drivers, remarked I “needed a phone mount like other drivers.” She still gave me five stars, thankfully!
In addition to a phone mount, some recommended products for new drivers include:
- Some kind of air freshener – it makes a difference! You can buy an essential oil diffuser like Sam Choi recommends, or you can buy a basic air freshener – but trust me, you’ll probably need one
- Bluetooth plugin – if you have a car without Bluetooth, like I do, consider getting a Bluetooth plugin so you can control Spotify, Google Maps, etc.
- Dash cam – I haven’t splurged on a dash cam yet, but I know I need to. There are many things that can go wrong as a rideshare driver and, even if I’m careful, that doesn’t mean passengers are. Dash cams are like insurance: have it to be safe rather than sorry
Takeaways on Signing Up With Uber and Lyft
Overall, it took me about a week with both Uber and Lyft to get the inspection done, have my licenses/background check approved, and get my car cleaned and apps loaded. The most time-consuming part was waiting for Uber and Lyft, though.
Both companies rejected me for my photo: I was trying to look pretty, and they weren’t having it. Just take a basic, pretty-enough photo and leave everything (sunglasses, your dog, your spouse, etc.) out of it. Uber then rejected me because I signed up under a different email address – I forgot my original passenger account email, since I signed up with Uber years ago. Uber is strict about no duplication of emails or phone numbers!
It took a lot longer to receive my Lyft trade dress than Uber – Uber’s arrived about 4 days after I applied (even though they rejected me!) Lyft’s trade dress arrived almost 6 days later, and the adhesive for the car was lacking. I ended up taping some of my Lyft trade dress to my front and rear windows.
While you may be able to get on the road right away after being approved, it pays to think ahead of time about what you’ll need as a driver and what passengers will expect in a nice rideshare vehicle. By preparing ahead of time, you’ll be less flustered when you get on the road – which should lead to better ratings and higher tips!
Readers, what advice do you have for new drivers before they get on the road?
Track Your Miles for Free with Stride DriveSmart drivers know they need to track their mileage from start to finish. Stride Drive is a free app you can use to track your mileage, which will help you save money at tax time.
– Melissa @ RSG
Latest posts by Melissa Berry (see all)
- How I Saved Money by Switching to Rideshare Insurance - January 19, 2018
- How Rideshare Insurance Can Help You When You Get Into an Accident - December 29, 2017
- 7 Practical Gifts for Your Favorite Rideshare Driver - December 15, 2017