When it comes to making money on the side, Bostonians are lucky: options in the Hub abound, from the restaurant and hospitality industry, which employs 9% of the state’s workforce and rakes in some $13.5 billion a year; to temporary work assigned by any of the dozens of area (and growing) staffing agencies; to personal services, like dog walking and grocery shopping for the busy crowd.
But if you’ve got some extra time—and a new-ish, well-maintained car, a good driving record, and the desire to interact with people (and lots of them)—then maybe you should consider another endeavor: driving with uberX, with some drivers reportedly making up to $400—in a single day.
The ridesharing service, which was founded in 2009 by serial entrepreneur Travis Kalanick, has experienced explosive global growth, connecting riders and drivers in more than 70 cities worldwide via smartphones. Uber initially rolled into Boston in 2010 with its UberBLACK service, which utilizes livery-style vehicles like town cars and luxury sedans, and has grown to include additional offerings: UberSUV— Escalades and Suburbans—UberTaxi, and uberX, its newest program that allows everyday people to use their existing vehicles to shuttle subscribers around. Drivers aren’t employed by the company, but rather, work as independent contractors, which means they drive on their own time. uberX competes directly with several other rideshare services: Lyft, which functions on a suggested gratuity payment system and requests that solo riders sit up front with their driver; SideCar, which allows drivers to set their own rates, and also allows riders to select their preferred drivers; and Hailo, which is headquartered in South Boston and connects riders with nearby cabs only.
To apply to drive with uberX in Boston, you’ll need the following:
·Be at least 23 years old (in some cities, the minimum driver age is 21)
·Own a 2006 or later model year mid- or full-sized vehicle (four doors) in excellent condition—and yes, the vehicle must be registered to you. Don’t have a car? Uber offers lease and purchase options through Santander Bank.
·Pass an Uber-issued background check, which includes criminal and driving histories.
According to an Uber call center employee, the approval process takes about two weeks from start to finish, and includes the requirement for drivers to take and pass a virtual training course, as well as submit images of their vehicles inside and out, their registration/inspection/insurance credentials, and their drivers’ licenses. Once approved, new drivers are ushered to group info sessions, where they’re given Uber-issued iPhones and instructions on how to deliver exceptional service.
Out of curiosity (and despite not owning a car), I started an online application to become a driver, which was relatively painless, save for the two or three texts a day I’ve received from Uber since, urging me to send in the rest of my credentials and become part of the team. It’s nice to know the option is there, if slightly pesky.
For people who actually follow through: what happens beyond that is really up to the individual. One uberX driver with whom I’ve recently ridden, Jackie, is a nurse who works for a regional hospital by day. She said she drives a few mornings a week before her shifts to help pay down student loan debt, and that her husband, a real estate agent by trade, has been so profitable driving downtown on weekend nights that he’s thinking of obtaining a livery license. Other recent drivers I’ve ridden with include a Northeastern University graduate named George who said he drives to help fund his startup, a new cryptocurrency system; a former taxi driver, Jean, said he’s nearly quadrupled his income since switching to uberX; and a recently laid-off graphic designer, Malika, who said that driving with uberX has allowed her to replace her income—which she said had significantly increased—while taking on freelance projects as she chooses. She also noted that she usually drives during rush hour, from 4 to 7 PM, so that she can get a good night’s sleep, and that “safety has never been an issue.”
Uber is not without its flaws, however. The state attempted to ban Uber in 2012, citing the lack of ability to meter the service using the aforementioned company-issued smartphones, a move that was overturned only weeks later. An uberX driver struck and killed a pedestrian in San Francisco in early 2014, an accident that prompted a wrongful-death lawsuit against the company as well as theleak of the company’s commercial insurance policy, which covers each rider and driver up to $1 million per incident (funded, in part, by a recent $1 “safe rides” fee assessed by Uber across each customer, a move that created additional backlash against the ridesharing service). And if you do choose to drive with uberX and get into an accident, “Your own personal policy would not be triggered,” according to a representative of Advantage Insurance of Methuen, an Arbella agency, who said that transporting other riders aside from carpool use is a move “excluded on all individual Massachusetts insurance policies, regardless of who the insurer is.” Before signing on, you’d be wise to read the fine print of Uber’s own policy (available here).
Still, opportunity to drive (and pad your wallet) awaits for those who choose to pursue it. I recounted my uberX drivers’ success stories to Uber’s regional manager, Meghan Verena Joyce, who covers both the Boston and Providence markets. Those tales are just one of her many job perks.
“One of the best parts of my job—and the Uber system—is hearing the incredible stories of small business owners and drivers that use the Uber software,” she said via email. “There are people who’d been laid off or in-between jobs, struggling to put food on their families’ tables, who’ve used Uber to start and grow a business. There are students who are putting themselves through school with money they make [driving with Uber].”