This may be the most commonly asked question when it comes to ridesharing. I have had family and friends, new drivers, and passengers ask about this issue. There is no real official guidance on the matter.
The best and most correct answer is you can sit wherever you want to sit. You are the customer so it is really your choice and you should sit where you will feel the most comfortable.
Some factors to consider when making your decision:
Do you want to engage in conversation with the driver?
When I have a passenger (especially a solo passenger) who jumps in the front passenger seat I take this as a sign that they are probably friendly and like to chat up their drivers. I usually try out a little small talk and see if it leads to a more lengthy conversation.
Keep in mind that conversation is truly optional, so a couple of short responses are usually good enough to let the driver know you aren’t in a talkative mood.
If you are a talker or have questions about the rideshare service ask away. I start every day and every passenger ride with the hope that I’ll meet someone new and interesting with an interesting story to tell or experience to share.
Sadly, I can only speak for myself here so you could also get a driver who doesn’t engage and just wants to take passengers from pick up to drop off with as little interaction as possible.
There is a full range of driver personality types out there and lack of conversation is probably not a good reason to rate a driver lower but it’s fair game when considering how much or if you should tip!
An additional reason to sit in the front seat may be to get a better view.
When I ride as a passenger I like to talk to the drivers but I also like to be upfront so I can see how well they drive and manage the traffic around them. If I’m going to be in an accident I want to see it coming!
Finally, I am usually visiting a new city when using rideshare, so sitting up front gives me the best view of the buildings, streets, and the people who live there.
Are you unsure about the driver? Maybe a little backseat distance is better?
We are being real here so let’s put it right out there. Sometimes you might feel a little iffy about the person in the driver’s seat! We all feel that from time to time. Hopefully, the driver will sense your apprehension and at least try to put you at ease.
You should also know that all drivers have been put through a screening process and background check that includes arrest records and traffic violations. Sure, they could still be a rotten person but there is nothing on their record so it’s more likely they are a gentle giant than a mean ogre.
Do you want to treat it like a taxi and ride in the back?
Some people are new to the rideshare business model and are used to taking traditional taxis. It wasn’t very many years ago that I fit this profile and my wife and daughter made fun of me for it! Now I use Uber & Lyft as a passenger whenever I travel and I drive for them part-time!
First, you should know that this is perfectly fine and normal. Even though Uber/Lyft has been around for years many people are new to the service. Let’s face it, there are tons of people out there who don’t even have a smartphone yet which guarantees they haven’t downloaded the Uber or Lyft app.
Second, if you have a traditional point of view and feel your Taxi/Lyft/Uber driver should just keep their eyes on the road and not try to engage in personal conversation it’s perfectly fine.
Your driver won’t be offended or feel slighted in any way. These are some of the easiest passengers. It does allow you as a driver to focus on traffic and navigation which can be important during busy commuter periods.
I do think if all my passengers took this approach though it would make the job boring and much less satisfying. Let’s face it, I like people and the chit chat that usually comes with them!
Where in the back seat should I sit?
I stand by my previous answer which is it’s completely your choice. That is the best answer.
At the same time, there are other considerations.
Most passengers get in and exit from the curb so it makes sense to sit on the right-side diagonal from the driver.
An added benefit is that it makes it easier to make occasional eye contact with the driver when having a conversation and the driver can check on you every once in a while to see if you need anything.
Most drivers I talk with (and I feel this way as well) feel it is awkward and adds a level of uncertainty when a solo passenger sits directly behind them in the back seat.
For me, it puts the passenger in my blind spot so I don’t feel I can gauge if they are comfortable or need anything.
I suspect female drivers would also feel it is a little creepy if a big guy was sitting right behind them while they were driving. They would not be able to size him up and could feel threatened which would be a distraction while driving.
Do I have to talk?
No matter where you choose to sit, a conversation is always optional.
Sometimes sitting upfront and not talking may feel awkward. I think the driver will usually make a few more attempts at conversation because they don’t want you to feel uncomfortable or come across as rude.
When you sit in the back seat it’s much easier to signal if you are up for conversation or not. The most used signal is to simply put in your earbuds or mess with your phone or tablet. That lets the driver know you have something to entertain you and they will be the third wheel in that effort.
Obviously, if you brought work with you or reading material that should tip off the driver as well!
Most drivers get good at reading their passengers. Every ride should start with an ice breaker to greet the passenger. A simple “how is your day going so far” question is enough to let a passenger know you care about them and acknowledge them as a person.
Then if a quick remark about the weather or traffic, or whatever doesn’t get you to engage in conversation they usually get the hint that you just want to relax without conversation and get safely to your destination.
If you do get a driver who misreads the queues or loves the 20 questions game, simply let them know you prefer to be alone with your thoughts and aren’t feeling talkative.
What if I’m not alone?
Again, it’s completely your call. What I usually see is that couples generally sit together in the back. Two men will usually sit one in front and one in the back seat (it’s a guy thing I guess).
Two single women will often sit in the back and carry on a conversation and entertain themselves.
Parents and children will usually sit together in the back unless there is more than one child and then the parent usually sits in the front seat with the kids in the back.
There are probably many more variations on this theme and no doubt cultural norms in different regions and countries.
The most important thing is to sit where you feel comfortable so you can have the best possible experience. If you feel like chatting, or not, it’s totally up to you.
If your driver asks you “how is your day going so far” it might just be me. And if you do feel like talking and have a great story to tell, you will probably make my day!