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How to earn more during the winter

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The winter period and in particular, the Christmas season, is the busiest time of year for Uber drivers. The good news is that you can make more money mostly because of the bad weather and parties.  

Indeed, many people see the cold spells – or rail strikes – as reasons not to travel. But for PCO drivers, they are golden opportunities due to the surge pricing (see below for details).  

No public transport on bank holidays can also make these dates a profitable time to work.

Here are Otto Car’s top tips on how to maximise your earnings and reduce the risks.

A PCO driver and his Kia Niro outside of Otto Car's Hammersmith Hub

Get your car ready 

You cannot earn anything if your PCO car will not move. At this time of year, it’s even more vital to do basic everyday checks before you hit the road to avoid a breakdown or fine. 

When the weather is really bad, it’s worth getting winter tyres – or at least make sure that your existing ones are in good condition.

  • Check all lights work and are clean (wash road-salt from under the car too)
  • Measure tyre-threads and pressures (the cold reduces air-pressure)
  • Clean windscreen wipers (if you remove frost with wipers, the blades rip)
  • Pack an emergency kit (e.g. de-icing gear, warning triangle, and torch). 
  • Keep the breakdown number to hand (in most Otto Cars, it’s a windscreen sticker)

See our winter checklist to fully prepare your PCO car for the cold weather here.

▶️ The police and TfL do spot-checks of Uber drivers at hotspots like Kings Cross, Heathrow or Blackfriars Bridge. If your tyres are low, you risk a PCN and licence points.

Maximise your range 

The last thing that you or your passengers want is to get stranded in the traffic. So ensure that your PCO car always has plenty of charge (or fuel) for the whole trip. 

A few simple ideas will make your vehicle more efficient which helps you to drive further before you have to stop. This saves you both time and money. 

  • Brake smartly (recharge the battery when you slow down an EV)
  • Warm the engine before driving (don’t let it idle for too long or you risk a PCN)
  • Preheat the battery of an EV (it’s best to do this ‘precondition’ while plugged-in)
  • Use Eco mode (boosts mileage and lowers torque for more control on icy roads) 
  • Drive steadily (smooth acceleration and braking saves energy – and lives too)
  • Inflate tyres (low air-pressure in the tyres will reduce the range) 

▶️ Top tip: Reduce speed to boost mileage. For instance, if you drive an EV above 50mph, efficiency drops. On a motorway, you lose a third of the range. Read more here

Otto Car's driving instructor Baret showing essential checks

Drive safely

The shorter days and poor weather cause problems for even the most experienced Uber driver. For instance, when driving at sunset or sunrise, dazzle can be a problem, even in the winter. To avoid this, keep your windscreen free from smears, as this makes it worse. 

Otto Car’s senior driving instructor, Baret, offers the following practical advice:

  • Drive at the right speed for the road conditions (not always the speed-limit)
  • Allow longer stopping-distances (double on wet roads and ten times more on snow)
  • Clear all car windows of any frost or ice (if not, you risk a £60 fine) 
  • Remember that fog will also make the road wet and slippery
  • Turn on your lights before it’s dark (don’t rely on the automatic setting)

▶️ Top tip: Set-up weather alerts on your phone. Heavy rain or snow helps you earn more but these warnings will also reveal when it’s about to get so bad that it’s time for a break.  

Plan ahead

You can’t choose your destinations but you do have more control than you think – and even a little planning helps a lot. For instance, the major holiday events provide plenty of work but they also create extra traffic. These are two sides of the same coin. 

Researching when and where events happen lets you predict hotspots and make choices: 

  • Attractions: Hyde Park Winter Wonderland, Trafalgar Square
  • Winter markets: Southbank Centre, Leicester Square, Covent Garden
  • Christmas lights: Oxford Street, Regent Street, Kew Garden
  • ⛸ Ice skating: Natural History Museum, Somerset House, Queen’s House

▶️ Top tip: Use the Uber ‘Trip Radar’ feature to make trip requests in a specific direction. 

Take advantage of surges

Surge pricing activates inside the Uber app whenever the rider demand is greater than the number of available drivers nearby – and it means the trips are more profitable for you. 

Keep an eye on the heat map in the Uber app to find the dark red ‘surge zones’ – and then drive around these areas. Even though the other PCO apps (e.g. Bolt or FREE NOW) don’t publicise this specific feature, the Uber surge-zones reveal where to find the highest fares. 

▶️ Top tip: Check the ‘Promotion’ section of the Uber app to find new ways to earn extra money. Taking Consecutive Trips, for example, helps you to make more bonus cash.

Go the extra mile

This is a great time to be paid tips (or at least get good reviews) if you take extra care of customers. For instance, be aware it’s cold and make it easy for passengers to find you. 

People are likely to be drinking alcohol, even during the day, so might be a little confused. Always greet riders by name and help them to make destination changes or add drop-offs.  

Watch out for pedestrians in low light, especially in crowds, where they might behave in odd ways or suddenly become ill. Take good care of vulnerable female passengers. 

  • Keep your PCO car tidy and smelling nice (Fabulosa is lovely – and antibacterial)
  • Pack cleaning materials in the car (e.g anti-sick crystal gels and latex gloves)
  • Ask passengers if they’re comfortable (e.g. temperature, music level)
  • Offer free items to make riders smile (e.g. gum/mints, water or phone chargers)
  • Run a festive playlist (if you don’t want people to use Bluetooth, explain why).

▶️ Top tip: It’s cheaper to keep riders comfy with heated seats than run the cabin heater.  

Want to learn more?

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