Become an Independent Driver (And Cut Out Uber and Lyft)

An elderly woman sits up front talking to the person driving her around.
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Perhaps the best way to increase your income driving for Uber or Lyft is to cut them out of the equation altogether.

Independent drivers who build their own customer base can work fewer hours and make more money when rideshare companies aren’t taking their cut, which averages around 20% to 25%.

Cut Out the Middleman: Become an Independent Driver

Tips from an Uber and Lyft Defector

Independent driver Brenke Gustave hands out business cards at hotel lobbies, the train station and the airport in Tampa listing his services: Airport pickups, road trip concierge, advance scheduled rides. About a year since leaving Uber and Lyft, he’s steadily building a regular customer base.

“When it’s really busy in September and October, I could drive 10 or so hours and make $300 a day,” Gustave said. “It’s not boom, boom, boom yet, but business is growing.”

He pays commercial insurance on his car, just as he did when driving for rideshare companies and has a business license.

Gustave is winning over loyal customers who tell him they like not having to worry an Uber driver might cancel the ride if they get lost. Customers also appreciate not paying surge prices.

“When someone is my customer, I charge them the same rate, always,” he said.

With Uber, however, a ride from St. Petersburg to Tampa International Airport may cost $35 at one time of day but go up to $75 if there’s a football or hockey game going on increasing demand.

“I have one client I take once a week from Plant City to the (Seminole Hard Rock) casino every week. He always pays the same,” Gustave said.

Pro Tip

In the market for a side gig but don’t know where to start? Here’s our rundown on the nine best gig apps out there.

Consider a Specialty

Drive Parents Visiting a College

Another driver in Granville, Ohio, who calls himself “Uber Jack” has built a large clientele of parents visiting students and Denison University. He easily can make more than $1,000 some weeks driving people to and from the airport 30 miles away in Columbus, as well as taking students to concerts and sports events there.

He has business cards at inns and hotels around the school and relies on word of mouth referrals from Denison staff and other parents.

Cater To Retired Riders

Other drivers cater to older residents in their community who no longer drive. While some make weekly trips to the grocery store, they also drive clients several hours away to visit family or friends and can charge in the hundreds of dollars for a roundtrip.

One of the best deals is driving a retiree’s car, say from Connecticut or North Carolian to Florida for the winter then driving it back home in the spring. Older people fly back and forth but need their car when they head south during cold weather. This pays in the thousands of dollars.

How to Start Your Own Driving Business

Ready to cut out Uber and Lyft? Here’s how to start your own driving business.

Get a Business License

Go on your city’s website to find links for how to do this. A license usually costs between $50 and $200.

Pro Tip

Being a gig driver will probably mean more complicated tax returns for you. But don’t worry! Here are our top tax tips for gig drivers.

Insure Your Vehicle Properly

Shop around. Here’s our guide on getting the best deal.

Distribute Business Cards

Hand out cards at hotels, inns, airports, the train station, theme parks, sports venues, hospitals, retirement centers and other venues that cater to folks who need a ride. Include your business license number on your card and the fact that you are commercially insured.

Tout the Benefits of Riding with You

Remind customers you don’t charge surge pricing but you do happily accept appointments and can be contacted directly at any time.

Katherine Snow Smith is a former staff writer at The Penny Hoarder. She writes about ways to make money, save money and other topics. Her work has appeared in the Tampa Bay Times, Charlotte Business Journal and Greenville News.