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How to use the Uber app and hail your first ride

Everything you need to get going is in your pocket.
By
January 9, 2023

For a lot of people, Uber has become synonymous with ridesharing, despite competitors like Lyft, DiDi, and of course taxi fleets. Here’s how to get started with Uber and take your first trip.

How to sign up for for an Uber account

An abstract Uber car
Uber

The first step is downloading the official app, whether for Android or iPhone. You can technically use Uber via the web, but you’ll inevitably be hailing rides away from home at some point, and your phone provides more precise location info.

When you launch the app, you’ll be prompted to create an account. You’ll need a valid email address and phone number, the latter of which will be verified via text message. You’ll also have to choose a preferred language, as well as some form of payment method. We recommend using Google Pay or Apple Pay for the sake of flexibility, but there are other options, which we explain further along in this guide.

Once all of the above is done, Uber will send an email asking you to confirm your account registration. When you comply, that’s it — you’re ready to ride.

Related: What is Uber Connect?

How to use Uber

If you want to travel as soon as possible, hailing a ride begins by tapping the Where to? field and entering an address where you want to be dropped off. Before doing this, you can optionally tap the Now button to schedule a pickup up to 30 days in advance. Benefits to that include extra wait time (from drivers), and the ability to cancel without charge up to 60 minutes in advance.

On the screen where you enter your destination, you can also alter your pickup point and add multiple stops. The latter is normally only useful if you’re picking up other people.

With a route in place, you’ll see an overview of your trip with the estimated travel time and costs. There are usually several different ride options (more on that soon) — UberX is the default, but you can swipe up the bottom panel to see a full list.

Towards the bottom of the screen, you’ll see a selected payment method. Tap this to choose an alternate one if you’ve set it up in your Uber Wallet. When you’re ready to go, tap the Confirm button.

While you’re waiting, the Uber app will show your driver’s info and location, as well as the make, model, and license plate of the vehicle that’s coming. Pay attention to this so you know which vehicle to get into — mixups do happen, especially at airports, where there can be dozens of people hailing rides at the same time.

When your trip is over, you’ll be asked to rate your driver and add a tip. Be as generous as possible, since Uber drivers aren’t paid that much otherwise and your rating can affect their business. You can tip in person using cash, or in-app up to 30 days later.

Payment methods

Uber is primarily a cashless service, some regional exceptions notwithstanding. However you want to pay, you can add, edit, or delete methods by opening the Uber app and selecting Account > Wallet. There are many possibilities:

  • Uber Cash: This is a prepaid account to which you add funds. Normally that involves picking credit and debit cards, or online services like Venmo and PayPal, but Brazilian riders can top up at over 280,000 retail locations.
  • Gift cards: You can’t pay for your own rides this way, but friends and family can help you out.
  • Google Pay/Apple Pay: These let you quickly switch cards and authorize with biometric authentication. We recommend them whenever they’re available.
  • PayPal/Venmo (or similar services): Once you’ve linked an account, rides will automatically be billed to it, and draw from the card or bank number it’s attached to.
  • Credit/debit cards: You’ll be asked to scan a card using your phone’s camera, or else manually enter a number. Either way though you’ll need to type in the expiration date, CVV code, and ZIP/postal code.
  • Vouchers/promo codes: This involves typing in a supplied code to add funds towards future rides.

Ride options

A pair of Tesla Model 3s in red and silver
Tesla

Putting aside Uber’s scooter, e-bike, rental, and carpooling services, you should have up to six ride options, depending on when and where you’re hailing:

  • UberX: This is the standard and usually cheapest option, allowing up to 4 passengers plus a small amount of cargo.
  • UberXL: This allows up to 6 passengers. It might also be necessary for smaller groups carrying a lot of baggage.
  • Uber Green: Effectively UberX, but for a marginally higher price, you get to ride in an electric vehicle.
  • Comfort: If you’re willing to splurge, this is UberX with a newer car and more legroom.
  • Uber Pet: UberX plus accommodations for a single pet, such as a dog or cat. You’ll pay extra, and you’ll still need to provide your own restraints, carrier, and/or blanket. If your pet makes a mess, you may be charged a cleaning fee.
  • Premier: UberX in a luxury vehicle with a highly-rated driver. This is what celebrities and other wealthy people use, and can cost more than twice as much per ride.

Uber pricing

There’s no fixed price for Uber rides. While the company does have base rates based on time, distance, and your ride option, there are additional operating fees that vary from city to city. Prices also tend to surge higher for busy times and areas — so while visiting a friend’s house mid-day might be relatively cheap, you’ll pay a fortune to get home from the airport at rush hour.

The good news is that when you go to book a ride, you’ll get a price estimate before you have to commit. That lets you back out if a cheaper non-Uber option is available. Be aware that if you book a ride but then cancel beyond a specified window — for instance, 2 minutes after an UberX request has been accepted by a driver — you’ll be charged a cancellation fee. You’ll also be charged a fee if you’re a no-show at your pickup point, within a few minutes’ leeway.

Within some regions Uber offers a monthly subscription option called Uber One. In the US this knocks 5 percent off the cost of rides, and eliminates delivery fees for Uber Eats orders, among other discounts. If you use Uber multiple times every month, you’ll probably save money by signing up.

Choosing a pickup location

The Uber app doesn’t automatically select your exact GPS location. If you’re not already curbside, it’ll suggest a nearby, road-accessible location within a short walking distance. You’ll also get a movable pickup pin, which you can change both before confirming a ride and before pickup.

Note that at airports and other mass transit hubs, you may be prompted to go to a zone designated for rideshares. The app will often select such zones when it detects where you are, but if not, you may want to walk to a zone before booking.


Read more: E-bikes buyer’s guide

FAQs

You don’t have to, but you probably should unless you can’t afford it. Uber drivers aren’t paid that much, so they depend on tips to make a real living.

You can tip in person using cash, or in-app up to 30 days after a ride.

The vast majority of rides should be incident-free, particularly since Uber requires annual background checks for a driver’s criminal and vehicular history. A 2020 report from Alarms.org claimed that Uber (and Lyft) were actually safer for women than taxis, public transportation, and other car services.

Incidents do happen however. Uber’s internal 2020 safety report detailed 141 cases of rape and 998 incidents of sexual assault, including 20 deaths. However slim a percentage of total rides that might be, women should take advantage of Uber’s built-in security options, and travel with others when it’s practical.

Possibly, but there tends not to be much difference in most situations.

Where there might be a real gap is in times/areas affected by surge pricing. If you’re looking at a large bill, it’s probably worth checking both apps before paying.