Nothing gives Uber drivers more stress than watching their driver ratings slowly fall after each shift. Passengers rate drivers on a five-star scale, and if your driver rating slips below 4.6, you can be deactivated from the Uber platform. Many drivers feel it’s an unfair system, and almost all agree that Uber doesn’t do a very good job of communicating to passengers how important the ratings system is for drivers.
If your ratings are beginning to slip, you only need to start worrying once Uber warns you that you’re in danger of deactivation. In some markets Uber will give you around 50 – 100 rides before they deactivate you for low ratings, but even if you’re a new driver, you should try do everything you can to keep your ratings as high as possible — your job depends on it!
What can you do to keep your ratings high, and what common advice for drivers actually makes a difference? I’ve drawn from my own experience, the experiences of other drivers and passengers, and materials from Uber and Lyft to come up with the advice that actually works.
The most important thing to learn from this article is that you can do everything right and still get low ratings from some passengers, but you should be able to keep a 4.7 or higher. If your ratings are slipping to the point of deactivation, you’re doing something wrong that you need to identify and work toward correcting.
The essential checklist for earning high Uber driver ratings
This is the core, essential list of things every drive should do to get good ratings. Some of it is general and common sense, but I’m surprised by how many Uber drivers don’t consistently follow this advice.
- Only talk if the passenger wants to, and keep it light — One word responses from your passengers mean they don’t want to talk. Don’t get personal. Don’t share your life story. Don’t ask for a life story. Ask how the passenger’s day is going and only go farther if they lead the way.
- Don’t call passengers unless you need to. Use text messages instead — Most Uber passengers are on the younger side, and they prefer to text message. Bothersome phone calls lead to lower ratings. Only use the phone if you’re having a hard time finding the passenger in a crowded area. Otherwise, stick to text messages.
- Keep your car clean, especially the windows — Make sure windows, door handles, buttons, seats, and the floor are clean. Drivers know to keep the paint clean, but very few clean interiors beyond picking up trash. Most importantly, keep your windows clean. Clean windows make your car feel clean even if the paint is a bit dusty.
- Use GPS, even when you know the route by heart — Your passenger wants to see that you’re following the fastest, shortest route.
- Don’t always ask passengers for a preferred route — These days most people rely on GPS, so asking for a preferred route is usually an unnecessary question that forces your passenger to make a decision they don’t want to make. If the destination seems to be residential, ask them if they have a preferred route because they are probably going home. If you’re picking up from a residence and taking them out, just use GPS unless they ask you to take a different route.
- Maintain your car — So many UberX cars are in bad shape now that it’s been a few years. The inspection these days doesn’t pick up on the issues that passengers actually care about, like squeaky breaks, bouncy suspension, and broken mirrors and lights. Keep up with maintenance and fix as many small cosmetic issues as you can afford.
- Mount your phone — Too many drivers handle their phone while driving and it makes passengers feel unsafe. Your passenger won’t call you out on it in the moment, but they’ll send you a bad rating after the ride ends.
- Use the newest, best phone that you can afford — A slow, old phone can cause app issues that lead to pickup and drop-off errors. If your app craps out while you’re on the way to a passenger, you could end up with low ratings.
- Don’t smoke in your car — I’ve seen Uber drives on breaks in parking lots smoking INSIDE their cars, and it’s a huge mistake. Most passengers hate the smell of smoke; it makes them feel like they’re in a cab.
- Don’t drive when tired or in a bad mood — You’re more likely to make driving mistakes and communication errors when you’re tired, and passengers know when you’re grumpy.
- Carry charging cables — Of all the things that you’re recommended to carry like water and mints, I think cables are the only must-have. Giving the passenger a charging life line when they are low will get you a lot of good will. Most passengers don’t care about water bottles or mints.
- Balance night driving with day driving — I realize that not everybody can do this, but many low ratings come from drunk and disoriented passengers late at night, or passengers who get upset that you can’t navigate busy downtown areas. Balance out the crazy nights with daytime, when rides are more likely to go smoothly.
One-star ratings tank your average. Here’s what causes them
Many of the worried comments and emails I get are from drivers who are seeing a big, sudden drop in ratings. “I’ve given so many rides, and after just a few bad ones, my ratings are tanking. What’s going on?” One-star ratings are what is going on. When irate passengers slam on that one-star button, your overall rating can take a huge hit, especially if you haven’t given many rides yet. You can’t always avoid a one-star rating, but there is a lot you can do to avoid them that many drivers don’t do.
The most common causes of one-star ratings, according to Uber
- Harassment, arguments, and complaining about passenger behavior — As soon as you start arguing with a passenger, even if it feels minor, expect one star. Whatever you do, don’t complain about passenger behavior. Don’t ask them why their pin was in the wrong place. Don’t ask them why they want to go the way they want to go. Swallow the anger — it’s a customer service job after all.
- Picking up the wrong passenger — This is a rarer situation, but it’s sure to lead to one star. You give the ride to the wrong passenger, and when the ride ends, the correct passenger is asked to rate you. They will rate you one star. To avoid this, on more hectic pickups late at night or at busy events, always ask your passenger to confirm your name, and confirm theirs too.
- Taking an inefficient route — This one is less in your control than the others because it’s up to the passenger’s judgement, but passengers feel scammed if you take an overly long or inefficient route. Use your GPS and mount your phone so your passenger can see that you’re following directions and not your own route.
Uber gives general, more politically correct reasons for one-star ratings, but I’ve found that there are many issues that they don’t ever bring up because they might offend drivers.
Less-discussed behavior that causes one-star ratings
- Negativity, complaining, discussing politics — I’ve personally been on far too many Uber rides where the driver uses the time to complain about Uber, rant about traffic, or bring up something political or controversial. Many passengers will go straight for the one star after this kind of ride. Keep your conversation light and pleasant.
- Talking too much, especially to women who are alone — Drowning your passengers in conversation is a very bad experience if they’re not receptive to it. The single women I talked to especially hate this. Chatty drivers border on flirtatious and creepy, which is sure to cause a one-star rating.
- Bad personal hygiene — It’s a sensitive issue, but lately I’ve heard lots of people complain that drivers and their cars smell bad. Shower daily, wear clean clothes, and wear deodorant. That is the expectation of U.S. Uber passengers.
Avoid bad ratings by canceling problem rides before they start
Even though Uber encourages you to accept and complete all rides, you are allowed to cancel any ride for just about any reason. If you’re worried about your ratings, there are a few common scenarios where it’s smarter to cancel the ride and move on because a bad rating is just about guaranteed.
If you can, try to cancel the ride without triggering the $5 – $10 cancellation fee. If you continually cancel and collect the fee, you’re way more likely to get in trouble with Uber. Cancel within five minutes of getting the request to avoid the cancellation fee.
If your ratings are slipping, consider canceling these types of problem rides:
- Passengers who call or text and sound angry, impatient, or upset — If it seems like they’re in a bad mood, no matter how good of a ride you give, you’re going to catch a bad rating. It’s better to cancel and move on.
- Passengers who call and seem very drunk or disoriented — Many people user Uber to get a safe ride home when they’re drunk, but experienced drivers know that when a passenger sounds too intoxicated and disoriented, communication problems are going to happen and you’re going to take the blame.
- Passengers who send you to an incorrect address, far from their actual address — Many passengers will blame you for their mistakes and get upset when it takes you a while to get to the correct location. In this situation, call the passenger. If they seem upset, you can cancel.
Why the Waze app might be hurting your ratings
The Waze app is known for helping drivers cut the shortest route to the destination, no matter how complicated the route becomes. In my experience as a driver and a passenger, Waze may shave a minute or two off the ride, but the maze of turns it takes you through is more likely to put you into a tough driving spot that can scare your passenger. The last thing you want is to make your passenger upset about your driving because Waze has forced you into an impossible left turn. Some of my worst Uber experiences have been watching a nervous driver sweat out a very difficult left turn onto a six-lane boulevard, and it’s all because of a Waze route.
Use Waze in your own time to learn the city and find better routes, but if your ratings are slipping, it’s safer to stick with the calmer routes given by Google Maps, Apple Maps, and the in-app maps.
What to do when your rating is at 4.7 or 4.8
Many new drivers start to worry when their ratings begin the slow slide down toward 4.8 or 4.7. There is no cause for concern at those ratings. Most seasoned Uber drivers with thousands of rides under their belts have a 4.7 or 4.8. It’s good to be conscious of your rating when it starts to slide, but excessive anxiety at a 4.7 isn’t going to do you much good.
Crisis mode: Strategies to boost your rating when it approaches 4.6 or less
When your rating dips to 4.6 or below, Uber may warn you that your account has been flagged for low ratings. Once you get the low ratings email from Uber, it’s time to re-think your strategy and start working on new ways to boost your ratings.
When you’re at a 4.6 or below, these strategies can nurse your rating back to health
- Drive the easy daytime hours — Many one-star situations occur late at night with intoxicated passengers. By sticking to the daytime hours, you’re much more likely to give routine rides to people in decent moods who have their heads on straight enough to give you a good rating and give you the benefit of the doubt if a problem arises
- Try harder to communicate with passengers — Breakdowns in communication are often the reason for pickup and drop-off mix-ups, so try harder to make the process as clear as possible for your passenger. Send a prepared text message after you receive a ride request, and only call your passenger if you absolutely have to. If it’s rush hour, let the passenger know that you’re going to hit some traffic. If it seems like you’re taking your passenger home, ask if they have a preferred way to get there.
- If you’re a chatty person, talk less — So many drivers talk too much. A few pleasantries at the beginning of the ride is enough, then cut off the chatter unless your passenger is leading the way.
- Try to be more self aware and self critical — Identify the problem, and try to realize that you are to blame for some of it. Is it the pickup, the drop-off, the ride, the route, or what? If you really focus on how your passengers behave and when, you should be able to identify what you’re doing wrong.
As general as it sounds, the best way to work your way up from a 4.6 is to be more aware of your habits and how people react to you. It’s not always an easy thing to do, because it might mean admitting to yourself that you talk too much, or you drive too aggressively or too passively, or that you’re just not great at using your phone. Once you recognize your shortcomings, you can start to change.
Low driver ratings FAQ
My rating is dropping. How long until I get deactivated?
It depends on your area. In larger markets, you can be deactivated after less than 50 rides. In smaller markets, Uber won’t deactivate you for low ratings until you get around 100 rides. You’ll know you have a real problem when Uber sends you an email warning you that “your account has been flagged for low ratings.” Once that emails comes, you can be deactivated within days.
If I get deactivated due to ratings, can I be reactivated?
In some cities yes, in others no. If you’ve been deactivated for low ratings, email Uber and ask if they offer a customer service class for deactivated drivers. If you complete the class, you will be reactivated.
I have to pay for a class if I want to get reactivated? Really?
Yes. Some drivers are pretty upset that they have to pay to get re-hired, but it’s the only way to get your job back, so for many it’s worth the $50 – $100.
English isn’t my first language. Do I have any hope of keeping good ratings?
The honest truth is that some passengers give poor ratings to drivers who are less experienced in English, but that doesn’t mean you have to be a native speaker to get good ratings. If you’re learning English, you still need to do your best to communicate. Passengers mostly get frustrated when drivers don’t even try to communicate. If you’re learning English, you should still greet passengers, act friendly, and do your best to find out what your passenger wants. Most people aren’t prejudiced, they just want a driver who tries their best to do a good job.
How does Uber calculate my rating?
Uber averages your most recent 500 trips. This means that early on, one low rating can have a big effect on your average. But once you hit over 100 rides, one bad rating won’t harm your average too much.
Can I dispute a rating?
You can try, but in reality it’s rarely going to work. You’ll get automated messages from Uber that never result in any changes. If you were flagged for a serious incident, you may be able to try to make your case, but there’s little chance of having an ordinary low rating removed.
Does my acceptance rate affect my driver rating?
Some drivers believe this, but the answer is no. If, however, you don’t accept enough rides, Uber can bother, warn, and depending on your market, even deactivate you.
In the end, don’t worry about your rating until it hits 4.6
Constantly monitoring your rating and trying to read into every single dip can only cause undue stress that may eventually cause a real drop in your rating. If you’re looking to be a seasoned driver, realize that you should expect your rating to be in the 4.7 – 4.8 range. Some passengers are impossible to please, some don’t understand the five-star system, and some make a mistake when they rate you and never bother to correct it.
In the end, becoming more aware of your habits and how other people react to you is the the key to maintaining a higher rating. This is a customer service job: Find what the customer wants and give it to them.