The definitive guide to Uber

News, guides and hacks

Find out everything you need to know about being an Uber driver or passenger.

Uber is a global platform that allows you to order a ride from your smartphone. You can also sign up as an UberX driver. It's referred to as "ridesharing" because of these two sides to the platform: drivers and riders. Anyone can sign up to use Uber and almost anyone can be a driver, using their own car or a rented vehicle. Uber is a two-way street – both drivers and riders can rate each other and share the benefits of the service.

This guide will take you through how Uber works, including how you can become an Uber driver; where Uber is legal in Australia; how much Uber costs; a short history of the ride-sharing platform; how surcharging works; if Uber is safe and the other services Uber offers (including helicopters!). You can also find out the latest news in ridesharing and check out our tools, including a calculator to see how much you can make as an Uber driver.

Essential Uber Guides

How does Uber work?

If you want to use the Uber platform as a rider, you first need to download the app (available for iOS and Android) and create an account. You are required to provide your debit or credit card information so you can be charged through the app. When you want to order an Uber, open the app and make sure your location is correct, then choose what type of Uber you want.

An UberX is the cheapest option, while UberBLACK and UberLUX are the premium options, and an UberTAXI is just a regular taxi you can order through the app. Once you've ordered you can input your destination to assist the driver. You'll be shown the name and number plate of your driver as well as how far away they are. You might find the driver calls you if they need to check your location.

You can track your ride when you're in the car and send your trip status to anyone you need to. The driver will be shown an automatic route to go but you can ask for them to take a different way. At the end of the trip you don't need to physically pay as all payments are handled by the app. The last step is rating your driver out of five stars.

How do you become an Uber driver?

  • Check you meet the eligibility criteria. You must be over the age of 21 and have held a non-restricted licence (no P-platers) for at least 12 months. Your car needs to be less than 10 years old and pass the vehicle inspection. If you don't have a car or yours doesn't meet the criteria, consider renting an Uber-ready vehicle.
  • Make an online account. You can create a partner (driver) account on the Uber website. You need to use a different email address than the one you use to ride with Uber.
  • Visit an Uber centre. You'll be sent an email with details on the visitor centre you need to visit. Bring your licence, passport, RMS driving history (there's a fee to get this but Uber will reimburse you if you sign up as a driver), your car insurance details and the car you plan to use.

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Where is Uber legal in Australia?

StateIs it legal?Date legalisedDetails
New South Walesyes17 December 2015$200 million of compensation was promised to taxi and care hire plate owners and operators.
Australian Capital Territoryyes30 October 2015Drivers need to meet criteria and may need to pay additional licensing fees to drive with Uber.
Victoriayes25 August 2016A $2 levy applied to taxi and ride-booking services in Victoria.
Queenslandyes5 December 2016The government had previously issued a cease-and-desist notice to Uber.
Northern TerritoryNoProposedThe NT Labor Government, elected in late 2016, has promised to legalise Uber.
South Australiayes1 July 2016Taxi drivers will be compensated and a $1 metropolitan ride levy applies.
Tasmaniayes8 Nov 2016Initially only legalised until 2018.
Western AustraliayesDecember 18 2015Ridesharing services must operate with an omnibus licence.

A short history of the world's largest ridesharing platform

The idea for Uber came about in 2008 when entrepreneurs Travis Kalanick and Garrett Camp were stuck in the snow in Paris and unable to hail a cab. The original offering was an app that let you order premium vehicles and was available in the US. These vehicles ended up costing about 1.5 times more than a cab.

While car services were common in the US, the convenience of ordering through your phone made UberCab, as it was originally called, a success soon after its San Francisco launch in 2010. As UberCab grew it completed funding round after funding round, one of its most notable being its $11 million Series A funding in 2011, as well as organisational changes. Ryan Graves, who had become CEO following a Twitter exchange between himself and Kalanick, soon stood down to COO with Kalanick replacing him. The two described it as an amicable move.

Uber's first cease-and-desist-order came in late 2010 for acting as a cab service without the licence, prompting a name change to Uber. Uber continued to expand to other major US cities, as well as Paris, throughout 2011. The company announced UberX in July 2012 and used on-demand ice-cream trucks to promote its new service. This was off the back of a successful Series B funding of $37 million in December 2011.

Uber launched in its first Australian city, Sydney, in 2012. Having operated in the US market for three years, Uber, as well as other ridesharing platforms, were legalised for the first time in California in September 2013. ACT was the first state to legalise Uber in 2015.

How much does Uber cost?

This will differ depending on the city you live in. However, you will be charged a base fare, a fare per minute and a fare per km travelled. This will result in your total. You can get a fare estimate on Uber's website.

How does surge pricing work?

Uber's pricing model is based on the levels of supply and demand at the time. The fewer drivers available and the higher the demand for cars, the higher the surge will be. The surge price increases in increments and is updated very regularly – you can often find the surge price disappear, or sometimes increase within a few minutes. Surge pricing is expressed as a calculation of your standard fare.

For example, you may find a 1.2 X surcharge when you go to book an Uber. Surge pricing is one of the least popular aspects of Uber's service. Uber says it encourages more riders to come on the platform when there is a high demand, for example late at night or during events such as New Year's Eve. However, Uber has been criticised for its surge pricing during these periods as well as times of emergency, the most notable Australian example being the exorbitant surge pricing being charged to get people out of the Sydney CBD during the Lindt Cafe Siege.

Is Uber safe?

While Uber has seen a considerable global uptake in its services, there still may be some hesitation from those using the platform for the first time. For starters, you have to enter your card details into the app so you can be charged. It's important to note these card details are kept secure and cannot be seen by your driver.

You will be able to see your driver's photo and number plate before they pick you up and the driver will be able to see your phone number in case they need to confirm your location. If anything does happen, for example, if your driving was driving recklessly, you lost an item or there are any other concerns you have, you can submit feedback and get help through the app. This feature is especially useful if you've lost something.

However, the most important safety feature is that you and your driver both rate each other. Uber drivers rely on high scores to keep them on the road, so if they do anything wrong they are risking their job.

What other services does Uber offer?

Uber is constantly expanding and adding new services to its platform. Here are the other services you can take advantage of:

  • UberEATS. This service lets you order food from a range of restaurants and have it delivered to your door. The service is currently available in Sydney and Melbourne as well as other major cities across the globe.
  • UberRUSH. This is an on-demand delivery service for businesses. By signing up, businesses can request an UberRUSH vehicle, similar to ordering an UberX, to deliver products to customers. This service is currently only available in New York, San Francisco and Chicago.
  • UberPOOL. Uber has also launched UberPOOL in select locations to allow riders to share their ride, and the cost of it, with another Uber passenger. It's currently available in cities across the US, India, France, China and more.
  • UberBOAT. The name is largely self-explanatory, but UberBOAT is a service that lets you order a boat or a water taxi to get to a certain destination. The service was available for one day in Sydney and for Cannes Festival in France, but it looks to be a permanent offering in Istanbul.
  • UberCHOPPER. As it stands, this has been more of a promotional offering rather than part of Uber's standard service. In various cities, Uber riders were able to order a helicopter to take them for a scenic tour of their city. While it's not a permanent service currently, Uber has said to be experimenting with the service.

Latest Uber news

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20 Responses

  1. Default Gravatar
    JennyAugust 6, 2017

    Hello, is there a minimum distance that must be traveled?

    • Staff
      RenchAugust 6, 2017Staff

      Hi Jenny,

      Thanks for your inquiry.

      While Uber doesn’t limit the distance you can travel on a trip, trips may automatically end after 4 hours. When this is about to happen, the driver is notified by the partner app.

      Please let drivers know if you’re planning to travel a long distance. Many drivers need to make the return trip home after reaching your destination, and it’s polite to give them a warning of a long trip.

      If you’d like to continue after a trip automatically ends, please request a new ride. Since your previous driver is nearby, they may receive this new trip request.

      Cheers,
      Rench

    • Default Gravatar
      JennyAugust 7, 2017

      Thanks Rench. I was actually interested in short distance trips. I have a broken foo at the moment and so unable to drive. My local shops are close. Is there a minimum distance that must be traveled?

    • Staff
      JonathanAugust 7, 2017Staff

      Hello Jenny,

      Thank you for your inquiry.

      There is no minimum distance. However you can set your driver destination.

      It is a personal destination in your app, which allows you to only receive trips along or near the route to your destination. This is to make sure the pickup locations for these trips aren’t too far out of your way. A maximum of two destinations can be set every day. You will not be able to set a destination while you are already on a trip.

      Hope this helps.

      Cheers,
      Jonathan

  2. Default Gravatar
    SuzyJuly 31, 2017

    I live in Perth and have small children that are still required to be in child seats/restraints. Are Uber vehicles exempt from current legislation on child restraints?

    • Staff
      RenchAugust 1, 2017Staff

      Hi Suzy,

      Thanks for your inquiry. Please note that we are not affiliated with Uber or any company we feature on our site and so we can only offer you general advice.

      UberX vehicles should provide car seats for children, which they call Uber Car Seat. Passengers can request this by tapping the ‘car seat’ option after selecting the uberX vehicle type and additional charges will apply.

      Uber Car Seat provides one forward-facing car seat for a child who is at least:
      (a) 12 months old AND
      (b) 22 lbs. AND
      (c) 31 inches.

      A child is too big at 48 lbs. or 52 inches.

      You may contact Uber directly for further inquiries.

      Cheers,
      Rench

  3. Default Gravatar
    RuchiJuly 17, 2017

    I have a drivers license from India and in the process of receiving my PR. Will i be eligible to drive for Uber ? or does it need some experience of driving in Australia?

    • Staff
      DanielleJuly 18, 2017Staff

      Hi Ruchi,

      Thank you for contacting finder. We are a comparison website and general information service, we’re more than happy to offer general advice.

      Here’s how you can become an Uber driver:

      - Check you meet the eligibility criteria. You must be over the age of 21 and have held a non-restricted licence (no P-platers) for at least 12 months. Your car needs to be less than 10 years old and pass the vehicle inspection. If you don’t have a car or yours doesn’t meet the criteria, consider renting an Uber-ready vehicle.
      - Make an online account. You can create a partner (driver) account on the Uber website. You need to use a different email address than the one you use to ride with Uber.
      - Visit an Uber centre. You’ll be sent an email with details on the visitor centre you need to visit. Bring your licence, passport, RMS driving history (there’s a fee to get this but Uber will reimburse you if you sign up as a driver), your car insurance details and the car you plan to use.

      You may refer to this page for more information.

      I hope this helps.

      Cheers,
      Danielle

  4. Default Gravatar
    LindaJuly 17, 2017

    Can Uber pick up from Tullamarine airport?

    • Staff
      RenchJuly 17, 2017Staff

      Hi Linda,

      Thanks for reaching out to us. Please note that we are not affiliated with Uber or any company we feature on our site and so we can only offer you general advice.

      As I have checked, Uber is not allowed to pick up from inside Tullamarine airport. You may book an Uber and pin your location outside near the airport. Another tip is when you have booked your Uber, you can message the driver if they can pick you up at a certain location. If they refused, you can cancel that booking within 5 minutes and you won’t get charged.

      Hope this helps.

      Cheers,
      Rench

  5. Default Gravatar
    LorraineJuly 7, 2017

    I am in Australia on holiday from the UK and new to Uber. So I downloaded the app but when I tried to use it a problem occurred with the payment card. I tried another card and it has the same problem. Is this because my cards are registered in the UK? I did manage to use Uber but only by entering my son’s card details (Australian bank ). Please advise as I would prefer to use my own card. Thanks

    • Staff
      RenchJuly 7, 2017Staff

      Hi Lorraine,

      Thanks for reaching out to us. Please note that we are not affiliated with Uber or any company we feature on our site and so we can only offer you general advice.

      Since you are using Uber app in Australia, it can only recognize Australian banks or international cards. Please contact Uber directly by sending an email or an inquiry within the app to check if they can accept your card (which is from the UK). Uber usually replies to inquiries within 1-2 days.

      Hope this helps.

      Cheers,
      Rench

    • Default Gravatar
      LorraineJuly 7, 2017

      Thanks, will try that.

    • Staff
      RenchJuly 7, 2017Staff

      You’re welcome. Should you have further questions, please don’t hesitate to reach us out again. Have a great day! :)

  6. Default Gravatar
    samJuly 3, 2017

    Does different cars have different car hiring rates? If I have an 8 or a 12 seater will I be paid differently in comparison to someone having a 4 seater hatch?

    • Staff
      RenchJuly 3, 2017Staff

      Hi Sam,

      Thanks for reaching out to us.

      Yes, different cars have different hiring rates. Uber has 4 types of cars: UberX, UberBLACK, UberSUV, UberLUX. The number of seats also vary with its rates. You can check these pages for more information:
      Uber driver guide
      Uber fare estimates and services

      Hope this helps.

      Cheers,
      Rench

  7. Default Gravatar
    OlgaJune 24, 2017

    What insurance company covers taxi passengers (uber)

    • Staff
      JonathanJune 24, 2017Staff

      Hi Olga!

      CGU Insurance Limited (AFSL 238291). CGU is a division of Insurance Australia Group (IAG).

      Hope this helps.

      Cheers,
      Jonathan

  8. Default Gravatar
    JanJune 3, 2017

    Can I take a small dog with me in an Uber car?

    • Staff
      RenchJune 3, 2017Staff

      Hi Jan,

      Thanks for your inquiry.

      Uber does not have an official pet policy but they do let the driver decide whether or not they want to transport pets. There are many Uber pet friendly drivers so finding out in advance should save you the trouble of service refusal.

      To find out if an Uber driver allows pets is to contact the driver as soon as you book the ride. Simply contact the driver and ask them if they will let your pet ride with you and if they are not willing to do so, you have the right to cancel the Uber ride and not get charged. Your cancellation has to occur within the 5 minutes of booking the ride if you do not want to get charged.

      Have a nice day!

      Best regards,
      Rench

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