How to become an Uber driver
Ever considered turning your car into a taxi so you can make some extra dough? We’ve got all the info you need to get set up as a fully licensed Uber driver!
Being an Uber driver can be the perfect gig for students. It’s well paid, extremely flexible, and you get to drive around all day making chit-chat with strangers. Sounds pretty decent, doesn’t it?
The nice thing about becoming an Uber driver is that you can work as many or as few hours as you like – you're your own boss, and you're under no obligation to stick with it if you find it's not your jam.
However, getting started up initially can be pricey, so it's important you have all the facts first and consider carefully whether it's a viable option for you.
We have all the necessary requirements for you here, as well as info on how to sign up and top tips for making more cash while you drive!
What’s on this page?
The biggest hurdle you’ll encounter in becoming an Uber driver is getting yourself initially set up (or your “wheels rolling”, as we'd say if we were somebody's dad writing this).
There are a fair few start-up expenses to consider, and you might be waiting a while before you can get on the road, but the Uber drivers we’ve spoken to have all said that it’s worth the initial sting to get yourself up and running.
First of all, you need to meet the relevant criteria. You can only apply to be an Uber driver if you:
- Are over 21 years old
- Have a full and valid UK driver’s licence (an EU licence will need to be converted to a UK licence before you become an Uber driver)
- Have the right to work in the UK.
Depending on the city in which you're based, the required years of driving experience will vary (as an example, London drivers need at least three years of driving experience).
You also need to pass the following checks:
- Full medical examination from your GP
- Criminal record check (now called a DBS)
- Background check (the same kind that black cab drivers and care workers get)
- A local map test of the area you want to work in. Unlike black cab drivers, you don’t need to sit a hefty exam that involves you studying the streets of London for months on end (that’s what Google maps is for, right?).
You'll also need to sort yourself out with the following three things:
A private hire licence
The process of obtaining a private hire licence is pretty pain-free, and Uber do offer you help with the application process (see below for details on Uber's ‘Ignition sessions').
The price of a private hire licence varies from council to council, but generally you’ll be looking at an average of £300(ish) and it has to be renewed every three years.
Bear in mind that it can take a helluva long time to actually get your licence through after applying. Uber claim on their website that it takes between two to six weeks, but the drivers we’ve spoken with have said it’s closer to three or four months, and one guy said he waited six months before he got his through!
A private hire-licensed and insured car
If you already have a car that fits the bill, you’re way ahead of the game. Check if your car is of an Uber standard on their site.
If your car didn't make the cut, you can also rent an Uber-approved vehicle on a weekly basis. Rental prices can vary widely from £50 per week in Glasgow, to around £150 in London (if neither of these cities apply to you, Google's your man).
Private hire insurance can be steep, but as with any car insurance, the longer you’ve been driving and the safer you are as a driver, the cheaper it gets.
For example, the difference between a private hire policy for someone who’s been driving for three years and someone who’s been on the road for five years can be as much as £100/month!
An appointment with Uber
Before you can apply for a licence, you'll have a short interview with Uber and will need to attend a free masterclass called an ‘Uber Ignition' session.
This is basically a half-day information session where you learn about what it’ll be like to work for Uber. Their trained staff will guide you through the whole application process so you can apply for a licence from the local authorities.
They say it’ll take about four hours to complete the Ignition session, which involves the following:
• Training for the maps test
• Guidance on how to get your health and background check
• Advice on obtaining insurance
• Guidance on how to apply for your private hire licence
We spoke to a few Uber drivers around the UK, and these are the perks and pitfalls they claimed came with the job.
- Getting paid weekly straight into your bank account
- You get to be your own boss
- No minimum or maximum hours – you work as little or as much as suits you
- Flexible hours that can fit around studying and social life
- Relaxing job if you enjoy driving
- Very social job which is nice if you like chatting to people
- Passenger star ratings help you avoid potential passengers who are likely to give you trouble or leave you waiting around for them
- Passenger ratings also (in theory) encourage passengers to behave properly in your car
- More sanctions for bad riders, which include only being able to cancel (without charge) two minutes after requesting, as well as waiting time charges if a driver is waiting at a pick up point for longer than two minutes
- Drivers still get paid in full when a passenger uses free credit from Uber's ‘refer a friend' scheme (covered by Uber). Just as well, as some tricksters are racking up as much as £1,500 in free rides!
- Outgoings are high (Uber take a 25% cut of everything you earn) so you need to work a fair amount to make a decent income (especially if you're paying to rent a car)
- It can take a long time to get your private hire licence through
- You need to do your own taxes
- Insurance is particularly expensive for young people
- Tipping isn't common
- No company benefits such as pension, holiday pay, sick leave, etc. You can pay an additional £2/week for IPSE membership, but this only covers you for sickness if you're unable to work for two weeks or more
- Spotify syncing option (where passengers can control the music in some cars from their own smartphones) can be annoying if you don't like their music taste, or if they're drunk and start blasting tunes in your ear!
- Passenger ratings can't guarantee that they won't get in drunk and throw up in your car.
For London drivers, Uber fares work out as base fare of £2.50 + £0.15 per minute + £1.25 per mile. There's also a minimum fare of £5, meaning any fare that comes in under this value will automatically round up to £5.
Note that these rates will differ from city to city, so head to Google for more info.
Uber claims that drivers should be able to make around £15 per hour + tips. This figure is after Uber have taken their 25% service fee from your fare (was previously 20% but recently rose to 25%). You can apparently expect around 20% of your earnings to go towards fuel on top of that.
It's worth clarifying as well that as you'd be working for yourself, you wouldn't be protected by any minimum wage law. It's up to you to make sure you pick up enough passengers to keep your income safely above minimum wage (living wage if you're 25 years or older).
£5 per week will get you a company phone and a sat nav (includes phone, data charges and repairs). This option can be more reliable than using your own phone for the job, and it's covered by insurance if it gets damaged.
Remember that you’re self-employed when working with Uber, meaning you have to set aside your own 20% income tax and declare it in April each year. Need more info on UK taxes? Check out our guide to tax facts.
…and how to make even more money as an Uber driver!
Many Uber drivers say they will work as few as ten hours per week, but note that you will have to work a fair bit more than that for the money to be worthwhile.
According to one driver we spoke to, splashing out the extra cash for a flashier car – qualifying you as an Uber Exec driver – is worth it in the long run.
Ahmet, an Uber Exec driver from London, told Save the Student:
Although you take the initial hit in having to buy a more expensive car to join Uber Exec, you take home way more money per ride than you do with UberX, meaning it works out better in the long run.
If you already have a suitable car to use, Uber is a great option for a part-time job for students.
From what we can see (and what we've heard from drivers), if you don't already have a suitable car, it's worth thinking about whether this is the right option for you.
The extra expense of getting your own wheels mean you'll end up spending the first few years of your time at Uber driving just to pay off your car!
When we asked Ahmet if he'd recommend becoming an Uber driver to other students, he was really positive. He told Save the Student:
I would really, really recommend driving for Uber… it's a great way to make some pocket money on the side.
Every time I’d go to my friend’s house in Harrow, I’d get a good fare on the way out there since it’s on the outskirts of London. We would just chill and play some FIFA on the Playstation, then before I'd leave I’d just open up the app and be able to make some money on my way home.
Sounds pretty convenient! However, it's worth being aware that Uber's app system prevents drivers from knowing a rider's final destination until they step into the car – Ahmet has been lucky on this one!
Update: Uber now lets drivers select up to six end destinations and times a day. This means they will be paired up with riders who are going in the same direction as them (in case they are headed home or need to make an appointment).
Are you a young person working for Uber as a part time job whilst studying? We want to hear from you!
Not sure if Uber is right for you? Check out our top business ideas to get started on at uni for more inspiration. Plus, our jobs page has everything you need to get started in finding your perfect gig!