Uber is a ride-hailing company that offers the Uber mobile app, which you can use to submit a trip request that is automatically sent to an Uber driver near to you, alerting the driver to your location. The accepting Uber driver will then come and pick you up and drive you to your requested destination.
The Uber app automatically figures out the navigational route for the driver, calculates the distance and fare, and transfers the payment to the driver from your selected payment method, without you having to say a word or grab your wallet.
Here's everything you need to know about Uber, including how it works, how to sign up and how to use it.
Where is Uber available?
Uber is available in over 700 cities worldwide. You can see if it's available in your city using this Uber webpage.
How do you become an Uber rider?
There are two ways to sign up to become an Uber rider: through the Uber app (iOS or Android), or through the Uber website. When you sign up, you'll need to provide your full name, a mobile number, an email address and grant access to your location.
You'll also have to provide a payment option, whether that's a credit card, debit card, or a PayPal account. Uber also accepts Apple Pay and Google Pay if you have it set up.
It then matches you with the closest Uber driver available. When a driver accepts your trip, you'll see their name, license plate, photo, rating, and a temporary substitute telephone number. You'll be able to follow your Uber driver on the built-in map until they arrive with you and when on a trip, you can follow your trip in real-time and share your ETA with friends.
How does Uber work for riders?
First, download the Uber mobile app and sign up to be a rider. Once you've signed up to Uber, everything takes place through the app. No cash is exchanged with between you and the Uber driver, so you never need to worry if you have enough cash to get you where you need to be.
Instead, the payment method you set up when you sign up to Uber will be used to automatically pay your Uber driver when a trip is completed, whether this be a credit card, debit card, Paypal, Apple Pay or Google Pay.
Submit a trip request
- Open Uber on your mobile device.
- Type in where you are going in the "Where to?" box art the top of the app.
- Select a ride mode by tapping one of the following options that should appear with a fare estimate alongside them: UberX, UberXL, UberBLACK, UberTAXI, UberSUV, UberLUX, UberPOOL, or Assist. You may see some or all of these options, depending on your location, time, and sheer availability.
- Select which method of payment you want to use. The payment method is below the ride modes and your default option will be automatically selected but you can change it if you tap on it.
- Tap the Confirm UberX (or whichever ride mode you've selected) button at the bottom of the Ride Options screen.
- You'll then be asked to confirm your pickup spot. Be sure to check properly to make sure your phone's location has got it right. Press Confirm Pickup. Uber may take a few seconds or a few minutes to find a driver nearby.
- Once Uber's found a match, it will bring you to a screen where you can watch your driver navigate toward you on a map and see his or her's ETA. From this screen, you can also see the driver's name, license plate, photo, rating, and a temporary substitute number for contact.
Cancel your trip
Sometimes you may wish to cancel a ride. The Uber app will allow you do this two to five minutes after you submit a request, but a cancellation fee may be charged depending on city.
Follow your trip
- When the driver has arrived and noted in his own app that you've entered the vehicle, you will see a new Map screen. You can use this to follow your trip. You can also hit tap Send Status on the Map screen to share your ETA in real time, so your contacts know you're safe.
- When you've arrived at your destination, the driver will note in his app that the trip is complete, and then your app will automatically process the payment with the payment option stored to your account.
- You'll be able to see past trips by tapping on the three lines in the top right of the Uber app, followed by Your Trips.
Rate your driver
At the end of your trip, the Uber app will ask you to rate your driver from one to five stars (five being the highest). This rating will affect the driver's current overall rating that all riders see, thus enabling you to either recommend or warn against the driver.
You'll also be able to add a tip for your driver and pay them a compliment by tapping one of the pre-set options, such as Excellent Service.
What do the different Uber cars mean?
Uber offers various ride options, including the ability to request a luxury car, split fare with another rider, or travel in a specific assistance vehicle. Here are definitions for the most commonly available ride options.
- UberX: An everyday car for up to four riders
- UberXL: An everyday car for up to six riders
- UberBLACK: A high-end sedan for up to four riders
- UberTAXI: A partner taxi cab for up to four riders
- UberSUV: An SUV for up to six riders
- UberLUX: A high-end luxury car for up to four riders
- UberPOOL: Share your ride with other riders and be automatically charged a guaranteed split fare
- Assist: An UberX option that is designed to provide additional assistance to seniors and people with disabilities
What other features does Uber offer to riders?
Aside from allowing riders to request a trip, there are several other features offered within the Uber app.
Since May 2019, the Uber app offers London public transport information, for example, allowing riders to see if there is an alternative way home. This is especially useful if there is a surge - a price increase due to increased demand - in the area you are in.
It's also possible to add work and home addresses to your Uber account, as well as other saved places, such as the hotel you're staying at when on holiday for example. This allows you to select the "Where to?" destination more easily.
You can add "Trusted Contacts" to your Uber account too. Once someone is setup as a Trusted Contact, you can share your trip status with a single tap. It's also possible to add a family member to your account, allowing them to share your default payment method so you can pay for your loved ones to use Uber, as well as get trip notifications when they use it.
Split Fare is a feature within the Uber app too, allowing you to split the fare with whoever you're travelling with. A contact will have to accept to Split Fare with you before this will happen though and you will be charged a small fee.
There are other features we've not gone into detail on, including Quiet Mode for UberBlack and UberSUV drivers in the US, as well as Uber Jump e-bikes. You can read about Uber Jump e-bikes in our separate story, which details where they are available and how much they cost to use.
How do you become an Uber driver?
If you're interested in being a driver rather than a rider, go to this Uber webpage to sign up to be a driver (it's free). You must be 21 years old, have at least one year of driving experience, a valid driver's license with proof of vehicle registration and insurance, and access to an eligible 4- or 6-door vehicle. After signing up, your driving record and criminal history will be reviewed by Uber.
Uber gives its drivers access to a specific app. That app helps you decide how, where, and when to earn. When you want to drive, open the app and tap Go Online.
You can follow your earnings, decide when you want to get paid (end of a car trip, etc), track profitable hotspots, minimise downtime, get access to turn-by-turn navigation directions, and leverage the ratings system to help riders decide you're the best driver for them.
All Uber drivers can get paid weekly and drive wherever they want at any time of day. They don't have to report to an office or a direct boss, but they do have to drive their own personal car, or at least lease/rent one from an Uber partner.
Uber drivers are considered independent contractors, which means taxation, work hours, pay, overtime benefits, and so forth are treated differently by various political jurisdictions globally.
All UberBLACK, UberSUV, and UberTAXI rides are provided by commercially licensed and insured partners and drivers. Those transportation providers are covered by commercial insurance policies in accordance with local and state requirements.
Uber also said it offers US drivers third-party liability policies that work with their existing, personal insurance coverage. You can learn more about that from this Uber webpage.
Are there alternatives to Uber?
There are several ride-hailing services available in app stores, but the most popular one aside from Uber is probably Lyft. All these apps function nearly identically, though each one may offer a few unique features.
We have a separate feature on Uber alternatives for those in London, which you can read here.
What is UberEATS?
Uber has partnered with restaurants in select cities to offer a food-delivery service, in which you can order anything from a roster of local food joints and get it delivered to you within 35 minutes. This paid service is called UberEATS, and it has its own Android and iOS mobile app. UberEATS, which also hires drivers, is available in over a dozen major US cities and is still expanding.