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.
TasmaniaNoFrom 2018The bill legalising Uber has passed in the upper house. Pending being passed in the lower house, Uber will be legalised by 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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