Starting as a new Uber or Lyft driver can be an incredibly exciting time! You get to clean your car until it sparkles, spruce it up with your official driver sticker, and prepare your backseat for the multitude of different passengers you’re sure to encounter while on the job. From water bottles to toiletries, Uber and Lyft drivers have been known to be incredibly generous in their pursuit for high ratings and passenger satisfaction. One might say some drivers can go a bit overboard. But how much do you actually need to provide in order to secure that ambitious five-star rating?
Surprisingly, you may not need much at all! Many experienced drivers warn novices against jamming their car full of unnecessary odds and ends, insisting that even the bare necessities coupled with a friendly personality are enough to earn the ratings you seek. There seems to be two very clear sides to this debate, and what it boils down to is deciding which style of driving best suits your budget and personality as an Uber or Lyft driver.
The Frugal (And Profitable) Driver
Deciding to be a bit more frugal with your amenities may be a great choice for drivers who are just getting started. If you’re uncertain about how much income you’ll net, or you’re just experimenting with driving as supplementary income to your current career, you may want to do a bit of penny pinching when it comes to decking out your car with goodies.
Most veteran drivers will tell you that your rating has much more to do with how you treat your passenger and how well you drive, rather than the amenities you offer. Getting lost, missing turns, or generally being rude or unapproachable is going to reflect much more in your ratings than the lack of candy in your backseat. In fact, there are drivers who went so far as to remove all of the amenities from their car to support their point – and found that their rating didn’t change at all! I tried it myself for a week, and noticed no change in my ratings. I used to keep a couple of phone chargers and some waters in the back. Now, if I forget to put waters in the backseat, I don’t sweat it. It’s clear that knowing your location and being a reliable, personable driver should always be your first priority when aiming for five stars.
There are some drivers who even caution against ever offering your passengers food or beverages. Poor passengers will leave candy wrappers strewn across your backseat or half-finished water bottles in your cup holders, threatening the ratings you’ll get from your next passengers, who have to deal with the mess they’ve left behind.
The Unique Driver
If you have the money to spare as well a passion for creating a unique experience for your passenger, then go nuts! It’s pretty rare to see cars that are decked out in wild LED lights and touch screens, but there’s no denying that they’re always a fun way to spend your time getting from one point to another. Passengers will always consider your driving memorable and one-of-a-kind, and that may be enough to inspire creative drivers to go above and beyond with their amenities and provide things like candy, sodas, hand sanitizer, breath mints, feminine hygiene products, tissues, and even more outrageous things.
For example, there is a driver in Chicago that wired a small computer to his console, turning his navigation touchscreen into an interactive video game experience for his passengers. Riders can use controllers in the backseat to play a number of nostalgic N64 games during their trip. A driver in Denver features massage chairs in his backseat; a driver in New York brews up fresh coffee right in their car; and a driver in Sacramento offers fresh roses to each of their passengers.
There’s obvious cost and upkeep to offering these kinds of amenities for your riders and it won’t net you any special sort of income. However, if you want to create a truly one-of-a-kind ride for your passengers, then have fun tricking out your car with anything you can imagine! They’ll thank you with their high ratings and smiles.
On the other hand, Hip-Hop Lyft is a top-rated well-know driver in San Francisco who has made a name for himself by offering passengers a unique ride experience. He’s created a trivia game that passengers can play as they ride. So, if you find yourself in San Francisco, brush up on your 90’s hip hop and hope you get Hip-Hop Lyft as your driver.
The Bottom Line
With such a massive divide between practical drivers and the outrageous vehicles full of perks, what are some baseline amenities that your average, everyday driver should have available to their passengers?
Some will disagree, but this is a must-have, both for your passengers and for yourself. You’ll be using your mobile device constantly, so make sure you have a cord that’s appropriate for charging your phone. Past that, it’s a good idea to have both an Android-compatible cord and an iPhone-compatible cord. So long as you keep the cords from taking too much abuse (like getting stepped on, tangled, or repeatedly yanked on), they should last you a long time. If you don’t have the money to buy high quality charging cables, there are cheaper versions available in gas stations and convenience stores that will only run you around ten dollars. Just be forewarned that these cords are cheap for a reason and aren’t intended to last longer than a month or two at best.
Surprisingly, you don’t find this amenity on a lot of lists, but it was the first thing my dad suggested I put in my backseat – and he’s been driving a yellow cab for twenty years. Nothing will interrupt and ruin your day more than a passenger getting sick all over your car. That’s basically the end of your work day no matter how many more hours you were intending to drive, and the end of your income for the day. You’ll have to clean up the mess, and then go through the trouble of steam-cleaning your upholstery and airing out the stink left behind. That’s no easy task, but it’s completely avoidable as long as you keep a few handy sick bags in your backseat. If you’re lucky, you’ll rarely ever get a passenger who’s that sickly, but you’ll be glad you’re ready nonetheless. I highly recommend Carebags. They have a super absorbent pad that turns vomit into a gel. Closing the bag seals off the smell.
If you decide to put water in the backseat, buy in bulk. Buying water in bulk can save you a lot of money. Aim for stores like Costco that will let you buy a whole case of bottles for less than five dollars. Keep a few in your backseat and the rest in your trunk in case of an emergency like motion sickness or especially hot days. Make an effort to politely remind people to take their bottles with them, or make sure to double check your backseat for leftovers between trips.