It’s an age-old question, or at least something many rideshare drivers have contemplated. Should you do an offline Uber ride? Is it a good idea to accept cash rides?
The scenario could be that the passenger loves you as their driver and wants you to pick them up when they are done at X place and offers to just call you up and pay you cash for the ride home.
Another scenario would be you as a driver getting frustrated with how much Uber and Lyft are taking from each ride, so you offer to do it off the app for the same cost or slightly less—everyone wins, right?
It sounds great on paper, but might not be the wisest decision, especially since it’s technically illegal. However, it all boils down to if you’re willing to take the risk and if your passenger is willing to as well.
Downsides to Doing Cash Rides/Offline Uber Rides
The upsides are the easy ones, so let’s focus on the downsides of taking rides off the app for now (also referred to as “back door Uber rides.”)
If you take a ride off of the app, you have zero rideshare insurance coverage. That’s right, zero. Uber/Lyft is not going to cover you because you’re not taking a ride through them.
Your regular insurance company will likely not cover you if they discover what you were doing.
Even if you have the rideshare endorsement on your car insurance policy (which we highly recommend), you’re no longer using it for that purpose. You’re using it commercially.
If you don’t have commercial insurance coverage (which tends to cost a LOT more than adding a rideshare endorsement), then you’re not covered and neither are your passengers.
I know what you’re thinking. “But I can just tell insurance I was driving a friend. They don’t need to know I was doing a ride off book.”
This is true, but during the investigation of an accident, your passenger will have ample opportunity to throw you under the bus and call you out for what was really happening.
The passenger has no reason to have your back in that scenario. Especially if they decide to sue you.
If you want to look into commercial insurance coverage for ridesharing, we recommend talking to Ed Walker, our resident insurance expert. You can find and contact him via LinkedIn here (let him know RSG sent you!)
You might even need a special license to do your own rides, since you wouldn’t be doing them through a platform like Uber or Lyft.
If you get caught doing any of these, you’re risking deactivation. It’s against both Uber and Lyft’s terms of service and they will have no problem with kicking you off their platforms.
If you rely on Uber and Lyft as a means for earning money, getting deactivated would put a damper on things.
Worse passenger experiences
If a passenger is being hounded by every driver they get to pay off the app, that could send a message that drivers are not to be trusted.
I came across a post on Reddit where a passenger has been asked often recently if they would pay off the app to do the ride. This person was harassed by some of the drivers who wouldn’t take no for an answer.
As they said in a response to someone’s comment, “I also feel like those drivers make the rest of you look bad, and could be the boiling point that gets some people to stop tipping entirely.”
They make a good point. Enough bad experiences and that passenger may be jaded against all drivers no matter how good they are. This hurts drivers everywhere.
Also, if the passenger gets frustrated enough, they might leave the platform, meaning that’s fewer ride requests you might receive in the future.
Your passenger could be a cop
There have been undercover stings where cops pose as passengers who don’t have smartphones or who have dead batteries and can’t book a ride through the app. They try to hail down an Uber or Lyft driver and offer cash instead.
Like I mentioned before. Doing this is illegal. Busted.
Upsides to Doing Cash Rides/Offline Uber Rides
I’m just going to touch on this briefly since the downsides are what you have to make peace with if you decide to book rides off the app… plus we don’t recommend it!
Cash is king, as they say. You’re technically supposed to report it as income, but cash is not easily traced, so…
Or if a passenger doesn’t have cash, you can always use a payment app like Venmo or PayPal or whatever else there is out there these days.
Sticking it to Uber/Lyft
Probably one of the biggest upsides would be that you’re sticking it (though in a small way in the long-term) to Uber and Lyft.
You are earning the money you feel you deserve while they get nothing from that ride.
Final Thoughts on Offline Uber Rides
Ok…it’s easy to make a snap decision and not realize there are consequences until something bad happens. I admit it. I’ve given an off-the-books ride before. It was when I first started out as an Uber driver and I didn’t really even think twice about it.
It was a busy time. I feel like it was around the time the state fair was in town. The phones don’t work so great the closer you get to the state fair because of so many people using them. So, I gave my passengers a card with my number so I could find them again when they were ready to skedaddle.
About 2 hours later, I got the call and was nearby, so I went there, picked them up and took them to a nearby bar. They paid me cash. It was never officially booked on an app.
I didn’t think twice about it until I started reading articles by the Rideshare Guy and realized what kind of trouble I could have actually gotten into.
I could have easily gotten into an accident with how busy everywhere was at that time. I didn’t have rideshare insurance at the time either because I didn’t know it was a thing.
I was lucky. Not everyone will be. Ultimately it’s your decision, but I feel like if I got presented with the same scenario now, I wouldn’t have accepted. They would have booked a ride and everything would have continued on.
What do you think? Is it worth the risk?
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-Paula @ RSG