Have you ever opened up the Uber or Lyft apps on your phone and gotten a ride from a rideshare driver? Well, so have millions of other people across the U.S. do that every month.
The high demand from passengers paired with the ability to make your own hours is one of the reasons rideshare driving is a popular job or side-gig.
These tips and tricks are designed to help you maximize your time behind the wheel and earn as much as possible. This means everything from increasing your tips and getting more five-star ratings to using multiple platforms to leverage surge pricing and promotions.
How to Make More Money as a Rideshare Driver
Whether you’re picking up passengers as your full-time job or are interested in making some extra money as a side hustle, these tips can help you maximize your time behind the wheel to earn as much as possible.
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1. Work During Surge Pricing
Surge pricing happens when a lot of people want a ride and there aren’t a lot of drivers available. When this happens, the cost of the ride goes up and drivers earn more with each ride.
Because of the high demand, you also won’t have to wait for long amounts of time between passengers.
Surges are quite difficult to predict but think of when the most people need a ride, and you’ll be there to maximize the incentive.
Common times for surges are on holidays, near bars when they’re closing on Friday and Saturday nights, near concert and event venues as the event ends, and during work rush hours in the morning or the evening.
There’s no guarantee, but try driving during some of these times.
Both Uber and Lyft show drivers where they can earn extra cash via the in-app map. In the Lyft app, these are called bonus zones. They show you how many extra dollars you’ll earn by picking up a ride in that area. Meanwhile, Uber highlights areas of the map with colors ranging from orange to dark red. You’ll earn more in darker regions of the map.
2. Take Advantage of Sign-Up Guarantees & Promotions
Whether you’re just getting started or have been driving for a while, both Uber and Lyft offer incentives to make extra money.
In the Uber app, under the “Promotions” tab, you’ll see what quest and consecutive trip incentives they are offering. A quest is where you’re challenged to complete a certain number of rides within a given time frame. Consecutive trips are where you’re asked to complete a certain number of rides in a busy area without canceling or going offline. You will see ahead of time what the bonus is, so you can decide if it’s something you want to go for.
Similar to Uber, Lyft also offers promotions in the driver app you can use to earn some extra income. Starting at 5am each Monday, you can check your Lyft app to see what bonuses are available. You can find ride streaks, streak zones, and ride challenges.
Uber and Lyft both offer sign-up guarantees. The guarantee differs based on location and timing, but it is a promise that if you complete a specified number of rides within a given window of time, you will earn a certain amount. And they’ll make up the difference if the rides don’t get you there.
Sign-up guarantees are only available when you start driving for a company, but Lyft sometimes offers additional earnings guarantees as a way to encourage drivers.
Guarantees are not a bonus on top of your earnings. Instead, they’re a promise that you’ll make at least a certain minimum amount as long as you complete the designated number of rides within a time window.
For example, if Lyft guarantees you’ll earn $200 if you give 10 rides in a week but the earnings from your 10 rides only add up to $150, they’ll give you the extra $50. On the other hand, if in 10 rides you earn $250, they won’t add anything to your total earnings because you already reached your guaranteed amount. The same principle applies if you receive a sign-up guarantee from Uber.
Use these types of promotions to earn more. For example, if you get an earnings guarantee from Lyft, meet the minimum requirements with a lot of short rides, and then switch to Uber for the rest of the time period. This helps you earn more without putting extra miles on your car.
3. Communicate With Your Riders
Clear communication with your passengers via the app and once they’re in your car helps the ride go smoothly and eases any concerns your passengers may have.
When you park, let the person know where you are. An in-app message like, “I’m at the designated pickup location in front of the blue house,” helps them find you. This saves you time, which allows you to get to more passengers, and makes them feel like you’re paying attention to them and wanting to make the ride as smooth as possible.
Continue being a good communicator once they’re in your car. Ask them if they want to chat, if they need any water, and what type of music they are in the mood to listen to (more on that in a moment).
Once, while living in Los Angeles, I Ubered to the airport. The lady driving me was trying to get me there as quickly as possible. We could see that we were about to get stuck in LA freeway traffic.
She asked me if it was okay if she deviated from the GPS route to bypass some of the traffic. She told me exactly what she had in mind and then asked if I felt comfortable with that. I said yes and thanked her for wanting to get me to the airport as quickly as possible.
In this interaction, I appreciated that she let me know why she was leaving the designated route and let me decide if I was okay with that. Had it not been for the clear communication, I probably would have felt nervous or questioned her motive for taking another route, which would have made the overall experience less pleasant.
Whether your passenger is on their way to the airport or heading home from a night out, clear communication makes it easier for them to find you and improve their experience.
4. Be Polite
Along with communicating well, remember to be polite and make the ride as enjoyable and comfortable for your passenger as possible. Keep in mind the temperature of your car, the volume of the music, and whether your passengers want to chat or not.
If you drive in a destination city, you can offer to share some of your favorite hidden gems with anyone visiting as a tourist — I loved it when my rideshare driver in Hawaii recommended the best hikes and places to eat around Oahu!
But remember many passengers want a quiet moment to catch up on emails or decompress before arriving at an event.
Just ask your guest as they’re getting into the car.
5. Keep Your Car Clean
Can you imagine how unpleasant it would be to get into a vehicle filled with someone’s trash? Thankfully I’ve never had this experience in a rideshare car, but if I did, it would probably impact my review.
It can be super easy for a car to become a catch-all for everything from old takeout boxes to extra pairs of shoes. Before heading out for a day of driving, ensure your car is clean. Take out the trash and any unnecessary items from your trunk.
You may need to keep a few things in your car. If this is the case, pick up a bin or basket from the store and use it to keep your belongings organized in the corner of your trunk, ensuring there is plenty of room for any suitcases or grocery shopping bags your passengers may need to store during the ride.
If the car looks dirty, go ahead and run it through a car wash and vacuum out any crumbs.
You also want to make sure the smell is pleasant and welcoming. Get an air freshener for your car, or for a more mild but fresh scent, put a dryer sheet under one or two of the chairs. This freshens up the air in your car without giving it too strong a smell.
6. Choose the Right Music
Music can really help set the vibe for the ride. One time when I got into an Uber, the driver turned around and asked what type of music I liked. He then selected the playlist based on my response. It made me feel like he wanted to customize the journey specifically for me.
Asking your passenger a music-related question is also a helpful way to determine if they are chatty or more interested in a quiet drive. Music is a topic people often feel passionate about, so see if they give you a simple answer or if they start chatting about their favorite artists.
Or you can offer the passenger the aux cord! That way, they’re definitely listening to their favorite jams, and you can expand your musical horizons at the same time.
7. Provide Useful Items
One way to up your ratings and hopefully increase tips is by offering little luxuries like phone chargers, water bottles, tissues, snacks, or hand sanitizer. Be prepared for any reasonable request your guest may have.
Avoid snacks with common allergens like peanuts. Some people are so sensitive to the scent that if another passenger ate a peanut in your car, even earlier in the day, they could have an adverse reaction to the smell. The last thing you want is for someone to have to use their EpiPen in your car.
Try adding a “recommended donation” for nicer consumables like snacks or sodas along with a locked tip box. This can encourage people to tip a dollar or two for a candy bar. Over the course of a few days, that change adds up. It’s nice to not charge for items that are more of a necessity, like a small bottle of water or borrowing a phone charger.
8. Let Passengers Know How to Tip
Many rideshare drivers depend on tips to make money, but most passengers aren’t aware of how the pay structure works.
Adding a “Please tip if you’re happy” sign in your car allows you to ask for tips without directly talking about it with every passenger who enters your vehicle. Consider adding a laminated sign in the backseat of your car with a reminder that passengers can show their appreciation via a tip.
You can also add a lockbox with the option to tip in cash for those who may have some extra cash on hand.
9. Drive for More Than One Service
As a rideshare driver, you only make money while you’ve got passengers in your car. When you’re driving around or hanging out in a parking lot waiting for a ride, you’re not earning income during the time in between.
To minimize the time you spend waiting for a passenger, sign up to drive for both Uber and Lyft. When one app is slow, log into the other app to see if there’s a passenger in need of a ride.
Driving for multiple services also allows you to earn sign-up bonuses, referrals, and promotions from both. And you can check both apps to see if there is a surge happening.
Just make sure you don’t exit out of your app while completing a ride streak or promotion that would disqualify you from earning the extra bonus.
10. Do Food Delivery Between Rides
In addition to driving for multiple services, you can minimize your downtime between riders by signing up to complete food delivery with Uber Eats, DoorDash, Grubhub, Postmates, or other food delivery services.
Once you finish a ride with a passenger, find a safe parking space and check all the apps. See if any of them offer bonus incentives, and then find the best offer, whether it’s a rideshare or a food delivery option.
11. Track Your Expenses
As a rideshare driver, you’re considered an independent contractor. This means you don’t have an employer who is taking out taxes on your behalf. You need to budget to pay federal and state income taxes, Medicare, and Social Security taxes.
Being an independent contractor also means you can deduct business expenses when preparing your tax returns.
What are business expenses?
They’re any cost related to keeping your business going. As a rideshare driver, business expenses include anything from the cost of keeping your vehicle in operation, to a portion of your cell phone bill, to an extra phone charger for your passengers to use.
Business expenses as a rideshare driver include:
- Mileage or Vehicle Expenses. When it comes to deducting the cost of operating your vehicle, you have two options. You can keep track of the miles you drive for work and take the standard mileage deduction, which is either 58.5 or 62.5 cents per mile, depending on the months of the year. Or you can track and deduct all your actual expenses related to vehicle upkeep — such as oil changes, gas, repairs, insurance, and maintenance — then multiply by the percentage of time you spent using your car for business purposes.
- Useful Items for Passengers. When you purchase a bag of water bottles or an extra phone charger for your guests, those are tax deductible expenses.
- Tolls or Parking Fees. Although you want to avoid extra expenses like parking fees as much as possible, you may need to pay for them from time to time. When that happens, hold onto the receipt and add it to your tax-deductible expenses.
- Face Masks and Hand Sanitizer. Did you purchase a box of face masks for you and your passengers to use? List it as a tax-deductible expense.
- Seat Covers and Floor Mats. When you get any car gear, add those to your tax-deductible expenses.
Remember to hold on to any receipts related to business expenses. You may want to do this by putting a folder in your glove compartment or using an app like BizXpenseTracker or Expensify that allows you to scan receipts and track them directly from your devices.
12. Refer Friends to Be Drivers
Did you know that you can earn some extra cash by referring your friends to become rideshare drivers?
Each platform handles referral rewards differently. The following examples give you some idea of what to expect:
- Uber and Uber Eats. New drivers are given the option to enter a referral code when they sign up. . If they complete a certain number of trips in a given time window, the new driver earns a guaranteed income, and the referring driver earns a bonus. The number of trips and the referral bonus varies by city.
- DoorDash. When a new Dasher joins the platform, they can include a referral link or the phone number of someone who is already an established driver. They are asked to meet several conditions within the first 30 days, including a minimum number of deliveries, and once they do, both the new driver and their referrer receive a bonus. Doordash doesn’t allow more than 15 referrals per year per driver.
- Lyft. During the first step of the application, new drivers are given the option to enter a referral code. They must be approved to drive within 30 days and complete the required number of drives in order for their referrer to earn the bonus. The new driver doesn’t earn a bonus with Lyft, but they can be eligible for guaranteed earnings in their first month, which means Lyft ensures they earn a certain amount.
Earn some extra passive income by telling friends about the benefits of rideshare driving and inviting them to use your referral code when they sign up.
You can also add your personal referral code to your business cards. Offer these business cards to passengers who express interest in rideshare driving and tell them that it helps you if they use your referral code.
Rideshare driving takes less time than most independent businesses to build up a consistent income, making it a great option for a side hustle or a job where you get to set your own hours.
Keep in mind that as a rideshare driver, there are several qualifications you and your vehicle have to meet, which vary by city. Before you sign up, Google “[rideshare platform] requirements [city name] [year]” to know if your vehicle is eligible to drive in the area.
You also will most likely need additional car insurance coverage before you begin picking up passengers. Most states require a commercial insurance policy or a rideshare endorsement on your current vehicle insurance. Do the research to ensure you’ll be covered if anything happens on the road.