I drive for Uber and Lyft — here are 9 situations when you should definitely tip your driver

Clarke BowmanThe author, Clarke Bowman, is a driver for Uber and Lyft in Miami.
  • I’ve been driving for Lyft and Uber for several months, and noticed that about 20% to 25% of my passengers choose to tip me.
  • Drivers don’t expect passengers to tip every single time, but certain situations definitely call for it.
  • If your driver goes above and beyond by helping you with your bags, taking you to a faraway destination, or providing you with a memorable experience, you should pay a little extra.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

I’ve been driving for Uber and Lyft for several months now.

I think I’m a good driver – I have a 4.99 rating, with hundreds of 5-star reviews, and a couple of 4-star reviews (who rates a driver 4 stars?). I have mostly good experiences, a couple of bad experiences, and I have learned a lot since becoming a driver.

But one of the things that I have learned is honestly shocking: Not everyone tips their driver.

This is baffling to me. Maybe I’m old-school here in America, but I make sure to always tip people in any service industry.

A waiter receives a 20% tip. A bartender that simply opens the cap off of a beer in 2 seconds receives a 20% tip. Taxi drivers have always gotten tips. The list goes on: hairdressers, housekeepers, food delivery drivers, valet drivers, photographers, bellhops, concierges, massage therapists, and even tour guides.

Most people would not even bat an eye at tipping any people in these professions. But somehow, Uber and Lyft drivers became exempt from this group.


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Naturally, I love getting tips. It tells me that you liked your ride so much that you gave me extra money. That’s the greatest compliment of all. You can tell me I’m nice, you can tell me how clean my car is, and you can leave me all the 5-star reviews you want, but 5-star reviews don’t pay the bills. There is nothing sweeter than getting a little notification that says “You received a tip!”

I would estimate that on average, roughly 20% to 25% of my passengers leave me a tip. After talking with many other drivers, my tip rate seems to be a lot higher than usual.

Of course, it’s unrealistic to expect every customer to tip. However, certain situations definitely call for a tip.

With that in mind, here are nine situations in which you should definitely tip your Uber or Lyft driver.


Tip if your driver helps you with large luggage or lots of grocery bags.

Scott Olson/Getty Images

If I pull up to the pickup point and I see the passenger with a couple of suitcases or grocery bags, I usually hop out of the car to help load the stuff. It’s polite, it’s quicker, there’s no awkward “Do you open the trunk or do I?” moment, and to be honest, it gives me a chance to stretch my legs.

However, most people are under this strange assumption that drivers are required to load luggage and grocery bags. But if you go onto Uber or Lyft’s website, you will notice that nowhere does it say that drivers are responsible for handling luggage or grocery bags.

Once, I was loading a passenger’s three large suitcases before a trip to the airport, and she exclaimed, “Wow! The driver the other day only popped his trunk when he pulled up and never got out of his car!”

Somehow, all of her very large and heavy bags fit into the back of my Prius. I dropped her off, unloaded her luggage, and wished her a great day, all while wondering how much she was going to pay in luggage fees – and she never tipped me.


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I remember pulling up to a Walmart at night, and a woman was standing there with three cases of water and enough groceries to feed a small army. I loaded all of the groceries, and later helped carry them to the inside door of her apartment, and she also never tipped me.

I remember these specific scenarios because I truly went above and beyond there and received nothing extra for it, other than the sour taste of feeling taken advantage of.

I would personally estimate that only 25% of people tip when I help them with their large luggage or large groceries. This is appalling.

If your driver helps you out with your large belongings, help their wallet out and leave them a tip.


Tip if you bring a pet along for the ride with you.

Shutterstock/antoniodiaz

We all love our four-legged furry friends. I certainly do.

Do you know who might not love them? Your Uber or Lyft driver, for any number of reasons, including allergies, fear, or the potential mess they might leave behind.

Some might ask, “Can’t the driver just decline the ride?” Maybe not. Is the dog a service animal, or just a pet? Service animals, in accordance with state and federal laws, are allowed to ride with their owners, no matter the opinion of a driver. However, this enters the territory of that law where you cannot ask if the dog is a service dog.

If you deny a ride to a person with a service animal, and they report you to Uber or Lyft, this will result in immediate and permanent deactivation of your account.

I personally love dogs. I like seeing their smiling faces and their wagging tails as they look out the window.

I really don’t love the dog hair left all over my seats.

Riders with pets are very few and far between. But if you do have to bring yours along for the ride, even if it is for a valid reason, make sure to tip your driver a little bit extra.


Tip if your passenger rating is low.

Just like you can rate your driver after a ride, the drivers can also rate passengers after a ride. Most people don’t even know their own passenger rating. You’re unable to view your Lyft rating, but in the Uber app, you can view it by tapping the menu in the top left corner of the app.

We drivers use the passenger rating as a kind of unspoken way to communicate to each other who might be a good passenger and who might be a bad passenger.

We interpret passenger ratings a little bit different than your normal 1-to-5-star rating. A 5.0 is a perfect rating, but likely means it’s just a new rider. Something in the 4.90-4.99 rating means they’re a great passenger with lots of past rides. A 4.80 means they’re OK. A 4.70 means they’re “eh,” but decent and probably received a 1-star rating somehow (what did they do?). A 4.60 is a really bad rating. And a 4.50 means you are somehow an absolutely awful passenger and might get kicked off of the platform. I have never seen below a 4.50.

One day, I got a request from a passenger rated 4.55. I took the ride out of boredom and curiosity – I just had to see how this person had a rating of 4.55.

I immediately regretted my decision as the guy got in. He was sweating profusely, and he acted drunk, despite it being only 3 p.m. He reeked of a horrid smell that was somehow a mix of cabbage and old cheese. He pulled out a vape pen and asked if he could smoke it. After I told him I would prefer if he didn’t, he then asked me if I voted for Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton. I told him I don’t discuss politics with passengers. Then he tapped on my shoulder and asked if I was a pepperoni pizza or pineapple pizza kind of guy. I said pepperoni, and to please not touch me again. He then proceeded to tap on my window while simultaneously humming in the most annoying fashion over the next few miles, and then he slammed my door when he got out. There was a sweat stain on my seat. Wow.

I contributed a 1-star rating to his already low rating and brought out the cleaner spray.

Most riders get 5 stars from me. I rarely hand out bad ratings. You have to be a really bad passenger to get a bad rating.

Tips change all of this. Anyone who hands me cash at the start of a trip is getting a guaranteed 5-star rating. Anyone who shows me them physically entering a tip on the app at the end of the ride is also getting a guaranteed 5-star rating.

If it’s late at night, or you’re leaving a very busy event, I’m sure you want to get home quickly. Drivers tend to be very selective with passenger ratings late at night or at big events, as they want to get the best passenger possible – a low rating can possibly mean you’re likely to vomit in their car. I personally will not accept a request from a passenger who has less than a 4.75 rating late at night, and to date, I have never (knock on wood) had a person get sick in my car.

If your rating is low, it will probably take a while for you to be matched with a driver.

Tipping can get your rating up, and get you better and faster rides.


Tip if your driver has an exceptionally clean and nice-smelling vehicle.

Osman Orsal/Reuters

Each week I make sure to give the outside of my car a good hand cleaning. I wipe away the dead bugs and spray the windshield with Rain-X. Almost daily, I vacuum the interior. I have a spray that I spray on the cloth seats so it smells good. And to top it all off, I use an actual good air freshener, not those little cheap and nauseating pine tree things that you hang from the rearview mirror.

It doesn’t take much time and effort since I do it daily, but it is effort.

People regularly tell me that my Prius smells better than a new car, and I have seen countless comments in my reviews telling me how my clean my vehicle is.

I know this is subjective, so please don’t think I’m demanding a tip just for having a clean car. I’m sure there are lots of riders that expect a moderately clean vehicle but feel that they shouldn’t have to pay extra just because the vehicle was ultra-clean. I completely understand that. Just please know that these clean cars don’t clean themselves.

I think back to the time a few months ago that I went to get in an Uber (yes, I still order them) with four of us going downtown. I went to hop in the passenger seat, and the driver was hand-sweeping a bunch of crumbs off the seat along with his McDonald’s bag. His floorboards were covered in trash, crumbs, and straw wrappers. The car smelled like a locker room. Filthy.

Spoiler alert: I didn’t give him a tip.

I also see other Uber and Lyft drivers at traffic lights, with cigarettes in their hands dangling out of their window. There is no way your car smells good if you’re smoking, no matter how much you keep the cigarette out the window.

If you think your driver put in the extra effort to keep their vehicle exceptionally clean, then consider giving them a tip over another driver that does the bare minimum.


Tip if your driver is a genuinely nice person.

Ints Kalnins/Reuters

I’m sure you’ve sat in the back of an Uber or Lyft before and thought, “Wow, this person is so wonderful – what are they doing this job for?”

Maybe that driver was just laid off and is between jobs. Maybe that driver is doing it part-time to generate extra income for their family. Maybe that driver likes driving and meeting new people. Maybe they’re saving up for a big purchase. Maybe that driver lacks other skills and this is the best option for them. Maybe they just have some free time and are bored, and drive as an excuse to leave the house.

The reason really doesn’t matter.

I like to think that we, as a society, should treat our service people well. No matter how much our society grows, and until the robots eventually take over, we need service people to cook for us, clean up after us, and transport us to where we need to go. It’s just a fact of life.

Whatever their reason for working, we as a society should strive to keep good drivers driving. I like getting into a vehicle that’s clean and with a nice driver that isn’t creepy. I think we all do. If your driver is a genuinely nice person, show them your appreciation and tip them a buck or two. That may be the difference between them deciding whether to continue driving or not when times inevitably get tough.


Tip if you’re on a long ride, or your dropoff location is in a rural area.

Tyler D. Rickenbach/Aurora Photos/Getty Images

I took a great 50-mile ride one time. It was mostly highway miles, and I travelled it very fast. Just under an hour later, I dropped off the couple, and the guy handed me a $US20 bill. It was incredible, making essentially $US61 in a single hour. What wasn’t incredible was after the ride, it took me nearly 45 minutes to receive another ride request, as their ride had taken me to the middle of nowhere. Thank goodness for podcasts to keep boredom to a minimum as I drove back to the city. I was so appreciative that the guy tipped me well. And I kept thinking to myself, man, what if he hadn’t? When drivers deliver passengers to rural areas and don’t get any rides back, that’s what we call in the industry “dead miles.” It’s time to be honest with ourselves. You know if you live in a very rural area. You know if your one-way, three-hour ride is probably going to take your driver away from their home. You know that your driver has a better chance of winning the lottery than getting a return trip completely home, especially if it’s late at night. In these cases, you should tip your driver well, maybe even very well, depending on how far the ride is. A minimum of 20% should be standard. Make the drive worth it for your driver.


Tip if you’re making a stop that lasts more than a couple of minutes.

Tim Boyle/Getty Images

A couple of years ago, Lyft introduced a feature called “Taco Mode,” in which late-night passengers could have their driver stop at a Taco Bell for no extra charge.

Uber and Lyft passengers both have the option to add a stop or two on their ride.

Drivers hate stops on a ride.

Here are some facts about stops: Yes, I have to stop at them. No, I don’t have to wait for you for 10 minutes, and yes, I can cancel the ride if I decide that you are taking too long.

In my area (it varies geographically), I make $US0.1275 a minute, or $US7.65 an hour, which is right around the national minimum wage, but well below the minimum for a lot of major cities.

If my wheels are not turning, I am not making money. If you are taking too long, I will end the trip. Sorry, but this is a business.

But put some cash in my hand, and I will wait as long as you’d like.

I remember when I first started driving, I picked up a girl at a bar on a Friday night. After waiting for almost 5 minutes, she finally got in, and the first words out of her mouth were, “Yeah, we’re going to need to stop for some food.” Really? Who says that?

I should have ended the ride right then and there. But I was less experienced than I am today, and thought surely she would tip me if I stopped somewhere.

She wanted to go to Taco Bell. Great – I love Taco Bell! We pulled up and the line was around the building. Ten minutes after entering the drive-thru line, my mouth salivated as she ordered a Crunchwrap Supreme. And nachos. I wanted nachos, but of course, she didn’t offer to buy me any.

After leaving, we got caught by the train, and for 10 minutes, I heard the crunching of nachos in her mouth as we waited for the train to pass. I arrived at her house about 15 minutes later, and instead of hearing “I’ll leave you a good tip!” I heard her door slam shut. She never even said thank you. I looked in the backseat that was now covered in nacho chip crumbs.

She never tipped me.

Yes, I still remember that ride. Yes, I’m still upset about it. Yes, I really wanted some nachos. And yes, I only made $US8 for a 34-minute ride.

Now, I refuse any stops at fast food places, and I don’t allow people to eat in my car.

If your stop is going to take more than a couple of minutes, you need to tip your driver. Don’t be the person that makes them have angry flashbacks months later. But more importantly, don’t be the person that causes them to make less than minimum wage.


Tip if your group is rowdy or obviously drunk.

I love drunk riders.

No, this is not sarcasm. I truly and honestly appreciate riders that are drunk. This is true and from the bottom of my heart: Thank you for not getting behind the wheel. Thank you for realising that $US20 in Uber or Lyft fees from your house and back is not worth a DUI and risking the lives of other innocent people. Thank you.

And trust me, I really do enjoy your company. Once the clock strikes midnight, you drunk riders are feeling good and feeling great, and are ready to go to another bar, or ready to go home. Your stories are hilarious. You break up the monotony of driving around. I can’t believe what Jessica did! Did Tim really say that? Unbelievable!

But wow, could you, like, tip a buck?

The percentage of drunk passengers that tip is entirely too low.

Maybe you’re too drunk to fully recognise the situation, but I, a sober person, am driving you around, safely. What is that worth to you?

If you took a poll that said “Would you pay an extra $US5 extra to never receive a DUI and never endanger the lives of everyone else?” I’m pretty sure you would receive a resounding 100% “yes.”

Drunk people: Tip your drivers. That is all.


Tip if you tell your driver ‘I’ll tip you in the app.’

I was taught from a very early age one very simple thing: You don’t lie.

Lying is never an option. No matter the situation, no matter the circumstances, you don’t lie. Truth will always prevail.

The amount of times I have heard, “I’ll tip you in the app,” only to receive no tip at all, is honestly ridiculous. It is almost a guarantee that if I hear the words “I’ll tip you in the app,” I am guaranteed no tip at all. It is practically a meme among drivers at this point.

I’m not sure if saying the words “I’ll tip you in the app” triggers some type of positive endorphins that rush through the brain causing a person to believe that they must have tipped, but it must be the case, because there can’t be this many liars in the universe … right?

So, please riders, break this horrible routine of saying you’ll tip us, but knowing very well that you have no intention of doing so. Studies have proven that habitually lying can make you physically sick, and it’s just a rude thing to do when you lie right to a driver’s face. It’s not right.


My tip to you: Please tip your drivers.

Carlos Jasso/Reuters

We all know we’re getting a good deal with Uber and Lyft rides. They’re cleaner, they’re safer, they’re faster, they’re cheaper, and they’re more convenient than a taxi. And if there’s an issue, Uber or Lyft probably has your back.

Your drivers are real people with real lives of their own.

They are providing a great service for you.

Take care of them monetarily. They are your neighbours. Chances are, some drivers could probably use that dollar a lot more than you can.

Tip your driver appropriately, especially if they’re a good driver. Let’s help keep them on Uber and Lyft. It will be better for everyone involved.

And please, pretty please, don’t say “I’ll tip you in the app” unless you truly mean it.

With a couple of extra bucks, a kind heart, and a little generosity, we can all make this Uber and Lyft thing better for everyone.

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