I was an Uber Driver for 1.5 Years – I Share My Experiences and Tips!

Uber Driving (to Work) in Australia

Deal Rating: 8/10 – somewhat dependent on your circumstances and personality, and it’s certainly not a “stable” deal. However, if it does work in your favour, it is potentially quite lucrative relative to the effort required.

I started this post when I was still in Australia but never got around to posting about it. Here it goes.

Here’s a bit of a secret that I’m about to reveal..

I was an Uber Driver for 1.5 years – from about Jan 2017 until I left Australia in June 2018. I was doing this primarily by driving to and from work, and I actually really enjoyed it. Basically, on my commute to work (which I needed to do anyway), I picked people up that were going in the same general direction as me. It’s a built-in feature that Uber allows – you specify where you’re going, and the app will filter out the trip requests you receive.

It’s not just limited to driving to work. It’s also great for any time you’re not in a huge hurry and are driving somewhere alone anyway.

First, I’ll talk about my experience doing it and then share some of my tips and tricks.

How Was Uber Driving?

Great fun. I like talking to people, and Sydneysiders are generally up for a good chat, so that worked well. I don’t love driving, but don’t hate it.

If you love driving and love chatting, I’d say go for it! If you’re doing it primarily to earn money, I would think twice. The money you earn is underwhelming. I don’t have any stats/figures/data to back this up, but I would hazard a guess that your effective hourly rate would equate to approximately $12-15/hr (not considering surge fares – where fares are higher and you get more money during periods of increased demand). This estimate factors in all costs, including but not limited to petrol, insurance, rego.

If you don’t particularly enjoy talking to people, you can always choose to be a non-chatty driver. The general consensus (because of the rating system) tends to be that you have to be chatty to get good ratings. I think it’s true to an extent, but not a huge deal. There are definitely other ways to show you’re a “good” overall driver – but maybe the chattiness is an easier way to show it. I would probably admit I abused my chattiness!

Can you put a price on the working flexibility? Tough one. The flexibility was and probably would be a huge drawcard to many. You can literally go online and go offline whenever you wanted to. They had the odd occasion where they would have “incentives” to try to incentivise you to work during certain times, but there were no minimum hours or specific times you had to work. Quite good actually – considering the lack of competition Uber have had in Australia. What I mean is in a market where there’s competition, you might have two or more ridesharing companies fighting for drivers to drive on their platform, and they would therefore offer more incentives to try and outdo each other.

To me, it was a great way to chat to randoms and earn a bit of money whilst going somewhere I needed to go anyway. It was for this reason that I felt the time and money was worth it – because it covered my petrol + more, and I certainly extracted a fair amount of fun out of it whilst doing something I was kinda doing anyway – add on about 15% of effort?

My final stats as a driver?

  • Average Rating: 4.96
  • Total Trips Completed: ~800

Want to become an Uber Driver? My Personal Tips

Firstly, a reminder as to how I actually did my Uber driving. I did it almost exclusively by specifying my destination. As an Uber Driver, you do not get visibility of where the passenger is going until you swipe “Start Trip”, which is generally not going to occur until the passenger(s) are in your vehicle.

It makes sense – if you could see the destination, you would be very tempted to be selective about what kind of trips you accept, which is probably what Uber wanted to avoid.

My tips:

  • Allow about three weeks from the time you apply until you’re able to get on the road
  • You will have to register for an ABN if you have not done so and also register to pay GST on your earnings
  • In addition, your earnings are taxed in addition to your personal income
  • Uber takes a 27.5% commission of your earnings. This is quite hefty, but they know they can get away with it because they don’t have much competition.
    • Their competitors are not very well known and generally do not provide a sufficient volume of passengers for drivers to remain engaged
    • As a benchmark, GoCatch take a 15% commission – accurate as at June 2018. I am not aware of the commission taken by other competitors such as Taxify, Hi! Oscar, Ingogo, Didi and Ola.
  • Parts of your expenses are also tax deductible. As an example, petrol, insurance, mints/waters provided, rego. Uber will probably provide some records of mileage which may assist with your tax affairs.
    • Seek professional advice on this matter as I am not entirely familiar with the tax side of things. Having a logbook will greatly assist with this process.

The “Set your Destination” feature

  • Drivers cannot see the destination of the passenger (whether using the “set your destination” feature or not)
  • However, you could, twice per calendar day, specify where you were going and have the app automatically filter out requests for you that were going in the same general direction. This meant any request that appeared on your screen would be from a passenger that was going somewhere along the way to your destination – but you still won’t know their exact destination until you swipe “Start Destination”.
    • What does “same general direction” mean? To give you some perspective, it wasn’t perfect. Using Sydney suburbs as examples, I’ve had my destination set as Sydney CBD while I was in Mascot and I got taken out towards Kensington. As another example, I was in Burwood and had Mascot as my destination, and I got taken to Leichardt a few times. I would also sometimes get Sydney CBD from Burwood to Mascot which is not quite on the way, but I generally didn’t mind them, because the chance of getting someone from Sydney CBD to Mascot was reasonably high
    • I also had, on very rare occasions, a trip that took me in the opposite direction. This happened twice out all my trips, and both times they were very short distances
    • What you’ll generally expect is if you’re in Burwood with Mascot as your destination, you’ll get passengers going from Ashfield, Summer Hill to Marrickville, Dulwich Hill, Mascot and/or the Airport.
  • Do you want, or are you willing to drive a tad further, past your destination? If so, set your destination for somewhere a bit further out. For example, I drove from Burwood to Mascot daily for work. If you were willing to be taken a bit further, you could set your destination as Maroubra, Botany, Coogee. It’s up to you to decide how far you are willing to drive.

On a side note, I have heard anecdotally that both Ola and Taxify also have a similar feature, with Ola allowing a destination to be set twice a day, and Taxify allowing it four times per day.

Intricacies of the “twice per calendar day” feature

  • “Twice per calendar day” meant you could set your destination twice per calendar day. There was no limit to how many trips you could get whilst each destination was set.
  • If you set a destination before midnight, it would count towards the two chances per day in the calendar day in which it was set
  • It was also possible to set a “deadline” – a time by which you wished to arrive at your destination
  • There was also a bug where if you set a destination but did not set a time, then subsequently completed a trip, then decided to set a time without changing your destination, it would count this as a second use of your quota (despite not having changed desinations), thus using up both chances in one destination. This was highly annoying and I provided feedback on this bug, but I am not sure if this was ever fixed.

Would I recommend Uber Driving?

As above – yes, if you love driving, love chatting and have spare time. If you are doing it purely for money and/or you don’t particularly enjoy chatting, I would think twice.

There are other aspects of Uber as a corporation/business that I have heard can be a bit contentious. I have often heard criticism of them in terms of their setup and how they have effectively structured themselves in such a way so as to circumvent the law and/or protect themselves. It’s important to note that this is not exclusive to Uber, as all the ridesharing companies I’ve seen in Australia are setup in the same way; Uber are just the most prominent example.

Here are a few examples:

  • You are operating under an ABN – this means you are the business. Imagine you get into a car accident and the passenger decides they wish to seek compensation via legal means. Who do they sue, Uber or you? Probably you – you’re the business after all. Potentially a dangerous/tricky situation!
  • Regulatory limits around working hours – as you are not an employee, they are not (were not? it may have changed) mandated to ensure their personnel (drivers) adhere to working hours and minimum rest requirements
    • My personal view: This is where you, as a fully grown functioning human being apply common sense. Of course, laws are in place to protect us as employees/workers as well, but ultimately, we should be pretty well aware of our ability to function based on our level of wakefulness.
    • There is also a feature that has been built into the app to prevent you from staying online for more than 12 consecutive hours – however, this was never a threshold I came anywhere near close to hitting. I would also be quite concerned if anyone actually tried driving for 12 hours straight.
  • Rights to sick leave, annual leave, etc. – you don’t get these because you’re not an part-time/full-time employee.
    • My personal view: This is no different to being a casual staff member. Casual staff also don’t get access to these types of leave, and don’t necessarily get a consistent stream of income or work hours. On the bright side, with Uber, you choose your working hours.
  • Employee rights – no such thing. You’re not an employee. Think of a potential situation like unfair dismissal. The analogy here would be Uber choose to suspend your driver account.
    • My personal view: Not having employee protection is quite a big loss. There are two things that suck with this. The first is that they’re (still) effectively a monopoly because of their dominance in the Australian market. This means you’re dispensible and there’s no “threat” or concern of you driving for a competitor. The second is that it’s their platform and they can do what they want with you, and if they choose to suspend you, with the current structure, well – that’s the end I guess? Having said that, I write this with the assumption that maybe you were unfairly suspended

I wish to take this opportunity to remind you that I am not a lawyer and these are purely personal views/opinions on the structure, partially formed by anecdotal stories I have heard and my vague understanding of the law/structure of Uber and the other ridesharing companies in Australia. My opinions should not be interpreted as either condoning or not condoning the structure.

Do you want to hear about some of my stories from Uber driving? I guess I have a few to share, but nothing absolutely ground breaking. I never had any prominent personalities bitching about colleagues, for example.

If so, leave a comment below and feel free to ask me any questions!

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