Uber Driver’s Guide to Austin

Driving for Uber in Austin may not be what it used to be, but I’ve learned how to make the most of it and still run my gig full-time.

Knowing the area, what to avoid, and where to position yourself is the key to making the most money possible.

Check out my Uber driver’s guide to Austin and see if driving for Uber is right for you.

Driving for Uber in Austin

Austin is a popular city for Uber rides, so knowing how to qualify as an Uber driver in Austin can help you make a decent side income.

Fortunately, it’s easy to become an Uber driver in Austin. You need at least one year of driving experience if you are over 25 and three years if you are under 25.

As long as you drive a vehicle younger than 15 years old and it passes an annual inspection, you’re on your way to making money driving for Uber.

Austin Uber Driver Tips & Strategies

Here are the top ways to make the most money driving for Uber.

1. Get To Know the Hotspots

I’ll talk about specific hotspots below, but in general, get to know areas where most people spend their time. The following are some places where people need Uber rides:

  • Rooftop bars
  • BBQ Restaurants
  • Fine dining restaurants
  • Popular bars
  • Popular coffee shops
  • Trending food trucks

2. Avoid I35 When Possible

I35 backs up considerably in the mornings and at night after 7:30 but can be a nightmare almost anytime. If you can help it, choose routes that avoid I35 to maximize your driving time and earnings.

3. Avoid Going East of I35

Most neighborhoods east of I35 are slow-going. Many stoplights create stop-and-go traffic situations that slow you down. And many areas are rural with low-speed limits.

Life is slower east of I35, making it hard for Uber drivers to make the most of their time and earn higher hourly rates.

Personally, I stay in the areas highlighted in yellow on the map below to maximize my earnings.

avoid east of I35
Avoid Driving East of I35

4. Watch for Incentives

Periodically, Uber runs incentives or promos to help increase your earnings. They do this during peak times when they need more drivers. Pay attention to the terms of the deal to ensure you earn the intended bonus.

5. Work Split Shifts

If you drive for Uber in Austin full-time, consider splitting your shifts. Figure out the best strategy to make the most of your time. The more downtime you have, the lower your hourly rate becomes.

For example, if you found a sweet spot for early morning runs and then again late at night, take a break during the day, refuel your body and mind, and make the most of your time driving.

6. Use the Uber Destination Filter

Suppose you have a specific destination in mind on a particular day. In that case, you can set your destination in Uber and only receive requests in that direction. The rider doesn’t need to be going to your exact destination but a stop along the way.

You can use up to two destinations per day. Once you set a destination, you can potentially get unlimited requests going in that direction. This works well on days you must be somewhere but want to make money along the way.

Austin Uber Driver Hotspots

Let’s start with the airport since that’s where most Uber drivers focus their time, but it’s generally not worth it in Austin.

First, the Uber upfront fares made airport trips worthless in Austin unless you qualify for Uber Comfort or XL, which are still profitable.

Most drivers don’t get a return trip from the airport with the onset of upfront fares. This wasn’t the case before upfront fares, but it’s the unfortunate truth now. Instead, you’ll find a tremendous queue of at least 150 UberX and 80 Comfort and XL at any given time.

austin uber driver hotspots

Sitting in the queue isn’t worth it. I’ve found that I randomly get return trips without sitting in the queue, so I’m unsure if Uber and Lyft violate their queue rules.

As far as major events to position yourself around, consider the following:

austin major event locations to driver for uber
Austin Major Event Locations to Driver for Uber

When driving these events, take the time to scout your pickup and dropoff points before the event. Knowing the traffic patterns to plan your route and save as much time as possible in heavy traffic is imperative.

There are many opportunities for dropoffs and pickups for bachelor/bachelorette groups near the Austin area lakes, like Lake Travis and Paradise Cove Marina.

However, this works best for Uber XL because you’ll likely pick up wet and drunk passengers, so leather seats and plenty of room are ideal.

The local restaurants and venues offer plenty of opportunities, too. I like to frequent these areas during challenges to meet my goals.

Some hot areas to frequent include:

  • The University of Texas – there are at least 50k undergrads
  • Bar hopping on West 6th, East 6th, South Congrees and Domain

West 6th Bar Hopping Scene

West 6th bar hopping scene

South Congress Bar Hopping Scene

South Congress bar hopping scene

Positioning yourself downtown usually offers excellent opportunities as most people there don’t have cars. I focus on the west side, going up and down Mopac.

I also go as far north as the Arboretum, the Domain, and Southwest Austin. This is where most people come from to head downtown, and then I can usually catch a ride back.

Best Times To Drive for Uber in Austin

  • Weekday mornings – 4:30 AM to 11 AM Monday through Thursday
  • Weekday evenings – 4:30 PM to 11 PM Monday through Thursday
  • Weekend evenings – 4 PM to 11 PM Friday and Saturday
  • Late nights – After 11 PM, but prepare yourself for intoxicated passengers

best times to drive in austin

I don’t focus on weekend days because they are typically slower unless major events occur. Then it’s worth it. I also break from 11 AM to 4:30 or 5 PM on the weekdays to make the most of my time driving.

I use destination filters often and take advantage of Uber reservations that make sense. They usually pay well, and I can plan my route.

During this time, I may also take upfront or discounted fares to fill my time while I wait for a reservation; some money is better than none.

How Much Do Uber Drivers Make in Austin?

Before upfront pricing and saturation of Uber drivers, I made $1,700 to $2,000 weekly between Uber and Lyft.

Today, I may make $1,300 to $1,500 on a good week; it could be more consistent, as seen in the images below.

austin uber driver pay

Bonuses & Surges

As far as bonuses or surges, I don’t focus on them any longer. Veteran drivers receive very few offers, but new drivers may get more.

In the current environment, I only work on the challenges I know will be easy to accomplish. Otherwise, it’s not worth the effort.

The image below shows a typical quest offered during a slower time Austin experienced. No driver should be chasing 50 trips to earn $30.

austin uber driver quest

Like most areas of the United States, living costs have significantly increased over the last few years. However, in Austin, it started shortly after the housing crisis. Austin recovered much faster than most areas and is the fastest-growing metro in the US.

Regarding the cost of living, rent costs $1,667 for a one-bedroom and $1,779 for a two-bedroom apartment. Compare that to the national average of $2,029 for rent, and Austin is alright.

Austin also has low gas prices, which is good for Uber drivers. The current average price is $3.48 a gallon in Austin, but I’ve found it as low as $3.00 in some areas, or $3.15 to $3.20 on average.

Alternatives To Driving for Uber in Austin

If driving for Uber isn’t cutting it for you, or you don’t want the hassle of working late nights, consider some of the other gig opportunities in Austin:

Is Driving for Uber in Austin Worth It?

You can make money driving for Uber in Austin IF you cherry-pick. The big money that was there pre-pandemic isn’t there anymore. But, if you know your routes, stake out the hotspots, and take advantage of destination filters, you can make it worthwhile.

It’s almost worth it for Comfort and XL Uber drivers, but you must have patience. Traffic is terrible everywhere, even when avoiding I35. Expect it, work it into your schedule, and if you enjoy driving for a living, you can make Uber in Austin work for you.

I love driving. It’s less stressful than staff meetings and status reports, and I meet people from all over the country or even the world. It’s gotten more challenging over the last few months, but I’m sticking with it.

Hey Austin drivers, do you think Uber is still worth it? Do you have any other strategies I didn’t mention?