What Have I Learned From One Year Of Uber Driving?

Harry here.  It’s always interesting for me to hear about other driver’s experience with rideshare.  And considering the fact that 50% of drivers quit after just one year, today’s guest post is from a long time RSG reader and driver who recently had his one year driving anniversary.  I asked Jim to talk about everything he’s learned in his one year behind the wheel and his experience did not disappoint.  

Feel free to leave a comment below about your experience and let us know how long you’ve been driving for.

What Have I Learned From One Year Of Uber Driving?
What Have I Learned From One Year Of Uber Driving?

On November 1, 2015, I celebrated one year of rideshare driving (mostly UberX).  I would like to share some highlights from my first year driving for Uber, Lyft and Sidecar.


Although I used to get a lot of overtime in my day job as a customer service rep for a utility company, over the years, overtime has been cut back.  For a while, I looked into the possibility of working part time at a restaurant to make some extra money, but it didn’t ever mesh well with my work schedule since I could get overtime requests at any time, and those would be much more lucrative than a restaurant shift.

So in short, you will not find a side job more flexible than ridesharing and for my situation, the scheduling aspect is perfect.

How I Got Started

I started with Lyft because my 2005 Honda Accord was too old at the time for Uber (that has changed, along with a million other changes in just one year).  My test drive/audition for Lyft was interesting though.

My Lyft mentor observed how well I obeyed the GPS.  The trick was the last turn which had an obstructed street sign where I had to rely solely on the GPS to identify the turn.   I was upset that I was not approved in time to drive on Halloween 2014.

However, I did get the all clear on Sunday November 1, 2014.  With Harry’s advice, I loaded up on water bottles and Starburst.  I got a ping seconds after turning on the app – what a rush!  The pin was on a freeway on ramp, and I didn’t know yet how to contact the passenger.  After driving in circles, I finally found my passengers, who were five young intoxicated ravers on their way to a concert.  I only had four seat belts though.  Not only was this not safe, it would have been very a very expensive ticket if I got caught.  I learned that I’d never do this again no matter how much the passengers begged and bribed me!

My second weekend ridesharing was a bust.  With no big events in the suburbs, it was super slow.  My Lyft mentor and The Rideshare Guy made it clear that if I wanted to make money, I had to go to the big city.  I never liked driving in LA because the freeways are so confusing, but I got over it.  Harry has mentioned many times that passengers don’t like it when drivers that don’t know the passenger’s neighborhood, so I adopted Marina Del Rey as my new home.

It’s 60 miles from my house in the burbs, but that’s where I usually start my weekend shifts.  The one thing I don’t like though is that I could end up anywhere in LA and have to drive in a neighborhood I’m not familiar with.

Hello Uber

About a month into my adventure with Lyft, a passenger asked all the usual questions: how long have I been doing this, how old is my car, etc.  But this passenger turned out to be a recruiter for Uber.  While I barely met the criteria, it turned out my 2005 Accord was new enough after all.  I’ll be able to drive my 2005 car for five more years.

After I started driving for Uber, I earned a $500 bonus after my first 20 rides.  Uber was so much busier than Lyft. What a difference!  I used the Lyft destination filter to Marina Del Rey and from LA back to home in the burbs at the end of my shift.  I rarely got a ride this way, but it’s how I was able to legitimately write off my miles driving in and out of LA.

Your Misdemeanors Are Safe With Us

Every rideshare driver has a most memorable ride, and mine was as a noob with just one month of experience.  I picked up Marie at 6:30 on a Friday night.  She was already very drunk.  A half mile into the ride, she asks me to stop at a Circle K.  Great, I think, all Marie needs is more booze.  When she returned to the car, she was in a hurry.  As I’m pulling out of the parking lot, a clerk spots Marie in my car and points and shouts “There she is!”  Marie said “GO!” and I went.

I didn’t know what she did in there, and I did not want to take my chances with an unpredictable passenger.  Marie asked me to drop her off a few minutes later since she figured the clerk got my plate and the cops might pull me over.  I immediately reported this to Lyft, which took a report.  A few days later, I get a knock on the door from a detective asking if that’s my car in the driveway.

I explained the whole situation.  It turns out the clerk refused to sell Marie alcohol since she was obviously already very drunk.  Marie punched he clerk in the face and broke her glasses, and it’s all on HD video.  I checked in with the detective a week later.  He was very disappointed because Lyft wouldn’t give Marie up.

Lyft required a subpoena, but the detective couldn’t get a subpoena because punching someone in the face is only a misdemeanor.  I tell the story often and tell my passengers that their misdemeanors are safe with me, but they are on their own if they commit a felony.  By the way, the detective said I did the right thing to not stop for the clerk; I would have put myself in greater danger.  Next time, I’ll return to the scene of the crime after dropping off the passenger instead of waiting for them to find me.

Coachella and Stagecoach

The last three weekends in April, the Palm Springs area attracts more than 70,000 extra tourists for popular music festivals.  Drivers from all over southern California descend on the area, but it’s like chasing the surge: it’s not worth it.  I have a sister who lives in Palm Springs.  Even with a free place to stay, with so many imported drivers, there was almost no surge pricing.  Next April, I’ll head to LA instead.  Better to be busy the whole shift in LA than to compete with a zillion other drivers on my own time to get into that nightmare known as the Uber lot at the music festival.

I drove Coachella this year, it was worth it 🙂


California and some other states now offer rideshare friendly insurance.  In CA, the two choices are Farmers and Metromile (Mercury Insurance is now an option too).  My quote from Farmers was more than double my standard insurance, so I went with Metromile.

Related Article: Our Review of Metromile Insurance

Based on my driving record, my rate is 5.1 cents per mile.  One nice feature with Metromile is that their device, which plugs into my car’s computer, knows when I’m on an Uber ride and does not charge me for those miles.  Metromile only covers Uber though, so I retired from Lyft and Sidecar. As a side note, I did 10 rides with Sidecar to earn a $100 bonus last spring before they changed their focus to deliveries.

If you live in a state that offers rideshare insurance, I encourage you to come out of the shadows and buy it.  If you have an accident with passengers, insurance companies are onto us, and they will ask if you are a rideshare driver.  Lying about this is insurance fraud, and that is a felony. It’s not worth the risk.

Speaking of risk, even if I had chosen Farmers, I would have still retired from Lyft for one very important reason:  If you are at fault in an accident with passengers, the collision deductible with Uber is pretty high at $1,000.00.  But with Lyft, the collision deductible is an astronomical $2,500.00.

Related Article: Why Lyft Drivers Could Be On The Hook For A $2,500 Collision Deductible

Do you have this kind of money in an emergency fund?  If you don’t, then a moderate fender bender could cause a huge financial hit.  KBB.com says my 2005 Honda is worth only $4,000.00.  If I totaled my car, I’d walk away with only $1,500.00 to replace my car.  If you don’t have $2,500.00 to spare, then you can’t afford the risk of driving for Lyft.  Don’t stick your head in the sand and hope and pray you won’t have an at-fault accident with passengers; stuff happens.

Ridesharing Isn’t For Everyone

A recent article makes the point that there is a lot of turnover in rideshare drivers.  On various Facebook groups, I read posts from drivers who spend more time complaining than driving.  My advice for some very vocal drivers who are upset is try something else.  Ridesharing is not for everyone.  Props to Harry who taught me everything I needed to know about working smarter, not harder before my first ride and beyond.  I’d prefer more overtime at my day job, but I am thankful to drive weekends for Uber when I need the extra money.  It has been an adventurous year!

Drivers, what do you think about my experience with Uber, Lyft and Sidecar?  How long have you been driving and does your experience line up or has it been way different?

Bio: Jim Miller is a big fan of Angels Baseball and San Diego State Basketball (class of 1987).  Jim has been married to his best friend Joanne for 27 years and is the proud father of two talented and successful daughters Rachel, 24, and Megan, 19.  Jim has four classes to go to finish the Masters of Leadership and Management at the University of La Verne.