My Uber Experience

So, after being a rider on Uber/Grab rides, I finally had a chance to be A DRIVER myself.

There was this 1-week promotion offered by Uberflex (in collaboration with Smove – a 3rd party car rental company) and one of my friends was already doing it. A referral from him will potentially earn each of us $100 (i.e. on the condition that I complete 5 trips*)

*This has recently been changed to 10 trips if I’m not wrong

I thought to myself: Free petrol, free car rental, why not? Since I had the time right now, I figured that I might as well go and do it. I planned to write about my experience as an Uber driver much earlier but well.. procrastination got the better of me.

Oh and recently, I chanced upon this instagram account: https://www.instagram.com/ubergrapher/. It’s quite interesting. Do check it out too!

***

Admin stuff

To become an Uber driver, all you need is:

  • To be at least 21-year old
  • Has a valid driving licence (Class 3), with at least 1 year of driving experience

But to be eligible to rent a car from Smove, the requirements are slightly different:

  • To be at least 24-year old
  • Has a valid driving licence (Class 3 or 3A), with at least 2 years of driving experience

And to be honest, it’s surprisingly easy to become a driver, no wonder there are so many Uber drivers out there right now giving taxi uncles a run for their money. I submitted my documents – which is JUST my driving licence – and before I know it, that’s it. If you are planning to use your own vehicle, then you need to submit your vehicle documents as well.

My friend also provided me with a whatsapp contact and it was pretty useful! Whenever I had questions, I just had to whatsapp this number and they respond quite quickly.

One thing for Smove: You have to book your vehicle approximately 1 week in advance if you want to drive during the “hot” timings e.g. morning peak and evening peak period. After speaking to some drivers, I kinda realised that these are the more popular timings because drivers can earn more too.

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As you can see, there are plenty of pick-up and drop-off locations. The interface is pretty straightforward and user-friendly.

On the road

Day 1 (9 Jan), 1130 to 1730 – 8 trips 

Before my scheduled time, I received a message to inform me of the car plate number and which level the car is parked at.

To unlock/lock the car, there’s an ez-link sensor thing by the windscreen (circled in red) so all I had to do was to tap my ez-link car and the car will unlock.

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Depends on whether you heng or suay, when you open the car door, you might experience the following:

  • A near-empty petrol tank
  • Greeted by a stale/sweaty smell in the car
  • Seats that look not so pleasant but still can be sat on
  • Random trash/used tissue paper stuffed in random compartments

With that being said, the cars all seem rather new and even though I had experienced either one/all of the above throughout my four days of driving, I guess such things are inevitable when something is a shared commodity? LOL.

I switched on my app and before I know it, I got my FIRST CUSTOMER! I find it pretty exciting cos you don’t know who you are picking up and that suspense factor actually keeps the rides interesting (for me at least).

I completed a total of 8 rides:

  1. Picked up 2 ladies who seem to have just ended a client’s meeting. It was quite interesting to see how the two of them interacted as it reminded me of my own cab rides with my senior/manager during my audit times. I could hear everything they say and it seemed to me like I’m listening to my friends ranting about clients/bosses. LOL.
  2. An internal auditor. Told me how life sucks and how much he wished that he could be driving uber instead; how he changed from external audit to internal audit as the hours were better. Before he alighted, I was like: I’m an ex-auditor and the look on his face was priceless.
  3. Indian guy – does not seem local – was heading towards Mount E. It was during office hours so I suppose maybe it was an urgent trip? But then again, I didn’t probe much cos he just looked down straight at his phone after boarding the car. It was at this moment that I realised that there are actually TWO Mount Elizabeth hospitals in Singapore – 1 is at Orchard, while the other 1 is at Novena.
  4. A Chinese bespectacled man in his mid-30s. Seems to be going to a clinic at some neighborhood. Nothing particularly interesting but I swear there were a couple of moments I was like curious about his occupation – and yet I held back my questions. HAHA.
  5. Two malay girls who went all the way across Singapore just to buy cat litter. Damn effort. They were pretty friendly and kept smiling. As the driver, to see your riders smiling – regardless of the reason – it definitely made me happier throughout the trip!
  6. A young girl in her early 20s. Board car, take out phone, look at phone, reach place, open door, close door, end trip.
  7. Malay couple who just got off work. Good news: Boyfriend was friendly; Bad news: After they alighted, I noticed that there was quite a mess left behind in the backseat – a decent amount of dandruff.
  8. Last passenger for the day – an angmoh. Seems to be going for some interview/meeting or some sort. Has a RBF but maybe also cos I took quite a while to find her. Oh well, blame it on the GPS.

After only driving for 6 hours, I must say that I really admire taxi uncles who have been driving for so many years. My legs felt numb and after stepping out of the car, I felt like woah, I really need some fresh air. There was also a tendency to hold my bladder and not drink so much water. Oh well, it ain’t easy money after all; the more breaks you take = the less rides you complete.

Day 2 (10 Jan), 1300 to 1700 – 4 trips

Decided to chill a little bit. Turns out that the day which I booked for the least number of hours, I managed to drive the “better” car provided by Smove – Toyota Prius.

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I think Smove only provides two different models of cars for rental – Mitsubishi Attrage and Toyota Prius. To be honest, the latter is so much better. The engine is smoother and quieter than the former. Sometimes, the Attrage has some difficulties accelerating quickly and it can get quite annoying for some drivers. Then again, no riders complained during the 4 days that I was driving so I guess as long as we get them to their destination, they are okay.

I completed a total of 4 rides. Think I was too nua – just kinda aim to hit my minimum quota per hour (i.e. If you rent a car from Smove, you need to fulfil 1 passenger per hour in order to enjoy free rental).

  1. Chinese young lady who was in a rush to get to somewhere. The address was Point A but while I was reaching that place, she asked me to drop her at Point B = 1km before Point A. I asked her, “Are you sure?” She looked at me like: Are you serious bruh? This is the place. So, alright, I dropped her off and I definitely hoped that she was right. If not, gg to her. Come to think about it, she could be the only rider that gave me < 5 stars for my trip 😦
  2. Two engineers with their wives/girlfriends. This was by far, the most interesting conversation I had during my 4-day stint as an Uber driver. One of them was a Singaporean and he was the one who kept talking to me. They were retired and just enjoying their lives now; decided to pop by this sunny island to visit some old friends. The Singaporean gave me a new destination to visit in future – Leyte, The Philippines. “I open my door and step out into my balcony, I see a lake that is bigger than the size of Singapore”
  3. Picked up a guy who was like me – just experimenting with Uber and see if he can earn from it. People/Uber ads say that so and so is earning so much a month etc but let’s face it, that’s probably one out of many. Similar for other things in life, if we don’t work hard, we can’t expect to earn as much. This is a simple rule of the Survivorship Bias – In daily life, because triumph is made more visible than failure, you
    systematically overestimate your chances of succeeding.
  4. A Scottish couple who is in Singapore with their daughter, who has chosen to come to NUS for exchange. To be honest, if they were locals, I would definitely be in deep shit. I actually missed my exit to Orchard while sending them to Ion. By introducting Singapore and talking about some tourist spots, I guess I manage to successfully distract them from the fact that I took them on a slightly longer route. Oops.

Day 3 (11 Jan), 1230 to 1730 – 8 trips

  1. A group of OLs heading out for a good lunch nearby. Think they were surprised to see such a young Uber driver? Lol.
  2. It was starting to drizzle and I picked up three expats (or so it seems) from ECP. I was immediately greeted by “You are a life savior” which was quite funny but pleasant to hear. They were heading for brunch after their morning workout. Their conversations range from their kids to the weather to celebrities.
  3. An angmoh who was on his earphones throughout the trip and was talking on his phone. At first, I didn’t notice and thought he was talking to me so I replied; he tapped me politely and gestured to his earphones and I was like damn malu. Before he alighted, he removed his earphones and said, “Thank you very much. Sorry that I’m on the phone during the whole trip – had to settle some domestic affairs.” I find that incredibly polite and well-mannered.
  4. A helper with a preschool kid. The kid only fell asleep towards the end of the trip and his helper had trouble waking him up. After they alighted, the boy just stood there near the door with his eyes closed and the helper just looked at me with that “he’s-doing-it-again” look.
  5. A korean dad with his two daughters. This was literally like a scene out of a Korean drama. He was very stern looking so I didn’t try to talk to him much. He seemed to be bringing the girls to enrichment lessons/tuition or something.
  6. A Singaporean mum boarded the car with her baby. She seemed around my age and it felt like I was talking to a friend! She had to carry so many things so I stepped out to give her a hand in carrying her stroller after reaching her destination.
  7. An Indian mum and her 3 kids. Her eldest son sat in front and he was damn enthu about cars, Uber and what I was doing. The mum was telling me about how her youngest son kinda got bullied by her friend’s son at school and it ended up in her son feeling very uncomfortable in the eye (side note: we were enroute to KK hospital). She then started saying how her youngest boy is the apple of her eye and everyone loves him; how people buy food for her boy even when they are dining outside because they find him cute. To be honest, I got no comments about what she said but I just felt that: Wouldn’t the other 2 kids feel jealous? I mean at that age, I would if my mum were to sing high praises of my brother straight in my face. Anyway, before they alighted, the eldest son said to me, “I want to drive Uber next time,” and I just smiled back at him, “I’m sure you will.”
  8. Last trip of the day: I sent a mother and her daughter back home from KK. Think the whole trip was just damn quiet for some reason.

Day 4 (13 Jan), 1230 to 1730 – 9 trips

  1. A mother was bringing her boy home from school. The conversation between the two of them was reminiscent of my own childhood. “Mummy, today at school…” / “Today we did this…” / “Teacher say this…” Good times.
  2. An Indian girl was going for a job interview. Luckily I didn’t lose my way. Hope she did well for the interview!
  3. An Indian couple was heading to the airport for a holiday. This was also my first trip to Changi as an Uber driver (This seems like the only area that constantly has “Surges” = higher prices). Spoke a little bit to the guy about yoga and he was telling me where I should go and do yoga in India.
  4. A teenager going to school. Nothing special here. Board car, take out phone, look at phone, reach place, open door, close door, end trip. (Sometimes, I’m guilty of this myself too HAHA).
  5. Another girl going to school. There was a little bit more conversation going on here compared to the previous rider but still quite minimal.
  6. An Indian guy boarded the car and wanted to alight about 400m later. His reason? The weather quite hot. But okay can, I still earn so no complaints hahaha.
  7. An Indian girl was going home after a date with the boyfriend. The guy just kept staring at my car/me. So that’s how it feels when you are on the receiving end… because I do stare at Uber drivers who picked my girlfriend up too. You know you know, just in case anything happens.
  8. A touchy couple who was probably in their early 20s. The ride was pretty interesting – I got a little bit of everything:
    • One of them had body odour
    • Their conversations were the most relatable out of all my riders (i.e. spoke about camps, friends) and it kinda remind me of my university days
    • One moment I saw the guy, and another moment, he’s gone but suddenly I saw his arms and then I realised that he was lying down on the girl’s laps – This was when I realised that actually the rear-view mirror really allowed the driver to see everything that’s happening in the backseat very clearly. LOL.
    • I almost forgot to collect payment from them; but luckily they came back to pass me the cash after alighting for a min or so.
  9. Last trip of my #uberexperience, I picked up two malay girls. Coincidentally, they were going to the building that I was returning my car.

Thoughts

Well, I believe most of us have heard stories of how some people are able to earn quite a bit from Uber (~S$3k-4k/month). To be honest, it’s not impossible but it’s getting increasingly difficult:

  • The monetary value of incentives is dropping
  • There are more drivers on the road = more competition?

And as a driver, I realised that ratings and acceptance rate are actually pretty important. The latter even affects whether you are able to earn certain incentives! Even though you might hit a certain number of trips but if you acceptance rate is lower than the required rate, you might not earn the incentive.

Driving is actually quite tiring and every “down-time” (e.g. toilet breaks, meal breaks) is an opportunity cost to drivers. Long story short, if you really want to earn from Uber, you have to be prepared to put in the hours required for it (~10-12 a day?). Then again, if you were to drive smart like some drivers, especially in the morning – 7am to 11am – and in the evening – 6pm to 10pm, you will be able to make more in a shorter period of time. But don’t forget that this also means more cars on the road = longer time you take to reach your destination = more time spent on trips = fewer passengers picked up.

However, if you just want to do this on the side, I think it’s actually quite fun provided that you enjoy talking to people and just pretty much enjoy driving (no shit).

Will I still drive as an Uber driver again?

Well, if there are similar promotions like this in future, maybe? Free petrol and free rental, why not just earn some extra bucks!

But before you do so, remember to check if you have any friends who have driven before, you and your friend might be able to earn some referral fee (i.e. it was S$100 for me the last time)!

Remember to be a considerate driver to other drivers and your riders! Happy driving! 🚗

Useful links

Smove – https://www.smove.sg/

Uberflex – http://www.driveuber.sg/ufcincentives/

Everything you need to know to become an Uber driver – http://www.driveuber.sg/

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