Uber, the world’s largest ride-sharing company, wheeled back into Calgary in December.  The company prides itself on its ease of access and flexibility both for its customers and drivers.

But while grabbing a ride with Uber is easy, becoming a driver is harder. Still, for some people it’s an appealing way to make some extra cash. I was one of those people and though I’m not driving, I learned a lot about the process and what it costs. Here’s what you need to know if you want to be an Uber driver in Calgary.

Insurance

First, let’s look at what doesn’t cost any extra money. One of the largest concerns people and politicians had with Uber when it first came to the city was safety. Are normal drivers in their own cars properly insured? Are customers protected if there is an accident?

To help solve this, last June the Government of Alberta introduced a new kind of insurance for ride-sharing services like Uber. The new policy protects drivers whenever they are logged on to the app. Minister of Transportation Brian Mason said this advanced qualification makes ride-sharing safer for all of the involved parties.

“Our plan ensures customers who use ride-for-hire services are safe, that the people who transport have the necessary skills and knowledge, and that there is insurance in place in the event of an accident,” Mason said in a news release.

Since then Uber — who did not respond to several interview requests for this article — has worked with various insurance providers to offer third-party liability for their drivers while on the job at no extra cost.

All a potential driver needs to do is figure out if their current insurance broker offers ride-sharing insurance or not. Not only does this knock-out a potential cost that may be a deal breaker when deciding on becoming a driver or not, but it’s nice to know that everyone involved is safe.

Uber driver requirements in Calgary

Before even thinking about becoming an Uber driver, the company requires you to hold a valid Class 4 drivers license. Carrying a Class 4 license allows you to drive a taxi, ambulance or a bus that holds fewer than 25 people.

While some provinces only require a knowledge test to graduate to their version of Class 4 license, Alberta requires both a knowledge test and a road test. Prices vary, but at the time of publication, the Richmond Road Registry’s price for a Class 4 road test is $146.75, with an $84.00 car rental fee if needed. This of course is assuming that the potential driver already has their Class 5 license, which is a $150 fee plus the same rental fee from the same registry.

Other costs

In addition to the licensing costs, drivers have to pay out of pocket for a few other things. Prior to hitting the road, drivers are required to pass a medical exam. In Calgary, Uber has partnered with Apex Medical Clinic to partially subsidize medical tests, meaning the driver only has to pay $60 for the exam.

On top of this, drivers must also pay for a vehicle inspection, which is $50 from Canadian Tire, and Class 1-55 vehicle registration, which allows for the transportation of 15 or more people for monetary purposes, another $25.

During my application process I was also told I needed to pay $431.75 in fees to Uber before hopping behind the wheel.

City bylaws

On top of what Uber wants you to pay up front, the City of Calgary requires a few fees in order to obtain what’s called a Transportation Network Driver’s License.

In addition to showing proof of registry with a City-licensed transportation network company like Uber, a police background check is required to complete this process and a $41 fee is due to the Livery Transport Services office.

You must also have fewer  than nine demerits on your Class 1, 2 or 4 driver’s license and meet a few other requirements, like proof of status to work legally in Canada and proper insurance.

Finally, there’s a $220 licensing fee charged by the Livery Transport Services office. So if you’re keeping track, we’re now at $692.75 before even getting behind the wheel.

The process of becoming an Uber driver can be daunting. Illustration by Bigoa Machar.

Driver fees and price breakdown

Now all that’s out of the way, you have now qualified as an Uber driver. Congrats! Time to launch the app and hit the road. Before you do that, let’s look at how much money you’ll be making exactly. In order to understand how much your average trip in an Uber will be, we have to know how they calculate it. Uber has their price breakdown listed on their website, which works as follows:

Base fare + (Cost per minute * time in car) + (Cost per kilometre * distance travelled) + booking fee.

These prices vary in different cities, but as of right now in Calgary the costs look like this:

Base fare: $1.30
Cost per minute: $0.17
Cost Per kilometre: $0.90
Booking Fee: $2.15

The city also worked with Uber to set a minimum fare regardless of how short a ride can be, meaning every ride has a base price of $5.45, so it’s worth the driver’s time. There is also a $5 cancellation fee if the rider chooses to cancel after putting in a request for a car. There’s also what’s called surge pricing, where Uber will charge a surplus if there is a high demand for cars either due to increased ridership or lack of cars available.

So let’s say you’re driving someone to airport from downtown. For specifics, we’re going to use the Sheraton Suites in Eau Claire for reference. Without surge pricing and using the given formula, the app calculates the cost of this ride will be about $23.85. From a rider’s standpoint, that’s quite the steal. But how much of that does the driver take?

Up front, Uber takes $1.65 from the driver for a “rider fee,” which helps pay for that insurance we talked about earlier. After that, the rest of the money is split 75/25, with the driver taking home the larger portion. Using this math, that ends up being about $16.65 in your pocket for about 30 minutes of driving.

While this may sound pretty good as an hourly wage, keep in mind the additional expenses. Part of the extra expense of being an Uber driver means covering the costs of all the extra driving you put your car.

For example, if you were a full-time Uber driver that owned a 2016 Honda Civic and drove around 100,000 kilometres in a year, the Canadian Automobile Association driving cost calculator estimates that you’ll spend just over $7,500 in gasoline. If this were the case, driving this much means changing your oil around every 5,000 kilometres, which, based on Minit Lube’s price of a $60 conventional oil change, would require you to fork over another $1,200. Uber does work with drivers to subsidize 10-15 per cent of these costs.

In the end, I decided not to drive for Uber because I wasn’t interested in the hassle. But as of December they were actively recruiting drivers, so if you can handle the upfront costs, it might be right for you.

bmachar@cjournal.ca

Editor: Amber McLinden | amclinden@cjournal.ca