3 Things To Know Before Your First Ride

Illustrated Lyft in front of a building with an open sign

I was nervous to give my first Lyft ride back in 2014.

I remember turning on “Driver Mode” for the first time and staring at my phone screen for 10 minutes not exactly knowing what to expect and I wasn’t entirely sure how all of this worked.

I was hoping my car would be clean enough and that I knew which buttons I would need to push on my phone in order to get my first ride done without messing anything up. I was also hoping I wouldn’t get a drunk person.

Is this thing on?

How long do you think it’ll take?

I wonder who it will...


A big noise rang from my phone and a countdown timer appeared on my screen. The ride was a few miles away so I attached my phone to the mount in my car and was off to give the first of my 7,000+ rides.

Before Your First Ride...

The first thing I’d recommend is having a phone mount. Trying to “wing it” without a cell phone mount is dangerous and it’s extremely difficult to juggle a phone as you drive. Plus, your passengers may rate you lower for unsafe driving.

Make sure your phone is mounted within your peripheral vision as you drive so when you have to switch your focus towards it, the road is still visible. Most places also require you to have your Lyft emblem visible on your windshield (check here for local requirements), and of course you’ll need a phone to get Lyft requests, plus a phone charger.

Take a test ride

You can also take a "test ride" using the Ride walkthrough feature in the Lyft Driver app. It will take you on a “test ride” in real time and walk you through every screen you need in order to complete a ride from start to finish.

Apart from those two important tips, here are the three strategies I suggest to make sure you get started on the right foot (which just so happens to be the one you use for the gas pedal).  

1. Start Off In Familiar Territory

Start in a place that you already know. This will make navigating a lot easier and allow you to get used to the Lyft app coupled with a GPS app like Google Maps or Waze. Navigation is one of the top reasons for low ratings since passengers expect their drivers to know where they’re going and what they’re doing.

Suburban areas near a mall, train station, or college are usually easier to navigate. These areas will still have decent demand but more importantly they have pickup locations that are relatively easy to locate or figure out on your own.

You’ll be surprised at how busy / profitable these areas can be. Plus, driving in an easier area will reduce the stress of learning something new. It’s much easier to cruise through familiar territory than to drive on one-way streets in a place you’ve never driven before.

2. Drive When People Are Happy

Passengers tend to be happiest in the afternoons or during the middle of the day on weekends. This is generally when people are in the best mood since they are going home for the day, meeting friends, or enjoying some free time.

Evenings work well too. Usually between 5-7PM passengers are going out to eat, leaving work, or trying to meet a friend. These folks are my favorite to work with because they are going someplace they want to go to.

Morning passengers have a place to be

The morning commute can be a tough place to start because a lot of passengers are really on a time crunch. Especially if they called a Lyft because they woke up late (which I’ve done...more than once). There also tends to be more traffic during the morning commute so that may add some stress.

That being said, the morning commute is often the most profitable time in the day to drive. Once you get some rides under your belt, I suggest driving during mornings because there is higher demand and fewer drivers. This often results in PrimeTime.

3. Be Yourself

At first it felt weird that strangers were willing to give me money to ride in my personal car and I didn’t know what kind of professionalism they were expecting. I wasn’t sure if they would want to talk, remain silent, prefer to sit upfront, or sit in the back, or if they would like what I played on the radio. And I was worried that I would say the wrong thing and get rated badly.

I have since found that I get the best ratings by being myself and being comfortable. Once I stopped worrying about how each passenger would rate me, my ratings actually went up (from 4.83 to 4.99). I have seen a lot of new drivers really stress at each rating they get but I advise not stressing about it. As long as you get your passenger where they need to go, be polite, and keep a clean car your ratings will be fine. If your rating drops below 4.8 then it’s time to start thinking of ways you can improve your rating.

Does your passenger want to talk to you?

I used to talk to every passenger that got in my car as a way of breaking the awkwardness of being with a complete stranger. I figured it would make them more comfortable and at ease in my car.

It turns out, that not everyone wants to talk with their driver. I usually gauge this by greeting the passenger when they get in and asking them how their day is going. If they give me a story then I know they are down to converse. If they say “Good” or a one-liner and immediately stare at their phone I know they don’t want to be bothered. You will get better at it the more you drive.

And if a passenger puts their headphones on, don’t try to force a conversation :)

Be The Captain of Your Own Ship

Following these tips will lay the foundation for being a good captain. You ultimately decide how you will run your car, how often you will drive, and where you will drive (among other things). So you have a lot of control as a Lyft driver.

By being yourself, driving people who are happy, and sticking to familiar territory, you will set yourself up to enjoy driving and you might even find it a little addicting.