7 Brilliant Hacks to Help You Make More Money Driving for Uber

a man pictured driving a car for uber
Edwin Patrick Young drives for Uber on Friday Nov. 18, 2016 in St. Petersburg, Fla. Sharon Steinmann / The Penny Hoarder

We’ve all seen the articles about the elite few who cash in big as Uber driver-partners.

One man made $252,000 a year, largely by selling jewelry to his passengers as he drives. Many drivers find that their Uber side gig pays more than many entry-level jobs.

But because you’re an independent contractor, there’s no real guarantee on how much you can make. So you’ve got to maximize your potential earnings every way you can.

Journalist Emily Guendelsberger delved deep into the life of a ride-share driver as she became an undercover driver with Uber in Philadelphia. She wrote about her experiences in Philadelphia’s (now defunct) City Paper.

In Guendelsberger’s month on the job, she picked up a few tips and tricks that can help you make more money driving for Uber.

What the Company Tells You About Being a Successful Uber Driver

Guendelsberger’s training for UberX consisted of a 13-minute video that went over how to offer good service and receive five-star ratings from passengers.

The tips included opening the rear door for people, providing cold bottled water and having extra phone chargers on hand for passengers to use. The video also emphasized the importance of looking professional and even showed the star of the video selecting expensive ties to wear while driving people around town.

However, Guendelsberger found even more ways to cash in driving with Uber.

7 Ways to Boost Your Uber Earnings

1. Keep Snacks and Water Handy

When you’re going to be on the road for hours, it’s important to make sure you have everything you need to be comfortable.

Guendelsberger advises making sure you have snacks and water in your car — but not for passengers. She suggests keeping yourself well fed and hydrated while you’re working, so you don’t have to waste time and money on takeout.

2. Know the Local Bathrooms

Scope out available restroom facilities in the areas where you usually drive. Guendelsberger emphasizes the need to find public bathrooms with free parking, which can be difficult to find in downtown areas. She found Whole Foods and suburban Starbucks to be some of her best bets around Philly, with free parking and unlocked restrooms.

Of course, every area will have different options, but make sure you know what’s around before you desperately need to use a restroom.

3. Don’t Follow the Herd

Guendelsberger found she made more money by ignoring the recommended times and locations where demand for rides was likely to be high.

These are areas like popular morning commute routes, busy Saturday night bars and the stadium when a Flyers game had just finished.

She found she actually made more money by ignoring these hot spots. When drivers flocked to a recommended area, Uber’s surge pricing — premium prices based on a lack of drivers in an area — would decrease, meaning those drivers would earn less for each ride.

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4. Drive up the Surge Fares

To take full advantage of surge fares, Guendelsberger recommends gaming the system a bit.

She suggests logging out of the driver app before times you can anticipate surge fares, such as when the bars close. In Philly, she found 2 a.m. to 2:30 a.m. was a huge time for surge pricing as drinkers found their way home for the night.

She recommends logging out of the driver app around 1:50 a.m. or so, waiting 15 minutes and logging back in to take advantage of surge fares.

Logging out reduces the number of drivers in the area and drives up the fares. It also prevents you from getting a fare, at say, 1:55 a.m., and missing out on surge pricing.

5. Don’t Drive Around Endlessly

Driving around in circles in an attempt to get to an area where Uber will ping you to pick up a fare isn’t going to do much more than add wear and tear to your vehicle.

Guendelsberger recommends sticking to a central area and avoiding the suburbs if possible.

If you’re driving miles and miles to reach someone, there’s a good chance you’ll drive much farther to meet them than you’ll wind up taking them. You can’t tell where a rider wants to go until you pick them up. This usually means drivers end up losing money on a far-away fare.

She also says if you’re driving a long way to pick someone up, they may get bored and cancel the ride or find another way to get to their destination.

6. Don’t Chase Surge Fares (but If You Do, Try This Hack)

Guendelsberger found racing to a surge fare area never panned out for her. Other drivers would also head to that area, and the surge pricing period would be over by the time she reached it.

But she has a tip for those looking to capitalize on surge pricing: Log out of the driver app and log into the passenger app until you reach the surge area, then log out of the passenger app and back into the driver one.

Why does it work? Uber calculates surge fares based on the ratio of people with the passenger app open to the driver app in an area at any given time. This hack sways the system a bit, letting the app think you’re a passenger looking for a ride instead of a driver ready to offer one.

7. Use the Uber Passenger App

The passenger app helps you take advantage of some features not available on the driver app. For one, you can see where other drivers are, which helps you select areas without a lot of competition.

For example, Guendelsberger was once at a stadium after a game and had a hard time getting any ride requests from the app.

She logged into the passenger app and found herself surrounded by other drivers. So she simply drove to the other side of the stadium and quickly got a notification for a ride.

She also found the passenger app to have more up-to-date information on surge fares than the driver app, which seemed to have a delay of a few minutes.

Ready to get started with Uber? Here’s the link to sign up.

Kristen Pope is a freelance writer and editor in Jackson Hole, Wyoming.