Rideshare services like Uber have become a mainstay of our transportation options. As people become more reliant on rideshare apps, they are using the service for longer trips. If you have ever had to wait a long time to get your Uber ride accepted, it may have been due to the length of the trip.
Do Uber drivers prefer short or long trips? It depends. The preference is different for each Uber driver and will depend on how each driver views the profitability of short or long trip lengths.
Some factors that affect the profitability of Uber trips include:
- Wear and tear on the driver’s vehicle
- Available bonuses
- Surges pricing in busy areas
- Dead mileage.
In this article, you will learn why Uber drivers tend to have preferences when it comes to the length of their rides.
Why Uber Drivers Prefer Long or Short Trips
An Uber driver’s income is at the mercy of the public. Because of this, drivers may prefer short or long trips because of the earning potential each provides. The wear and tear on their vehicle, available bonuses, price surges, and dead mileage all affect their preference.
Wear and Tear
The Uber vehicles you see experience wear and tear at different rates depending on the kinds of trips made. When they are mostly short trips within a city, dropping off and picking up numerous customers, the constant change of gears and the overall twists and turns wear a car out more than taking a long trip on smooth, uninterrupted highways.
Some Uber drivers feel their car receives more wear with short rides. Stop and go, short hops, create more wear on brakes, shock absorbers, and vehicle interior as more passengers enter and exit the vehicle. Fuel consumption can also be a significant factor as many vehicles go from a gas-guzzling 24 mpg in the city to a slow sip of 40 mpg on the highway.
Most bonuses involve the number of trips you make more than the distance you drive. For instance, the Uber sign-up bonus rewards drivers if they complete 50 rides within their first 60 days of driving. This incentive pushes a driver to take more short rides and fewer long rides. Therefore, if your driver is new and trying to maximize their income per hour, it is much more profitable to take many short trips over long ones. This trend quickly reverses after a couple of weeks of driving as the bonus subsidy ends, and longer trips begin to pay better.
There are times when Uber drivers can earn more money than usual. These periods are called Surges, and they occur when a particular area has increased demand for rides and fewer drivers available. This scenario triggers higher-paying “Surge” zones to attract more drivers to the area to meet the excess demand.
Here are the reasons that might cause Uber fare surges:
- Bad weather demands more rides.
- There are fewer Uber drivers in the area, so demand increases.
- Weekend nights and events that attract crowds increase ride demand.
- Tourist seasons bring in more people to an area.
Surges are most profitable with short trips because one area may be paying surge prices while another may not. This price variation means if you take a customer from a surge area to a non-surge area, getting another passenger on the way back may not pay as well so earnings per hour drop. So, during surges, drivers typically prefer short trips.
Dead mileage, also referred to as deadheading, is a significant issue for long trips. Even though a 60-mile trip can be a good earning opportunity for a driver, and allow them to get out of the city traffic, with limited wear on their vehicle, coming back without a passenger sharply decreases their profitability.
Dead mileage often happens in rural areas unless the passengers are spending a short time at their destination, and round-tripping with the same driver. Some passengers are savvy about this issue and tip well to help compensate drivers if they are only going one way.
Most Uber drivers who prefer long trips love the adventure. They can accept the limited wages that come with dead mileage because they like the quiet on the way back and the occasional deep conversations with a passenger. Sometimes it isn’t just about making a buck!
The best-case scenario is a long trip from one busy area to another that provides paying passengers in both directions.
What Is a Long or Short Trip for Uber Drivers?
According to Uber, a long trip takes 45 minutes or more to cover. This length of time is confirmed by many Uber drivers who claim any trip that takes almost an hour to complete is long.
When put in the form of miles, up to 10 miles at a lower average speed around town is a short trip, but anything beyond 25 miles at higher highway speeds is considered a long trip.
The Minimum and Maximum Distance
There is no minimum distance that Uber can take you, but there’s a minimum fare per ride you must pay.
The other question people need to know is how far Uber can take them. While there’s no maximum distance for an Uber ride, the time for one drive automatically ends after four hours, and drivers cannot drive for longer than 12 hours in one day.
If you wish to go further, you can request another ride, and the driver you are with will continue to drive you. If you are planning to Uber for a long trip (say over an hour), make sure you clear it with the driver beforehand. You can text them right after you put in the request or let them know when they arrive. Rideshare drivers are private contractors who determine their schedule and may only have a limited amount of time before they need to pick their kids up from school or show up for work at their regular job.
Uber has even introduced a “Long Trip” feature that will alert the driver that a trip is going to take more than an hour. This feature helps to prevent a driver from accepting a ride that will require more time than they have available. Many drivers hesitate to turn down trips because it affects their acceptance rate, and they speculate that the Uber algorithm will punish them, assigning fewer rides in the future if their acceptance rate drops too low.
How Long Can Uber Drivers Stay at the Wheel?
In 2016, Uber driver Janis Rogers created a world record when she drove a passenger 400 miles and over 8 hours straight. A popular Youtuber known as Mr. Beast was driven for 40 hours by a single Uber driver. However, rides like this can no longer happen with Uber’s current regulations.
According to the Driving Time rules, one Uber driver can only use the app for 12 hours. This limitation is to ensure the safety of the driver and passenger because driving for extremely long time periods can result in exhaustion and accidents.
Is Your Uber Driver Intentionally Taking a Longer Route?
Have you ever had an Uber driver take an unnecessarily long route to your destination? As the Wall Street Journal points out, this is not a new trend. Uber drivers have been prolonging rides for a while – the tactic is called long hauling.
While longer rides achieve higher prices because of distance, drivers can benefit from surges and bonuses with short trips. But what do drivers do when there are no surges or bonuses available?
Some try to pad their trips using this long hauling strategy. Uber is the loser when your driver is long hauling because the upfront fee you get charged isn’t affected. If you have time to spare and are kind enough to score the driver some extra dollars, you can overlook this strategy.
Some drivers claim they are honest about the long hauling with their passengers. They don’t feel guilty since they believe Uber takes too much money from their earnings.
However, drivers who practice this long haul strategy run the risk of getting caught by Uber and being penalized. There is a possibility that some drivers might suffer the deactivation of their accounts or even worse penalties.
Currently, there are no studies that have determined the ratio of Uber drivers who prefer short trips to those who prefer longer ones. Some will love taking you greater distances for the adventure and deep conversations while others prefer small talk with numerous city passengers. It’s safe to say that each Uber driver has their personal preference which is only partially based on profitability.
As far as money is concerned, both short and long trips can be profitable if adequately mixed. It all depends on if the driver is sharp enough to observe the market trends to maximize their profits. Sometimes, making money requires a bit of planning, and this is very true with Uber drivers.