Uber and Lyft drivers reveal what they wish they knew before signing up to work for the apps (UBER, LYFT)

Uber driver NYC

  • Uber and Lyft provide flexible work for millions of drivers with a very low barrier to entry. 
  • But despite the benefits, many say there are things they wish they had known before starting to drive. 
  • Everything from insurance, to taxes, to vehicle wear and tear make driving for the companies more complicated than you might think.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

More than two million people have signed up to drive for Uber and Lyft around the world.

That ride-hailing explosion has unlocked new travel (and dining) options for billions of people, while providing flexible work and additional income for the independent contractors who power the apps’ services.

But for some drivers, the job ended up being different than what they expected. From the loneliness that comes from having no boss or coworkers, to unforeseen wear and tear on their vehicles, drivers have plenty of advice for those who might also be thinking about firing up their phones and hitting the road.

Here’s what more than 20 drivers told Business Insider they wish they would have realized sooner:

Vehicle damage can add up quickly

Everyday wear and tear on cars by people who only drive to work and home can add up quickly. And when your car is providing many of those same trips every single day, with dozens of passengers, that damage can grow exponentially.

“I wish I would have known how much damage customers were going to do to my vehicle and the wear and tear and how much it would cost to maintain it,” Barb M., a driver in Michigan, told Business Insider. “If you’re not having a good week the gas and maintenance alone can blow all your profit.”

Sometimes, damage can easily top Uber’s $250 credit for repairs and cleaning, multiple drivers said. If a ride isn’t currently in progress, Uber’s third-party insurance providers likely won’t provide coverage.

“I was surprised to learn about this after an accident,” Nick, a driver in Washington DC, said. “Now I’m stuck paying out of pocket for something I thought the insurance I pay for would cover.”

Riders will take their time

“I wish I’d known ahead of time that customers are typically in no hurry to get into your car,” Barb said.

Drivers are paid in most markets to wait on customers, but it’s not nearly as much as the per-mile rate that serves as the biggest source of income.

“You hit the button to request the ride. What are you doing?,” Jeff, a driver in Colorado, said, referring to riders who are slow to get in the vehicle.

Figuring out a schedule that works for you can be tricky

People are on the move at very specific times of day, and that affects when demand for rides peaks.

“I try to advise new drivers on the best times to drive,” Jenny, an Uber driver in New Jersey, said. “Where I am, morning airport runs are really good, but the middle of the day can be slow.”

‘Know your numbers’

Michael, a driver in Washington DC, says it all comes down to numbers.

“Know your numbers,” he told Business Insider. “Know your costs and how much you’ll make per ride. what you’re doing here is a lot more than just picking people up and dropping them off.”

Going to the restroom isn’t always easy

Traditional taxi drivers have known this forever: there aren’t many places to go when nature calls while driving.

“I like to use the bathroom at drugstores,” Jenny said. “They’re usually cleaner than gas stations or truck stops.”

Taxes can get complicated …

As independent contractors, drivers are responsible for withholding all of their income taxes instead of having an employer deduct it from their paycheck. On top of that, expenses can be categorized differently for drivers.

“Tax stuff is really difficult,” said Jenny. “There are things specifically for Uber drivers, but the company isn’t always completely clear with their guidelines.”

Harry Campbell, who runs a blog called The Rideshare Guy, has compiled a handy list of tax tips for drivers, but there’s no substitute for a tax professional — and those can be expensive.

It’s a lonely job

With no boss — and technically, no coworkers either — being on the road all day can be lonely.

Georgetown researchers noted this in a study earlier this year, when they spoke to drivers in the Washington, DC, area about their experiences.

But the same isolating aspect is a positive for some drivers.

“It’s a great chance to meet new people,” Jessica, a driver in Texas said. “I talk to like 20 different people a day from all walks of life.”

Yvonne, a driver in Atlanta, said she learns new places in her hometown she’d never even visited before.

Not all riders know the rules — or care

Unaccompanied minors, or people under 18, aren’t allowed to take Uber or Lyft rides alone. However, drivers say the issue comes up on an alarmingly regular basis.

“I’m increasingly getting pinged by parents to pick up their high school and junior high kids, which is against the rules,” Jamie, a driver in Phoenix, said. “Most people do not know that you have to be 18 to ride in an Uber alone. When I turn the student down and tell them I can’t take them, they just keep trying until they find a driver who does not care.”

The issue received national attention in June, when a Florida family claimed their 12-year-old daughter took an Uber ride to a parking garage in Florida earlier this year, where she jumped to her death.

Tyler, a driver in North Carolina, said he’s had passengers even get angry when he requests they wear their seat belts or use a car seat for their infant.