September 22, 2019

Most people are drawn to the job of an Uber driver by the high pay and the flexible work hours. New drivers expect to make $20 an hour right off the bat — but this is not often the case.

Uber driver Rob Spreitzer in Kitchener, Ont., Thursday, Jan. 31, 2019. Photo by Keegan Lavigne, Spoke News

Rob Spreitzer, a driver who has been working for Uber for nine months, says there are many costs to take into account while driving for the technology company.

“Expenses are the biggest thing — you have to take [into account] your vehicle expenses, fuel expenses, maintenance expenses,” said Spreitzer. “If you’re driving a lot of Uber, you’re going to be doing an oil change every few weeks or every month or so.”

Spreitzer drives an electric Tesla, which lowers his fuel costs.

The average driver, however, is “filling fuel probably every second day, something like that. It depends how much you drive. You have to look at the most economical way to drive Uber,” Spreitzer said.

Driving Uber is all about strategy and planning. Drivers need to take into account all of their costs and the vehicle they drive.

Mohammed Aidaruse has been driving Uber for two months and his strategy has been working out for him quite well.

“Right now, this is my second month and I realized if I just stick to Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday, and I put in, like, 40 hours, I’ll make more than minimum wage,” said Aidaruse. “I just log myself in during high demand hours and then I log myself off to do my other work when it’s not busy.”

Uber is beneficial to students like Aidaruse. The flexibility makes driving for Uber a convenient job for those with a busy schedule.

“The flexibility of being able to log in and log out whenever you want based on your personal schedule, like if you’re at school like myself, that’s what I do. I’m able to adjust my work schedule so it fits my school schedule,” he said. Turning off the car while waiting for passengers is another efficient way to save money on fuel.

For Uber driver Peter Ojedgbe, this strategy has worked out quite nicely.

Uber driver Peter Ojedgbe in Kitchener, Ont., Thursday, Jan. 31, 2019, Photo By Keegan Lavigne, Spoke News

“You have to plan out what you’re going to do. I turn off my car when I wait for another Uber call, and when you drop off a passenger you shouldn’t just leave. I usually just wait for about 10 minutes. Within that time, I get another request. Driving around will just cost you more gas,” said Ojedgbe.

Spreitzer agrees: “Honestly, if you drop someone off and park your car and wait for the next passenger, it’s probably a good way to do it. I don’t typically do that. I usually drive around looking for a passenger. Although that’s more interesting than sitting and waiting, it’s less economical,” he said.

Spreitzer explained that, since he has an electric car, he is able to drive around looking for passengers because his fuel costs are so low. He then went on to break down what the average Uber driver is actually making.

“Let’s say an Uber driver worked 40 hours [a week] and made about $800 dollars — maybe $20 an hour. That’s a few thousand kilometres. That’s at least $200 in fuel costs and then some maintenance costs. I’d say the average Uber driver is making $12-$13 an hour; maybe $14 if they are lucky.

“That’s a lot of work to do for less than minimum wage. Uber drivers who aren’t driving the right car are better off working at a 7-11 or something because they’d make more money,” Spreitzer said.

In order to make a profit, an Uber driver needs a strategy or a fuel-efficient vehicle.

“It depends on when you work, probably the days you work,” said Ojedgbe. “For me, I only work at nights only, but I figured out mornings are pretty good. Most times, I start in the morning at 5:30 or 6 a.m. Usually now I make $150 in the morning, come back home and rest for a few hours, and then I go back between 3 p.m. and 5 p.m., when people leave work. I’ll make about $200 a day doing this.”

Ojedgbe only fills up at night, when gasoline is usually around 91 cents per litre, whereas in the morning, it is usually more than a dollar.

“I make roughly $21-$25 an hour. Some days you can make $30-$50 an hour. There are some times — there are things called surges — so you will make double because the usual fare doubles or even triples. This happens during bad weather or a major event. On St.Patrick’s Day, I made over $300,” said Ojedgbe.

The unpredictability of driving Uber is also an issue.

“Some days, you will wait online but get fed up, because you aren’t getting any requests, so you sign off and call it a day,” said Ojedgbe.

Spreitzer added: “Many people have the vehicle already, then decide to drive Uber rather than buying a vehicle specially tailored for Uber. Most people say, ‘Well, this is my car; I’m going to drive Uber in it,’ rather than going, “I’m going to buy that car because I’m going to drive Uber in it.’ That’s a better strategy — to tailor your vehicle towards Uber.”

Uber drivers receive their share from their rides, but Uber takes the booking fee (25 per cent of your ride). In addition, the driver pays the HST on their portion. Most Uber drivers think they are paying 13 per cent HST; in reality, it is 16.5 per cent, because the driver pays HST on Uber’s 25 per cent.

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