MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Fifteen million people around the world go on their smartphones and order an Uber each day.
Minneapolis bartender Evan Kail, 28, first got behind the wheel to make money a few years back — but found the rideshare life was filled with financial pitfalls and personal danger.
Kail has tried to make a living driving for both Uber and Lyft since 2014.
“Which amazes me because I certainly didn’t think I’d be doing it for that long,” Kail said.
It was a side hustle at first, designed to make money while he worked on his dream of being a screenwriter.
“I essentially created a business around it that, as I discovered, didn’t work,” he said.
Kail bought used luxury cars, designed to get his passengers to behave better and tip more.
“It actually kind of backfired,” he said. “People assumed I had a nice car, I was rich. You didn’t need the money.”
Kail mostly drove late at night. Celebrities, average people — he never knew what adventure his next ride would be, and whether it would be amazing, or horrifying.
He started taking notes. It was not a movie, but it became a book: “Ubered: My life As A Rideshare Driver.”
“Everything someone said something funny, I’d write it down. I’d write it down,” he said. “Trip one, trip three, trip five, all the way to trip three-thousand-five-hundred-and-something.”
Trip 1,021 is the Harlem Globetrotters. On trip 1,765, someone points a rifle at him. And trip after trip, he was offered money for sex.
“It doesn’t happen all the time, but it happens at least once a month if I’m driving late at night,” he said.
As for the money-making aspect of the job, Kail says it has essentially been a bust.
“Factor in depreciation, factor in gas, factor in maintenance, everything else, like, you make very, very, very little money, less than $10,000 per year,” Kail said.
He says his gross revenue was not awful: about $120,000 in four years, so $30,000 a year.
That’s for driving 140,000 miles.
“I shudder to think of how many tires I’ve gone through,” Kail said.
Uber has been involved in several studies which found rideshare drivers average around $20 per hour — before expenses.
“The money that you make in one week is going to pay for the next week, and if something goes wrong, then you find yourself in the hole,” Kail said.
Plus, when you order an Uber, the driver doesn’t know where you’re going. So Kail gets paid to drive you to Hudson, and then he’s losing money burning gas going home.
“That makes running a business really, really difficult,” he said.
Despite all the wild, crazy, scary customers — Kail keeps driving.
“Everything’s up to you. You don’t have a schedule, you don’t have anyone to report to,” he said. “Work when you want.”
And he never knows what his next ride might bring.
“It’s a fascinating drink of the human experience,” Kail said. “You get to see people behaving their best and their worst.”
Uber did not respond to our request for comment on Kail’s book.
He shared these pieces of advice for being a good rider: Tip your driver. Give five stars unless you want the driver to get fired — anything less can get Uber or Lyft to suspend a driver. And treat the car with respect. It’s someone’s office.