If you’re not familiar with the app or have been living under a rock for the last five years, Uber is a ride-sharing program where individuals can become a taxi driver with their own vehicle. It’s a great side-gig to make some extra money — you can set your own hours and make money driving around town. But, there are five things you should know before you drive for Uber.
1. You Don’t Make as Much as You Think
Uber wants you to believe that you can make a living driving for them, advertising potential earnings of more than $90,000 a year, or $40 an hour.If you’re driving on New Year’s Eve during surge pricing, you might make $40 an hour, but in general, you’re not going to make as much as Uber advertises.
What you make depends on two factors — where you live, and how many other people are driving for Uber in the same area. You’re in constant competition with other Uber drivers, so you may find yourself waiting for work instead of making money.
If you live in a rural area, don’t expect to get a lot of fares — it might not even be worth signing up for Uber if you live in the middle of nowhere.
2. You’re Self-Employed
As an Uber driver, you’re self-employed. Technically, you’re working as an independent contractor, so you’re responsible for your taxes and other related information.
If you work as an employee, your employer is required to take taxes out of your paycheck and remit them to the federal government. If you work for yourself, you’re the employer, so taxes become your responsibility.
If you make more than a certain amount, you may have to pay taxes every quarter instead of once a year. You don’t need to pay quarterly taxes unless you’re going to owe more than $1,000 in taxes for the year, but it’s something to keep in mind as you’re driving.
3. You Need Different Car Insurance
You already know that it’s important to have car insurance, but the coverage you have might not be enough if you’re using your vehicle for Uber or other ride sharing programs.
Most personal car insurance policies exclude public conveyance — meaning if you got into an accident with an Uber passenger in your car, you likely wouldn’t be covered and could end up paying repair and medical costs out of pocket.
Uber does provide supplemental insurance for its drivers if the app is on, but it’s important to make sure that you aren’t left liable by a lapse in your car insurance policy.
4. Your Mileage Is Deductible
As a self-employed driver, your mileage is a tax-deductible expense. For the 2017 tax year, you can deduct 53.5 cents per mile driven for business purposes. Keeping track of your miles is important. You can do this with mileage tracking apps on your phone — they’re more accurate than Uber’s own records — or through programs like Quickbooks for Self-Employment, which helps you keep track of your earnings and the amount of taxes you’ll owe at the end of the year.
5. You Earn More With Surge Pricing
Uber is notorious for its surge pricing — increasing fares on popular nights like holidays and big sporting or concert events. When demand is high, rates are multiplied.
Some passengers in New York City on New Year’s Eve, for instance, ended up paying hundreds of dollars for their ride home that night — all because surge pricing multiplied the standard fare by 8.9 - 9.9. That’s nearly 10 times the regular fare rate. One passenger ended up paying more than $1,100 for a ride that would have normally cost him $125.
Even if you’re not driving in big cities on the holidays, some days end up being more profitable than others. Friday and Saturday nights, for example, tend to be more lucrative because people are taking an Uber or taxi so they can go out drinking. If you’re driving those nights, stock up on barf bags because someone will inevitably have too much to drink and vomit in your car.
Uber can be an excellent way to earn some extra money or even get away from your nine to five job if you’re prepared and willing to work enough hours. Just make sure you have a good, functional car and know what you need, such as insurance, and you’ll be set to make some extra money by just driving people around your local area.