As part of our one RSF City Guide series, I decided to add two new guides that are about driving, and riding and I will explore the various ways that you, as a driver can drive with much more effectiveness. Basically, before any city guide, there is a driver guide that needs to be superimposed over or under the city guide, and the two will then work seamlessly together, providing you with both the creative aspects of rideshare driving and the keys to easier driving per location.
What I shall present here is a comprehensive approach, a list of what must be done and what should be contained in your "ecosystem" of driving for Uber and Lyft.
This article is split into 5 parts,
Part I: Navigation and Driving
Part II: Your Car and Your Budget
Part III: Car Access Tips
Part IV: Interacting with Uber/Lyft
Part V: Customer Satisfaction
Part I: Navigation and Driving
Getting into your car and driving off into the sunset is not how a rideshare shift begins or ends. Neither is a family of happy smiling polite and studious passengers your constant lot; they will not say "good night John boy" (A Walton's Family thing from decades ago for all you millennials).
One of the biggest issues for any driver is thinking strategically. This means breaking up your new rideshare role into two separate functions:
Operational ; which is how you manage the car, the expenses, and maintenance.
Occupational ; which is how you drive, how you secure your driving experience and how you manage your customers.
Operational driving is choosing the right car, working out its expenses and how much it will cost you to drive in comparison to how attractive the car will be to your passengers. This is a basic marketing ratio, where you need to make sure your vehicle is attractive enough and yet, cheap enough to balance income versus cost. It also about maintains your car in all seasons and having the right mix of supplementary items and gadgets to support your riders experience.
Occupational is more complex; you cannot directly translate occupational excellence into dollar signs. Here you need to be a perfect driver, a patient person, a friend, and therapist. You also need to be an excellent navigator as well as a time manager. You need to know how to balance your personal time with your driving time. It is also about securing yourself at all times in the face of danger, which comes along now and then.
Strategists will know when to drive, where to drive to and all the options to get around any navigational obstacle. An expert strategist will also know how to drive a seamless shift and finish it with a smile even if he had to manage three world wars and a plethora of zombie attacks.
Knowing How to Drive Seamlessly
Knowing how to drive seamlessly is all about maximizing your income by reducing wasted time. Lean manufacturing is an engineering principle that claims waste is not just an object, it is also time and how we manage it. This is true for the rideshare sector. Wasting time is when you are not earning money while on your shift.
The best way to assure a seamless drive is to work for more than one company and service. This means that you must be ready to work for both Uber and Lyft, as well as provide deliveries for UberEats, GrubHub, Amazon Flex and any other service that is found in your city.
The only way you can attain a seamless shift is to use a seamless app manager such as Mystro. This app will manage your requests based on your status, and the aim is to receive a new request just when you are dropping someone off. That way you can immediately drive off to the next passenger. If you don't get a request, you can then use a delivery service such as UberEats to fill in the gaps.
Driving seamlessly is also about knowing where and when to drive, which I will discuss in "the knowledge" section of this article.
Here is a link to the seamless driving article:
Understanding the Surge
Surges, Prime Time, it doesn't matter what you call it, they are the heat maps of rideshare and delivery services. Where the saturation of demand is higher than that of supply and prices, start to rocket. There are two basic rules for surge driving:
- Know the pattern
- Don't chase
Knowing the pattern of a surge is the proof of knowledge with an experienced driver. Understanding your city, and the way it works is only a matter of looking and comprehending the patterns of traffic. These patterns emerge when studying the movement of riders within your city and knowing which type of passenger you are seeking.
Don't chase surges is the most important lesson that a rider must learn. Its like trying to stop an alcoholic from taking a drink, very hard. Surges pop up sometimes, and you get that itchy finger to drive 10 minutes to the surge quickly. Don't waste your time, by the time you get there it is gone, just like waves in the sea.
Gaining the Knowledge
This is the most important part of understanding the concepts of navigation. It is not about knowing the basic routes or using Waze. It knows every nook and cranny of your city. Which roads lead to where and when can you use them as a replacement. The knowledge is also about knowing the history and the hotspots of your city, where the different centers of professional services are, and where and when to avoid driving.
Studying the map and driving around in your spare time is a great opportunity to get lost and try out new roads and back alleys. Get lost, get stuck, the best way to learn is by correcting mistakes. Also, read up Travelocity website about your city, and study the booking.com hotels too. Find out where the cultural centers are, where the resultants are and where the students hang out.
Eventually, you will be able to drive without Waze, but you never will, since Waze is a great facilitator and helps out even for the most secure drivers. It also helps to shut up back seat drivers.
Here is a link to an article on navigation:
Being Updated all the time
You might have the knowledge, but a city is a living being. It does not sleep, and it changes constantly. One day the hot spot is a bar the next day the bar is closed due to a fire. Museums tend to stay put, so do Universities, but the entertainment and sports move around or come around, and you need to know where and when every activity is happening. Not just the top games, but also movies and shows for kids, as well as where the latest Gordon Ramsey restaurant has opened. It always helps if you can offer advice to couples seeking a great eatery, and you just recite off the list of top new dives to visit.
Airports Pros and Cons
This is a big issue with many pros and cons, but in general, there are four issues to deal with here:
You will need a license to pick up passengers from most airports, this is understandable, and Uber, as well as Lyft, usually help out with this. Even if they don't, get one just to be sure. You might never use it, but it allows you into the airport pick-up lanes which is important if you need it even once.
Most major airports have a rideshare staging section, where drivers que up for a passenger. In most cases, its not worth waiting, the time you waste for a ride back to the city is equal to the loss you make by not driving back and getting requests on the way. Due to the stringent rules that airports have regarding Uber and Lyft drivers, I have found that it is not worth picking up passengers. The best shot is to drive your fare to the airport, drop them off and turn around quickly, don't waste time escaping the evil lure of the great airport spiderweb.
Seasons tend to bring more or less tourist into town; if you live in a popular spot, then you will have a lot of seasonal visitors as well as seasonal residents leaving town.
I have found the most of my best airport rides happened around 3 to 5 am when the early birds try to get to their flights. Traffic is nonexistent, and you enjoy a quiet and quick ride to the airport.
To sum up, airports, don't bother picking up, just go in for dropping off.
Conclusions to Part I
Driving is a business, whether you took it on as an additional source of income, or as a full-time job, you are not doing anyone a favor by driving them. You want to earn money; you decided to use your car for this. You decided to drive total strangers. You decided to earn the income factor being offered.
With all this in mind, accept you are a driver, offer courtesy, provide professionalism, and most of all treat your passengers as you would want to be treated yourself.
Learn the routes of your city, think about your shift, consider who you want to drive and decided where and when you want to drive based on that consideration. Driving is a strategic business.
Part II: Your Car and Your Budget
If you think that the $20 per hour you are going to earn is net, think again. There is a load of expenses that you will need to consider, and you will need to manage as well. Driving is a business and a costly on at that.
Let's take a look at the expense called driving:
- You need a car, that's capital expenditure (Capex)
- You need insurance and gadgetry to prove your claims in case of an accident or an incident.
- You need gas, oil, and water.
- You need various supplementary consumables to replace every now then.
- You need a good tire service provider.
- You need a good car wash and personal appliances to keep the car clean.
- You need various gadgets in the car.
Your choice of car is what will define your monthly overheads. The price of buying a car is a major factor in this business, and the even more so is the maintenance of overheads for running your car. I will not discuss the suvs and other large land vehicles. I will concentrate on UberX/Lyft.
What Car should you drive?
The car you choose should be both comfortable but cheap to run, and the cheapest with the most comfort by far is the Toyota Prius Hybrid. I suggest you use this car as your benchmark and then you will see where any other car comes in comparison.
- Mileage Ratio: 52:1
- Reliability: Voted No. 1
- Car Price: Starts around $24,000 and goes up to $36,000
I will not go into too much detail since there are a lot of car comparison articles around for you to read. Just consider the car issue as the first most important spend in your rideshare career. Everything else will be an appendage to this expense.
Here is a link to the full article on car choice:
Maintenance and Seasons
Smart Driving is a preventative measure that assures you keep your car in good condition over the miles you will drive per month. Driving for a living takes its toll on your car, and you need to know how to drive and how to maintain your car properly. Other wise your expenditure on repair will spiral out of control.
9 Smart Driving Tips:
- Don't accelerate harshly, ease your car into speed.
- Don't rely on the brakes as a speed regulator; you will wear them out too fast.
- Don't brake suddenly, ease your braking, slightly pumping the brake to slow down.
- Don't speed, never speed even if your passenger is giving birth, drive according to the speed limit.
- In manual gear cars, downshift when going downhill, use the gears, not your brakes.
- When parked, turn off the engine. It saves gas, as well as reduces wear and tear.
- Check your water and oil levels every week.
- Check your tire pressure and tread every week.
- Park your car overnight (or during the day if you drove a night shift) under cover.
Here is a link to an article on maintenance:
Maintenance not Repair
If you want to assure your car costs you less to maintain, then follow the three preventative steps for car quality of life:
- Daily maintenance routine; This means that you perform a certain number of checks on your car every day and every week. What is termed preventative maintenance? This assures you the car is always ready for a shift.
- Automaker maintenance routine; This is the routine inspections your automaker requires you undertake to assure your car meets compliance. This includes oil changes every so many mile and changing brake pads, testing electronics, etc. Don't miss a checkup; your car is only as good as its health.
- Seasonal preparations; Winters can be deadly to cars, and so can summers. The changes in seasons are such that in some states you need an entire plethora of additional products to assure your car operates properly in the natural conditions of your environment.
Here is a list of winter specific maintenance checks:
- Make sure your car Cooling system is flushed and ready for winter. Use anti-freeze in the correct portions.
- Make sure you over your car at night, if not in a garage then with a car cover like a tarp.
- Check your car heating system before winter comes along, test for leaks.
- Use antifreeze in your windscreen water reservoir and make sure you have the right items to clean any frozen windows.
- Have your mechanic check your cars electrical system before the winter freeze sets in and cover the car connectors with Vaseline.
- Possibly change your transmission oils, the viscosity of oil changes in freezing weather.
- Make sure you have winter tires or snow chains if necessary.
Preparing your car for the hot summers
- Check your tire pressure more frequently in hot weather.
- Have all your plastic tubing and piping checked for cracks?
- Just like in winter, have your battery checked.
- Check your air conditioner and fill it with Freon to be sure.
The big costs of maintenance are in spare parts and trusting your mechanic. Here are some tips on how to reduce these overheads even when you manage a solid preventative maintenance style.
- Don't go to any mechanic, check around and ask for advice from other professional drivers. Make an informed decision based on cost versus quality of service.
- Try t by your own spare parts, as an Uber driver you get a 10-20% discount on AutoZone and Advance Auto Parts. Check with them against what your mechanic asks for, and the decide what to do.
- Make sure you have access to a good and efficient tire service. You need to maintain your tires at all times, and yes, these are costly items. If you drive smart, you won't need to change them too much.
- Check out gas prices around your area; Uber offers help in this as well. You also get a discount if you get their GoBank card. Gas is a major overhead, so every cent saved is a few hundred bucks a year.
Managing your Expenses
Since you need to track your expenses it is worthwhile investing in two apps; TurboTax and Quickbooks. You can also use other methods, but these two works together. Here are links to two articles about taxes and expenses.
Rideshare Taxes: What Type Of Taxes Do You Owe To Uncle Sam?
Rideshare Tax Calculator – A Simple Tax Calculator for Uber and Lyft Drivers
You need to record every expense you have and believe you me there is a load of them. Here is the list that you will encounter in real life:
- Split Fare Fees
- Safe Rides Fees
- Misc Fare Fee
- Airport Fee
- Uber Service Fee (20% or 25% that Uber deducts.)
- Lyft Service Fee (20% or 25% that Lyft deducts.)
- Lyft Tolls
- Car Cleaning
- Passenger Goodies
- Cell Phone Accessories
- Cell Phone Purchase
- Cell Phone Service
- Parking Fees
- Music and Paid Apps
- Car Mat
- Car Seat Cushion
- Food and Drink
- Car Loan Interest
- Health Insurance
- Oil Change
- Car Insurance
- Car Repairs
- Car Lease Payments
- Car Depreciation
- Site Hosting for your rideshare driving site
- Advertising overheads
- Paid online services for marketing
Take into account that there are expenses used for gaining 5-star ratings, and you don't need to go crazy about them. They include food, drinks and other stuff you can offer riders during the ride. I personally do not go too much overboard, but it does help to give a good service.
There is one expense that comes before all others: Dash Cam! I bought two, one for the front road and back, it has two cams, and one for the inside of the car. That way I cover all my bases inside and out. Remember to tell your passengers if you are using audio, that they are being recorded for insurance and security reasons.
Conclusions to Chapter II
As you can see, driving is a business. Well, you signed the independent contractor agreement, so now you are an independent contractor who is a self-employed person in a business. You can stay self-employed or set up and LLC, its best to check with a CPA first since your other sources of income (yours or your partners/spouse) are an important factor for making this decision.
Part III: Tips
14 Items you must have in your car
Now we come to the 5-star rating section of this article. You don't just get into the car and drive off into that sunset; you remember that one, where everyone is singing, and you look like Dwayne Johnson or Jennifer Lopes. You need to work for a living and make your passengers happy people because some of them argued with their wife, others got fired, and others are just so drunk they can't stand. So here goes with that list of 15 items I suggest you have ready at all times:
This is one of the most important security items you can get and is a must. You need this for proof when faced with bad passengers or bad drivers.
You will need to clean up the back seat every now and then. Especially if you have eaters or pets. It might also do you good to have a lint brush too.
Mobile Device Mount
You might need two, but you definitely need one. Don't ever be in a situation where you need to search for the phone while driving. Safety first at all times.
Night driving will make you need this. I sometimes use it to help my inebriate passengers see the way to the car door, or home, as well as look for these items that fall down the back.
Car Odor Eliminator
This is the second most important must have the item in your arsenal. Never leave home without it. Have two of them, a stationary passive one and a pressurized can. You will always need this, every day, every shift. If you don't know why don't drive for a living.
Charger for Mobile Device and Smartphone
The third most important item to have in the car. Not to mistake this for your personal use, this is an accessory that all your passengers will ask for. Just make sure you have a multi headed one that can match any and every type of device.
Not so much a must as a good thing to have if you drive students and weekends.
The fourth most important item to have in the car. If you do intend to drive night shifts and get that dreaded request outside that dreaded bar where you always end up picking up that dreaded passenger.
This is a good item to have to clean up the windshield and other pesky wet stains.
Bottle of Soapy Water
This is part of the vomit back arsenal and is used to help clean up the smelly vomit.
Another accessory directly related to vomiting. After all, you don't want to clean it up with your bare hands.
Not so much as a must have item as a good one to have to rainy days and slow customers. Especially when dealing with geriatrics. It is also useful for gale days and helping families rush to the car. This is a 5-star item to have.
Get the baby safe kind. Parents love to clean their kids during the ride, and this is a great tool to use. It is also part of the vomit kit.
The final touch, the last item, and you are home free. Good for the sniffles and for wiping small stains.
I didn't include this in the items section since they are downloads to your mobile device, but here are the apps you want to have:
- Uber (includes UberEats)
- Amazon Lyft
Conclusions to Part III
Service, Service, Service. Do you remember how I started out this article, I explained to you that you are performing a service for your passengers, you are not doing the m a favor. There are "horror" stories of drivers kicking out passengers for many unusual reasons, some of which are income related. In my case, the only time I kicked out a passenger was when she was part of a POOL drive, and she was rude to the other passengers. I just stopped and told her to get out, simple as that. To which I got a seated ovation and a very big tip.
Bottom line, you have to be prepared to drive anyone and everyone, anywhere and everywhere and stop whining about the income and how Uber screwed you over. As a very clever soldier once told me, "it is what it is" and that means that when you are in a combat situation, you have no one to cry to, so stop moaning and sort out ta solution with what you have. Just remember, you got yourself into this job, your passengers did not ask for you, they asked for a professional Uber/Lyft driver.
Part IV: Interacting with Uber/Lyft
This is a short part, mainly links since a lot of articles have been written up about Uber and Lyft service. However, it is part of the rideshare driving experience, and you need to have the basics.
- Applying to drive requires you provide three parts to the process:
- You meet the driver requirements
- You meet the car requirements
- You successfully undergo a background check once a year
Here are links to these steps:
- Uber/Lyft have support services for the driver. Learn to use them; you will need to understand the process. Here is a link to a comprehensive article on this subject:
Part 5: Customer Satisfaction
There is a basic rule in customer service, the customer always remembers the bad, no matter how small it is. Here is an example of a situation that shows no matter how much you plan and prepare, just one fault and your whole effort goes down the tubes.
A driver has all the accessories, the car is in perfect condition and is super comfortable. The driver is an excellent navigator and knows the city routes, the city history and the city traffic patterns. He has driven for Uber for over 2 years and is a 4.94 rated driver, he is in the top 1% of all Uber drivers. His income is impressive since he drives for Lyft as well as Amazon Flex. One day he picks up a passenger from their home, it is raining, and the driver is a little bit under the weather. He has sniffles and should really be at home with a hot cup of something and a good book or TV show. However, he wants to earn income, he has a daily budget target and wants to meet it no matter the circumstances. So, he drives while ill.
Everything is great, the passengers are happy, the ride is smooth, and all seems perfect, until he sneezes. He sneezes again, and then again. He wipes his nose with a tissue and sniffles a bit while he drives. He is taking his passenger to the hospital, and he doesn't know that the woman is undergoing chemotherapy for breast cancer, she is susceptible to disease since her immune system is a bit under the norm due to her treatments. She is mortified by the drivers sneezes and asks him to stop and let them off. She then sends in a complaint to Uber stating the driver was ill, and that she could have died from his illness. Uber doesn't really do anything, after all, driving with the sniffles isn't a crime, but the driver gets a 1-star rating. He also gets a big write up in the woman's Facebook page and social media goes wild on him, with his photo in the page, the local news does a story on him. Let's just say that his life as a driver was not over, but it was seriously damaged.
What's the point of this story, its to say that no matter how good you are, the real truth of how good you are is how the passenger perceives you, not how great you think you are, or how your smile wins over people, or how excellent your car and gadgetry is. The customer is always right, even when they are wrong.
You have to consider you every action when driving professionally and driving ill is not recommended even if you feel great. You have to think of how your customer views you, once you think like a customer then you become a great driver.
Bottom line: when you drive for Uber or Lyft, drive as if you were the passenger, and think what would make you give a 5-star rating. Then become picky and criticize everything you do, and then try harder. The success of a 5-star rated driver is in his ability to be a passenger first and a driver second. Yet, with this in mind, your car is your castle, and you own it, so find the balance.
Driving for Uber is a business as any other. There are rules to follow and operational excellence to reach. Just like any business, you can be successful at it, and rise, or suck and sink. While no one is expecting you to be a saint, they are expecting you to drive them safely and comfortably. So, while you manage your car, your expenses and your passengers, keep in mind that at the end of the day, it is a business, and no one forced you to drive for Uber or Lyft. If you don't have the patience for your passengers, drive packages instead.