What If Your Uber Driver Takes a Longer Route?

What If Your Uber Driver Takes a Longer Route?

Sometimes when you take an Uber ride, you expect the length of the trip to take a certain amount of time, based on the trip estimation, and it ends up taking twice as long. While this is sometimes the result of road conditions that are outside the Uber driver’s control, sometimes a driver will take a longer route deliberately. The reasons for this (and how they can potentially affect the rider) are complicated.

So what do you do if your Uber driver takes a longer route? If you’re not in a hurry, there’s no reason to give negative feedback for taking a longer route.  On the other hand, if you are late arriving for an appointment with no explanation, it’s a good idea to give the driver a low rating.  That way, they will feel a consequence for their actions.

The price of the Uber ride will not change either way in most cases. Sometimes longer routes are taken for good reasons.  Some Uber drivers try to increase their cut of the fare with a strategy known as long hauling.  This strategy increases the pay for the driver but does not increase the total fare for the passenger.  But if your ride quality was negatively affected by extra mileage or you ended up paying extra, you always have the option to report the driver to Uber through the Uber app.

The story behind Uber drivers taking longer routes isn’t just about drivers trying to get one over on their riders—there’s a lot more to it than that.

Read on to find out more about why your Uber driver might take a longer route deliberately, and what you can do about it if it happens.

Long Hauling: What It Is and Why Some Uber Drivers Do It

The practice where Uber drivers deliberately extend their intended routes to increase the mileage on a given fare is commonly known as “long hauling.” In most areas, Uber operates under an upfront pricing model, which estimates the amount of money a rider will pay before they take their Uber ride. In some cities, however, ride pricing isn’t calculated until after the trip is complete.

The main reason Uber drivers try to long haul is that Uber bases its payment to drivers on the number of miles they’ve driven and not the amount of time it took them to take the passenger from point A to point B.

Because of this, some Uber drivers will occasionally try to pad their mileage by taking a longer route than necessary to reach their destination. A majority of Uber riders will not even notice the extra time spent since it doesn’t usually reflect in their final bill. But for some riders, that additional time spent on the ride can mean the difference between making your flight or not. 

Long hauling can be a risky practice for Uber drivers, as increasing the mileage or causing a drive delay can lead to reduced ratings or passenger complaints. But as long as the Uber driver still manages to get their passenger to the destination point on time, they have ammunition to appeal both their rating and their customer service ding.

Uber Drivers and the Battle Over Pay

Uber drivers have been battling Uber for years to receive adequate pay for their work—the practice of long hauling is only the latest in a line of measures that Uber drivers have taken in an attempt to increase their take-home pay. 

In the summer of 2019, Uber drivers worldwide went on strike to protest what they viewed as Uber’s unfair employment and wage practices. These wage strikes gained the most traction in larger cities like New York City, where low Uber driver wages were making it difficult for drivers to maintain a decent standard of living.

Despite the turnout, many Uber drivers chose to ignore the strike, and so transportation services were mostly unaffected. In the face of this public scrutiny, however, Uber elected to raise the minimum wage of their drivers in California. Still, some drivers are attempting to fatten their bottom line any way they can, and this has led to the practice of long hauling to increase their total clocked mileage.

Uber drivers are participants in what is known as a “gig economy,” which means they do receive employee insurance and other benefits that are standard for most workers. The lack of protection leaves them vulnerable to labor exploitation. Luckily, Uber has taken some significant steps in recent months to make sure all of its drivers are better compensated for their work.

Upfront Pricing on Uber Rides Protects Riders from Additional Fare

A major benefit of using Uber is that in most places Uber operates, Uber drivers operate on an upfront pricing model.

Upfront pricing means before the ride request is sent, Uber’s logarithm calculates how much it thinks a passenger will pay given comparative fares, driving conditions, current demand for service, and comes up with a price for the trip.

This pricing model helps prevent passengers from paying the price for a ride they think is too high given the mileage and time it takes to get there. It also benefits Uber, as it prevents the company from being shortchanged and helps limit customer issues that might result from being charged a different fee than they were expecting to pay.

For some cities, however, upfront pricing for Uber isn’t available.  The price of the fare is determined after the trip is complete.  In this situation, the passenger can potentially pay up to 40% more than they anticipated.

Luckily most of these issues can be quickly resolved through Uber’s customer service support team without question. In truth, gray cab drivers have been trying to pad fares since before color television, so it’s not like Uber drivers invented the concept of long hauling.

Uber Absorbs Upfront Pricing Estimation Errors

One way passengers are protected against drivers taking longer routes is through upfront pricing. Because of upfront pricing, if the Uber driver takes a route that costs more than the calculated routing, Uber eats the difference in the two fares. One could argue this isn’t much skin off Uber’s nose, given it has become a billion-dollar transportation giant.

In actuality, this is probably a smart move on Uber’s part since it serves several different beneficial functions:

  • The amount of money Uber absorbs on extended fares is likely far less than the amount of money they’d be forced to refund in customer service disputes after Uber drivers charge a passenger much more than they initially agreed to pay.
  • The Uber driver is protected as well. Sometimes an Uber driver must take a longer route for legitimate reasons, and it would be unfair of Uber to downgrade or penalize drivers for taking a longer route during situations where it is the reasonable thing to do. 

The upfront pricing offered by Uber is not just a range of estimated prices—it’s an exact fare. It’s the amount of money the driver receives minus Uber’s operating charges and their platform fee.  Uber’s data has gone on to show that since the introduction of this upfront pricing model, ride requests have increased as a direct result, according to Uber. Turns out people like knowing what they’re going to pay for something before they buy it—who would have thought?

Uber Pays Drivers on Distance. Not Time Spent Driving

While the added time that an Uber driver may spend in a longer route might inconvenience the passenger, it doesn’t affect how much money an Uber driver gets paid. That amount is determined by the number of miles driven.

In some areas where pricing is calculated after the Uber ride is completed, drivers are taking a larger risk deviating from the shortest GPS-calculated route. The reason is that both Uber drivers and passengers have access to the same map, and passengers can tell instantaneously on the app’s Map screen if their ride has deviated from its original path.

Since Uber will eat the fare differences in Uber service areas that offer upfront pricing models, it is beneficial for drivers to extend their route as long as they can explain the more extended routing if challenged.  Because it doesn’t affect the customer’s pricing and they’re probably not looking at their Uber app while they’re in an Uber, the customer probably won’t even notice if extra miles are added to the route.

In some areas that don’t include upfront pricing, Uber will increase the fare proportionally to account for any extended mileage accumulated during the trip. This increase can be a nasty surprise for passengers.

Drivers Long Haul at Uber’s Expense, Not the Rider’s

The main reason some Uber drivers choose to participate in long hauling is it doesn’t negatively affect their customers’ costs.

While this practice of driving longer routes does negatively impact Uber’s profit in an individual transaction, the company comes out a little bit ahead due to the way its fare calculating works. In other words, the company is not badly hurt when a driver pads their pockets a little bit.

Since the financial impact of long hauling is minimal and it’s mostly self-regulated through customer ratings, Uber doesn’t seem to be very concerned with drivers who take a longer route than the GPS specifies.

Overall the system works well, and there are few customer service complaints about this issue.  There are several possible reasons for this:

  • Most passengers won’t notice slight delays. Very few people have their trip planned out so precisely that a slight deviation in routing would cause them to notice or complain. 
  • Extending mileage on a trip doesn’t necessarily extend trip time. Passengers are usually concerned more with their estimated arrival time than they are with how many miles were covered getting to their destination.  If an Uber driver gets the passenger to their destination within the estimated time regardless of their mileage, they can appeal any negative ratings or customer service complaints.
  • If passengers don’t pay for the extra miles, they usually don’t care. Most people who use rideshare care more about the total cost than they do about how long it will take.  As long as they don’t have to pay additional fees, they generally won’t notice extra mileage, much less comment on it.
  • Most Uber drivers don’t long haul. It is more profitable in the long run for Uber drivers to complete more trips in a day than it is for them to extend a single trip.  The drivers who long haul are cutting their income if they drive in a busy area.

Drivers Can Ignore GPS Directives for Longer Routes

One of the significant advantages of being an Uber driver is that while the GPS prescribes the shortest possible route to get a passenger from point A to point B, it still allows for the driver to go in and adjust or change the GPS route manually.

This can be very helpful for Uber drivers who are familiar with their territory and know how to move around regular traffic patterns by using side streets or other shortcuts. It can also help drivers avoid traffic delays such as accidents or roadwork.

Some Uber drivers can also use this same system for long hauling purposes. Instead of finding a shortcut better than the route prescribed by the GPS, Uber drivers who long haul will purposefully choose a longer way.

There is a balancing act for Uber drivers who long haul since the new route can’t be so long as to attract the passenger’s attention.  And it can’t be so short that it doesn’t adequately line the driver’s pockets with an additional income. If this process is done repeatedly in an upfront pricing area, however, the Uber driver can stand to make quite a bit of extra pay by taking a longer route.

Long Hauling Is Not Common Practice

A significant reason Uber doesn’t crack down on Uber drivers who take longer routes is that the practice simply isn’t that common. According to Uber, only 1% of its employees use long hauling methods.

For the most part, Uber can easily absorb the money skimmed off their fares by long haul drivers, which is why Uber has not taken action to restrict this practice.  Since they’re already in hot water with their employees over labor issues and the customers aren’t complaining, Uber isn’t worried about your driver taking a longer route. 

If it were more lucrative, more Uber drivers would probably practice taking longer routes to increase their income.  But in the long run, Uber drivers can make a lot more money simply by dropping off their passengers quickly to prepare themselves for the next fare. And that’s without the threat of angering passengers and possibly receiving negative feedback on the Uber app.

Uber drivers live by their stars, and for the most part, this feedback system works as intended. It discourages Uber drivers from engaging in shady practices on the job that make their passengers uncomfortable or inconvenience them, while also serving to encourage Uber drivers to provide a speedy and high-quality service to maintain their high rating.

Legitimate Reason for Uber Drivers to Take a Longer Route

Another reason that Uber hasn’t addressed the long hauling issue with its drivers is that in most cases, there are legitimate reasons for a driver to take an alternative route. Here are a few of the reasons why a driver might change your predetermined route while in the middle of an Uber trip:

  • Congested traffic: GPS doesn’t always anticipate pop-up bottlenecks and other traffic jams, but an Uber driver familiar with the area can usually calculate an alternate detour route that will get them to their destination faster.
  • A traffic accident: Whether there’s a fender bender ahead or a dog runs out into traffic, sometimes drivers are forced to take a long way around to avoid being stuck behind an incident in the road.
  • Weather conditions: A road that is beginning to flash flood can be avoided through an alternative route if you’re taking an Uber in stormy weather. Drivers may also take longer routes to avoid iced-over bridges or other road hazards.
  • A shortcut: Sometimes, a longer route can take less time overall to traverse, either due to traffic patterns or other factors. 

There are many different reasons why an Uber driver might take a route that is slightly longer than the one anticipated by GPS.  If you’re getting frustrated about a more extended routing, try to see it in the context of the traffic pattern, and then ask the driver for the reason before you send negative feedback.

Checking Your Receipt Map

Think that your Uber driver took a longer route than you expected? One sure way to figure out whether or not your driver took the estimated course is to check the digital receipt in your Uber app included with your post-trip invoice.

This receipt should contain a map of the route traveled to compare with the estimated routing. By looking at this, you should be able to tell what parts of the expected route your Uber driver followed, and where they deviated from that path. 

If you do decide to bring up the issue of your Uber driver taking a longer route to Uber customer service, this receipt map is your best proof to show customer service the driver did not take you on the route you agreed to go.

In many cases, Uber will refund either part or all of the fare to satisfy the customer and maintain goodwill. Because this entire scenario is relatively rare, Uber doesn’t mind paying out thirty bucks here or there to satisfy the people who are genuinely angry about having their ride lengths extended.

Reporting a Driver to Uber for Long Hauling

When an Uber passenger is upset due to suspected long hauling, they can easily report the issue to Uber.

If this is a once-in-a-blue-moon occurrence, Uber is likely to satisfy the passenger as best they can and then observe the driver a bit closer to see if the long hauling is a regular and calculated practice, rather than an occasional hazard of the job.

For those who decide to report their Uber drivers, be aware that the drivers are not told who reports them.   This data, when collected, is collected anonymously.

Reporting a driver to Uber can lead to the suspension of the driver’s priveledges, and can even lead to the deactivation of their Uber driving account. Uber doesn’t tell its drivers exactly why they’re being fired but instead warns them when they are engaging in behavior that leads to negative customer reports. If Uber deems a driver too risky, they will cut them out of the program.

Providing Customer Feedback on Incorrect or Delayed Routes

It might feel mean to report an Uber driver for extending a route unnecessarily, but in actuality, this encourages all drivers to be more efficient and responsible while driving passengers. If an Uber passenger wants to file a report on an Uber driver, they follow this procedure:

  • Enter the Uber app.
  • Select Help.
  • Select Your Trips.
  • Select Route Feedback.

Once this feature is selected, a report is sent to Uber recording the discrepancy between the intended route and the route taken, and Uber will investigate accordingly. If it turns out there was a significant difference in the estimated fare and the fare tacked on in the post-trip purchase, Uber will often refund the difference.

Passenger Feedback Can Discourage Long Hauling Drivers

Long hauling may seem like a good way for a driver to increase their share of the fare, but it usually only hurts a driver’s reputation.  For the overwhelming majority of Uber drivers, receiving negative feedback is a much more significant risk than the extra money is worth.

On the flip side of that, positive passenger feedback is an excellent way for Uber passengers to reward drivers who go above and beyond while retaining a cheerful and pleasant disposition.

Uber has what many people regard to be a strict and somewhat questionable firing policy.  But feedback (either in the form of comments or reports to Uber customer support) can help cut back on the practices of Uber drivers that negatively impact the travel experience of their passengers.

If Your Driver Takes a Longer Route, Consider the Circumstances

When you’re in a hurry to get somewhere, it can be tempting to get angry and generate a report against your Uber driver. Especially if the longer route ended up costing you money.

Due to upfront pricing, this issue is becoming less of a problem for passengers.  With upfront pricing in place, it’s more like taking the scenic route than an attempt to increase the overall cost of the ride.  Be safe out there!

Dan Ferrantelli

I'm Dan Ferrantelli. I discovered rideshare through my wife and daughter who used the service a full year before I decided to try it. Now I am a part-time Uber & Lyft driver and love sharing my experiences with others. I'm also an entrepreneur who has developed several businesses and I have a passion to write! I hope you enjoy the articles I post. Kind feedback is always welcome.

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