I’ve been an Uber/Grabcar driver for a year (in Malaysia) and this is what you should know if you want to drive for them (+ a little message to riders)

If you’ve read my previous posts you’ll see that I drove for Grabcar and Uber, the early experience I had and the setbacks I faced. I will keep this post straight to the point regarding guys who want to drive for the ride-hailing companies on a part time/full time basis and a little message to riders on being more understanding to the drivers’ situation. The reason I’m writing this is to share my viewpoints and, mainly, my setbacks and disappointments with driving for the companies. So here we go:

Thing you should know before signing up as a driver:

  • Most people who recruit you into the system are not being honest with what they’re offering – most people. A lot of them work full time jobs and simply make extra incentives RM200-700) just by recruiting new drivers and having them drive atleast 20 rides, after which they’ll receive their incentives. That’s not bad considering they have full time jobs and aren’t driving most of them time. There are, however, drivers who do full time and recruit to get extra cash.

  • The GrabCar driver app shows the destination as well as fare / promotional discounts, which helps a lot since we can choose how much we want to make or choose not to accept a deal that we think aren’t worth our time. Uber’s driver app, however, doesn’t show the destination, fare/promotional discounts upfront, which can be a hassle. But that’s why I think Uber is more professional and for professional drivers. If drivers need to go somewhere, then they can always set the destination at the ‘set a destination’ option in the driver app.

  • Driving for GrabCar and Uber full time is not the recommended choice, no matter what drivers or the companies tell you. It’s true that you can earn up to RM1000-2000 including incentives) a week but this means driving continuously for up to 8-12 hours a day, most of it during peak hours where there are a lot of demand, but low surge. So that means you’ll end up in traffic with a fixed fare – most of the time being a low fare, a promo fare or with low surge – especially during the evening peak hours. You’re basically driving for a McD charity during those hours. Grabcar has hourly incentives while Uber has removed it and replaced it with incentives by trips, which probably amounts to RM2-4 per trip extra pay. Whether you see that as being ‘worth it’ is up to you. Long hours of driving means sitting too long and this is not good for your health. I’ve gained weight around my midriff and felt sluggish. When I get stressed, I eat, so I gain more weight. However, recently I scheduled my time well and made sure I get enough exercise atleast once a day with a HIIT workout (high intensity interval workout: an intense short burst workout in a short time span).

  • GrabCar prioritises their passengers/customers first while Uber listens to both drivers and passengers. This is the reason why GrabCar banned my driver account after a rider complained that I swore to her for being tired of her attitude. Mind you, the ride was a GrabShare ride (i.e. a ride you can share with another passenger for a cheaper fare) of only RM7 and we were stuck in traffic for 40+ minutes. I had a similar situation with an Uber passenger but Uber double checked the situation with me and after I explained the situation, the took it into account and didn’t impose any disciplinary action.

  • Most full time drivers opt for full time driving either because they’ve lost their jobs, don’t want to answer to a boss or have nothing else they are qualified to do. You may not have a boss but you have a schedule to attend to, and if you don’t attend to it you’ll lose your opportunity. So, in a way, it sets your ‘entrepreneurial’ work ethic on alert but personally, I find the incentives not worth the time especially for Uber’s low fares. Most drivers will sooner or later behave like taxi drivers – they’ll start to haggle or dress like shit or don’t take care of their car well. Always present yourself well, put on some perfume and some breath freshener. Give the riders a good presentation of yourself, you never know what opportunities lie ahead. I’ve been offered well paid jobs, had girls (and even guys!) text me a few days later and even had more trip requests outside the app where I earn higher earnings 100% profit. I met a Miss Malaysia contestant, a business mogul who has personally met Saddam Hussein, the sons of the owners of Malaysia’s top organisations, and more. I’m not bragging but that’s the truth. Invest in a business card and give it to customers who connect with you.

Yes, I’m promoting myself, like how we all should!


The ride you get!

  • Uber’s fares are much lower (up to RM4-5 lower than GrabCar) and they charge a company commission of a whopping 25% ! which really cuts down your earning. GrabCar charges 20% . These commissions are deducted from the fare as a fee for drivers using their app to make some extra pocket money. For example, airport fares are now at a damn cheap rate of RM65 (and now it’s including tolls as well). Deducting 20% leaves you RM52 while 25% leaves RM48.75. A higher surge + a slightly higher Uber ‘toll’ will make up for it if you’re picking up a passenger from KL, but good luck on getting a surge if you’re picking a passenger from KLIA. So, next time you think KLIA trips are worth it, think again. Especially seeing that you’ll have to queue for hours on end to get the next passenger from KLIA, to which most probably you’ll be told to drive to Cyberjaya and Putrajaya by the companies either via the app or sms. In other words, you’ll return back out of the airports with an empty pocket. At the very least, it’s actually higher than most fares.
  • If you do decide to do airport trips, keep your app on at all times or screen lock it if you need to go somewhere. Otherwise it will turn off and you won’t get any orders.
  • Most riders won’t understand your situation and quite frankly, they don’t care. All they want is cheap fares or promo fares where they don’t have to pay anything. They might not even know how to set their exact location, and you may be lost. Always ask for their exact location. They don’t care that they’re riding in your beloved car; they’ll eat and drink and leave a mess. They don’t care that they don’t have to pay for your journey to their pick up point nor do they care to give tips. This is Asia – no one gives tips. Most don’t even know of the high comms set by the companies where you lose your money.
  • Most foreigners are professional expats or tourists – they pay tips once in a while especially when they see you giving a good service and stuck in traffic. As for locals, good luck. Though I do remember one lady giving me an extra RM5 for an RM4 ride where I was in traffic for 30+ minutes including 10-15 minutes trying to dodge traffic to pick her up. I was exhausted but I felt good helping them. That is your job – help people in and out of places.
  • With your earnings, save the first and second week for bills and any loan instalments. For the following weeks after that, earn to save. Do not spend your hard earned cash on food. Supply your own water and meals from home and keep them packed throughout the day. Keep a budget on touch n go & petrol. My strategy is to keep a full tank everyday and top it up by the end of the day and have atleast RM50 in my touch n go card. That way, I’m always ready for any emergency.
  • Only drive on these hours for weekdays, especially in the city centre: 6-10am for people going to work, 12-2pm for people going out for lunch, and 4 or 5-8pm for people going back to work. Driving other than that will most likely have you driving for a McD charity, unless there’s a surge. You will see high surge on Fridays throughout the day, so if you’re up to the task, drive a bit more. Busy hours for Saturdays and Sundays are 12pm – 9pm. Get a break every 3-4 hours or when they are no job orders after 5-10 minutes (find a spot next to a mamak restaurant, or under a tree and turn off your engine).
  • Beware of drug dealers disguising themselves as students. That much I’m saying. You’ll learn who they are as you get more driving experience.
  • A pick up time of more than 5 minutes is a long way away (waze/google maps will show the estimated journey time). That’s the most I’ll drive to pick up someone. Any more than that I’ll consider if I want to hit my daily trip incentive or if I’ve set to head to a certain direction. Otherwise I’d call and ask the passenger where they are headed. Driving 5-10 minutes only for a drop off a few blocks away isn’t worth a driver’s time – cancel the order in less than 5 minutes to avoid cancellation fees. Uber and GrabCar has set an incentive for a pick up more than 10 minutes, but it’s not worth it and I think 10 minutes is already too long. The travel incentive should be set for pick ups taking more than 5 minutes.
  • Uber and GrabCar customer service aren’t drivers and have never (or should I say, not allowed to be) been a driver, hence, they have little idea the challenges drivers face, what more the management. Sitting in an office with data is easy for anyone to come up with promo and deals or petty incentives. Don’t rely on them to understand your issues or to provide you with better pay. Find your own way.
  • Be professional in the way you speak as well as what you talk about. Only talk when spoken to and keep the conversation neutral. I see many drivers talk about politics and the economy – it’s ok if the passengers are locals and they engage in that kind of stuff but if they’re foreigners, keep that shit to yourself.
  • Keep your car clean and tidy atleast once from Monday – Friday, and once by Sunday. Empty your boot and get some car perfume.
  • Install 3 dashcams in your car – one to look forward, one facing the back and one for inside the car – where you can see yourself and the passengers clearly. If you can, keep it hidden. It will save you a lot of trouble…if you get into trouble.
  • Keep a small pouch for you to keep your belongings and where you can access your money for change. This leaves less time wasted when giving change. But riders should always be informed to get the exact change since the know the fare upfront. GrabCar riders and drivers will know the fare upfront, Uber drivers won’t. So riders should be reminded to be more ready upfront. There will be times when drivers don’t have that extra change because most riders give big cash and want change up to the closest cent!

That’s most of it for now. If you’re interested in trying it out and see how it will go for yourself you may sign up with this link:


Notes to passengers using the app:

  • Always LEARN how to use the app before ordering a car ride.
  • Set the EXACT pick up location and destination. If you can’t find it in the app, write in the note or call and inform the driver.
  • DO NOT message the driver while he is driving. We prefer calls, especially when we’re half way there.
  • Be polite. You’re riding in someone else’s car who is driving for some extra cash to support himself and his family. Don’t be cheap and ask for a lower discount, because the fares are already too damn bloody cheap!
  • If you see at the app that the driver will take more than 5 minutes to arrive / see that he is in a road you know to have bad traffic / is dropping off another passenger, then understand the traffic that they’re in. If you think it’s too long then cancel IMMEDIATELY, unless you decide to call him and ask if he is ok, then you can let it be.
  • Do not leave a mess when you leave the car. Be considerate to the next passenger coming onboard.
  • Leave some tips if you see the driver doing one hell of a job for you. An extra RM1 wouldn’t hurt your budget. Drivers will appreciate it.
  • Don’t expect a luxurious treatment – usb cables, napkins, snacks, drinks, pampering, pedicure, manicure, or a Thai massage. The fares are too cheap for drivers to provide you with everything. A tissue box and usb charging cable are sufficient. If you live in the 21st century you’ll know better to carry your own charging device.
  • Not every driver works full time. Some use Uber/GrabHitch (no longer operatinal) to pick up passengers on their way to work, and back from work. Uber has an option where the driver can set his destination, so he will only get job orders towards his destination. Though this is not perfect because the job destinations are sometimes in the same area, it does provide a good deal from time to time. So, if a driver asks you where you’re going, tell him and if he thinks that he can’t send you there then cancel it; you won’t be charged if it’s less than 5 minutes. The same goes to KLIA jobs. Drivers wait up to 5-7 hours to get the next job order, and surely he wouldn’t want to send someone to a nearby distance for only RM20. So tell him where you’re going if he asks.
  • Always give 5 stars. Drivers need to keep a rating above 4.3 or more so a 4 won’t cut it.
  • Always say thank you, unless the driver is a jerk. You can give him 1 star.

5 thoughts on “I’ve been an Uber/Grabcar driver for a year (in Malaysia) and this is what you should know if you want to drive for them (+ a little message to riders)

  1. Hi Ayman,

    This is a very good write especially to young (read new) driver like myself. I have to agree that sometime I spend more time in looking for the rider’s exact location when I don’t want to give up on the job just yet. And yes the airport trip. It is so damn frustrating when I have to wait long hours (plus the nosy policeman), only to get a small job and a cranky high-flyer who doesn’t seems to give a fcuking care of keeping your car clean and tidy.

    Keep up the good job sir!

  2. Dude,so dammmmmn biased.u speak of the drivers like they are gods and passengers are like devils..too many shitty drivers,drug abusers fidgetting like sotong,people sleeping off and almost killing me to the point i gotta offer to drive him,uber drivers who off their phne when destination isnt their choice(sobs),drivers who cancel the ride after me waiting for 10 mins, i already called and spoke to him and explained where to fetch me bla bla..n without the courtesy of even a text,they dissappear while i still wait coz i dont check my phone each milisecond..drivers who are rascist as F to speak abt people of my ethnicity and i just coyly smile coz they dont know i am of the same race they are talking ill about.the list goes on..not to forget d!!!heads who think im a moron to not realise when he quickly closes the final fare screen and decides to charge me a non promo rate..n yea,drivers who accept calls whn they are even 20+ mins away with other options nearer to me.also drivers who drive slow as F and makes the fare become so high.not forgetting drivers trying to sell u sh##,trying to sell u property..what abt pervs trying their luck with any attractive girl which rides with them..next day random number messaging..lastly,dont indoctrinate yr passengers with yr religious beliefs..the azan is a.reminder to pray for you,fair enough,but come on,whats the need to play it in your car when u know u have a passenger with you,n play it so friggin loud at that…my god i can rant till next week la if given the chance.call it ehailing or ride sharing,but passengers are still the ones paying your salary.so atleast have the courtesy to not have such tunnelvision and one sided bias la dude..screw e hailing apps,its been my biggest motivation to get a transport of my own..dont be confused,ive come across some decent drivers as well,however i feel that i should have decent drivers 100% of the time as i am either decent enough or more decent than required 100% of the time..n quit the bs abt locals not tipping,there are some of us who do..but with yr attitude and selective mindset,no wonder u barely get any

    • I’m writing from the view point of a driver. If you read the title then you’d know. All we’ve been hearing are the viewpoints of riders , who don’t know how the app works. So here u go. I can’t speak for other drivers but I don’t do the above

    • And one more thing, I’m not being biased. If you read the whole article without your biased mindset you’d see that I made a few points about drivers behaviours too

  3. Ps:my long rant was due to me finally giving up on all ehailing apps..ubers exit has left grab to monopolize the market,which makes me believe the experience for a passenger is just going to get worse now onwards

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