Harry here. The time has come to talk about UberPool and frankly, I haven’t done a lot of UberPool rides because a) it wasn’t available where I used to live and b) I wasn’t that excited to try it out. But as UberPool gets rolled out to more and more cities, I asked RSG contributor Christian Perea to break down what it’s like to do UberPool and tell us what other drivers are saying about it. So here it goes…
Harry and I were so excited for UberPool that we each assigned the other the task of going out to do UberPool rides for this article. In fact, I volunteered to write the article if Harry did the rides. Harry also volunteered to write the article if I did the rides. We volunteered each other for this task for about three weeks because we were both so excited to get out there and do some UberPool’s and didn’t want to deny the other the opportunity to test out the product 😉
For the uninitiated, UberPool is like UberX, but instead of doing one ride at a time, you can pickup and drop-off multiple passengers in a single ride to build out a longer ride (here’s a good video from Uber about how it works – just disregard the part about making more money, we’ll get to why that isn’t true).
So as you begin the trip with your first passenger, you may receive a request to go a few blocks out of your way to pickup a second passenger heading in the same direction. The driver gets paid for the extra distance and mileage at UberX rates so that they earn ‘more money’ while passengers pay less. You can imagine that the extra distance/pay isn’t much though since you might only go a few blocks out of your way to get that second passenger.
What Do Present UberPool Drivers Think?
UberPool launched in San Francisco and Los Angeles in 2014 and is being slowly rolled out to other cities. Unfortunately, in every corner of the internet that I scoured, I found unhappy UberPool drivers. Here are a few reasons why;
- The way that pay is calculated is very unclear (but Harry tried to explain it here).
- Uber collects more off of the minimum fares in UberPool (upwards of 50%) due to
safetyservice fees being a larger percentage of the fare.
- Drivers are unhappy to be doing twice the amount of work for only a few dollars more, and oftentimes less.
- The system places drivers in awkward situations that either affects their rating, acceptance rate, or both.
- Payouts that look like this:
Unfortunately, despite these sentiments, there is no way to opt-out of UberPool if you are an UberX driver, so this article seeks to answer a lot of the questions you will have as it rolls out to your area.
How Does Pay Work for UberPool?
UberPool pays time and distance like any other UberX request. So you are paid from your first pickup to your last drop-off. In theory, drivers should earn more when they have bigger “pools.” Surge pricing is calculated on the individual Pool request for each passenger. Uber claims that drivers make more because it gives them a longer fare than they would have initially had with just one ride. In short, this is all part of Uber’s “perpetual ride” goal of having drivers utilizing more time in rides.
UberPool Pays Less Per Mile In Many Cities
UberPool pays out less in many cities because UberPool will have separate a separate “Rate Card”. For example, the UberX rate in San Francisco is $1.16/mile while the UberPool rate is $1.05/mile. The per minutes and minimum fares go down as well. Not every city has a separate rate card for UberPool yet, however we do know that the Bay Area and Los Angeles have a separate rate card. Make no mistake, you are getting paid less for more work on UberPool. The decoupling of rates from UberX means that if you have UberPool in your market that you probably got a secret price-cut on top of the one you got in January.
Many drivers on UberPeople.net, Facebook groups, and other local lounges point out that it’s often not worth the extra work. Perpetual rides aren’t a fun proposition when they don’t earn drivers much more money and require that they do so much more work. In particular, drivers reported frustration with minimum fare rides since Uber gets a much larger cut on these rides. Here’s an example:
Let’s say you have two UberX riders going the exact same route in separate UberX vehicles and the fare ends up being $11 each. For simplicity, let’s also assume Uber charges a $1 safety fee and 20% commission.
Rider 1 pays: $11 – $1 safety fee – $2 (20% commission) = $8 payout for the driver. Uber’s total commission = 27% ($3/$11)
Rider 2 pays: $11 – $1 safety fee – $2 (20% commission) = $8 payout for the driver. Uber’s total commission = 27% ($3/$11)
Now along comes UberPool and these two riders get matched up on a ride. Again for simplicity, let’s say they pay $6 each now (since UberPool saves the passenger around 40-50%) but they have to share a ride.
Not only is there one less available ride for drivers, but the driver gets paid the same amount for more work:
Rider 1 pays: $6- $1 safety fee – $1 (20% commission) = $4 payout for the driver.
Rider 2 pays: $6- $1 safety fee – $1 (20% commission) = $4 payout for the driver.
Now only one of those original drivers gets the $8, and while the total cost of the ride was $12, Uber got $4 in fees which equates to 33% commission. So Uber makes more on UberPool rides, yet the driver makes about the same amount in this example.
If you are lucky enough to be doing UberPool in London, you get to pay 35% commission when your UberPool gets a match! This is apparently because you make the “computer work a little harder” so they’ve gotta charge more.
Accepting/Denying UberPool Requests
Unlike Lyft Line, which just adds random pickups into your ride without your permission, UberPool gives the driver the choice of whether or not to accept an additional fare. This is good in that you can really build out your pool, but awkward in that the passenger knows that you are accepting the request and thus inconveniencing them.
Related Article: Never Accept A Poorly Rated UberPool Passenger
Some drivers like this control while others prefer Lyft’s method as they can then blame Lyft for adding and dropping additional people. Some Uber drivers have complained that passengers have rated them poorly for actually accepting too many Pool requests.
One key point however is that denying an additional UberPool request while the ride is underway does affect your acceptance rate. This leads to a choice between affecting your acceptance rate or potentially getting a low rating from a passenger. I suggest telling the passenger that you have to accept all of the requests otherwise you may be deactivated from Uber and have to come steal their job 😉
As RSG reader Miles Collison out of Austin, Texas put it, “UberPool is like having two bosses, plus it’s harder to get good ratings.”
It Will Be a Little Awkward at First
When the carpooling services launched in San Francisco, there was a lot of initial awkwardness when people tried to bring more passengers than they indicated in the app. Even today, there are still a decent number of people who request a pool and try to bring 2-3 people with them. If this happens, you need to make sure you cancel the ride or you mark them as having too many people.
Many passengers who are new to the service will also try to change their destination or ask to make additional stops. There are no additional stops and you cannot alter the drop-off location unless you want to drive them for free and anger your other UberPool passenger. In this situation, you have to assert yourself. After a few months of UberPool, you will encounter less of these situations, but they will never completely go away.
When You Make More
The only time you can really make more with UberPool is when it surges. When UberPool launches in new markets, they generally roll out some type of flat-fee structure that passengers pay even when it’s surging. In SF, Uber has offered $7 flat rides on UberPool as long as you stay within the main areas of the city.
So in this case, whenever it’s surging, most passengers opt for UberPool since Uber still pays out the surge pricing to drivers but only charges passengers the flat fare. Obviously, Uber won’t be able to subsidize these fares forever, but you might as well take advantage of them while they last.
You Will Also Drive More and Do More Work
The biggest complaint of UberPool and Lyft Line is that drivers end up doing a lot more work for the money. Pickups and drop-offs are the most stressful part of each ride and adding in a second or third one during rush hour only compounds the difficulty. Furthermore, as people get added into your ride or cancel on the way, it becomes frustrating having to change direction every few minutes while constantly checking your phone while in traffic. It’s honestly kind of a safety hazard too.
I will say that it ultimately made me a better driver on pickups because I got tired of wasting my time and it made me have to pay more attention. It definitely takes some getting used to, though.
With any luck, Pool will combine with the back-to-back feature to make rides much more efficient. However, I expect this to take a while. Uber says drivers make more money on Pool rides today compared to UberX, but I don’t buy it. More often than not, you’re taking two people with similar starting and ending points and giving them each half off their rides. So I’m not sure where the extra income would come from.
Furthermore, all of these features really cut into surge pricing. This is good for passengers and Uber, but with rates so low, it really affects the drivers in markets who depend on surge to balance out 85 cent per mile type rates.
Peeing In The Pool
Some drivers in the past have refused to accept the second request since they didn’t want to do the extra work. This resulted in Uber hammering down on acceptance rate metrics though. You do have the option of not accepting requests on UberPool but just know that it will piss off Uber.
Other drivers will accept all Pool requests that they get and hope that this upsets their passengers and then the passengers will complain to Uber about UberPool. Not sure how well that strategy works, though.
Others will cancel UberPool requests as soon as they get them (ie first passenger) and hope for a regular UberX request.
But most drivers just got used to it.
Whether you like it or not, as a driver, this stuff is the future. So you are going to have to deal with it until you get a cheap fuel efficient vehicle or literally drive yourself into bankruptcy. If these services are going to make a difference in the world, then they are going to need to do more and more carpooling. Remember, Uber’s goal is to get people to give up their cars and the only way to do that is to make taking Uber cheaper than owning a car.
Drivers, what are your initial impressions about UberPool and are you the type of driver who will just go with the flow or do you wanna pee in the Pool?
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-Christian @ RSG