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How Uber is helping me pay off my car loan

I put away $200 a week by driving a few hours every weekend.

When I made the decision to buy a used car from my sister, my experience with Uber’s ridesharing service was limited to weekend trips to and from the city. And while I liked using it, I never thought I would be a driver — until I started looking for ways to put more money toward my car loan.

Finding my financing

As a writer and personal finance expert for Finder in Australia, I knew finding the right loan wasn’t going to be my biggest problem. I used a personal loan calculator with each of the lenders I compared to make sure the repayments would be affordable.

I compared both fixed- and variable-rate options and kept their restrictions in mind since I wanted to make additional repayments and possibly pay off my loan early. And while the car I was purchasing was relatively new, it wasn’t eligible for many secured car loans in Australia.

After comparing my options for a few weeks — and with the luxury of an easy sale from my sister — I settled on an unsecured variable-rate personal loan that came with no penalties for additional or early repayments. While I could afford repayments over a two-year term, I opted for a three-year term, wanting to give my budget a bit of breathing room.

But despite that, I wanted to pay the loan off as quickly as possible — so I needed to find an easy way to earn a little extra cash and repay my loan ahead of schedule.

The decision to sign up with Uber

People are always looking for ways to save up cash to make extra loan repayments, and now I was one of them. Making my lunch and bringing it to work every day — while good for some — wasn’t going to help me save the type of money I wanted. So I looked elsewhere, and then I remembered the Uber driver sign-up ads.

“Be your own boss!”

“Work your own hours!”

Sounds like a dodgy Internet ad, doesn’t it? But the lure of Uber was real, and I wondered if this was a viable option to help work however many hours I wanted and put what I earned toward my loan. With my editor’s blessing, I decided to investigate how to sign up with Uber.

Find out how much you can really make as an Uber driver

What happened when I signed up with Uber

Here are the two main steps I had to take when taking the plunge to drive with Uber:

  • Create an account online. Your driver account needs to have a different email address than what you used with your rider account – it took me a while to figure this out, but the customer service team were helpful.
  • Visit an Uber signup center. I then needed to visit an Uber signup center with my license, passport, RMS driving history, car insurance details and my car.* I had to pay for my RMS driving history, but those costs were reimbursed when I signed up as a driver. Uber had several signup centers in my area, with locations and times changing week to week.

* This was the policy in Australia as of December 2015. The process for drivers in the US may vary.

At the Uber signup center

I visited a center in Mascot with my documents and car. I was greeted by a friendly Uber rep and given a presentation about the app used by drivers, eligibility requirements for drivers and a bit about Uber’s philosophy. I was then taken to an office so we could go through my documents.

The whole process was quick. The most time-consuming elements were the vehicle inspection and filling out documents for a background check. While everything went well, my newly purchased car didn’t quite pass the vehicle inspection. But with some kind advice from the inspector and a business card for an auto mechanic, I was on my way.

What I learned at Uber’s signup center

Here are a few key takeaways from the presentation I was given at Uber’s signup center:

  • Uber needs drivers. Uber has more passengers than drivers and is in need of new signups. As long as you meet the eligibility criteria to be a driver, company reps can help you through the process and get you working quickly.
  • The work sounded enticing. While I was unsure about working as an Uber driver at first, the presentation was pretty convincing. You can work when you want, take breaks when you want and you’re paid weekly. The whole structure is transparent. The presenter said quite a few times that you would be working “with Uber, not for Uber.”
  • There are eligibility criteria. You need to be over the age of 21 and have held an unrestricted license for at least 12 months. Your car also needs to be less than 10 years old.*
  • It’s easy to make money. There’s a minimum $30 per hour* guarantee for drivers in the first few weeks they work, but the presenter said this usually isn’t needed because of the number of ride requests. He also said that surge pricing — where the cost goes up during periods of high demand — makes it easy to get higher fares by picking up riders in underserved areas.

*Eligibility requirements and minimum wages for drivers in the US may vary.

What happened after

A few days after the failed vehicle inspection and a kind message sent to my equally uninformed sister about her misaligned front tires, I received a call from Uber saying I had passed the background check and could become a driver pending a successful vehicle inspection.

While the need to visit a mechanic slightly deterred me, the vision of zipping around the city for a few hours each weekend hadn’t faded yet. If you’re looking to put $200 extra a week* toward your loan and have a few hours to spare every weekend, Uber is an option you may want to consider.

*Actual earned wages will vary based on where you live, how much you drive and other factors.

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Bottom line

While Uber worked for me, it might not be everybody’s choice. If you’re not quite ready to sign up for Uber but want to make extra money to pay off your car loan, consider other side gigs. You might also be able to refinance your car loan to get a better deal and potentially pay it off faster.

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