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Summer driving: How to make more money as a PCO driver 

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For some people, the summer is a time to relax but for Uber drivers this is a great opportunity to earn. Here’s how to stay safe in the heat and maximise your money. 

Plan when to work 

In the holiday season, lots of people are away but there are also fewer PCO drivers working. The likelihood of airport jobs increases and these provide good money, so always keep the car boot free from your own junk.

One mistake is continuing to work if the roads are super quiet in the hope of making a specific daily amount. Smarter to take a break and work longer when things get busier.   

It definitely pays to know about upcoming rail or tube strikes, as this means surge pricing on fares (see below). There are several already planned for this month alone on Sunday July 23, Tuesday July 25, Wednesday July 26, Thursday July 27 and Friday July 28. 

These strikes are sometimes called off at the last minute, which is why Otto Car provides up-to-date news alerts specifically for PCO drivers and also a free weekly newsletter.  

Top tip
Set-up weather alerts on your phone to discover when it’s about to get really hot or if a sudden rain shower is due. Both are likely to mean more Uber trips.

Take advantage of surges

Surge pricing activates in 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 in these areas. Even though the other PCO apps (e.g. Bolt or FREE NOW) don’t publicise this feature, the Uber surge-zones reveal where to find the highest fares. 

Top tip

Be aware of any big events in London and use the Uber ‘trip radar’ feature to pick up work nearby. TfL does provide this info – or you can find it easily at the Otto Car newsroom.  

Keep the car ready to drive 

You won’t earn any money if your PCO car doesn’t move, so never forget the basics. Ensure the car servicing is always up-to-date and do the simple checks every day. 

We’ve already covered these in detail but here are the most essential ones in summer. 

  • Make sure all external lights work (they must also be clean) 
  • Test the depth of tyre threads (use a 20 pence coin to do this) 
  • Check the air pressure on tyres (it should follow the maker’s advice)
  • Top-up screenwash (if this runs out, it’s an offence)

These steps will help avoid breakdowns and protect you from fines too. The police and TfL do spot-checks of Uber drivers at hotspots like Kings Cross or Heathrow. If the car fails, you risk a PCN and licence points.

Top tip 

You can save money with a weaker concentration of screenwash in summer as it won’t freeze. Just make sure that’s still strong enough to wash away crushed bugs. 

Make the car comfortable

Nobody enjoys getting into a hot car. In fact, avoiding the heat on public transport is one of the main reasons riders book an Uber trip during the summer.  

With this in mind, it pays off to keep the car feeling fresh. Top of the list here is the aircon. Yes, this will impact the range (a little) but you will miss rider tips and get poor ratings if you switch this off. 

Pre-conditioning brings the battery up to the correct operating temperature before the car moves. Doing so will prolong its overall life – and that saves money.  

You can cool the cabin to the ideal temperature as you pre-condition, even while the car is still charging. That way, you will begin work with a full battery.

Top tip

Electric PCO cars are legally allowed to idle, which means you can keep the aircon running while you wait between jobs. It’s yet another reason to switch to an EV.    

Clean the vehicle properly 

Top priority is to ensure the windscreen does not have smears, as this can make sun glare worse and cause accidents.

Resist the temptation to park under a tree to avoid the car getting too hot. If you do, keep a close eye on sap from the branches as this is difficult to remove if it hardens overnight.  

Even worse is bird poo. This must be taken off straight away as it ruins the paintwork if left on the metal too long. Be careful, though, as it often contains seeds that scratch the paint.

Get these tasks right and you will surely protect the long-term value of your PCO car.   

Top tip

Leave a soapy cloth or wet paper towel on the bird mess until it softens. Then it wipes off more easily.  

Prepare for emergencies 

Hope for the best but always prepare for the worst-case situations. This includes having an umbrella or waterproof jacket. In the UK, even the summer is unreliable so act smart.  

  • Know the breakdown number (in most Otto Cars, it’s a windscreen sticker)
  • Pack an emergency kit (e.g. bottles of water, warning triangle, and a torch) 
  • Keep cleaning products (e.g. latex gloves, vomit crystals, and a mini-hoover) 

Top tip
White smoke coming out the air-vents on the bonnet is (usually) nothing to worry about. This is water vapour from the aircon due to the weather. If it smells bad, get it checked.    

Look after yourself

The most important part of any Uber car is the driver. If you are comfortable, then everything else feels easier too. Wear 100% natural fabrics (eg cotton) that are loose-fitting and shoes that are practical for driving. No flip-flops. 

  • Stay hydrated 

In summer, it’s vital to drink plenty of fluids, even if you don’t enjoy it. Dehydration (lack of water) affects concentration and coordination, so you are more likely to have accidents.

The NHS recommends drinking 6-8 glasses of fluid per day. What matters more than the specific amount is whether you notice you have a dry mouth, headaches, or dark urine. These are the basic signs that you must consume more water or other sugar-free drinks. 

Top tip: 

Keep a bottle of water to hand – and sip this regularly. Sometimes we think we are hungry when we are only thirsty. Drinking more fluids might save you some money on food.  

  • Watch out for sun glare 

Scraping the car, or having any kind of accident, will put a serious dent in your earnings, so buy a good pair of sunglasses you don’t mind wearing all day. Ideally, these should be polarised, which means you are less likely to be dazzled by the sun reflecting off the road. 

If you wear glasses to drive, you need prescription sunnies. Clip-on sunglasses can be worn over normal ones. However, unless these match properly, they are not a smart idea. 

Sunglasses come in many colours but the strength of the tint has a filter category number. Drivers are not allowed to wear category 4 (the highest) as it’s too dark and unsafe. 

Top tip

Variable-tint glasses, also known as reaction lenses, do not work inside most PCO cars. This is because the window glass blocks the UV rays which is what makes them darken.   

  • Keep calm and carry on

When the weather is hot, people get angry easily. One answer is to ignore people who are causing trouble on the road for no reason, as even making eye contact with an aggressive driver can provoke the situation. It’s generally best to keep the doors locked and move on.

Get plenty of rest and try to plan ahead. For instance, if you are aware the traffic is bad, communicate this with the riders to avoid frustration. We have advice on this topic here.

Top tip

Each car from Otto comes with free CCTV cameras that provide evidence if there’s a road rage incident. However, every Uber driver can now get one via our new dashcam scheme.

Go the extra mile 

When the days are long, many people tend to drink too much alcohol or they get unwell in the heat. This is when it matters to show that you care about their welfare. 

Even little things like greeting riders by name or checking destinations carefully make a big difference. Your PCO car should be an oasis – and a place where female riders feel safe. 

Not only is it the right thing to do but your ratings will rise and you will see tips improve too. Here are some final thoughts on how to make yourself stand out from the crowd. 

  • Ask riders if they’re comfortable (e.g. temperature, music level)
  • Keep your PCO car smelling nice (Fabulosa is lovely – and antibacterial)
  • Offer free items to make riders smile (e.g. water, mints, or phone chargers)

Want to learn more?

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