Sometimes I feel like I spend half of my life in an Uber (and my recent history on the app might just confirm that). And I’m not the only one. The ever-popular ride-sharing company, which launched in 2009, is now in nearly all 50 states, the majority of U.S. cities, and is creating hubs in more and more countries. But while I can barely remember a time before I wasn’t using Uber—tipping your driver only became an option as of June 2017, (unless you were already giving your drivers a cash bonus, which in that case, props to you).
When tipping became a function on the Uber app, I, for one, was confused. Was it optional? Should I tip on all my rides? Is the amount based on distance, or how much I like my driver? Over a year and a half later, many of us are still plagued with these same questions.
So to shed some light on how much you should really be giving, Glamour spoke with Uber drivers across the country to find out. Read on for their real-life advice.
What Uber Drivers Actually Make
According to Market Watch, the Uber payment breakdown goes like this: On average, Uber drivers typically collect $24.77 per hour in passenger fares. From there, Uber takes $8.33 in commissions and fees, which is about a third of the fares. Now, you have to factor in gas (you know, the fuel that lets the driver get you from point A to point B). It’s been reported that gas and other maintenance fees cost drivers about $4.87 an hour—leaving them with an average total of $11.77 for their work.
Sarah, a Denver-based driver, has made between $20,000 to $31,000 per year working for Uber about 40 hours per week—but she makes sure to underscore that how much you’re making has many variables: “I moved from Houston to Denver, where trip requests seem to be more consistent,” says Sarah. “I’m not putting as many miles on my car given that Denver is a smaller city. I made around $500 per week in Houston at 45+ hours per week. Here in Denver, I make closer to $800 per week at 30 hours per week.” The majority of a driver’s pay is coming from Uber itself, not a drivers’ tips. For Ann in St. Louis, and many other drivers, only “5 percent or less” of her earnings come from tips.
How Uber Drivers Spend Their Hard-Earned Money
Uber drivers aren’t given a car to drive, an unlimited credit card for gas, or a stipend for maintenance fees. When people choose to drive for Uber, they’re using a personal car—and taking all responsibilities for any wear or tear to the vehicle.
As detailed in the average driver’s payment breakdown above, you have to factor in roughly $4.87 an hour toward things like gas and maintenance. So how much are people really spending on these fees? Roger, who drives in upstate New York, estimates that “25 percent of what I make goes to gas and vehicle expenses. For the drivers who have older vehicles, which require more repair [than mine], it could even be more,” he says.
Have you ever enjoyed some “perks” on your ride? Like water, gum, or a phone charger? Uber isn’t shelling out any extra cash to make your ride more enjoyable. Those treats come from the drivers themselves. Faith in Chicago factors in, “$2 to $5 for a case of water, which can often total $20 a month, plus $20 monthly for candy, and about $30 a month on WiFi for the car, not to mention gas fees and oil changes,” she says.
How Much to Tip Your Uber Driver
Most Uber drivers are tipped infrequently—something they’re desperately hoping will change. Data from Uber shows that the most common trips to tip on are airport rides, highly rated drivers with great interactions, as well as weekend and night trips. Yves in Chicago has also found that she’s most likely to be tipped on rides, “to and from the airport, or business people early in the morning.” Sarah in Denver has noticed an uptick in tipping when it comes to, “rides with multiple stops, especially ones requiring me to wait for them,” she says. But it’s not enough.
Uber drivers hope that riders will start to consider Uber tipping to be on par with what you tip others in the service industry. “We tip at least 15 percent to waiters and waitresses, ride-share drivers are using their own vehicles, paying to keep them maintained and cleaned better than most cars on the road, so 15 percent should be the default tip percentage,” says Valerie in Georgia. Zuwena, who drives in Portland, Oregon, also agrees with this: “I’d love if people tipped their drivers like in other service industries for good service. I always tip my server, bartender, or taxi driver 18 percent, and Uber is no different,” she says.
Drivers also acknowledge that because the ride prices are often so low—sometimes a percentage like 18 percent won’t amount to enough. So you can also think on some flat fees like, “If the car is clean, ride is safe and they are catered to with phone chargers, and music options, then $5 would be nice for a trip more than 5 to 10 miles. $3 for short trips [is good],” says Stacy in Texas.
So even if you’re in an Uber pool, and your ride is $4—80 cents isn’t going to cut it. Be fair to the person in the driver’s seat.
This story is part of Glamour‘s guide to tipping. Tips are approximate and based on varying factors. Learn more about how much to give in this seven-part series.