20 Uber and Lyft Driver Tricks to Help You Earn More on the Road
Whether it’s a side hustle or your main gig, driving for Uber or Lyft can be a great way to earn money on your own schedule. But succeeding as a rideshare driver takes more than a license and a car.
We’ve studied how the best rideshare drivers made it to the top — and how you can join them. Here are 20 Lyft and Uber driver tricks to help you earn more behind the wheel.
1. Keep your car in great condition
The best car for Uber or Lyft is low-maintenance, fuel-efficient, and (of course) easy to drive. But no matter what model you’re taking out on the road, make sure it’s in good shape — inside and out.
Regular car washes will keep your vehicle looking sharp, so you make the right first impression on new riders. Meanwhile, a clean and funk-free interior will keep them happy once you’ve embarked.
To keep your cabin in tip-top shape, scan your car between rides leftover trash. It’s also a good idea to keep some Febreze on-hand, just in case the previous passenger left behind an odor.
Luckily, car washes, interior cleaning, and even that can of Febreze are all tax-deductible for rideshare drivers. So don’t skimp — your ratings just might depend on it
2. Grab a phone mount and a charger
The right gear will go a long way towards a smooth rideshare experience — not just for your passengers, but for you.
The most important accessory? A phone mount. That way, you won’t have to drive with one hand on the steering wheel and the other on your phone. A mount will cost you between $10 and $40.
You might also consider an in-car phone charger, so you don't run out of battery while you’re working. A charger will also run you around $10-$40. And, like the mount, it’s a write-off.
3. Invest in a dashcam
A dash cam can set you back by as much as $400, though more minimalist models are available for around $150. Lots of rideshare drivers think it’s more than worth it.
Say you get into a messy situation with a passenger. A dashcam can help you refute any false claims they might make. In the event of an accident, your footage can also get your insurance to pay out quickly. And, yes — your dashcam is tax-deductible too.
4. Look into rideshare insurance
Speaking of insurance, from Allstate to Geico, plenty of major companies now offer dedicated rideshare insurance. In certain situations that aren’t covered by either your personal auto insurance, or Uber’s and Lyft’s insurance, these policies will step in.
Rideshare-specific insurance kicks in if you get into an accident when you’re logged into the app, but don’t yet have a rider in the car. Different policies offer different cover different scenarios — say, if you’re waiting for a request or heading over for a pickup. Some rideshare policies will completely replace your personal auto insurance, while others will stack on top.
Rideshare insurance policies vary in cost, from less than $10 a month to around $25. You can deduct these costs from your taxes too.
5. Track your expenses
We’ve been talking a lot about the tax deductions you can take as a rideshare driver. The truth is, insurance and phone mounts only scratch the surface. You can also write off gas, parking fees, car payments, and more. (Check out our list of tax deductions for rideshare drivers to make sure you’re not missing any!)
To actually take all those deductions, you’ll have to keep track of your car expenses. The IRS requires you to keep records for when you file your Uber taxes. And in any case, tracking all your deductions will make sure you don’t miss any.
6. Avoid driving aimlessly
Don’t drive around in circles while you’re waiting for your next gig. All you’re doing is racking up mileage and wasting gas money. Instead, park your car somewhere and catch up on a podcast while you wait.
Over time, you’ll build up an awareness of promising places to hang tight while you wait for those requests to roll in.
7. Get familiar with the area
Don’t rely entirely on your GPS: it can lead you astray. It pays off to spend some time learning your way around the old-fashioned way. You’ll be armed with shortcuts, scenic routes, and alternate paths in case a construction site — or an accident — forces you to adjust on the fly.
It’s also a good idea to pick up navigational knowledge that a GPS can’t teach you. If you get familiar with the local terrain, you’ll learn which streets are full of cyclists during the day, and which offer poor visibility at night.
8. Know where the bathrooms are
Speaking of learning your way around, it definitely pays to have public bathrooms mentally mapped out.
You’ll probably get the occasional long-distance passenger who needs to make a pitstop en route to a faraway destination. They’ll thank you for knowing exactly where to go. More importantly, though, it’s crucial to be able to find bathrooms for you.
Look for places with free parking. Starbucks, McDonald’s, and grocery stores like Whole Foods are good bets. A hotel lobby might also do in a pinch.
9. Take advantage of referral bonuses
Both Uber and Lyft offer incentives for referring new drivers. So be sure to share your referral code with friends and family members — or anyone else who might want to take the plunge. Once a referral has completed a set number of rides, you’ll get your bonus.
Know someone who’s on the fence about joining? If you take them out to lunch to talk them through it, that counts as a business meal. so it's tax-deductible!
Haven’t gotten started as a rideshare driver yet? If you’re just reading this article to get ahead, we admire your dedication! In that case, try to grab a referral code from someone who’s already driving. That way, you’ll be eligible for certain sign-up rewards.
10. Find community with other drivers
You might think of other Uber and Lyft drivers as the competition. But they can also be a great source of community
Facebook groups for Uber and Lyft drivers will put you in touch with countless veterans who are happy to share tips — or just listen to you vent.
11. Stock up your car with amenities
A little gesture can go a long way when it comes to getting that five-star rating. Offering bottled water, snacks, or gum will make the ride feel positively luxurious — and much more personal than a taxi. You can write off all these goodies on your taxes.
Don’t want to deal with wrappers and crumbs? That’s understandable. The truth is, the most sought-after rider amenity won’t generate any trash at all. Having extra phone chargers available will keep your passengers plenty happy.
12. Play some music
What’s the cheapest way to create a comfortable rideshare experience? A well-chosen Pandora station.
Classical and instrumental jazz are your safest bets. Still, all passengers have their own taste: be prepared to change the station if someone complains. That’s why it’s a good idea to have a few stations on standby.
You can even vary up your programming depending on the time of day: top hits for Friday nights, NPR for early-morning airport runs. For extra credit, consider letting passengers play their own music with an aux cord.
13. Give passengers a hand
Being extra-helpful might make each ride last a little longer, but it pays off in the long run. After all, passengers who see you watching indifferently as they wrestle with heavy suitcases might not be inclined to leave a tip.
Not all Lyft and Uber drivers take the time to help their passengers with their luggage. Taking that extra step can help you stand out. As an added bonus, it’ll also save your bumper from being scratched up by heavy bags.
14. Stick to “safe” conversation topics
It’s a good idea to make friendly conversation (unless you can tell your passenger would rather work — or nap). Still, it’s important to keep things relaxed.
To that end, steer clear of potentially thorny topics, like politics or religion. An offended rider can easily lash out with an (undeserved) low rating.
15. Keep an eye on the Uber rider app
Want to get a sense of what other drivers are doing? You can use the Uber passenger app.
Logging in as a rider will show you how many other drivers are in your area. If you find yourself competing for slim pickings with eight other idle drivers, that’s your cue to clear out and try somewhere else.
16. Be smart about surge pricing
When passenger demand is higher than the supply of drivers, you get surge pricing. The result? Higher fares — but also stiffer competition.
Beginning drivers are often tempted to go where the surge is. But the truth is, it may not be worth it. As more and more drivers flood into the area, they’ll bring the surge pricing down. The next thing you know, it’s over before you even got there.
As you gain experience, you’ll develop a surge strategy that works for you. That may involve prepping for regular surges at peak times — say, at the end of the workday, or when the bars start to close. On the other hand, you might find you prefer ignoring surges completely in favor.
17. Keep an eye out for special events
Speaking of surge pricing, local events can be a huge drivers of high demand. Concerts, for instance, lead to hordes of stranded, desperate riders eager to hop into the first available Uber for their long ride home.
Of course, there are downsides to event surges too. You can expect plenty of road closures — not to mention time spent waiting in traffic.
If you’d like to jump in on these one-off surges, keep your eyes peeled for special events. That way, you can plan to be in the area once the chaos starts. On the flip side, if event driving isn’t for you, you can use these reminders to steer clear of the affected roads.
18. Go where the alcohol is
Decided against ferrying concertgoers back from their venue? You can still take advantage of surge pricing in a more predictable way. If you work late on Fridays and Saturdays, you’ll pick up plenty of folks heading back from downtown restaurants and bars.
Follow the alcohol, and you can turn being the designated driver into a great source of extra money. Just remember: In most states, you can’t allow passengers to drink from open containers in your car.
19. Be prepared to do some cleanup
If you do follow the alcohol, be prepared: the heavy payouts come with the occasional mess.
Stock your car with barf bags just in case. (Trash bags and even dog waste bags will work as well.) Just make sure to keep them in easy-to-reach places — say, your seatback pockets.
What if a nauseated rider isn’t able to grab a bag in time? Don’t worry. Uber offers a cleaning fee of up to $150 for “extensive liquid and smelly messes.” (Smaller messes — think coffee spills and tracked-in dirt — can still get you reimbursed for $20 - $80). The charge will be passed on to the passenger responsible.
To claim your cleaning fee, just send Uber three clear photos of the mess, and a receipt from the cleaning service if you used one. (You can still claim the fee even if you handle cleanup on your own.)
20. Rest when you need it
Life as an Uber driver can mean good money, wild stories, and the freedom to set your own schedule as a self-employed person. But it can also lead to long hours and burnout.
That’s why it’s so important to take breaks. Whether that means shutting off the app to grab a cup of coffee, or making the conscious decision to take Friday night off, this much-needed rest will keep you healthy and clear-headed. And that's what you need to keep earning in the long run.
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At Keeper Tax, we’re on a mission to help freelancers overcome the complexity of their taxes. That sometimes leads us to generalize tax advice. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org if you have questions.