How Much Do Uber Drivers Really Make? Journalist Goes Undercover To Find Out

A current Uber radio commercial features a guy saying he makes about $500 dollars a month driving for Uber, but he could make $5000 a month if he so desired. The message being, it’s up to you, prospective Uber driver. Rake in as much, or as little cash as you want. Simply sign up for Uber and prepare to start cashing those Uber checks.

Sound too good to be true?

Like many other money-making and get rich quick “opportunities,” being a part-time Uber driver to make some extra cash, or a full-time Uber driver to replace a job that you either hate, is low paying, or both, can start sounding pretty good.

But as with any new endeavor, be it a work-at-home, MLM, internet, or some other “network marketing” type offer, one should do their due diligence.

But if you’re considering becoming an Uber driver, now you don’t have to! Emily Guendelsberger, a Philadelphia Journalist, did some Uber investigating for you, going undercover as an “UberX” driver.

Just to clarify, Uber is the name of the company and “UberX” is their basic, driver-owned “everyday car” service, as opposed to an SUV or high-end luxury sedan, which are other, more expensive options Uber offers.

According to a 2014 Washington Post story, Uber said the average UberX driver putting in at least 40 hours a week could expect to pull in about $74,191 dollars a year in San Francisco, and a quite respectable $90, 766 dollars a year in New York City, both incomes dwarfing the average cabbie salary of $30,000 a year.

So when the UberX opportunity arrived in Philadelphia, journalist Emily Guendelsberger signed up to test Uber’s claims. Guendelsberger had tried to simply interview Uber drivers for her Philadelphia City Paper story, but reliable records and figures were scant, plus some UberX drivers were afraid Uber would fire them if they participated in the story. So who better than Guendelsberger herself to find out the Uber truth?

The first thing Guendelsberger found out was that signing up as an UberX driver was easy, and after a quick Uber training video, aside from the Uber app not allowing her to simultaneously listen to her music from her phone, off she went as an Official UberX driver.

While Guendelsberger’s first passenger is a delight, and the $10.85 fare for 15 minutes of work seems pretty good, things go downhill as the journalist’s UberX career proceeds.

Along with many very interesting and funny stories about her UberX experiences, Guendelsberger stumbles upon some UberX driver forums with highly disgruntled Uber drivers indicating that, like most things that seem too good to be true, being an Uber driver isn’t the same as portrayed in the Uber-driver recruiting advertisements.

In the end, after giving 100 UberX rides and achieving Uber “VIP” status, Guendelsberger figured she had made about $17 dollars an hour in “gross fares.” But this was before Uber took their 28 percent. Then, subtracting another 19 percent for “expenses” – such as car wear and tear, insurance, gas, etc. – Guendelsberger ended up with $9.34 an hour as an UberX driver.

So what was Guendelsberger’s UberX verdict?

“Driving for UberX isn’t the worst-paying job I’ve ever had. I made less scooping ice cream as a 15-year-old, if you don’t adjust for inflation. If I worked 10 hours a day, six days a week with one week off, I’d net almost $30,000 a year before taxes. But if I wanted to net that $90,000 a year figure that so many passengers asked about, I would only have to work, let’s see… 27 hours a day, 365 days a year.”

So if one is expecting to cash in on thousands of easy dollars as an Uber driver, Guendelsberger’s experience may give them more realistic expectations.

[Image by Oli Scarf, Getty Images]