An UBER Experience
By Jonathan Chatfield
Services like Uber, Sidecar, and Lyft have solved many problems for a whole lot of people. For the person with the medical condition that prevents them from being able to get behind the wheel of a car or the young high school/college student who isn’t able to afford their own car yet, the rideshares are a boon. And, when compared to a lackluster public transportation system or a price-gouging taxi cab, they offer a more convenient and less costly solution.
For others, ridesharing is an excellent way to make extra money. Keep in mind, however, at the end of the day, they are profit-driven corporate machines. And nothing fuels the motor of large businesses more efficiently than the blood, sweat, and tears of hard-working Americans, right?
So begins my saga…
“Oh My God, How did I get here…”
I found myself in a situation where I needed to make some extra money, and I heard that driving for Uber was a great way to do just that.
My current need for cash was the result of some bad luck with a used vehicle purchase. It came with a few surprise “features.” Though I knew the risks of buying a car ‘as-is,’ I decided to do so anyway. This would be the second vehicle I was buying from the same dealer, and the first lasted me three solid years with nearly no investment. I figured it was a safe bet. How wrong I was.
After giving the dealer a sizeable (for a used car) down-payment, this 2007 Toyota Corolla was going to cost me in the neighborhood of four thousand dollars, after all the financing and interest were added.
It had various cosmetic issues that would need to be addressed, like a dinged bumper and a peeling paint job, but I could live with that. I knew a great auto body shop and figured for a few hundred dollars more, I could make her look pretty again. So overall I thought I made a solid purchase.
Long story, well, long… I bought a used car because I’m poor and that car is essentially a ‘lemon’. A rather expensive lemon at that, probably organic and imported. Unfortunately for me, lemon laws do not apply to vehicles purchased ‘as-is.’
Searching For A Solution
And then, like a shining ray of light illuminating the darkness of my current situation, hope was born. And that hope would have a name, and that name shall be UBER! Dramatic, I know, but that’s how the idea felt at the time. Full of possibility and promise. Can you guess what I am about to say next?
Yep…How WRONG I was! Sometimes, what seems like the answer you’ve been searching for, is only the beginning of more issues.
I was beginning to feel like Edward Smith, captain of the ill-fated Titanic, at that moment when he realized the simple little piece of ice floating out ahead of the ship is, in reality, only the tip of a giant, boat-killing behemoth of an iceberg. OK, maybe it wasn’t THAT bad. But you get the idea.
I will start with the first major issue I found; Uber’s Vehicle Solutions Program.
I use the term solutions loosely because their marketing department SHOULD consider renaming it to the “Vehicle SOULutions Program.” That name sounds entirely more accurate, because, in effect, you are selling your soul to them.
Now, to be clear, there are some positive aspects of this program. If you don’t own a vehicle that meets the stringent requirements to be eligible to drive for Uber, then this might be a good option for you. Or, if you currently have no car at all, or job, or life, or any desire for free time to do anything other than driving for Uber, then this might be a great solution. It puts people into cars that wouldn’t be able to have one otherwise, thus allowing them to drive for Uber. It’s that old catch 22. Can’t get a car without money, Can’t get money without a car.
They offer a few options. There are, I believe, two leasing companies that have options available. I won’t provide all the details here; but if you are a masochist, you can check out the programs for yourself.
There is yet another option. If you have less than stellar credit as I do, you won’t even be eligible for their wallet-draining…er…convenient lease programs. Enter the car rental program!
That’s right, for over $250 a week after taxes and fees, you too can have a shiny rental car to drive for Uber. Don’t worry about the fact that, due to the sheer amount of “non-vehicle solutions” drivers out there currently pushing the pedal for Uber, you will need to drive for nearly 30 hours or more just to break even. And be sure to consider current gas prices when figuring your weekly costs. For me, between gas and the rental costs, I had to hit the $330 mark just to START making any money. That is a pretty big hole to dig yourself out of every week and a lot of pressure.
I’ve seen advertising for Uber suggesting their drivers can average up to $35 an hour. I promise you, unless you are in a premier market like Las Vegas, Los Angeles, New York City, or similar area, you’ll be lucky to make a third of that amount.
I imagine, if you know your market well enough, and have figured out exactly what hours to drive, and in which parts of your city, you could do better than I did. Or maybe if you stay out on the road 20 hours a day, you could average close to what they advertise. It wasn’t my experience.
Their Vehicle Solutions Program isn’t a good option for most people, at least if you intend to make any money. If all you are after is a second job to support your ability to have a vehicle to drive, then maybe it will work for you.
I could go into great depth with all of the issues I had while driving for Uber. And, if anyone wants to hear more, let me know, and I will gladly drone on for you. Suffice it to say, it wasn’t the solution I had hoped it would be. But, your mileage may vary…;)