Move over, taxis! Uber is one the newest and best way to get around Singapore. There is no denying that Uber advertisements are literally everywhere – on Instagram, Facebook, and even the little advert banners on the websites we visit.
Uber “supposedly” offers lucrative incentives for their drivers – such as X3 rates when driving during peak hours or additional SGD500 when you refer a friend to drive.
Sounds like a fast road to easy money! But what are the realities behind the wheel of an Uber driver?
Here is my personal account of being an Uber driver for a day:
An Early Start To The Day
My day started in the wee hours of the morning, with the sky slightly filled with faint blue hues.
I had to be at a multi-storey carpark in Serangoon to pick the Uber car,a Toyota Prius C, that was assigned to me.
With just a single tap of my EZ-link card on the card-reader next to the IU, the car was unlocked. Fascinating!
Fumbling Over The Uber App
Getting clients, GPS directions to locations, tracking incoming bookings and earnings etc., were all done via the Uber App – which I struggled to figure out while driving.
I was so fixated on exploring the Uber App and ensuring that I get my first passenger when I heard a loud horn. Apparently, I had not noticed that a huge lorry was going straight.
With my heart beating wildly in my chest, it finally dawned on me why Singapore imposes such heavy fines for using mobile phones while driving. Thankfully, I had the Uber App all figured out by then.
Tip! If you are a first time Uber driver, do play around with the Uber app to familiarise yourself with it first. Figure out how to accept bookings BEFORE hitting the roads. The Uber driver interface is different from the usual Uber passenger interface that we are familiar with.
Tip! Do use the mobile phone holder that comes with a suction cup. This will ensure that your phone is in an ideal position at a corner. It will not block your view of the road and it allows you to reach over easily to accept incoming bookings on your phone!
Picking Up My First Customer
My first booking came with a loud and repetitive “ping” sound just 10 minutes after I had hit the road.
A young couple from Serangoon needed a lift to Bras Basah to attend a friend’s church wedding.
I tried to be the friendly Uber driver – making small talk and asking where they were heading to.
I was just secretly hoping that they would give me a five star rating as that would boost my credentials as a well-rated Uber driver.
Watch Out! Did you know that Uber ratings go both ways – the passenger and Uber driver gets to rate each other on a five-star scale after a completed trip.
Though the rating does not have an impact on a driver’s earnings, it provides a picture of the Uber driver’s quality of service.
An Uber driver with a consistently low rating might even receive warnings or potentially have their access to the app discontinued!
“Hey! I’m Getting The Hang Of This!”
Over the next five hours, my phone was constantly “pinging”. The Uber bookings just kept coming each time I swipe “Complete Trip” for the previous client.
I drove from the West to the East – Buona Vista to Bedok, and to then to the North, Seng Kang before going back to the East again.
I was literally driving across the whole of Singapore. But hey, the money was rolling in and I was starting to get the hang of it!
Psst! A trick to get more incoming bookings is to check the hotspots (areas with high demand) on the Uber map. The darker the orange cloud, the higher the demand and your phone is likely to be “pinging” non-stop!
The Hunger Pangs Set In – Money vs Rest?!
After six hours of continuous driving, exhaustion and hunger were starting to catch up with me.
But I still had an hour left to the end of my seven-hour shift! And the incessant “pinging” from my Uber app was starting to get to me.
I decided to call it a day.
After returning the car to its original carpark, I checked my earnings for the morning.
My trip earnings were approximately SGD320 for the 12 passengers I had picked up over my six hour shift for the entire morning – broken down as follows:
As this was during one of Uber’s regular promotions to entice people to try being an Uber driver, referral incentives and guaranteed top-up on hourly rates were dangled as carrots.
Watch Out! Certain promotional campaigns require an Uber driver to meet a minimum of 80% acceptance rate for bookings before qualifying for the incentives.
However, this might not always be explicitly stated on the website. Do make it a point to check with the Uber operators if there is such criteria before driving!
Is It Really Easy Money?
I was perhaps a lazy Uber driver.
Despite the constant pinging of the Uber app throughout my entire shift, I only accepted a booking when I felt “ready” to hit the road again after a quick rest.
It is no doubt a relatively easy way to earn money – a rental car to drive to anywhere you want, with the option to choose whether you want to take a booking or not.
Though passengers seem to like Uber, they can be as demanding, if not more, than regular taxi passengers.
Although I had a rough sense of where I was driving to most of the time, and had a GPS to navigate, there was no escaping the constant barrage of instructions on the best route to take by most of my passengers.
This further added to my stress of getting my passengers to their destinations in the shortest time possible.
After a day as an Uber driver, I have concluded – being a full-time Uber driver simply isn’t for me. However, it definitely has some appeal to those looking to earn some extra cash on a part-time basis.
For those with more drive and are willing to work hard, this could easily be a lucrative full-time job.
(Header image credit: Chicago Inno)