One juicy idea: can a driver take a road trip to cities across the USA using Uber?
There was little information online about such a trip, so I knew I would be experimenting. Any first experiment should play it safe.
You can read about my research and findings at the end of the article. First, I’ll tell you the story.
I worked up $1000 of spare cash and decided to stay with my cousins, Adam and Mark, during my stay.
The first preparation I made was to get some knowledge on my target region. I looked up articles on “best areas for Uber work in LA” and “best times to work uber in LA.” Then I called Uber 24/7 to learn about the airport rules. Turns out LA’s airports required a quiz; which I passed before riding out. I would need to collect the LAX placard in LA.
Uber allows the use of destinations, you can chose an address and receive trips heading in that direction. A destination to Bakersfield was set; a four hour ride. While I was allowed to do this, the destination acted buggy.
Taking I-5 put me through miles of open road with sparse Uber fares. I learned that Uber destinations require extra consideration when set to long distances.
I only had one ride on my way to Bakersfield. However, it wasn’t a bad drive. Listening to my audio-book; Creativity Inc, and stopping to take photos on the landscapes got my vacation rolling!
This is art made from photos along Highway 152.
These are art pieces, made from photos I took along I-5 and Pyramid Lake.
When I finished my first destination, I set a second two hour destination from Bakersfield to Pasadena. This destination was much more successful! I started getting rides at Santa Clarita and had four customers on the way to my cousin’s home.
One passenger had a useful story to share with me about another driver like myself. This man was from Seattle, moving to LA. He drove down and worked Uber while he was checking out houses. Apparently, an Uber driver can survive while driving in a new region!
After arriving in Pasadena, I caught up with my cousin, Adam. Then geared up for Uber work in LA.
On my 1st day in LA, I began Uber work at 7 AM. Very late for the morning rush, I know. There was a reason: I was scared of getting an airport ride before I could collect my airport placard at 9 AM.
LA seemed to be a wonderful city to drive Uber; apart from the traffic. I got plenty of work between 7 AM and 9 AM. There were three 40 minute+ rides I could have taken, had I not been concerned about airport rides.
At 9 AM, I visited a Uber Greenlight hub to collect my LAX placard. They gave me bad news and good news.
The bad news was that I was ineligible to do airport pickups unless I changed my home region to LA. My time taking the quiz and driving to the hub was a waste.
The good news was, because I was ineligible, I didn’t have to worry about getting airport rides.
The three 40 minute+ rides I passed up were safe to take after all; damn! Annoying findings but I accept the scientific process. We do our best until we learn how things work.
At this point, I knew I could work in LA without worries.
In the middle of the day, during the quiet hours for Uber, I went on vacation.
If your down in LA, be sure to check out the Griffith Observatory. Beautiful, relaxing, a great location to build photographic art.
When looking out at the city, I don’t know if it is heat or smog that causes this, the cars of the city will reflect the sun like rippling light.
I started up Uber work at 1 PM and was pleasantly surprised. Uber work was plentiful. In the Bay Area, I wouldn’t find consistent rides until 4 PM.
Driving Uber in LA proved to be a feasible way to make money as a traveler. Better yet, driving there showed me parts of the city I would not have seen otherwise!
My return to Pasadena showcased LA traffic. Even the streets get red traffic. I was worried I would miss dinner with Adam. When in a new city, be mindful of how traffic will affect your schedule.
Shout out to the Dog Haus in Pasadena, I cannot recommend their food enough! The perfect dinner to prepare me for my next day.
On Wednesday, I got the early Uber start I wanted. Woke up at 6 AM and work in Pasadena until 10 AM.
This was enough time to confirm a suspicion. LA Uber pays less than SF Uber. I’ll explain more at the bottom of the article.
After getting a feel for Uber in LA; I took the rest of the day off! First, enjoying the parks of Pasadena.
Then making new friends, Victoria, Maudie, Ted, and Steve, at Slater’s 50/50 Burgers by Design.
Visited the Huntington. It’s amazing how much fun can be had for free when I take photos that can be made into art.
The evening concluded in the form of an awesome dinner with my cousins, Mark and Adam!
Having completed my experiment, and needing to address affairs at home, I prepared to leave LA in the morning.
The most direct route to home would be taking I-5, but I had already learned this route lacks business opportunities.
Highway 99 would add twenty minutes to my trip but runs through Bakersfield, Fresno, Modesto, and other cities. Wanting to see if Uber could help pay for road trips, I went this route. Setting a destination from Santa Clarita to Fresno, then from Fresno to Fremont.
This decision had a big payoff! I drove 7 passengers on my way home, earning $80. All my gas and meals on the trip were paid for. Best of all, my passengers alleviated the boredom of a long drive.
Another route to try when driving from SF Bay Area to LA is Highway 101. This highway is has great coastal views and many towns to find passengers. I will try this route on my next visit!
I returned home at 7 PM. Ready to write this article!
- In SF Bay Area, Uber tends to pay between $15 and $30 an hour; $20 is average. The Bay Area has times and areas that don’t provide enough rides to consistently drive; this results in a $15 hour.
- In LA, Uber pays $15 an hour. Rides here are much cheaper than in the Bay Area. 40 minute rides that would secure high pay in SF made no difference to the hourly pay out. LA does provide a near constant stream of work in the busier towns; ensuring a $15 payout per hour.
- Before anyone swears off LA Uber, you need to know that LA is cheaper than SF Bay Area. Food, parking, and hostels are all cheaper in LA. Gas is unfortunately has the same price range in both regions.
- For better or worse, LA offers a percentage surge while SF Bay Area offers a flat dollar surge.
- Once you do arrive in a city and start work, be an extra careful driver for the first few days. You will not be used to the roads or drivers, and Uber work tests your driving skills. I achieve caution by making all actions 15% slower or by imagining rainy weather.
- Also, mind the traffic conditions. Any plans you make can be seriously thrown off by unfamiliar bad traffic.
- Aim for cheap gasoline during travels. Waze is a great app for finding cheap gasoline. There are many other apps for this too. LA had a range of gas prices that was equal to SF Bay Area; unfortunately. In a city with less payout, saving money on gas is critical.
- I suggest doing some research before visiting a new region. Even a little can make all the difference in preserving your enjoyment, safety, and passenger’s safety while driving.
Using long Uber destinations
- When setting an Uber destination, make sure the drive takes no more than three hours. A four hour trip gets buggy, a six hour trip will be outright refused.
- To make your destinations profitable, aim them along highways that have many towns. I-5 ran through quieter areas; I had one ride here. Highway 99 ran through Bakersfield, Fresno, Modesto, and other smaller cities; I had seven rides here.
Can an Uber driver support themselves in a different region?
My conclusion is that I can survive in LA and have a fun road trip! Here are tips and a few things I would do on my next trip.
- Ideally, stay in a city for more than a few days. Especially if you want a prolonged road trip. This will give you time to acclimate to the driving conditions, save up some money, and enjoy the region more fully than most travelers do.
- You can save money by planning trips to cities where friends or family live and stay with them. If this is not available, hostels are the next best thing. Cheap lodging filled with travelers and often providers of social events. LA has hostels for as cheap as $26. Easy lodging in a city that pays $120 for eight hours of work.
- Look up free or inexpensive attractions in your new region. You can have plenty of fun in a new place with low expenditures. Remember that you are in a new town, surviving away from your home. Unless you have a surplus of cash in your bank, live light.
- Turn off your Uber app and smell the roses! This is supposed to be a vacation. Uber takes us to so many cool places, take advantage of that. If you finish dropping off your passenger by a nice club or beach, turn off the app and enjoy!
- Driving in LA did pay for my vacation, but it didn’t help with my Bay-Area priced rent. Similar trips in other states will likely result in fluctuating pay from city to city. I would do another trip like this after saving up a surplus of money.
I encourage LA Uber drivers to visit SF Bay Area. The pay fluctuation works in your favor. If you avoid spending money, you stand to make a decent profit and take it home.
Can I do a road trip across state borders?
After contacting Uber 24/7, I learned that Uber will not give any rides to a driver that crosses state borders. To really transition to another state, you would need to call Uber and relocate to a region in that state. A process that takes seven to fifteen days, requiring documentation.
However, I have heard of cross state trips that clients requested. Also, there was the story I heard of the driver in Seattle who was working in LA; did he already set up a transfer? I don’t know. There is some grey area that could be researched further.
For now, I suggest Uber drivers stick to road trips within your own state.
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