Meet Glenn Orange, your friendly neighborhood Uber driver. He’s not a taxi driver by trade, just a guy with a clean Mazda 6 and a smartphone app that lets you flag him down for a ride.
“It’s a great way to make a living for a guy like me,” Orange says. He’s only been doing this for a couple of months now, and he says it helps pay the bills between his gigs as a cast member at Black Fedora Comedy Mystery Theatre, auditions for other productions, ghost tours, and occasional outings as a street performer.
“If I’ve got nothing going on for the day, sitting at home bored, I’ll say I’ll pick up a few rides,” Orange says. “I have an 8 p.m. show, so I’ll probably go out at 4 and pick up a few rides, and then I’ll go out again after the show.”
Never taken an Uber ride in Charleston before? Just download the free app on your smartphone. We’ll walk you through the basics.
1. Your ride just got cheaper.
In early September, Uber dropped its base rate for Charleston from $1.75 per mile to $1.25 per mile. Great news! That’s not the whole story, though.
According to Charleston-area Uber spokesperson Kaitlin Durkosh, the base fare is actually $1.50 plus $1.25 per mile, plus 18 cents per minute. And oh yeah …
2. Beware of surge pricing.
Uber has become infamous for its surge pricing, an algorithm-based system that raises fare rates during times of peak demand. It seems like every holiday brings with it another horror story from a customer in Uber’s domain, like the man in Durham, N.C., who paid $455.03 for a 15-mile ride home on Halloween night last year.
According to Durkosh, who calls the pricing system “dynamic pricing,” the idea is to provide an incentive for more drivers to pick up riders during times of high demand. She also says riders won’t be caught off guard with a steep fare at the end of a ride because the fare is always presented up front. “The fact that dynamic pricing is in place is communicated repeatedly to a user — and requires confirmation — before the user can request the trip,” Durkosh says.
3. Size matters.
The base rate of $1.25 per mile actually only applies to UberX, which gets you a car that will seat up to four riders. If you want something slightly bigger that will carry up to six passengers, you’ll need to flip the switch on your Uber app and call for an UberXL. In that case, your rate jumps up to a base fare of $3 plus $2.25 per mile, plus 20 cents per minute.
4. Your driver is not trained.
It’s not hard to become an Uber driver. Drivers must be at least 21 years old. If drivers are under 24, they must have at least three years of U.S. driving history; if they’re over 24, they only need to have one year of U.S. driving history. In addition, South Carolina state law requires drivers to purchase car insurance covering $150,000 for death and bodily injury per incident.
Uber runs a background check on potential drivers and will disqualify them for having a DUI conviction in the last seven years, earning too many traffic tickets, appearing on sex offender registries or terrorist watch lists, or certain other offenses. The company does not test for driving skill, but it does pay a mechanic to inspect potential Uber drivers’ cars, which must have four doors, have a model year of 2005 or later, and be in “excellent condition,” according to Durkosh.