Unit 2 – First Uber Ride: What to Expect

Your first Uber ride can be a scary experience as a driver, but it doesn’t have to be. This unit will cover the step by step process to your first Uber ride.

I do not recommend jumping into rush hour downtown or peak drinking times at a sporting event, bars, music festival, the airport, etc. Start small.  Start driving your local neighborhood first to get comfortable with the process.  Take a few trips with passengers and learn the process before you try to jump into peak driving time.

Park somewhere before you turn on your app. Going to an office park or shopping center where you can park your car safely is a great place to start. Depending on the time of day there may be high demand in the area and you may get a ride quickly. (Alternatively park near an area with a lot of apartment buildings/condos.)

You don’t want to be driving your first time with the app on.  You will be more likely to miss a request or get in an accident as you are unfamiliar with the process.

You will open your Uber partner app and click on the button to “Go Online”.

Uber Go Online

The blue button will change to a black button that says “Go Offline” and a message will come up that tells you that you are now online.  From this moment on you are ready to receive passenger requests.  You need to click the button to “Go Offline” to leave driver mode. Otherwise you will continue to receive passenger requests.

Uber Go Offline


Hopefully within a few minutes (sometimes within a few seconds) you will receive a passenger request. If your audio on your phone is on, you’ll begin to hear a “ping”. This is a timer counting down how long you have to accept the request. Your phone screen will change to show you the request. The blue ring around the outside is also a visual timer to let you know how long you have to accept the request. The map will show you where the passenger is located so you get an idea of how far you may have to drive to pick them up. Where it says “1 minutes” that is an estimate of how long it will take you to reach your destination. This is an estimate and will often be wrong. You’ll also see their name, address, and passenger rating. You’ll also see that this request is an UberX request as opposed to UberSELECT or some other Uber service.

uber passenger request

Tap your phone screen to accept the request. To not accept the request simply let the timer run out. Usually Uber will then offer the request to another nearby driver.  Sometimes there will be no other nearby drivers and you will get the request again.  If you do not wish to pick up this passenger for whatever reason you want to “Go Offline” from driver mode.  Otherwise Uber will continue to send you requests for your passenger.

Every time you do not accept a request whether on purpose or on accident your driver acceptance rating goes down.  Acceptance rating is important to Uber (see Uber help on acceptance ratings). They want to make sure all passengers get picked up quickly. They do not want drivers who turn down most rides and only accept the longest/best rides. If your acceptance rating goes down Uber will not offer you certain bonuses or guarantees. Uber may also deactivate you as a driver.  Typically, you want to keep up at least 90% acceptance rating.

Don’t worry too much about acceptance ratings on your first Uber ride.  We just want to explain ratings to you a bit so you can be aware of them in the future.

Warning about not hearing the Uber alerts:

If you cannot hear the audible “ping” that the Uber app makes you may need to turn off your car radio and listen to your phone’s music instead.  Uber does NOT work like a phone call. It is not able to connect to your Bluetooth for the audible ping.  If you are listening to your car stereo or satellite radio your app won’t be able to override that to make the ping through the speakers.  The app will show the ride request but you won’t hear the audible alert.  Usually if you switch your car stereo to Bluetooth mode and play your music through your phone then you can hear Uber’s audible alerts.

Now your first Uber ride begins

Your first Uber ride officially begins once you accept the passenger request. Your Uber partner app will update to show you directions to your passenger.  You can also set the app to use a navigation app on your phone like Waze, Google Maps, or Apple Maps. In which case you’ll get a message that pops up and says “switching to Waze” or whatever in 10 seconds.

Navigate to your passenger.  If you take toll-roads on your way to your passenger Uber will NOT reimburse you. You are only reimbursed when you have a passenger in your vehicle.

The temptation is to speed or hurry to your passenger. Be careful. Do not break the laws to reach your passenger.  You’ll be a lot later to pick up your passenger if you are in an accident or get pulled over by the police. 🙂 Drive safely.

Congratulations your first Uber ride has begun!  May this be the first of many!

When you arrive to your passenger’s location

When you arrive to your passenger’s location the Uber app will automatically notify them that you are outside waiting.  If you need to contact your passenger you can tap the button in your app to contact the passenger by phone or text.

When you reach your passenger make sure to take note of what time it is.  If you cancel the ride your acceptance rating will take a hit and you won’t receive any compensation from Uber.

If the passenger doesn’t show up, you can cancel the ride but you have to wait at least 5 minutes. You also need to try and communicate with the passenger by text or voice to let them know you are here.  Perhaps the pin wasn’t in the proper location. Perhaps the GPS app navigated you to the back gate of an apartment complex but you need to go to the front gate. These things happen A LOT. Frequently the pin won’t be at the correct location or your app will navigate you to the wrong entrance.

If you wait 5 minutes and the passenger doesn’t show you can cancel without being penalized. The passenger will be charged a no show fee. If you do not wait the full 5 minutes you won’t get the extra fee. You also will take a hit to your passenger acceptance rating the same is if you did not accept the original request.

Hopefully you find the passenger quickly.  It’s a good idea to use your hazard lights so your passenger knows which vehicle is yours. Technically they can see what vehicle you are in by looking at the app, but some passengers aren’t that observant.

Once the passengers are safely in your vehicle you will want to swipe the green “Start Trip” button on your phone.  You do not want to swipe this button until the passenger is in your car. The passenger may never show up and you may need to cancel the ride. Plus your passengers may get mad if you start the trip while waiting in their driveway. They consider this to be “padding” the bill. They will most certainly give you a negative rating if you start the trip too soon.

Even before your passenger gets into your vehicle they have begun to mentally rate you as a driver.  Were you on time? Did you find them quickly? How clean is your car? Did you greet them warmly when they got in the car? Does the car smell of smoke? Was the music blaring too loud?

Navigate to the destination

If this is a regular Uber ride you will now be able to navigate to the destination. If it is an UberPOOL request, there is a possibility that a new request came in while you were navigating to your original passenger.  That happens very rarely so let’s assume it is a regular request.

If your passenger has entered the destination details your phone app will now show you navigation towards your destination.  If your passenger hasn’t entered the destination yet you will want to ask them where they are headed.  I like to always enter the destination details into my phone navigation. Some drivers may want to appear like they know the city well and don’t need to use navigation. That is up to you. I feel that using my phone navigation helps prevent passengers from getting mad at me. It helps them from thinking I’m trying to increase the fare by taking a long route. They can see the navigation on my phone to know I am taking the direct route.

Many passengers will be afraid to enter their destination because they think drivers can see that info. They are afraid that if they enter a close destination the drivers won’t accept their request. They don’t realize we cannot see this information until after we have picked them up.

Some passengers will also be using their phone navigation too.  They may be afraid you are a criminal. They may be concerned you’re going to go the wrong way. They may simply be concerned about time and trying to keep their friends updated on how long until they arrive.

Some passengers will want to give you alternate directions.  It is up to you if you accept these directions. I usually say something like, “Thank you. I’m glad to have your directions. I’m sure you know all the short cuts!”  Just don’t say it sarcastically. If you do they may rate you bad for that 😉 Genuinely be happy to take their route. They’re paying. They should get to go whichever way they want.

Passengers may also want to make an additional stop. Again this is up to you. You can leave the app running while they make their stop. It doesn’t pay you very well to wait on them but it is up to your best judgement. They may want to stop at the store quickly. They may have another passenger(s) they want to pick up. Some may want you to even run through the drive through so they can get food (especially drunks, late at night.)

If you detour from the original destination the Uber app will track both the amount of time you are in driver mode and also the distance traveled. As long as you are not in UberPOOL mode you can detour from the route. The app will track everything and pay you appropriately.

End the trip

Once you arrive to the destination you will want to end the ride. Slide the green button to the right to end the trip.  Your passenger is no longer billed as soon as you end the ride.  If it takes them time to get out of your car, collect their things from your trunk, etc. you are not paid.  In these cases, you may not want to end the ride until after they collect all their items. (Or if they are difficult, drunk passenger until after they are safely out of your car.)

A note about picking up and dropping off passengers

If it is your first Uber ride, it is easy to get nervous and make bad decisions.  One such bad decision is in not finding a safe spot to drop off or pick up your passenger.  You always want to make sure you pull up to a location out of traffic.

Be careful about bus stops and taxi stops. These may not be accessible to rideshare drivers. You may get a ticket for using them.  Taxi drivers also may not take kindly to you using their pick up and drop off spot.

If you do get pulled over by a police officer or into an altercation with a cab/bus driver… just let them know this is your first Uber ride.  Apologize and move on.  Usually they will take it easier on new drivers.

Try to make sure your passengers exit the vehicle on the passenger side.  Try to pull over to the curb if you can. If you have to parallel park you do not want them to exit on the driver side.  That puts them into the traffic lane. That is dangerous for them and dangerous for your vehicle door.

Passenger ratings

After you end the trip the app will prompt you to rate the passenger. Sometimes you will want to rate the passenger 5 stars in front of them. I will occasionally do this by ending the trip and rating them as the passenger is getting ready to exit the vehicle. If they see you rate them 5 stars they should be willing to do the same to you.

Sometimes you won’t want to rate the passenger right away. Usually this is when you want to leave comments or rate them lower than 5 stars.

Uber reads all our ratings.  If you had a passenger act out of line put that in the notes so Uber can take the appropriate action.

Passengers cannot see your ratings.  Uber keeps all ratings anonymous. They won’t know until later whether or not you rated them high or low. Passengers who use Uber a lot won’t even be able to tell which driver rated them poorly. Only passengers that rarely if ever use Uber will be able to tell simply because their rating changed (or didn’t change.) But they’ll be out of your car and you’ll probably never see them again.

Passengers can now rate you as a driver. Again, don’t worry about ratings too much during your first Uber ride. Ratings are anonymous and you won’t see your ratings right away.  Your ratings will likely be lower for your first Uber ride as you learn to be a better Uber driver.

As soon as you rate the passenger you are available for another ride.  In some markets you may even be able to receive your next ride request before you drop off your passenger. This is because there is another request very close to your passenger’s destination. This is a really cool Uber feature that keeps you going from ride to ride without downtime.

Miscellaneous notes about your first Uber ride

We are paid both in terms of mileage and time. That way we get some compensation for sitting in traffic or waiting on a passenger while they buy cigarettes. However, the amount we are paid for waiting is horrible. In a city like Los Angeles you are paid $1 per mile but only 30 cents per minute while waiting.  Keep in mind that Los Angeles has A LOT of traffic so you’re paid more to wait than other cities.  You may only be paid as little as 15 cents a minute to wait in other cities.  That’s only $9 an hour.  Even in Los Angeles it is $18 an hour.  You have to decide for yourself if it is worth waiting or making extra stops for your passengers.

I have successfully negotiated $100 tips for being someone’s personal driver.  I kept the Uber app running the entire time. They paid the Uber fee through the app and I waited for them.  I had to wait up to half an hour and we took 4 separate trips. (One I was empty going to pick up the passengers I had already dropped off at another location.) The total fare worked out to be about $44 in the Uber app plus the $100 cash tip.  Here is the thing. I had to be willing to ONLY get the $44. I had to be willing that at the last drop off the passenger might have “forgotten” to tip me.  Keeping the app on at all times keeps you legal and also covers your insurance. Uber’s insurance won’t cover you if you have the app turned off. Make sure to stay legal by keeping the app running even if you negotiate an extra tip.

If you have other questions about your first Uber ride let us know.  We’ll try to cover things such as sick passengers or how to deal with drunks in future Uber driver training modules.

Good luck your first time driving!  Make sure to take your first Uber ride quickly. Don’t wait. Don’t let the fear of the unknown stop you from driving.  Driving for Uber is a lot of fun!

Heck, I made some of my best tips during my first Uber ride.  Several passengers asked how long I had been driving. When they found out it was my first Uber ride they gave me extra tips! It was a lot of fun.

Looking for more?

Return to Module 3 – Getting Started with Uber.
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