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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
(Part 1 of 2)

My time as a 'full time Uber driver' is coming to an end soon as I start a new job on Tuesday; but I wanted to expand on having done this Uber driving thing. A smart, successful man once said “If you want a real education, finish a four-year degree then go drive a taxi for six months and then bar tend for six months.” - A lot of people drive for Uber, but I don’t know if most of them get everything out of it that they could.

You come across all types of people taking part in all types of business. When I first started I took my first rides in Jacksonville (and later Gainesville) I could hardly be considered a pro at driving around Jacksonville at that time- I knew a couple of the basic roads- and I had never been one to pick up strangers. My first ride was a business man who's car had broke down and he left it at a dealership while I took him on to work- across the river to Forsyth Street somewhere. As a driver you are the only link most of these people will ever have in common. An example of that is one morning I picked up a prostitute from a hotel room took her by her drug-dealer's place and then back to her home. She didn’t have to say anything for me to know what was up, that could be easily inferred from where we were and how she was dressed among other indicators (for example her purse was FULL of lighters, I counted at least six that spilled out onto the back seat as she got up to get out of the car to talk to her source.) - right after this my very next ride was a well to do wife of a PGA golfer who was going from their home to a nice restaurant called the Aqua grill in Ponta Vedra. In fact I think if she had known who had previously sat in that same seat she'd have canceled me and got another car.

So what are the benefits I mention getting out of driving? - Well there are the obvious ones such as getting a LOT better at knowing your way around big cities. Not that Gainesville is a big city but there are a lot of small areas that unless you have a reason to go there you’d never know existed. Same with Jacksonville. But meeting people in this capacity can have it's benefits. Most of them wish you well and are just as interested in how you are doing as they are in what they themselves are doing that day. The potential social networking benefits are a goldmine as a driver. Many people are willing to give you a small inside scoop on where good jobs are, or what big activities are going on, or they have a friend of a friend who may help get some of your goals going. I learned more about the going-on's in Gainesville and the trends in town from sorority girls talking in the back seat then Id ever had learned on my own. Information I could put to use as a driver or for personal betterment if I was interested. Also, I enjoy driving. I did a LOT of it, and I really do enjoy it- even with the careless pedestrians and over-exuberant other drivers, and dumb drivers, and just pure mean people. I still enjoy it most of the time.

Things that I came to learn but never expected before I started.

1) people who are drunk and hungry are willing to buy you a full meal if you want it. I would say 9 out of 10 times when I picked someone up who was leaving a bar and who wanted to stop by a McD's or whoever was open that late would offer to get me something, sometimes whatever I wanted; and 9 times out of 10 I refused, but a couple times I'd ask for a soda or something if I had gone without water for a bit.

2) There are a lot of Uber drivers who really should not be driving. I've heard of drunk Uber drivers (to where the lady actually threatened to get out of the car while it was moving) – to drivers who are working without any A/C in their car (but ductaped an extra fan for the passengers). To one lady who was in a 4-dr pickup who was eating out of a bucket of chicken while driving. There are also dishonest Uber drivers (just like Taxis) who will take their time … and distance... to get someone home.

3) People can be really forgetful. I have had bags of groceries left in the trunk, cell phones left in the seats, a book bag, sunglasses, thumb-drives. An occasional cell phone falling out of your pocket or getting laid down or sun glasses set aside are easy to leave behind, but maybe the best one was the Asian couple who I got to their apartment and they got a couple bags of groceries out of the trunk and closed the trunk said thank you walked inside and I get going down the road- stop at a red light and here an odd little thunk. I check the trunk and the other 4 bags of groceries are still in the car- along with the girl's cell phone. How do you forget that you got more then a couple bags of groceries?? - they finally contacted me to get them back, I couldn’t do anything to contact them with the cell phone cause it was all in an Asian dialect of some sort- could not even read it. - for a couple hours I was thinking I was going to have an interesting time trying out all these Asian foods (most of which had English writing on them so you could tell what they were- but the rolls were interesting looking).

4) Big tippers & non-tipping. I really didn’t even think of tips when I started. But about 1 in 20 passengers would tip. $3-5 was common. But more often then expected Id get a $20. Those surprised me, especially if the ride was real short. It didn’t happen often, tips in general didn’t happen often- but when it did I was extremely grateful. (A tip on tips- you tend to find better tips from those more grateful that you were around to help them- ie “off the beaten path”)

5) You will come across shady activities you want nothing to do with. While I treated most of these as “none of my business” and “I see nothing, I know nothing” - there were a couple times I turned down the request because of the circumstances. The most notable of these was a time I was on I-95 passing through to get to one hot area, and I got a request, didn't think nothing of it at first when the little phone was beeping so I hit accept and then I get looking at the details- first off the guy used a nickname (I highly doubt his actual name was what was displayed) – and then the other agitating factors were it was about 1:30 in the morning plug it was in very much upper down-town Jacksonville (near the hospital on 8th street). This one was too full of 'bad vibes' – so I canceled it and moved on my way. Read your situations. I was willing to pick up a lot of people in a lot of areas that some might have not wanted to, and I’ve had a couple slightly creepy/scary people in my car – but I rarely came across a real 'no' situation- this one happened to have three strikes from the get-go. Ill pass. Not every ride is worth it.

6) Someone will sneak alcohol into your car at one point or another. I tell people no smoking (its bad for future riders) and absolutely NO open alcohol. They will find a way- usually its just someone getting into the back seat and you just don’t notice it or they will claim its something else. Nothing made me as mad as stopping at a gas station after dropping off a couple passengers and finding an empty bud light can in my back seat. In fact I went back to their home and left it in the mailbox.

7) Your car tires become magnets to any piece of metal in the road. I attribute this to just the sheer number of miles I was driving, but I seemed to have been constantly running over SOMETHING that wanted to put a hole in my tires. Tire repairs and replacements happened a good bit.
 

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Discussion Starter · #2 ·
** (Part 2 of 2) **

Something else I came to know to be fairly rare is with as many rides as I have down (around 2,000 now) I have never had anyone throw-up in my car. They have gotten close a few times but no one has ever done it, and I seem to be one of the few lucky ones in this regard. Most drivers I’ve heard have had it happen at least once who have been driving as much as me. Guess I lucked out. Especially considering I have cloth seats. One passenger told me that the last driver they had, had a tarp in the back seat everyone had to sit on. I considered that unprofessional. You don’t just make every stranger sit on a tarp just in case one of them might be a risk for a protein spill.

For anyone considering getting into this area of income. Develop your own style of doing things, keep track of where the hot areas are and where the competition is (especially other Uber drivers- after all if your driving on a road and there is another driver on each side of you your chances of getting a ride decrease exponentially). Think of places that may need service that others are not thinking about. I had my own method of driving, and it worked for me. Most nights I drove 10-12 hours and made between 100 and 150 bucks. Its not easy money, and you got to take your expenses out of that money- but considering I was unemployed for going on seven months and managed to keep my car from being repo'd – Uber did give me something of a lifeline.

Ultimately driving for Uber is simply taking money “out of your car” - It is not a 'job' that will make bank, and what you do make taxes your car- heavily. For me to make the money I did I was driving between 250 and 500 miles a night- every night- that’s up to 2,500 miles a week. How much stress does that do on your car? Oil changes? Fill ups? Tire replacements? Stress on engine- if that’s what I had to do to get a meaningful amount of fares it really is just taking the money out of your car, and I would NOT recommend this as any real job replacement. If you got a job you hate, stick with it- maybe do this AS WELL- but don’t leave it to do this. Also, one of the best pieces of advise is don’t get in without a plan to get out. My plan to 'get out' was simply finding a job, when I found a meaningful job again I was getting out- and I have found one. - Others used it while doing apprenticeships or learning a trade, finishing college- or trying to find gigs. But always have a plan to get OUT of driving. Fortunately for me I have a car that could handle this abuse. I have a wonderful Toyota that is cheap to maintain and good on gas. I could not have asked for a better vehicle for Uber driving. I was also very fortunate and just good with driving. If there is one thing you wanted to avoid more then anything else- it was getting into an accident. Your not a commercial vehicle, and people are very sue happy these days. I have heard over and over of Uber drivers having their lives pretty much ruined by getting into an accident. Uber don’t cover your car, your insurance is going to say it was business and not covered by your personal use insurance policy, and the passengers could try to sue for coverage and your just in a world of a mess. I felt confident in my driving abilities, and fortune to take these risks. I drive a LOT – and even with Uber driving where I was doing as much as 300 miles a night on a regular basis every night for week or months. I am proud to say that I have not had an accident (or ticket) in over 12 years.

Tuesday starts my next job, a job I'm happy to have- and I hope goes well for me, and I will be taking the Uber decals down off my car that I have had up for the past six months. I also plan to do something else for a little side income while I’m driving- and maybe once in a while I'll Uber again, but its been a well timed financial life-support with its ups and downs and I am glad to have had the opportunity, but I'm just as glad to stop doing so much of it. My car needs the rest, I need to do other things, and you just don’t keep tempting fate (accidents, sick passengers, etc etc etc) forever. It is not something that just anyone should look into doing, but there is a need- and there are benefits to being a driver- the money being the least of them.
 

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Nice recap. Just got my first puker last Saturday morning after 4,100+ U &L rides in LV. $150 cleanup fee. I offered to pull over and a barf bag but female pax insisted on hanging head out the window.
Anyway, I am hoping to get other income myself. The risk is so high...pax and traffic. 99% pax are fine. So what, one out of a hundred means I had about 40 I wanted out ASAP. But, it was really only about 20. I am sure I have transported weed or drugs in pax bakpacks.
 
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