Uber Tipping: This is How Much You Should Tip Your Driver (According to Drivers)

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Tipping is a core feature of the service industry and a common courtesy or custom within our culture. Why then is Uber tipping becoming an issue among riders and drivers?

The service industry casts a wide net encompassing everyone from bellhops, waiters/waitresses, hair stylists/barbers, and drivers to name a few. My father taught me early on that good service was in short supply and that you should reward those who provide you a service. For many of us, this is an ingrained custom in our cultural heritage.

Why we made this guide

Tipping is a remarkably American custom that doesn’t always translate overseas. So why then is there even a conversation about how much —or even IF— you should tip your rideshare driver?

This very question is the reason we at Uber Driver Things created this universal guide to tipping your rideshare driver. Yes, that’s right! We aren’t here just for the driver. We want to attract rideshare riders as well. Why do you ask? Because it is important to educate both drivers and riders to ensure the best experience for everyone.

What will be covered

This guide will cover the basics of Uber tipping etiquette. It will also feature a system by which you can figure the perfect tip for your rideshare driver —if they earn it! That is a key distinction.

I am personally a driver and I do not think that every driver should be tipped for every ride. Unless, of course, if they provide you with exceptional service. I realize drivers believe that Uber tipping is a critical part of the rideshare game. But if you are a rider, I’m betting you are asking, should you tip?

A brief history in rideshare rides and tipping

When Uber smashed onto the scene and began crushing the taxi industry with their low-cost transportation alternative, they never considered tipping. It is a strange concept for a service-based company not to include tipping, but Uber did it. In large part, they wanted to shrug off this very American tradition.

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Why? In the words of previous CEO Travis Kalanick “deploying it (in-app tipping) would only add ‘friction’ to the in-app user experience. Kalanick also doesn’t want riders to feel guilty for not tipping.” It is their way to entice riders into their low-cost transportation alternative.

As companies like Lyft, Via, and Juno exploded into the vacuum of a collapsing taxi industry, however, tipping eventually became a key feature of the rideshare experience. Still, the rideshare giant stood strong on their Uber tipping policy.

Even today —10 years removed from Uber’s entrance into the market— drivers are still being stiffed on the tipping front.

Why, the history lesson? Quite simple really. It’s through history that we form our worldview. In this case, the principles of the most visible company in the rideshare industry have changed the way people see tipping.

Now, I am not trying to blame Uber for everything. I believe in large part that the lack of tipping etiquette or knowledge is a result of different things. Rider education on rideshare, driver quality, and industry standards all had important roles to play in this situation.

To dispel the myth that drivers don’t require tips, we need to look first at the overall haul a standard driver makes.

Breaking down the average rideshare driver’s takehome per hour

The fact that rideshare is a low-cost alternative to a taxi should prompt most riders to be more open to Uber tipping. After all, they are often paying nearly 20% less in fare and they are receiving a service that is far more efficient with far greater quality.

So, would it hurt riders to add even a single flat rate of $1 per ride? The answer is obviously no. Even at $1 per ride for a minimum fare, you would still come in far under the cost of a taxi. You’d still be saving money. Why then, is there a clarion call for Uber tipping?

Do drivers really need tips? Settling the confusion surrounding rideshare and Uber tipping

The brass tax here is that operating a rideshare business is a high-cost adventure for the driver. Operating and maintaining a vehicle greatly diminishes a rideshare driver’s takehome pay.

The average rideshare driver’s per hour revenue is around $20 (depending on a number of factors that shift based on the market). Here is the kicker, when you subtract tips from the equation, most drivers claim a staggering $5 per hour drop per hour. Wow!

Let’s consider that a high-grossing driver earns around $25 per hour. Factor in expenses like Uber/Lyft fees (~$8.35) and the average cost of operating (~$4.90), their total per hour before tips come in at $11.25 per hour. That’s before tips! Compare it with the fact that a living wage in most markets is $15 per hour.

So, if we tack on the modest amount of $1 per ride, what do we get? Let’s say the average driver did 30 rides per week, we’d be talking an extra $30. That is good, right? Well, not exactly. At 30 rides per week, and around 20 to 25 hours spent driving, $30 is actually a drop in the bucket.

Now, I am not one to look a gift horse in the mouth. 30 bucks is 30 bucks. But it doesn’t quite offer the driver with an incentive to provide you with great service. That is what every rider expects, right? This leads us to a critical figure — the average percentage that rideshare drivers receive with Uber tipping.

What is the average rideshare tip?

5.5% or less! In other words, nearly 15% less than your waiter or hairstylist.

The problem is further expanded because generally only one in six riders (personal calculation based on the last twelve earning periods) actually tips. The majority of tips are around $1, with some outliers skewing the average.

My rating is 5 stars and I provide the utmost service to every rider. Still, my average tip takehome runs anywhere from $30 to $55 per week. While the potential of $200+ per month is good, it doesn’t quite offset the cost associated with operating as a rideshare driver.

Why are drivers not seen in the same way as hairstylists, massage therapists, and waiters/waitresses?

One of the most interesting aspects of this entire topic is the fact that no one blinks an eye at tipping 20% for average service. Whether it is a hair cut/style, a massage, or someone taking your order, Americans on average tip around 16.4% for service. Hell, I tip my barista $2 flat on just about every order. If a rideshare driver can afford it, I know the majority of riders can squeeze out a tip…for excellent service. But I think the real reason rideshare drivers aren’t seen in the same light is because of the industry itself.

Rideshare is a new industry and because of that, it has not had the time to establish itself in the public consciousness. The plight of the rideshare driver is only now, 10 years after the advent of Uber coming into the public eye. Add on the impersonal nature of the app, the general experience with most rides, and the crustiness of current rideshare culture and it is no wonder that drivers aren’t rolling in it.

Convenience also factors into it. Tipping is often viewed as something we do for someone who goes out of their way to help us out. Uber billed their service as the be-all and end-all of convenience. Because of that, the automatic perception is one of “wow, this job must be easy.”

Now, I can speak from experience and say that many riders do realize just what the average rideshare driver puts up with. I don’t want this to be perceived as a “rider-bashing” or “driver-complaining” article. In fact, I hope to dispel much of the myth.

Speaking of myths, what about this one?

If drivers rely on tips so much, why don’t they quit?

This is something I have seen and heard many times and it is total bologna. Much like waiters and stylists, tips are currently the only aspect of pay that rideshare companies cannot and do not touch.

 

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Rates and fares consistently go down but our tips remain the last vestige of salvation, financially speaking. This means it is one of the few places where there is room for the rideshare driver to grow his or her bottom line. Although rideshare companies aren’t tampering with tips —yet— they limit tipping to 200% of the total trip amount, in an effort to provide savings and convenience to the rider. They do so to prevent accidental zeros. Unfortunately, it is just another way that we are often getting the rug pulled out from underneath us. But, let’s consider this next question.

Should the rider be obliged to share the costs of operating as a rideshare driver?

Considering the fact that rideshare drivers are offering a more affordable alternative to taxis, common sense would dictate yes. I won’t go so far as to claim that the rider has an obligation. But, the rider could consider this as an alternative. Think of Uber tipping as an investment in future rides.

Wait…Wait a minute!

Hang with me here for a minute. When you pay it forward to a driver, you not only help keep food on their plate. You also help keep a good car on the road. This greatly increases your chance of getting a good ride next time.

Uber tipping not only can but does increase the morale of the driver a lot more than you think. It is a fact that a push notification on a mobile device prompts a dopamine and serotonin release in the brain. That’s right, you can actually physically boost the morale of your driver. What do you think this does for the next rider? You guessed it, chances are they’ll have a better experience.

Now, paying it forward may not be enough to entice you. But, what about the overall quality of the Uber or Lyft platform. If drivers can’t afford to put a quality product on the road, who suffers the most? Is it Uber or Lyft? Neither. The driver certainly suffers, but the most important person who will suffer is you.

A car that is banged up and can’t be repaired is a safety hazard to you. Now, the onus isn’t on you to front the cost. If you shared even a fraction of the cost through Uber tipping, however, wouldn’t that be a good investment? The ROI alone is killer.

How Much Should You Leave for Your Driver?

The general consensus for tipping across multiple industries is 10% to 20% on a sliding scale based on the level of service. I realize that tipping is often a taboo subject —akin to talking politics or religion at the Thanksgiving table. But, let’s talk about real, functional tipping etiquette for a second.

Tipping Etiquette: A Guide to Uber Tipping

According to the Cambridge Dictionary, tipping is the act of giving an amount of money to someone who has provided a service, especially in a hotel or restaurant.

Let’s modify it to encompass more industries.

Tipping is the act of incentivizing excellent service by way of increasing the earnings of someone who is providing you with a personal service which involves safety, comfort, and convenience.

This definition primarily works here and it is important to consider that tipping in the United States is different from that overseas. In fact, Europeans do not see tipping through the same lens. In parts of Japan, it is considered rude to tip your driver. But, don’t let that detour you from tipping, just yet.

If you want to help create a better experience for yourself in future rideshare rides, it behooves you to invest in the experience yourself. How do you know when to tip and how much to tip?

Things to consider when it comes to Uber tipping

When we go out to dinner, we often grade our waiter or waitress based on a set of categories. This may include refilling drinks, speed, accuracy, attentiveness, attitude, and appearance. Even the quality of the food often gets factored in. So, what should a rider consider when tipping a rideshare driver?

The distance of the ride

The longer the trip is, the higher the Uber or Lyft fees are for the driver. If you are traveling just a few blocks, this might not matter too much. But if you go more than a few miles, this fee grows exponentially for the driver. Consider helping to offset some of this cost on longer rides. For example, 15% on a ride over 20 miles won’t do as much as it would on a shorter ride.

The overall difficulty of the ride

What were the conditions of the ride for the driver? I know most riders stick their nose in their mobile devices for most rides. But take a minute to observe the stressors of the driver’s environment. Was there excessive traffic that the driver fought through for you without complaint? Was their inclement weather like rain or snow?

The quality of the service

Did the driver help you with heavy luggage? Did they greet you with a smile and engage in polite and professional conversation? Did they go out of their way to make a stop for you? Were you on time to your pick-up point? Did they have to wait a while for you to jump in the ride? These are all small things to consider when it comes to Uber tipping.

Before you go and tip your driver, let’s take a look at the reason you SHOULD or SHOULD NOT tip your driver…and how much!

The Service Industry Scale – For Long Rides

The following model is one that tipping experts have proposed for many years. I have taken it and adapted it to fit the rideshare experience.

This scale states that the rider should tip between 15% and 20% for rides that feature exceptional service. Riders should tip from 10% to 15% for good service. And, finally, riders should tip 10% for average service.

Now, before we get into it let’s compare the figures on this scale to what Yellow Cabs in New York City suggest you tip your driver. They suggest a tip range from 20% to 30% and their average tip percentage comes in at around 19%. So, if people are willing to forfeit nearly 20% on a cab, why should a rideshare ride that provides twice the benefit and convenience get any less?

Exceptional Service

For exceptional service, the rider should tip between 15% and 30%

While this might seem steep, it is important to remember that you are investing this much in only the best of the best drivers. If they check all the boxes and you leave the ride feeling like you mattered to the driver, then why not reward the good ones?

What exactly is exceptional service in a rideshare ride?

Exceptional service includes a polite and professional attitude, a skilled driver, a safe driver, and a smart driver (example navigation savvy). You could also add being a prompt (from pickup to drop off) and having a clean and professional vehicle to your checklist. Consider a few amenities and polite conversation and I’d say you’ve got exceptional service.

The Exceptional Service Checklist

  1. Was the driver’s attitude polite and professional? (Includes personal hygiene and conversation)
  2. Was the driver good at driving, by your standards?
  3. Did the driver drive safely?
  4. Did the driver arrive promptly and in a timely manner?
  5. Was the vehicle clean and did it appear to be in good working order?
  6. Did they help you with luggage, open your door, or provide you with extra amenities?
  7. NOTE on Amenities. It is not required for drivers to have a charging cord, water, snacks, or music for your convenience. They provide these for your convenience at the cost of the driver. Please do not take for granted all these extras.

 

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Good Service

Why 10% to 15% for good service?

Tipping below the 19% standard of NYC Yellow Cabs for good service should be a no brainer. But I will make the case anyway.

Good service is not a given in any industry. So, if you receive it, it is important to recognize it. If as a driver, the other person in this transaction goes out of their way to provide you with even standard service, why should they not be rewarded? Keep in mind that it is not required of drivers to do anything but pull up to your location, ask your name, and drive to the location. That is it. Anything beyond that and you are receiving additional service at the discretion of the driver.

What exactly is good service in a rideshare ride?

Much like exceptional service, good service features a professional attitude, good driving, safe driving, timeliness, and a clean car in good working order. If the driver has checked all of these boxes, they deserve a 10% to 15% tip, which is actually lower than the industry standard for a cab. Does a cab do any of the aforementioned things? I’d challenge you to show me a cabby who shows up on time and drives you safely from point A to point B.

The Good Service Checklist

  1. Was the driver’s attitude polite and professional? (Includes personal hygiene and conversation)
  2. Was the driver good at driving, by your standards?
  3. Did the driver drive safely?
  4. Did the driver arrive promptly and in a timely manner?
  5. Was the vehicle clean and did it appear to be in good working order?

Average Service

Why 10% for average service?

Now, we are getting into the gray area of average service. What is average service anyway? I call it bare minimum effort. That is if the driver shows up on time and drives you safely from point A to point B with a decent attitude. Giving them a modest amount of 10% goes a long way to forging a much better culture in the rideshare industry.

Remember that riders are at least halfway responsible for the culture and the experience. If you do your part, a driver who may not be as cordial as they should be may be more willing to interact with their rider next time. Perhaps the car isn’t 100% clean. But then again, they may not have been able to afford the car wash this week. We never know what shoes another person is walking in, so go ahead and suspend judgment. Your 10% tip might get them that car wash!

What exactly is average service in a rideshare ride?

The average service is highlighted by performing the bare minimum. A professional attitude, a safe ride, and a timely pickup.

The Average Service Checklist

  1. Was the driver’s attitude polite and professional? (Includes personal hygiene and conversation)
  2. Was the driver good at driving, by your standards?
  3. Did the driver drive safely?
  4. Did the driver arrive promptly and in a timely manner?

Now that we have examined the sliding scale, we have a good idea of what warrants a great tip, a good tip, and a standard tip. But what about rides that end as quickly as they started? That is where the flat fee strategy comes in.

What is the Flat Fee?

For short rides consider tacking on a $2 to $4 tip for drivers that arrive on time or early and greet you with all of the features of exceptional service that we spoke about in the sliding scale above. Often, the percentage model will come out to pennies on a minimum ride. Since you —the rider— are getting the bottom of the barrel cost for a minimum fare, consider taking some of those savings and giving it to the driver who showed up in a timely manner and got you there safely. This can go a long way to helping drivers maintain clean cars in working order.

Poor Service

What about Poor Service? Should I still tip? The answer to this is, at your discretion. I personally would not.

If the driver was rude, drove like a bat out of hell, and you felt uncomfortable or unsafe, you are under ZERO obligation to tip. In fact, you are obligated to report and rate the driver accordingly.

Now, I say this a disclaimer. To document a driver for poor performance, please take emotion out of the equation. Emotional decisions are unfair decisions. If the driver is truly a danger to yourself or others, you are obligated to rate them low and leave comments that can help the driver to correct this behavior. If you do this, you can help eliminate bad drivers from the platform. At the same time, you’re helping increase the value of the rideshare experience for everyone. But, again please reserve this judgment for the worst-case scenario.

Riders, if you want exceptional service, tipping is the key!

If you want exceptional service, you should be involved in creating the culture. One of the ways to do this is by tipping appropriately. If you follow the models I have outlined above, you will undoubtedly shift the culture and help create a great experience for years to come.

Drivers, if you really want tips, are you doing all you can?

Now, drivers! You cannot complain that you aren’t getting enough tips if you aren’t at least providing the bare-bones service I have suggested here. I know for a fact that many of you go above and beyond. If you have read this article, pass on the knowledge to your riders. That is your job, and it is how you can help create a better culture.

BUT WAIT! What to do if you are sharing a ride? How to split tipping?

This is simple! Each can tip, or one can pay the fare, the other can supply the tip. Overall, the same rules apply. Tip appropriately, based on the logical level of service you receive.

Should you tip in the app or tip with cash?

 

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Either one is fine for most drivers. So long as they are receiving tips, drivers could honestly care less about how you choose to tip them. Drivers generally like to take cash as it benefits them come tax season. But we won’t turn our noses up at a tip in the app. Remember, the Uber and Lyft app gives you easily accessible options for tipping with the aforementioned percentage points. This makes it UBER convenient for you!

OK, so how do I do the tipping?

I get that some riders are a bit confused about the actual mechanics of tipping in the app. So I tracked down the appropriate links for your convenience!

If you are on UBER, I recommend checking out the link below. 

If you are on the Lyft app, I recommend checking out this link.

Adding on ratings and compliments to further extend your gratitude!

On a final note, remember when we talked about dopamine and serotonin? Well, as an Uber and Lyft driver, I personally enjoy receiving compliments and high ratings on both apps. Every time I get a comment with kind words and a sense of gratitude for the service I provided, it boosts my morale. It isn’t quite a one to one trade out for a tip. But it does go a long way to providing the appropriate cultural shift that desperately needs to happen in the rideshare world.

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