Driving for Uber or Lyft is often presented as an easy way to make money. At a basic level, there are only two steps: sign up, then drive. But in reality, it’s not that simple.
Before you can start earning on either platform, you’ll have to apply. And there are a variety of factors, such as age and vehicle type, that will determine if you qualify. Here’s what you need to know to get started.
Meet the driver requirements
To drive for either Uber or Lyft, you must meet these basic requirements:
Be at least 21 years old (19 year olds may qualify to drive for delivery services such as UberEATS or UberRUSH)
Pass a screening process, which will include a review of your driving record and possibly a background check
Meet your state’s minimum auto insurance requirements
Have a valid driver’s license
Uber applicants must also have at least one year of driving experience in the U.S., or three years if they’re under age 23. Lyft drivers must have a license for at least a year before applying.
Meet the vehicle requirements
In general, Uber or Lyft vehicles must meet state requirements, such as passing a smog test or having up-to-date registration, be in good working condition and have four doors. Each service also has specific requirements for cars:
Uber: Vehicles must pass a 19-point inspection and be a model year 2001 or newer (or 2006 in some cities)
Lyft: Cars must be model year 2005 or newer (though there are exceptions in certain markets) and meet other requirements, such as having at least five seat belts and an unmodified exhaust system
There will likely be driver- or car-related requirements specific to your location as well. Ask Uber or Lyft if you satisfy those before applying.
Check your insurance
Both services offer supplemental insurance to drivers, but be sure to talk with your insurance provider before signing up. Your insurer could cancel your policy if you don’t disclose your new gig. And depending on your existing policy — as well as the insurance provided by the rideshare company — you might still have coverage gaps. In that case, consider purchasing rideshare insurance, if it’s available where you live, or a commercial auto policy.
Learn more here.
Navigate the application process
Remember those minimum requirements listed above? You’ll need proper documentation to prove you’ve met each of those and any other requirements your location demands.
If you’re in a rush to start driving, don’t step on the gas just yet. Uber says it usually approves uploaded documents within two hours, but it might take five to seven business days, or longer, to complete background checks. Lyft tells applicants that background checks can take several weeks to process.
If you become a rideshare driver, it pays to familiarize yourself with the various earning and bonus options. Start by checking if there are any guaranteed-pay promotions available in your area. Those usually guarantee your weekly or hourly earnings as long as you meet certain requirements. And take advantage of peak hours — when demand for rides is high — through Uber surge pricing or Lyft’s Prime Time rates. That might mean waiting for rides after a music festival or making yourself available to drive during the morning commute.
If you qualify, there are other ways to earn more. For example, there’s Lyft’s Power Zone, which pays extra for accepting rides or picking up riders in specified locations, or Uber’s food-delivery service UberEATS.
It’s also a good idea to keep your car clean, be friendly and use a reliable GPS. Great customer service will earn you a high driver rating, which can help you pick up more rides and earn more money.
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Devon Delfino is a writer at NerdWallet. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @devondelfino.