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Requirements to drive for Uber or Lyft

By Posted : 03/09/2016

Basic requirements to become a rideshare driver include:

1.    A car with model year 2000 or newer
2.    Seating and seat-belts for at least four passengers
3.    Valid driver's license
4.    Proper car insurance
5.    Successful background check

Rideshare companies and certain states have highly-specific requirements beyond the general items above.

Uber Partners and Lyft Driver requirements

Driver requirements

Uber

Lyft

Age

At least 21

At least 21

Driving experience

You must have a valid driver's license in your state for at least one (1) year

You must have a valid driver's license in your state for at least three (3) years

Driving record

Clean driving record essential. No DUIs or incidents of driving without a license, etc.

Clean driving record essential. No DUIs or incidents of driving without a license, etc.

Insurance

You must be listed as a driver on the personal auto insurance policy

You must be listed as a driver on the personal auto insurance policy

Social Security Number

Required for background check

Required for background check

Technology

Must have a smartphone to be able to download Uber app

Must have a smartphone to be able to download Lyft app

Vehicle

Model year 2000 or newer (2005 and up in some states); car must be registered in the state in which you plan to drive

Model year 2004 or newer (2006 to 2009 in some states); car must be registered in the state in which you plan to drive

State rideshare driver requirements

Requirements for rideshare driving vary by state and in some cases by individual markets. For example, Colorado requires a medical exam, which is not necessary in most other states. Other special state requirements include:

State

Special requirement examples

California

  • Display the Lyft emblem while in driver mode
  • Undergo annual vehicle inspection
  • Follow airport-specific rules

Hawaii

  • Pay a General Excise Tax (GET)

Nevada

  • Secure a Nevada business license
  • Affix TNC permit number decal in lower right corner of windshield
  • Driver mode limited so as not to exceed 16 hours within a 24-hour span

Utah

  • Must notify your vehicle's lienholder that you are using the vehicle for rideshare purposes

Washington, D.C.

  • Pass safety inspection in Virginia
  • Register with a Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV)
  • Display Virginia TNC decal in rear windshield

Uber and Lyft car requirements

The most popular rideshare companies have similar vehicle requirements, although there are subtle differences.

Car requirements

Uber

Lyft

License plates

Valid plates required for the state in which you plan to drive

Valid plates required for the state in which you plan to drive

Seating

Must have seating and working seatbelts for at least 4 passengers

Must have seating and working seatbelts for at least 4 passengers

Vehicle age

Model year 2000 or newer (2005 and up in some states)

Model year 2004 or newer (2006 to 2009 in some states)

Doors

Must have at least four doors

Must have at least four doors that can open from interior and exterior; no jump doors

Inspection

Must be able to pass safety inspection. This can usually be performed at a local rideshare company office or at an approved repair shop

Must be able to pass safety inspection. This can usually be performed at a local rideshare company office or at an approved repair shop

On its website, Lyft says that dents and body damage are not allowed and that the tires, windows, A/C and heat must be in good condition.

Rideshare auto insurance requirements

Rideshare drivers must carry their state's mandated minimum car insurance, yet insurance gaps can still exist, so read your own policy and any policy provided by your rideshare company carefully. If your state is one where rideshare auto insurance policies are available, that may be your best bet.

Whatever you do, don't skimp on car insurance, since Lyft and Uber's million-dollar policies don't go into effect until you have accepted a ride. If you're in driver mode and have not yet accepted a ride, your personal auto policy would be your primary coverage.

Rideshare driver disqualifications

According to rideshare websites, the following may disqualify potential drivers:

Item

Uber disqualification

Lyft disqualification

License

Suspended, revoked, or invalid license

Suspended, revoked, or invalid license

License plates

Invalid registration

Invalid registration

Vehicle age

Model year 1999 or older, or 2004 or older in some cities

No more than 12 years old

Insurance

Suspended, revoked, or invalid insurance

Insurance not in driver's name

Background check

  • Potential driver appears on DOJ50-State Sex Offender Registry or other similar registries
  • Conviction within the past seven years for DUI, fraud, reckless driving, violent crimes, theft or other crimes
  • National and county-level records review exposes sexual offense, felony, violent crime or drug-related convictions within the past seven years, at a minimum

Among other things, Lyft disqualifies driver applicants for:

  • Violent crime
  • Felony
  • Sexual offense
  • Drug-related convictions that appear on a background check

Other conditions exist; review your rideshare company's complete requirements before signing up.

What can you earn as an Uber or Lyft driver?

If you meet all requirements to be a rideshare driver, it can be a good way to make some extra money, but turning it into a full-time job can be a challenge. While the potential for earning $35 an hour exists, most drivers earn much less than that. Uber and Lyft make it possible to estimate your potential earnings using tools on their websites. You can enter how many hours you want to drive and where, and potential earnings can be calculated.

According to Buzzfeed, a review of driver paystubs showed hourly earnings ranged from a shocking $3.99 an hour to a more livable $38 an hour.

Expenses, such as gas, tolls, car insurance, and car payments, must be taken into account when calculating a net wage, costs that some potential drivers forget (or choose to ignore) when considering a ridesharing job.

One study found that a driver who collected $62,500 in fares annually (which is not most rideshare drivers) might be left with about $27,600 after taking out Uber's cut, gas, maintenance, car insurance, health insurance and taxes.

These numbers don't include tolls, which can be hefty when operating in certain markets.

Steps for becoming an Uber or Lyft driver

If you and your vehicle qualify, here's what you need to do to sign up:

1.      Complete an application online for Uber or Lyft.

2.      Submit information for a background check, including your social security number.

3.      If you're applying to Lyft, schedule time with a mentor.

4.      Have your vehicle inspected at an authorized inspection station.

5.      Make sure you have necessary auto insurance for ridesharing.

6.      Obtain a sticker from the rideshare company. Display it on your windshield or dashboard.

7.      Once you're approved, download the app and software license for drivers on your smartphone.

8.      Enter the hours you are available to work on the app.

9.      Wait for riders to request a ride.

You can check the status of your application on either site.

Tips for rideshare success

To succeed as a ride-share driver, follow the steps below:

1. Track your expenses: Track costs on a daily basis to determine exactly how much you are earning an hour and so you have accurate expense records when filing tax returns.

2. Use a tracking app: "One of the biggest issues with the independent contractor model is that pay is not very transparent," warns rideshare blogger Harry Campbell. Using an app, such as SherpaShare, to pinpoint your biggest costs.

3. Understand the tax code: As an independent contractor, taxes aren't withheld from your paycheck. It is up to you to calculate the amount you owe the government. Setting aside money each month for taxes can prevent a big surprise at tax time.

4. Drive early or late: Utilization (the time you spend with a passenger in the car) is critical to your success. "Savvier drivers are doing much better than the average, there is opportunity doing what other drivers aren't willing to do. That might mean driving the late night hours or even getting up at 4 a.m. to take business people from the suburbs to the airports," explains rideshare Campbell.

Recognize that working as a rideshare driver has limitations, and set realistic expectations for earnings. Become a rideshare veteran within a few months and earn money in your spare time (or even as a full-time job). Note: You will be considered an independent contractor and responsible for your own taxes on your earnings.

You might meet some interesting people and may enjoy the satisfaction of turning otherwise idle time into a supplemental income stream.

Reporting by Mark Vallet, Gina Pogol and Beth Orenstein

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