The trouble with long drives on UberX

The idea behind Uber is that you pick someone up close to where you drop someone off. This cuts down on dead miles – any miles you drive without a paying passenger in the car.

The trouble with long drives – for example taking a passenger to Miami – is that while you make consistent money on the journey there, you have nothing but dead miles on the way back.

Lets look at a specific example.

A rider gets an UberX fare to go from Orlando to Jacksonville, which is 141 miles, takes two and a quarter hours.

  • 141 miles at 65c = $91.65
  • 135 minutes at 11c = $14.85
  • Uber Comission at 20% = $21.30
  • Drivers’s cut: $85.20

Great, right? $85 for two hours work. Well not so fast – you’re in jacksonville now, and you need to get home to Orlando, so you have to drive another 141 miles / two and a quarter hours to get home, and it’s all dead miles. So really it’s four and a half hours work.

But wait, what about costs. Lets say your vehicle costs 20c a mile to run – you’ve done 282 miles, which is $56.40 in costs, so now your cut is $28.80 for four and a half hours work.

Yep, you just made $6.40 an hour to drive someone to Jacksonville.

If you’re a newer driver paying Uber a 25% comission, that becomes $3.20 an hour.

So can you refuse a long drive once they’re in the car? Absolutely. Make the passenger aware of the issue though, and you might get lucky – they might offer you a tip that will make up the difference. A driver in the group recently got a $60 tip on top of a $40 fare for driving some English tourists to Daytona. You don’t need to say “I’m not doing this without a tip”, just let them know that you’ll have an empty car on the way back so it’s not worth it to you. Better yet, some drivers have had passengers ask them to stick around for an hour or two and bring them back. That’s a win, no two ways about it.

One more angle that a driver in the group mentioned – if you do get asked to go somewhere far from Orlando, check the rates. You might find the city you’re going to pays significantly better than Orlando, and that the long drive is actually a gateway to $1.50 a mile fares for a couple hours.

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