Want a piece of the gig economy? Here’s how newbies can become rideshare drivers—and how current drivers can up their skills.
Thinking of becoming a rideshare driver? Already driving and looking to up your game? Great! The on-demand economy has opened up lots of opportunities for entrepreneurs like you.
Thinking of becoming a rideshare driver? Already driving and looking to up your game?
Great! The on-demand economy has opened up lots of opportunities for entrepreneurs like you. Now almost anyone can get into the rideshare or delivery business—even without owning a car or a phone. And 45 million Americans already have. With so many transportation network companies (TNCs) to choose from, there’s never been a better time to hit the road.
Of course, as with any business, there are a lot of basics to know, and a lot of nuances to learn. So we’ve picked the brains of rideshare experts to give you some unique tips and insights. Read on—then get driving!
HERE’S HOW TO GET STARTED
The Right Set Of Wheels
Requirements vary from company to company and state to state, but generally you’ll find rules on the vehicle’s age, model (must have four doors), accident history, cosmetic damage, inspection and proper function of key safety elements.
In most cases, drivers must be over 21 years of age and possess a license for at least one year prior to applying. Safe rides rely heavily on the skills and experience of the driver, so if you find yourself short of the application requirements, be patient and build toward a future driving gig.
An A+ Background
A clean driving record is the main component of your job description. Again, these requirements may vary from application to application, but know that companies don’t cut corners when it comes to safety and history checks on potential drivers.
Here’s the thing: A personal auto policy won’t cover you when you’re working for a ridesharing company or an on-demand delivery service. And the ridesharing company’s policy typically only covers you if you’re heading to pick up passengers or have them in your car. That’s why GEICO created a commercial rideshare policy specifically for on-demand drivers. GEICO’s Ridesharing Insurance is a hybrid policy designed to cover drivers, passengers and vehicles during all stages of a given job: before, during and after a pickup. Ridesharing insurance replaces a personal auto policy entirely—and protects drivers and their passengers whether the app is on or off.
FOUR THINGS TO CONSIDER BEFORE BECOMING A RIDESHARE DRIVER
The allure of additional income, the convenience of a flexible work schedule—becoming a rideshare driver has its appeal.
“But it’s definitely not for everybody,” cautions Konstantin Podprugin, a driver who dispenses advice on his RideShare Tips
YouTube channel. Before signing up, ask yourself these four questions to make sure it’s the right gig for you.
No Car, No Phone, No Problem
Most people assume that all you need to become a rideshare driver is a smartphone and a car. Actually, you don’t need either, says Brett Helling, former rideshare driver and owner of the website Rideshareapps.com. Rideshare companies may offer smartphone rentals as well as week-to-week car leases. All it takes to get started is a clean driving record and a security deposit. Some rideshare companies may even waive the fees for active drivers who meet a minimum weekly ride count. So the more you drive, the less you pay.
If you’re new to the ridesharing game and want to test the waters, Helling recommends a short-term lease either through a ridesharing company or another independent short-term leasing company. There’s a little more flexibility built into the lease terms, since you’re committing to the vehicle for a shorter length of time. Should you lose your ability to drive for whatever reason or change your mind about wanting to be a rideshare driver at all, Helling says, you won’t be locked into lengthy car-payment terms, as with a traditional dealership lease.
WHO SHOULD YOU DRIVE FOR?
Should you drive with one of the large, well-established ridesharing companies or a smaller upstart? How about a combination of services? Here’s some food for thought.
PRO: “The No. 1 advantage of working for a bigger rideshare company is that you don’t have to worry about it not being busy,” says driver Konstantin Podprugin, who runs the RideShare Tips YouTube channel. “As soon as you log in, you’re likely going to get a ride request within a couple of minutes.” These companies are well established, and their apps are “super-simple” to use, he adds.
CON: Bigger companies tend to charge higher commissions; you could be paying them up to 25 percent of the fee for each ride.
PRO: Smaller companies tend to be more driver-friendly and often charge lower commissions, says Podprugin.
CON: Smaller companies may not even operate where you live. Plus, says Podprugin, “there’s a lot more downtime between passengers. If the company isn’t a household name, a lot of passengers probably aren’t on the app.”
Mix It Up
PRO: Driving for multiple companies increases your likelihood of getting a passenger. You can also go with the service where the rates are higher at the time. “Sometimes one app is surging more than the other, so you can make more money by switching,” Podprugin says. He also drives for food-delivery services, which he finds to be a nice change of pace from picking up customers.
CON: None, as far as Podprugin is concerned: “I think every driver should be registered with multiple companies.”
Gig Without Passengers? Putting a thing—and not a person—in your backseat could help put some more money in your pocket. Some options:
- Making food deliveries from nearby restaurants
- Delivering fresh groceries
- Delivering alcohol
- Picking up/purchasing something at a store for someone
- Delivering packages (from important papers to flowers)
6 TIPS FOR BOOSTING YOUR INCOME
1. Keep Your Car Clean
It may seem obvious, but a clean car is the foundation for a good review; this will, in turn, translate to more rides from rideshare services, says Brett Helling, former rideshare driver and Rideshareapps.com founder. DIY cleaning is the cheapest route, but Helling notes that it pays to check with your local carwash, which may offer pricing specials for rideshare drivers.
2. Gauge The Conversation
Some passengers like to talk, and others, not so much, says Helling. “Reading the situation and finding the right balance goes a long way during a ride,” he explains. Is your passenger asking a lot of questions? Find out more about them. Are they giving one-word answers? Ask if they’d like to listen to music, and what type; then stop asking questions. While silence is fine, music makes the ride a little more bearable, says Helling.
3. Think About The Little Things
Extras like free Wi-Fi and opening doors for customers go a long way, says San Diego–based rideshare driver Vann Wesson.
4. Do Your Homework
Make a calendar for yourself that includes large gatherings such as sporting events, concerts and business conferences. Wesson plans his regular schedule and driving route around when and where local residents travel the most. “It’s important to establish a routine so you’re not aimlessly driving,” he explains.
5. Don’t Hunt For Rides Or Chase Surges
Wesson warns that hunting for rides wastes gas. Instead, he says, it’s best to park and wait. He also advises against racing to “surge” areas. “By the time you get there it will probably be over,” he says.
6. Drive When/Where Others Aren’t
There are lots of times and places where only a few passengers are requesting rides but there aren’t many drivers around, says Harry Campbell of TheRideshareGuy.com. Consider something like an airport run at 4 a.m. Not many drivers are willing to start working that early, he says, so if there’s a request, you may well get the job.
- MINI water bottleS
- Phone Charger
- Disinfectant wipes
- Jumper Cables
- First-Aid Kit
- Tire- pressure gauge
- Kitty Litter
- Roadside warning sign
HOW TO DEAL WITH A BAD PASSENGER
1. Be Proactive
One of the best proactive measures a driver can take is to have a dash cam, says Harry Campbell of TheRideshareGuy.com. “Not only will it record potential incidents, but it also prevents bad behavior as passengers know they’re being filmed,” he explains. Be sure to follow all state and local laws in regards to recording audio and video, though a “You’re on camera” sticker in the vehicle may suffice, he says.
2. Consider Avoiding Rush Hour
It’s no secret that traffic can be frustrating to passengers and drivers alike. Try skipping rush hour, as “passengers get fussy waiting in traffic and may rate you lower, even though it’s not your fault,” says San Diego-based rideshare driver Vann Wesson.
3. Remain Professional At All Times
It’s important to remain calm and polite at all times, says Wesson. If someone is being difficult or gets irritated, smile and apologize. If someone is being rude or hostile, respond with “I’m sorry for the inconvenience, let me see what I can do. Thank you for your patience.” Once you drop them off, contact the rideshare service and let them know what happened. This will help protect you—if the company hears about an incident from the customer first, it could impact you negatively.
4. Know When To Draw The Line
Always keep your own safety in mind. “If a passenger really gets out of hand, I’ll pull over into a well-lit, safe area with lots of people around, and ask them to exit the car,” says Campbell. “If they give me any pushback, I’ll exit the vehicle and tell them that I’m going to call 911 if they don’t leave the vehicle immediately,” he adds.
What To Do If You Get In An Accident
As a rideshare driver, you’re probably on the road a lot. Even if you’re super-cautious, you may find yourself involved in an accident during a shift. Whether it’s a fender-bender or something more serious, it’s important to keep your cool, and the best way to do that is by being prepared. Brett Helling, a former rideshare driver who now owns Rideshareapps.com, recommends following the protocol below, so you can make the situation less stressful.
Remember, you’re on the job—so be professional, even though “it’s easy to get rattled and give in to your emotions,” says Helling. “Anything you say could end up being used against you, so make sure to speak in facts rather than out of emotions.”
Check for injuries and call 911 if necessary
Safety is top priority. Stop the car, cut off the engine, and put on your flashers. Ask passengers if they’re OK, and examine yourself for potential issues. Never admit fault or blame others who are involved. Inquire about the other car and any bystanders. If there’s an injury, call 911 immediately.
Call the rideshare company
Tap into resources your rideshare service offers. “Most companies have a critical-response line, which pairs drivers with an employee specially trained to handle these types of situations,” says Helling. “They’ll handle details like dispatching a new driver to pick your passengers up if any were present, and other tasks related to resolving the accident.”
Document the scene
If it’s safe to do so, photograph all vehicle and personal damages, as well as your surroundings and anything that may have caused the accident.
Exchange and record information
Get as much information as you can, including the following:
- – Names, phone numbers, mailing addresses and email addresses of all vehicle occupants and witnesses
- – License-plate numbers of involved vehicles
- – Insurance info (company name, name on the policy and policy number)
- – Date, time and location of the accident (if on a highway, record the nearest exit or mile marker)
- – Police report number, phone number, and officer’s name and badge number
Move your vehicle off the road
Police will want to clear the accident scene as quickly as possible. If your rideshare car isn’t driveable, try to find a towing service covered by your insurance.
Call your insurance company
It’s normal to be anxious when an accident occurs, but you don’t have to go into the claims process alone. An insurance agent will let you know how to proceed, Helling says, and will work directly with the rideshare and other insurance companies to determine which policy will cover you. GEICO’s insurance agents are available around the clock—so no matter when you’re driving, someone will be there to help. You can also access emergency roadside assistance or report a claim via the GEICO Mobile app.