Most Uber passengers love the convenience and low cost of calling an Uber. But many may be unfamiliar with a lot of the company’s policies. Drivers on the other hand, have to stay on top of the changing landscape in order to protect themselves: whether it’s new rules regarding insurance requirements or issues with airport drop-offs, change is the only constant in this industry.
So passengers actually have it pretty easy when it comes to calling and paying for an Uber ride. And that’s exactly how Uber wants it: their goal is a frictionless experience for passengers that allows seamless transportation from point A to point B. That’s why you can enter your destination ahead of time, choose a Spotify playlist and rate the driver at your convenience.
Do Drivers Prefer Longer Or Shorter Rides?
According to Sherpashare, a company that sources ride data and provides driver analytics, the average Uber ride is 5.41 miles. Sherpashare co-founder, Ryder Pearce, says “Drivers like longer rides to break up the monotony of city driving and mentally, it’s a huge boost to get a larger fare from time to time”.
Drivers actually make more money too on longer rides but since there’s no way to control the destination, they could be forced to do a return trip empty handed. There are some features like Lyft Line’s destination filter (and Sidecar’s drop-off radius) that allows drivers to target riders headed in the same general direction as them but those features haven’t really caught on yet.
Most drivers that I talked to still prefer long rides over short ones though and for some reasons you might not expect. Bradley Zane, a driver out of Dallas, Texas, told me that, “I prefer long trips, but not to the extent that I would lower myself to the cab driver mentality where I would refuse short trips. It is the nature of the business that some rides will be long and some will be short and the law of large numbers will shake it out.”
Sam Rubin, a driver out of Park City, Utah, also noted that, “Since most of my rides are 35 miles+ to the airport, I have close to 45 minutes to chat with my passengers. I greatly enjoy the time to learn about their career, family, visit, which restaurants they dined at, etc. And as someone that also owns a sales focused business, I feel this is great time to further practice the art of selling.”
One common complaint from drivers was that Uber’s cut can actually be as high as 40% on a $4 minimum fare (instead of the advertised 20%). Zane stated, “there is a much higher cost for shorter trips that earn as little as $2.40 (after Trust & Safety fee and the TNC cut) in the Dallas market.”
Zane is referring to the fact that after the $1 safe ride fee and 20% Uber cut is taken out, drivers only end up with $2.40 from a minimum fare of $4. That seemed to be a common gripe amongst the drivers I talked to.
How Far Is Too Far?
So while drivers seem to overwhelmingly prefer longer rides, is there a limit to how far your Uber driver will take you? According to Uber’s company policy, there isn’t. An Uber representative that I spoke with let me know that drivers are free to drop off in any state as long as the trip originates in the driver’s home market. Some drivers in San Diego have even gotten special approval and licensing from Uber to make trips across the border down into Mexico.
Uber competitor Lyft, on the other hand, has instituted a 100 mile limit on all rides and re-requesting a ride with the same driver won’t work if you travel outside of a driver’s home market. But even though Uber’s company policy dictates that there is no maximum distance limit for rides, drivers always reserve the right to cancel a ride if for example, they don’t want to drive to another state.
The longest such request/ride that I could find was given by a driver named Joe Strandell who picked up a woman in Santa Barbara, California and took her all the way up to Palo Alto, California. That trip was 320 miles, took just over 5 hours and totaled a whopping $658.45.
When Joe’s navigation loaded, he was shocked to see the destination but he was up for an adventure regardless. ”I had this epiphany while I was driving and just thought how cool it was to be getting paid to do a California road trip. I was lucky to be a part of it”.
Not every driver will share Joe’s enthusiasm for a 320 mile Uber ride though. Joe recommends “If you plan on calling an Uber anytime soon to take you on a cross-country journey, just make sure you give them a heads up so they can bring a change of clothes.”
Hello TFF Readers, my name is Harry Campbell and I run a blog for rideshare drivers called The Rideshare Guy and I also write about the on demand economy for Forbes. I’ll be sharing articles from time to time on what’s going on in the world of rideshare and what you need to know as a passenger whether you enjoy taxis, rideshare or all of the above!
This post was originally posted on Forbes.com