Uber is an international company, but most of my posts and articles are about Uber in the United States. I reached out to my email subscribers to see what Uber is like in other countries, and I was amazed to see that one of my readers sent me an incredibly detailed account of his own personal experience driving for Uber in Queensland, Australia.
Thanks to this reader, I’ve learned that drivers in Queensland face similar difficulties to the ones we face in the US: Fare prices are regularly being lowered, Uber has questionable legal status, vehicle expenses are a big issue, taxes are a major expense, and the rating system can be unforgiving.
I’ve driven for Uber in Australia since May 2016. Almost 5 months, FULL TIME!
When I joined, Uber was still not regulated in Queensland and the “Transport and Main Roads” agents (TMA agents) were trying to catch us mainly at the Brisbane Airport pick up areas (domestic and international) and in some famous streets of Brisbane during the day. This changed on 5th September 2016 when the Queensland government declared it legal.
It was a battle to make sure the rider could be warned to spot the police and stay away. Their trick was to stand behind a rider as they keep watching their Uber App for the approaching Uber driver! A few of us have been caught. Luckily, drivers could just ignore the fine and give it to Uber who promised to deal with it.
It is a great job opportunity as a “side job.” If like me you rely on Uber driving income to make a living, you have to think very hard. Here is why:
Uber reduced the cost of fares in Australia
Uber slashed the fare prices in Queensland in order to attract as many signed rider as possible. We were told they reached over half a million riders in the state of Queensland.
Older drivers have said that when this happened, Uber said it would be temporary. Well it is still very low fares compared to the other States in Australia where Uber is present (roughly 1.4x higher):
a. $2 base fare to come in the car
b. $1.00 per km
c. $0.35 per minutes
d. $6.00 minimum and cancellation feee
Uber takes 25% (since 24th April 2016) and 20% to drivers registered prior this date.
Queensland drivers have to worry about GST costs
Queensland is a GST State. GST is 10%. Uber DOES NOT CHARGE GST to the riders and as a foreign entity, is not required to charge GST. This is a very sensitive point for the drivers as the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) consider the income as GST INCLUSIVE! Uber tells us that we receive a GST inclusive income and we have to follow the ATO regulation. But why as the GST has never been charged to the rider? So there is an additional 10% we have to take off our income. The 10% GST has to be calculated on the total fare (that includes the 25% Uber does not pay us!)… So after Uber charge and GST, the minimum and cancellation fare is only $3.90. Not much if you consider driving several kilometres to pick up the rider!
Vehicle expenses are high
On a full time (and part time) basis, the driver does drive a fair bit of kilometres. It is not unusual to drive 300 to 400 km/day. I have driven 30,000 km over the first 4 months of activity! The car is taking a serious hit. I had to change tires and brakes already, in addition to the usual 10,000 km services.
Uber is flooding the Queensland market with drivers
Since Uber became legal in Queensland on 5th September 2016, I heard Uber have been signing on up to 650 new drivers per week! Considering we had 6,500 drivers signed up before it was legal, this number must now be astronomical. Myself and other drivers discussed the post legalisation and we all agreed that the number of jobs had dropped dramatically from one day to the next! We assumed that a lot of drivers were inactive by fear of being caught even if Uber would pay the fine, and decided to come out of their closet all of a sudden!
He earns around $20/hour
I know some drivers are doing much better than I do, so I can only provide the next bit of information speaking for myself. I make a weekly average of 65 hours logged driving at a mere $20/hour. I am not counting the times when I decided to drive to the airport empty and logged off to avoid very short trip requests along the way… So in average a driver should expect to drive long hours for a minimal income.
Not all passengers are well mannered, and getting a cleaning fee can be a hassle
Riders can be rude and real pigs. I had a rider who peed in my back seat, behind my driver seat. Luckily he must have been drinking a lot as there was no smell. But it cost me $200 to steam clean and sanitize in additional of a whole day without driving income! Although Uber would charge $200 to the rider, I made the mistake to accept a short ride after this. Uber claimed that as I accepted another ride the mess was not as bad as described! Because Uber was illegal then, I did not go to the police to press charges against the rider. I have learned at my expense that it is very important to stop driving and just go home if any mess has to be claimed!
Surges have dropped due to the number of drivers
Since so many drivers are on the road, there are almost no more surges. When we used to have surges every day in peak times, we now only saw some surges very late on Friday and Saturday and sometimes in the around suburbs in early evenings. But chasing surges never works. Either you are in a surge or not.
It’s hard to manage money because of GST
Managing the finances is a real challenge when funds are tight. It is very easy to spend the GST that must be paid for example, as well as the usual ATO income tax of 35% (roughly). Once all taxes have been accounted for, there is not much left for car maintenance, insurance (full comprehensive), petrol, rent, phone, groceries, medical, etc…
Go Catch is a real competitor
Since legalised, another ride sharing company has opened offices and registered drivers in Brisbane: Go Catch. Their cut is 15% only compared to 25% from Uber. But their base fares are lower! $0.95/km, $0.33/minutes. But they charge riders $10.00 cancellation fees!
Although there are a lot of CONs in this list to warn about driving for Uber, I must admit that it was the only way for me to receive a weekly income, even small, to barely survive. Would Uber increase the fares a bit, the surviving mode could eventually change to “living” mode. This would be great.
Driver ratings are hard to maintain, even for veterans
I have driven over 1,500 trips. The rating is one of the worst feature in this job. If a rating should be provided, the driver (and rider) should be allowed to give his/her own story of the situation. Imagine that a rider (or driver) could rate a 1 just because the “current” didn’t pass between the parties! The rider could point to any concern such as safety, navigation, courtesy, etc. without the driver being able to counter the feedback. This is not democracy. So rating fluctuates very quickly even if based on 500 rides. As I “feel” when a rating will be slammed, I also rate the rider very low if they have been rude, came in the car with open beer bottles without asking permission first, played their music loud that my knee touching the door speaker is shaking, or so vulgar in their word towards other people outside the car or myself, or slam the door that they would not do on their own car. I am always in fear when young riders ask me for “the aux cable.”
Would I be happy driving for Uber if I had a main income and this were not a stressful financial burden? Yes, probably. I would make about $200 net profit in a weekend towards credit cards payments and holiday that I cannot afford working for Uber driving full-time.
That’s the end of this reader’s story. Thank you, anonymous reader!