How to Become a Driver for Uber or Lyft

Detail Shot Of A Cropped Man Driving Car
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Driving for Uber or Lyft is a way to make extra money on the side, but there are many things to consider before jumping in, including understanding the qualifications, potential earnings, and costs you'll incur as a driver.

Since Uber and Lyft drivers use their own cars, they are responsible for its upkeep and keeping the gas tank full. Additionally, since both ride-share services treat their drivers as contractors, it's probably a good idea to consult an accountant about handling quarterly taxes and business expenses. While the Uber qualifications are similar to Lyft driver qualifications, there are a few fundamental differences that we'll outline below in addition to essential considerations. Additionally, some of these regulations vary by state and city.

Uber vs. Lyft

Many of the driver requirements are the same for Uber and Lyft. To qualify to be an Uber or Lyft driver, you must be at least 21 (23 in some localities), although people 19 and over can drive for delivery services like UberEATS. Prospective drivers must use an iPhone or Android smartphone. Background checks are mandatory, and require a Social Security Number; drivers must have a clean driving record. Uber drivers must have at least three years experience driving, while Lyft drivers must have a driver's license that's at least one year old.

Other requirements vary by state and city. For instance, in New York City, Uber and Lyft drivers must have a commercial license from the NYC TLC (Taxi and Limousine Commission) and a commercially licensed vehicle. In most cases, drivers need only a driver's license, though. Uber has several baseline requirements for vehicles in all states, though, again, some localities may have additional regulations.

Uber vehicles must be:

  • A four-door car, truck or minivan. (Manual transmission is OK.)
  • Able to accommodate at least four passengers
  • No more than 15 model years old

Uber vehicles must not:

  • Be a rental vehicle
  • Have cosmetic damage
  • Feature commercial or taxi-related branding

If you're driving a car you do not own (such as a family member's), you must be included on the vehicle's insurance policy.

Lyft vehicles must have:

  • At least four doors, not including jump doors. (Manual transmission is OK.)
  • Five to eight seats, including the driver
  • At least five seatbelts

Lyft vehicles must not:

  • Be more than 12 years old, which is slightly stricter than Uber
  • Have body damage or corporate branding

Both ride-sharing companies inspect vehicles to ensure they are in working condition, with functional heat and AC.  

Pros and Cons of Driving for Uber and Lyft

Both ride-sharing services have the same upsides and downsides. In a nutshell:

Advantages for drivers:

  • Choose your hours
  • Reject rides for any reason. (Not in excess.)
  • View passenger ratings before picking them up

Disadvantages for drivers:

  • Considered contractors, not employees
  • Responsible for car maintenance and depreciation
  • Risk of unruly or even violent passengers

The most significant upside of being a Lyft or Uber driver is that you can set your schedule and work as many or as few hours as you want. Drivers are paid for every trip on a per minute and mile basis and can accept and reject rides at will, though both companies prefer if you don't refuse customers too often.

Every Uber and Lyft driver has a rating, based on an average of passenger reviews. After a ride, passengers can anonymously rate their driver on a scale of 1 to 5 and leave a comment. Higher ratings mean more trips get sent your way. Drivers also rate passengers anonymously. Uber passengers can see their rating in the app, while Lyft passengers can get theirs by request. Drivers can see the passenger rating before accepting or rejecting a ride request.

The downsides of being an Uber or Lyft driver is that both companies classify drivers as contractors, and thus don't take taxes out of their pay. It's your responsibility to save money to pay taxes and learn about business deductions. Uber and Lyft drivers also use their vehicles, meaning they're on the hook for all maintenance, including repairing cosmetic damage. You'll have to be sure that everything is in working order, including door locks and power window switches. The vehicle will likely depreciate more quickly than if it were just for personal use. If you have a car that's about a dozen or more years old, you'll have to upgrade to a newer model.

Drivers can't always see a passenger's destination before accepting a ride, which means you could end up on a long trip at the end of your shift, for example, or find yourself in an out-of-the-way neighborhood.

Another consideration is passenger behavior. You may be subject to violent and drunk passengers who might assault you or do damage to your vehicle. Uber and Lyft will assist you in these situations, but it can still be inconvenient or even traumatic to deal with aggressive passengers. You should consider installing a dash cam to monitor your vehicle's interior.

Getting Paid as an Uber or Lyft Driver

Uber pays its drivers weekly via direct deposit. Drivers can also use Instant Pay to transfer money in real-time to a debit card account. Instant Pay is free if you sign up for an Uber Debit Card from GoBank or 50 cents per transaction if you use your debit card. Uber drivers can take advantage of the company's reward program to save money on vehicle upkeep, financial advice, and more. Additionally, drivers can refer new riders and drivers to receive a reward when they take their first ride.

Lyft also pays weekly, and has an optional instant payment option called Express Pay; transactions cost 50 cents each. When passengers tip using the app, drivers keep the whole amount. Drivers can also save money on fuel and maintenance using Lyft's rewards program, called Accelerate. The more rides you complete each month, the better the rewards, which also include healthcare support and tax help. The ride-sharing service also has a referral program for riders and drivers. Lyft drivers keep 100 percent of tips as well.

Uber and Lyft drivers can earn more during peak times, where fares increase as demand for rides grows, such as during rush hour or on holiday weekends. Both Lyft and Uber provide insurance policies for drivers.