So I did it, I became an UBER driver. With all the buzz being generated in Buffalo, with it being the last major city to get the service, I figured why not? I have some great influences in my life who manage property and have many other side hustles, so I decided that I need one too. I could hear the lessons of Robert Kiyosaki while weighing out my options and decided to sign up.
The first time I traveled to Chicago in 2015, I used the service to go everywhere throughout the city. Wrigley Field, Chicago Music Exchange, Kumas Korner – everywhere. I could not believe how cheap it was in comparison to a cab. One of my best friends was living there and happened to be driving for them, coming up in conversation from my recent experience. He had cited that he paid off most of his student loans and I was instantly hooked – I had to do this when it came to Buffalo. Two years later, I finally got to sign up.
“So are you a taxi driver? Don’t you make enough money as it is? What if someone kills you?” All concerns and skepticism from those close, but I like driving, I like people, my car is nice, lets do it.
It was pretty easy to sign up. I scanned all of my documents – my license, registration, insurance, right over the chat that UBER offers. I downloaded the drivers app, put in my banking information so I could get paid, then waited for my decal to show up. SIDE NOTE: if you plan on driving for UBER, you HAVE to use the decal, per New York State law. This allows you to be identified and protects you the driver and protects the customer.
The first night, I went to the airport, as this has been my plan the whole time. Pick people up after they arrive, take them home, come back. Sounds like a plan to ensure that I don’t have any issues, right? 12:00am, Thursday June 29 arrived and it was crickets. Finally at 12:29am, I was pinged and went to see who my first passenger was. Little fact, I was the first person to pick someone up in an UBER, at the Buffalo / Niagara International Airport – I am still waiting for the key to the city. Does TO still have it? Anyway, it was very straight forward. The guy I picked up was from New Jersey, here on business, and had never been to Buffalo. Because you can get anywhere in Buffalo within 15-20 minutes, it was a short conversation – precisely the way I like it. With this gig, I specialize in short term relationships, it’s great.
Throughout the coming days and week, I worked nights, some mornings, and thrived on Friday and Saturday nights. Since I live in Amherst, I hang around my area and someone will typically want a ride downtown. After I drop the rider off, I just hang out on Elmwood / Hertel and go up and down the streets, through the neighborhoods and chauffeur people too and from bars, restaurants, and various locations.
The first week I did $372, this past week I did $343. Cash tips pretty much pay for my gas, so expenses are pretty low. I buy the occasional energy drink or a slice, but I would likely treat myself during the week anyway, so I can’t count it as an unnecessary expense. Nearly $700 gross in two weeks, call it $350 after taxes – not bad. I assume 50% in taxes is gone, so I tell myself that I have only made $350.
When you drive for UBER, you are technically an independent contractor, a business owner of sorts. That being said, you have the opportunity to write off things like your mobile data plan, your insurance, oil changes, car detailing, interest on a car loan, or you can simply make it easy and write off mileage, which UBER kindly documents for you in the app. I believe the going rate is currently $.54 a mile, which considering my 3 mile commute to work, is doable given more miles driven with UBER by comparison. One of the biggest reasons I do this, is not to just supplement my income, but to also have a method or vehicle if you will, to save on taxes. My car essentially pays for itself and I can write off utilities that I would not otherwise have the chance to, as a typical W2 earner.
Ratings with UBER are very important too. I can give a driver a rating based on being available upon pickup and proper / improper conduct in the vehicle, you can rate me too. Cleanliness, conversation, being prompt, driving ability, and many other attributes make up a riders experience. I make it simple – being clean, on time, and conversational (if the rider initiates) is all you have to do…it’s pretty idiot-proof. My rating is a 4.92 from the inevitable 4 star rating and a couple trips I missed as a result of learning with the app, but I would consider my rating a product of knowing the city and genuinely enjoying the people I have been around. Be advised, it is not good to ignore trips and refuse them if you don’t like the location or the persons name. UBER and LYFT have been the source of research suggesting that drivers have ruthlessly discriminated and now make it detrimental if you cancel for such reasons. Luckily, if you are looking to end your evening or maybe things are so busy that you cant manage multiple rides, there is a function that allows you to stop taking requests so you can regroup.
Everyone has been pretty cool thus far. Young professionals, high school kids, older folks, just looking for a safe and convenient way home. I have had only one run in…
It was a Sunday evening at 7:00pm, a very nice night. I was pinged around Allen and showed up to the location to find two individuals hugging it out. I figured, one must be leaving the other, perhaps a long weekend, I don’t know. No sooner did my thoughts complete, I saw two legs and an arm go flying up in the air and down to the ground, screaming commenced and the other individual looked to be fighting the person, but were they just trying to help? I pulled away from the non-airborne person, thinking maybe (god I hope so) this wasn’t my ride, when they promptly yelled for me to stop – unfortunately these were the correct people, so I was stuck.
It turns out that the individual on the ground was so drunk, they could not move – literally could not stand up. The sober individual peeled the other off the ground and began to stuff the person inside my car. After entering the vehicle and starting to the destination, the sober individual asks me if “that camera is on?” Thinking nothing of it, I responded with “no” – I know, pretty gullible. I start to hear some wax paper crinkle and immediately thought, “this dude is about to roll a joint in my car”. I prepared my response, but unfortunately it did not prepare me for what I saw in my rear view mirror. The sober individual lighting up a crack – yes a crack pipe, and having the drunk individual inhale, then proceeded to snort some cocaine out of a vile, and offer me some in the process!
I was floored. I could not believe that after UBER being in Buffalo for just three days, that someone would have the balls to do hard drugs in my back seat. Such as life for a drug user I guess. Impaired judgement is among the side effects of a schedule II substance, so maybe I shouldn’t be so surprised. I quickly got these two the hell out of my car, pulling over and throwing them out. To my surprise, they gladly cooperated, even tipping me $5 for “being so cool about this”.
There really is no moral of the story, just a random act of Buffalo I guess – exactly why sometimes we can’t have nice things.
Again, it was just one time out of the near 50 trips I have provided. People have been generous, curious, and overall excited that the service is available in Buffalo. Almost every person that I have interacted with has experienced the ridiculous cab fares and routes cab drivers are known for, or knows someone who has been affected by a drunk driver – a win for entrepreneurship and a win for safety. If you have the time, I would highly recommend driving for UBER.
If you have questions or are considering driving, feel free to reach out or visit UBER. Pay attention to the requirements as far as vehicle, insurance, condition, etc. Use my invite code, TWE6NTA5UE when you sign up to gain access to more bonus money.
Good luck and be safe whether you are riding or driving. If you see a white Ford Fusion with a license plate reading “GoBulls”, be sure to wave!