My Experience as an Uber Driver

When I first heard about Uber, I thought the concept sounded kind of sketchy. I think I was on vacation when someone mentioned “grabbing an Uber” instead of a cab. I did download the app, but I didn’t feel like learning how to use it, so I spent a small fortune on a cab ride. After I found out that Uber was cheaper, I learned how to use it and I’ve been an Uber rider ever since. I never would have guessed that I would end up driving for Uber, but in Summer of 2016, I did just that.

If you’re interested in driving for Uber, check out my experience, and use my referral link to sign up! You get a sign up bonus, and I get a referral bonus, too.

To be perfectly honest, my back was against the wall. My personal and business expenses were killing me. I was already working three “jobs” – my 9 to 5, along with a part-time job, and at the same time, I was trying to grow my law firm. The law firm, unfortunately, was not profitable. It was draining me financially, and I had to bring in more income.

I’m not sure exactly how the idea popped into my head to try Uber, but I had a new car, so I figured, why not? I’ll spare you the full details of signing up to work for the service, but it was quite a task. I had to get a medical check, a background check, a car inspection, and this sticker and that one. Since then, I believe some of the restrictions have lessened, but be prepared to at least undergo a background check.

Luckily, I had Fridays off from my 9 to 5 in the summer, so I was able to get everything done. There were some application fees involved, but Uber was running a promotion, where they reimbursed me for my fees.

Once the adrenaline rush of getting everything done subsided, it was time for me to actually get out on the road. I was extremely nervous. I didn’t know what to expect, and people had filled me with fear about my safety. I also wasn’t sure how people would perceive me as a woman driver, and as a black woman driver, at that.

I decided to try it on a weekend, when I had plenty of time to focus on my new role as an Uber driver. The next Saturday, I had to go and pick up my permits, and I also got my car cleaned up nicely. I was tired out after all of the running around, so I didn’t drive until Sunday.

The day to actually drive finally came, and I was super nervous. I only carried a few dollars on me, and a credit card for emergencies. I had these few valuable hidden out of sight, and I put my pieces of identification where I could easily reach them, in case I was pulled over by the police. I had my phone, of course, since it’s required to pick up rides through the app.

I hopped in my car, mounted my phone, and turned my Uber driver app to “on” while I was still sitting in my garage, anxiously waiting. This was fairly early on a Sunday, so I didn’t get any pings right away! I saw other Uber drivers in my neighborhood, so I decided that I needed to get away from my area.

I started driving towards the city center, and it wasn’t too long before I got a ping!

I was super nervous, but I accepted the ride, and the Uber GPS started giving me directions to my destination. That first ride was in a college/graduate-housing apartment area. It was a young black woman who was on her way to work.

After she hopped in the car, I set my GPS to her location, and away we went. The Uber GPS wasn’t the greatest. After we arrived at her destination in the Montrose area of Houston, I realized that it had taken me the “long way,” but, nevertheless, we arrived.

She worked at a small restaurant, and I couldn’t quite find the spot. She told me it was close enough, and she went on her way.

I had done it! I had completely my first ride as an Uber driver. In hindsight, I probably should have let the young lady know, close to the end of the ride, that it was my first ride as an Uber driver. But, it didn’t matter. She ended up giving me a 5-star rating, anyway. Yay!

The rest of the day was much the same. I was nervous, and fumbled a bit with the GPS, but I managed to get all of my riders to their destinations safely. Some were chatty, and others were silent. It really didn’t matter to me either way.

What I liked about Sundays was that there were many runs to the airport, so I ended up making Sundays my regular day to drive. I was making a decent side hustle income with Uber for a couple of weeks, and I had not yet experienced any adverse effects from being a black woman driver.

A few weeks after my first ride, I decided to drive into the Bellaire area to drive on a Saturday. I ended up getting a rider who wanted me to do a round trip. That’s not quite how Uber works, but it’s hard to tell someone “no” when they get in your car. What could I do? Drop him off and leave him, after he asked me for a return ride?

The Bellaire area is an area of high-earners, but they were pretty cool riders. I made a lot of conversation with business people, who were surprised to find out that I am also a professional. Some even confided in me that they had thought about driving for Uber, too!

As cool as Uber was, I ended up having a couple of experiences that made me not really want to drive for the service on a regular basis anymore.

One day, I had set an amount of money in my mind that I wanted to earn. It was getting late. I don’t like to drive at night, but I decided to do just one more ride. I was close by my home, but I turned my app back on and quickly got a ping!

I was called to pick up some riders at an apartment complex. One got in, and the other one took quite a while to get in the car. They were going to a club downtown, so I ended up driving alllll the way back into the city. The whole time, they were talking loudly and snapchatting away. I was pretty tired, and missed a turn, so that made the trip feel even longer!

When they finally got out, I immediately turned off my app and went HOME. I was tired after a full day of driving, and I immediately went to SLEEP. At about 3am, I got a call from an unknown number. I ignored it, but then the person left a voicemail. Thinking that it might be an emergency, I went ahead and listened to the voicemail.

It was one of the girls from earlier. She had left her keys in my car. Great. Now, I did not have to go out and meet her. Uber drivers are not responsible for your lost property, nor are we paid to deliver those goods to you. It might not even be safe to do so, as it could be a set up to be robbed. The easiest thing for me to do would have been to ignore the call, and drop the keys off at the Uber office later.

I wasn’t thinking straight at 3am, and I really wanted to be done with it, so I agreed to get out of my bed to meet the girl. She took forever to finally meet me at a gas station to get her keys. She took them, and did not even say thank you.

Yeah, took a break from driving for Uber after that!

The second incident that happened was when I had the bright idea to pick up a commuter after work on the way home. The gentleman that I picked up was a young, Hispanic professional working in downtown Houston. I was taking him home to the Galleria area.

He looked a bit surprised when I pulled up, but I wasn’t sure if I was imagining his reaction. I ignored it, and turned on the app to start up the GPS. I followed the route provided, and after I was already on my way, he said that he wanted me to go a different way. It was too late. We were already in bumper-to-bumper traffic. He got on the phone during the ride, and I’m pretty sure that he was talking about me in Spanish.

Needless to say, he gave me a low rating, even though I had followed Uber’s directions and got him home safely. Since that trip, I’ve only driven for Uber sporadically to keep my account active.

So, based on my experience, would I say that being a woman or being black affected me as an Uber driver? No, not really. I didn’t experience any racist or sexist comments, and I personally never felt uncomfortable driving any of my clients.

I rarely drove at night, though, even though you can make more money at night. I didn’t particularly want to deal with party-goers and potentially drunk people. I also kept a small can of Mace, even though Uber discourages doing so.

No matter what your race or gender, I think it’s important to use common sense and safety precautions to protect yourself as an Uber, or other ride-sharing driver. Here are my safety recommendations.

  1. Let someone know when you are driving. I always text a family member to let someone know when I’m driving, and when I’m done. This is especially important if you don’t drive for Uber often. In case something happens, they can at least contact Uber to try to track my last-known location.
  2. Don’t carry valuables. You should only carry the smallest amount of cash, a credit card for emergencies, and your required driver’s license and transportation ID (if you have one in your city).
  3. Only give rides using the app. It may be tempting to take cash, or do a deal “off the books,” but the app provides safety for you and your rider.
  4. Don’t give out your personal information. This goes without saying, but it’s not the best idea to give your info out to strangers. Sometimes people gave me their cards, but I only reached out to them and provided my information after I checked the person out to see if her or she was legit.
  5. If it seems shady, cancel the ride. I’ve canceled on more than one occasion when something just didn’t feel right.

Of course, if you are in any type of apparent danger, you can, and should, call the police.

Overall, Uber is a decent opportunity to make money on the side, and to potentially help people. Sometimes I gave rides to business people or leisure travelers, but more often I provided rides for people who didn’t have a car. To figure out how much profit you actually make as a driver, you have to deduct the cost of gas, maintenance, and mileage.

Thankfully, some driver expenses are deductible on your taxes. You also need to make sure that everything is set up properly with your car insurance. Uber provides some coverage, but you are mainly covered when you have a rider in your car, not just when you are driving around waiting for a ride.

I, personally, would never want to depend on Uber as my full-time income. There are too many variables that can affect how much money you can make, including weather, the condition of your car, the flow of traffic, and any type of policy changes by Uber. I like having the option to drive for Uber and make extra money  whenever I need it.

Be sure to do your research before you sign up to drive for Uber, and weigh the pros and cons. The best thing about Uber is that you can always give it a try. If you don’t like it, quit. But, don’t let your race or gender get in the way of what might be a good financial opportunity.

If Uber sounds like a good opportunity for you, use my referral link to sign up! Good luck!

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