I had the loan. I had the car. Now I just needed to pay it off… This is what happened when I signed up as an Uber driver to pay off my car loan.
When I made the decision to buy my car from my sister, my experience of Uber's ride-sharing service was limited to weekend trips to and from the city. Everyone’s heard of Uber, and while I liked using it, I never thought I would be a driver. That was until I started looking for ways to put more towards my car loan.
No matter what city in Australia you live, you only notice the convenience of a car when you don’t have one. Having decided to sell my car because I was living only ten minutes outside the CBD, within three months I had concluded that was an insane decision. Luckily, my sister was selling her car at just about the time the train and bus commutes were starting to wear thin. I couldn’t afford to catch an Uber everywhere, so it was a deal I couldn't refuse.
Finding my financing
As a writer and personal finance expert for finder.com.au, I knew finding the right loan wasn’t going to be my biggest problem. I used a personal loan calculator with each of the lenders I compared to make sure the repayments were going to be affordable.
I compared both fixed and variable rate options, and kept their restrictions in mind as I wanted to be able to make additional repayments and to pay off the loan early if I wanted to. The car I was purchasing, while relatively new, was used, which meant it wasn't eligible for some secured car loans.
After comparing my options for a few weeks, with the luxury of an easy sale from my sister, I settled on an unsecured variable rate personal loan that came with no penalties for additional or early repayments. While I could afford repayments over a two-year term, I opted for a three-year term, wanting to give my budget a bit of breathing room.
But despite that, I wanted to pay the loan off as quickly as possible. How could I beat the loan term clock and repay my loan ahead of time?
The decision to sign up with Uber
People are always looking for ways to make additional repayments to their loan, and now I was one of them. Making your lunch and bringing it into work every day, while good for some, wasn’t going to give me the kind of lump sum payments I wanted. So I looked elsewhere, and then I remembered the Uber driver sign-up ads.
“Be your own boss”
“Work your own hours”
Sounds like a dodgy Internet ad, doesn’t it? But the lure of Uber was real, and I wondered if this was a viable option to help clock up however many hours I wanted and put what I earned towards my loan. With my editor’s blessing, I decided to investigate how to sign up with Uber.
What happens when you sign up with Uber
- Create an account online. You can create a partner (driver) account online. Your partner account needs to have a different email address than what you used with your rider account – it took me a while to figure this out, but the customer service email team were helpful.
- Visit a centre. You’ll receive an email with these details, but you basically need to visit an Uber centre with your licence, passport, your RMS driving history (which you have to pay for, but those costs are reimbursed when you sign-up as a driver), your car insurance details and your car. Uber has several sign-up centres, with locations and times changing week-to-week.
At the sign-up centre
I visited a centre in Mascot, with my documents and car in tow. I was greeted by a friendly Uber rep and run through a presentation that explained the partner app used by drivers, driver eligibility and a bit about Uber’s philosophy. Afterwards, I was taken upstairs to go through my documents.
The whole process was quick, with the most time-consuming element being the vehicle inspection and filling out police check documents. While everything went well, sadly, my newly-purchased car didn’t pass the vehicle inspection. With some kind advice from the inspector and a business card for an auto mechanic, I was on my way.
What I learnt at Uber
- Uber needs drivers. Uber has more passengers than drivers and is in need of new sign-ups. As long as you meet the eligibility criteria to be a driver, company reps can help you through the process and get you working quickly.
- The work sounded enticing. While I was unsure of whether I wanted to work as an Uber driver at first, the presentation was pretty convincing. You can work when you want, take breaks when you want and you’re paid weekly. The whole structure is transparent. The presenter said quite a few times that you would be working “with Uber, not for Uber”.
- There are eligibility criteria. You need to be over the age of 21 and have held an unrestricted licence for at least 12 months. Your car also needs to be less than 10 years old.
- It’s easy to make money. There’s a minimum $30 per hour guarantee for drivers in the first few weeks they work, but the presenter said this usually isn’t needed because of the number of ride requests. He also said that surge pricing (where the cost goes up during periods of high demand) makes it easy to get higher fares if you know how to use the app by picking up riders in under-served areas.
What happened after
A few days after the failed vehicle inspection and a kind message sent to my equally-uninformed sister about her misaligned front tyres, I received a call from Uber saying that I had passed the police check and could become a driver pending a successful vehicle inspection.
While the need to visit a mechanic has slightly deterred me, the vision of me zipping around the city for a few hours each weekend hasn’t faded yet. If you’re looking to put $200 extra a week towards your loan and have a few spare hours every weekend, Uber is an option you'll want to consider.
In between buying my own vehicle and making the trip to Uber, the company announced financing partnerships that can help you get a car loan if you want to sign up as a driver. Through the Uber Marketplace, new and existing drivers can rent or buy vehicles through suppliers working with Uber. Lenders currently include SocietyOne, RideShare Solutions and easifleet.