Free Uber Rides! Changing Lives By Disrupting The Rules

Uber App Dashboard
Uber App Dashboard

Free Uber rides are great. Let me show you how to get free Uber rides in this post.

For the past several years, I've seen Uber grow from a scrappy startup to an enormous success based right here in San Francisco. In the Fall of 2013, the company was “only” valued at $3.5 billion.

As of 2021, Uber is now valued at roughly $70 billion! Instead of driving for them, the best way to get rich would have been to work for Uber when it first started in March 2009.

Free Uber Rides For All

Jabir, the “richest poorest person I know” actually became an Uber driver a couple years ago. He was unemployed for almost three years with a wife and daughter to support. It didn't matter what time of day it was, he was always available to play tennis. We'd also drive all around the Bay Area to watch struggling professional players battle up the ATP points ladder for eight hours a day sometimes. As tennis junkies, we were in heaven!

Then one day Jabir stopped being available. No longer could he play pick-up tennis at Golden Gate Park at 2pm. No longer could he be my pal when everybody else had to work, so I had to find a new friend to pass the time after my morning writing was done. When I asked him what was up, he responded that he decided to drive for Uber.

For the next 12 months, I didn't see Jabir at all. He drove ~10 hours a day for six days a week like a mad man. It was as if he was making up for lost time. When I asked him how much he was pulling in, he said well over $7,000 a month. Not bad coming from $0.

Uber allowed my friend and many other unemployed or underemployed people to find a way to earn some money and improve the inefficient taxi system in San Francisco. The disruption has been huge. I was even considering driving for them during my spare time, but Moose was too old as a 2000 Land Rover Discovery.

Starting in early 2014, Jabir began to come out and play again. When I asked him how were things going, he said that he was no longer driving for Uber, but driving a black SUV for a specific hotel instead. “Sam, I was getting too tired driving all those hours. Hotel driving is so much easier. Also, Uber kept cutting its prices so I was only making like $3,500 a month. It wasn't worth it to me anymore.”

Jabir actually started outsourcing his car to his brother to drive for Uber so he could start collecting a percentage of his earnings and free up time for him to drive for the hotel. Smart man. There's passive income opportunities everywhere!


I am a proud public transportation rider to the slight extreme. For example, back in the days when I was making the big bucks in finance, I would wait 30 minutes for a bus to get home than pay $15 for a cab. I just felt stupid paying 7X more for transportation. Instead, I would read some articles on my iPhone or call my parents to catch up. I also had an endless amount of stuff online to do, such as respond to comments, share posts over social media, and write my own posts. These two thumbs have typed 1,500 word posts on the phone before!

But at some price point, it no longer makes sense sense to wait because time is the most valuable commodity after all. It's also very frustrating to call a cab company and have the cab not show up because he decided to pick up a more lucrative passenger or whatever reason. So when Uber came out with UberX, I started to get more interested.

Uber originally began with black Lincoln Towncars – you know, the ones you see executives in suits get chauffeured around in. It was seen as an exclusive way to get around. Although the cost was higher than a taxi, it was still much lower than having to rent a Towncar by the hour or day. Uber's exclusivity really started attracting folks from all over who aspired to also ride in black limos.

The funny thing is, I didn't care at all about the exclusivity because I started my Towncar-riding the day I graduated from college as a lacky on Wall Street. If we worked after 8pm, we got to expense a Towncar home. If we had to go to midtown for a meeting, we got to expense a Towncar. If management from a private or publicly traded company was in town, we were definitely using a Towncar. If I had to deliver some presentations to my VP who didn't bring enough, I used a Towncar. To me, Towncars were like Honda Civics, ubiquitous.

Lower Prices On Uber

The introduction of UberX really started lowering prices and changing the transportation landscape forever. UberX allows anybody with a 2004 or newer car who passes all Uber requirements to become a driver. The ride that used to cost $15 now only costs ~$9, a 40% decline. Furthermore, Uber recently started UberPool, which is a car pooling system that cuts prices by an additional 30%-40% or so as well.

The one thing you need to watch out for is surge-pricing. Uber will raise prices based on demand during rush hour or big events like ballgames or concerts. Although the pricing is controversial, it makes perfect sense as an economics guy. If you don't want to pay, take the bus, sign up with a competitor like Lyft, bike, or walk. Complaining about surge pricing is silly because nobody is forcing us to pay for anything. The concept is similar to airline ticket pricing. Plan in advance to save money.

Convenience On Uber

The other thing I like about Uber is that you never need to use cash, swipe a card, or calculate tip anymore because the rides are linked to your account with pre-determined settings.

Once you set up your account online by entering your name, credit card information, and ride preferences, you're set. There is no tip necessary for Black, SUV, or UberX as its baked into the fare. You simply hail an Uber on your smartphone, track the car's progress, tell him where you want to go, and get out once you've arrived. See pics.

I can't tell you how many times I've been stressed having to wait for the cab driver to pull out his manual card reader because his electronic card reader doesn't work when rushing to catch a business flight. It's my own fault for always getting to the airport 45 minutes before takeoff, but time is precious and I'm trying to squeeze as much productivity as possible during my day. After taking several hundred business flights in my career, I'm pleased to say I've never missed one!


UberX Dashboard
UberX Is So Cheap

The funny thing about Uber is that it broke the rules to get to where it is now. You can't just start an app and get folks like me and you to become a taxi driver and improve transportation for everybody. There's always fees to pay the government and regulations to follow.

But Uber figured out that at the end of the day, local governments just want money and power. So long as the drivers are properly trained, all Uber has to do is give the government a cut of their revenues and allow for some oversight. Every new innovation breaks rules, otherwise, nothing would ever move forward.

Firms like Uber and TaskRabbit (also founded in SF) are providing sorely needed jobs countrywide and worldwide now. There is a huge underemployed population that is struggling to make ends meet after the financial crisis. Uber is uncovering productivity and meeting demand.

I'm rooting for more transportation disruption because gas prices are so high, parking tickets cost too damn much, and driving in traffic is my most hated activity. Life is too short for road rage. Uber has also helped me make a decision on what car I will purchase next. Stay tuned.

Updated for 2021 and beyond. Free Uber rides are harder to come by today. But free Uber rides are possible if you look hard enough.

44 thoughts on “Free Uber Rides! Changing Lives By Disrupting The Rules”

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  4. I have never used Uber but I know they have been in the news lately for shady business practices. I have been curious to try Lyft as I hear their customer service is excellent. I drive a lot myself so there is not much need for me to have a taxi service but I will def. consider this if I need a cheap way to get around.

  5. I love the concept of overturning our routines or expectations. Apple started with downloading music and it changed music forever. Uber and Lyft are changing the transportation and the taxi companies are not very happy about it. Perhaps taxis will have to compete price wise with the upstarts. That would be a win for consumers.

  6. Timely post for me, I just took an UberX home after a 12 hour day in the office. However, I only ride because my company reimburses for it. Otherwise, I am still in the stage where I’d rather pay $2 for a bus ride. I actually originally used Sidecar because it was (could still be) the cheapest ride in town, with no surge pricing.

    Ridesharing is one of those industries that has brought the potential of the internet to the next level. It further democratizes an age old system and puts power in the hands of the consumer. Not only that, it’s not just another social media tool like Snapchat; it moves real people with real assets and provides true worthwhile services. Because of this, if and when Uber goes public, I would definitely invest.

    Taxis have been around FOREVER because people always need to go places. Uber is eating up the taxi market and I wouldn’t be surprised if taxis in the traditional sense don’t exist anymore in 2 years. I always shake my head when I see anyone waiting on the sidewalk to hail a cab.

    Now the million dollar question is will self driving cars kill ridesharing/taxis altogether in 30 years? If they could make cars that could come pick me up, drop me off, and find parking for itself…hmm…

    1. I think self driving cars will be around in 10 years in specified lanes e.g. trains, but cars.

      How deep are you into your career and wealth building? I wonder at what point spending $2.25 (not $2 anymore in SF) on a bus stops being appealing.

      1. I think 10 years is a pretty safe bet. My current car is a 2013 Honda Fit and I’m hoping I will never buy another car. The next gen business model for Uber/Lyft/etc is a self-driving fleet of on demand personal transportation for customers, and without having to pay a driver prices will be so cheap nobody will be able to justify owning a car for commuting (maybe for pleasure, but that’s a different story).

        Puts a whole new lens on your decision about what to buy to replace Moose doesn’t it?

  7. Sam I know your true intention for this post was the referral uber credit you’ll get when someone uses your link :-).

    I swear by uberx. Use it in Chicago weekly, and recently took it 30 mi home to burbs from loop for $35. Cab would have been double!

    Taxi lobbyists tried to push a bill here to severely hinder uberx (i.e. progress), thankfully it wasn’t signed.

    1. I should hope so! I spent a couple hours writing this post. Did my “Free Uber rides” and “I think I get some transportation credit too if you do.” at the end of the post give it away? :)

      Uber really is transforming the transportation industry, and if there’s anybody looking to join a startup and and ride the growth, I would join Uber and AirBnB for sure. They are one or two years away from IPO, and I think employees will do great.

  8. Jay @ ThinkingWealthy

    When I moved to a large city recently I sold my car as it’d cost me $700 a month btwn insurance, parking, and the payment. I pay $150 a month for public transport. No chance in hell I spend $550 a month on Ubers so they get all my business now. Plus no gas, oil changes, etc!

      1. Jay @ ThinkingWealthy

        I wouldn’t, that’s my point. Whatever I don’t spend of that $550 is saved money! Ubers are so cheap that I don’t even spend $100 a month.


  9. Planning to use one real soon – heard alot of great things! This definately helps me when I need rides to SF airport!

  10. Sam, interesting topic but I think there is a much deeper conversation to be had here.

    I started using Uber when they first started up, and UberX has been great service for $ as well, but this isn’t the end point of this story. Uber as a company have a lot to figure out (as do lyft, sidecar, etc.).

    Firstly, there seems to be some negativity building among drivers – about reduced $$, more hours, wear and tear on car, etc.I have most certainly noticed a lot of driver turnover and many newbies, with a lot of the veterans like your buddy realizing it isn’t as sweet a deal for them anymore. How much longer are they going to have a fresh crop of drivers to recruit to make up for the ones jumping ship?

    Secondly – this irks me that so many consumers happily jump in to these cars with absolute oblivion about the insurance issues. Now, finally after quite a bit of shouting – all these platforms offer commercial insurance while a driver is on an active call. This wasn’t the case until recently – and personal insurance policies will surely throw out any claims as soon as its apparent the driver was using the vehicle for commercial activity. This still leaves the issue open as to when a driver is NOT on a ride, but logged on to the app and actively looking for one. We’ve all seen them cruising around busy areas in SF – currently Uber’s commercial insurance policy does not cover such a period. There was the story of the little girl who was killed earlier this year in SF, and I’ve personally seen Uber drivers knock cyclists in the city. I’ve also (while driving my car) been in an accident with an uninsured driver (which is essentially what an Uber driver not on a ride involved in an accident would be) – and it’s certainly no fun. Personally, I refuse to use these ride sharing services at this point until this issue in particular gets sorted out (yes, I won’t be affected by it if I were on a ride with them, but idealistically this hole in their insurance coverage is against the greater good for society and something we wouldn’t tolerate for any other service – so why this one?).

    There are other issues too, like doing proper background checks on drivers, the scandal of overloading competitor systems via dummy phone #s (covered recently on CNN – I’m curious what Uber’s investors, specifically Google Ventures has to say about this corporate policy), the fact that “UberPool” is actually illegal (there have been some recent articles about this, look it up), and a host of regulatory issues popping up.

    “Disruption” is fine, but just deciding that a regulatory framework currently in place doesn’t apply to you is poor attitude (and probably par for the course in the current tech-crazed economy). Uber Corporate also appears to face all these issues with an extremely bullish manner which is off-putting for me.

    It’s a great service and has resulted in the taxi services to seriously reconsider their business models. I hope they survive in the long run (let’s not forget that they’re currently buoyed by a huge influx of VC funding too) – but the true question will be if they can maintain their standards for us riders, while also fixing the issue with driver retention and the added insurance and regulatory costs that are only a matter of time (and perhaps lobbying) away.

    1. Very interesting…I was wondering about the insurance aspect of all of this as I would assume personal auto insurance would quickly deny claims once they found out you were technically operating a taxi service. It always make sense to do your homework first and ask all your questions before jumping in.

      1. Here is the insurance coverage from Uber:

        Since February 2013, Uber has offered ridesharing as the lowest-cost, most reliable on-demand transportation alternative. Bringing uberX with ridesharing to market in the U.S. has also required robust insurance coverage. Uber’s best-in-class insurance coverage for ridesharing in the U.S. includes as of July 14, 2014:

        $1 million of liability coverage per incident. Uber holds a commercial insurance policy with $1 million of coverage per incident. Drivers’ liability to third parties is covered from the moment a driver accepts a trip to its conclusion. This policy is expressly primary to any personal auto coverage (However it will not take precedence over any commercial auto insurance for the vehicle). We have provided a $1 million liability policy since commencing ridesharing in early 2013.
        $1 million of uninsured/underinsured motorist bodily injury coverage per incident. In December 2013, we also added uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage. In the event that another motorist causes an accident with an uberX vehicle and doesn’t carry adequate insurance, this policy covers bodily injury to all occupants of the rideshare vehicle. This is important to ensure protection in a hit and run.
        $50,000 of contingent comprehensive and collision insurance.* If a ridesharing driver holds personal comprehensive and collision insurance this policy covers physical damage to that vehicle that occurs during a trip, for any reason, up to $50,000 and with a $1,000 deductible.
        No fault coverage (e.g., Personal Injury Protection) is provided in certain states at similar levels as limos or taxis in those cities.
        $50,000/$100,000/$25,000 of contingent coverage between trips.** During the time that a ridesharing partner is available but between trips, most personal auto insurance will provide coverage. However the driver is also backed by an additional policy that covers driver liability for bodily injury up to $50,000/individual/accident with a total of $100,000/accident and up to $25,000 for property damage. This policy is contingent to a driver’s personal insurance policy, meaning it will only pay if the personal auto insurance completely declines or pays zero. This policy meets or exceeds the requirements for 3rd party liability insurance in every state in the U.S.
        As always, all UberBLACK, UberSUV, or uberTAXI rides are provided by commercially licensed and insured partners and drivers. Those transportation providers are covered by commercial insurance policies, in accordance with local and state requirements. We are proud of these industry-leading policies. We continue to look for ways to do more to ensure safety on the road for our transportation providers and their passengers. As we continue collaborating with the insurance industry and other stakeholders, there will be more to come.

        * This replaces our prior collision-only reimbursement program as of March 14, 2014.

        ** Effective as of March 14, 2014 in all U.S. states

    2. It’s going to be interesting times indeed. We are right in the middle of the transportation disruption storm. I’m pretty sure several things will happen:

      1) Taxi service will get better or else they will die
      2) Uber will continue to compete on price = good for consumers
      3) Uber will saturate the market with drivers, and then raise the standards for drivers. I think a driver who has had his/her license since 16-17 and drivers his/her own car is a safer driver than some of those very aggressive taxi drivers who whale on the gas pedal and don’t give a damn
      4) More regulation will happen and more revenue will flow to the gov’t in the form of taxes
      5) Insurance policies will adapt to best meet Uber driver needs. It must as the demand grows. Insurance is a business after all.
      6) Transportation overall gets better and cheaper.

      Let’s hope the VC funding party never ends. I think Uber has $1.6 billion in fundraising so far.. so I think they are good to go until IPO, where probably another $2-4 billion will be raised, assuming 10-20% float.

      I’m always happy to host guest posts if you’re interested! Let me know.

      1. Agreed on all your points!

        Completely anecdotal, and perhaps somewhat psychological as well, but I’ve noticed taxi service to be somewhat better lately in SF. Sure, they’re not fancy, but the cars have been clean, and the drivers have been pleasant. Also, the flywheel app negates a lot of the “I have no idea where my driver is or if they will show up!” issues of the old taxi world. It’s essentially Uber-ized the taxi business. I’m assuming only a subsect of taxi drivers use it, but I haven’t had trouble using it. Yes, it is currently a few more $$ than UberX, but I suppose that’s the price you pay for hefty regulation and full commercial insurance along with the convenience of an app-based product? Let’s hope the taxi industry takes this challenge and uses it to improve their business in a positive manner.

        The taxi industry also serves some niches that Uber et co are yet to address as well – serving disabled customers, taking service dogs, wheelchair accessible vehicles, etc., which they have strict guidelines on – I’m not sure what direction, if any, Uber drivers are given on such issues – curious to see how the ride sharing platforms tackle these.

        This market is certainly still very new, and has a lot of room for expansion. Living in SF it’s interesting to see a glimpse into how things will settle on a more global scale, given that these platforms started here and have had more time to evolve. Most customers in the Bay Area already have their platform of choice, I think. The volatility on the driver side is pretty close to settling too, I would imagine – jumping between platforms to pick the best, decide whether the money is worth it, etc. The regulatory decisions can’t be too far off either – as long as the costs of clear and comprehensive insurance, performing background checks and maintaining driver records, etc. aren’t overly prohibitive we certainly have a solution to the antiquated medallion system.

        Of course, the other side of this interesting battle we have going on in front of us is the competition between the companies. Sidecar just raised some new funding, and while neither they nor Lyft are anywhere near the size of Uber they bring an interesting culture twist to the market. Additionally, I hope they survive too as the end result of Uber being the only player left in the game doesn’t particularly appeal to me either, especially if the taxi system is completely crippled.

        In any case, the VC funding party continuing into the future is only a good thing for us consumers – wake up the taxi industry, subsidized top class services (related – the current trend of low cost/high quality food delivery services), and even if some of them may be very poor investment choices that are short lived (any bets on the Kozmo of this bull run?) I suppose it could at least be considered Silicon Valley’s special form of wealth re-distribution?

        1. Everybody is happy if the taxi cars and drivers get better. The old dispatch radio model is out. I’ve heard plenty of stories where drivers had to tip the dispatcher to get better fares.

          Maybe Uber will buy Lyft or Sidecar (never see these guys around anymore). It all comes down to convenience, reliability and price. Show up when you say you are going to show up and charge me a price I cannot refuse.

          I pray to goodness the Muni and bus system get better in SF. Woefully underfunded. NYC and London rocks in this regard.

      2. Agree in particular on #3. I always chat up my driver with what car they’re driving, why they bought it, how they like it, how many miles they have on it, etc. What they say typically shows enormous pride and entrepreneurial spirit, and is certainly a good humble pie lesson for those of us who would ever think about buying a new car. One SF area hint: for a used Toyota Prius, head to Dublin (not Ireland).

        1. Cool. I can see that for sure. The independent feeling and entrepreneurial spirt is an amazing one. And my friend Jabir renting out his Honda Civic to his brother to earn a cut is smart.

  11. I’ve been a huge fan of both UberX and Lyft. I recently bought a condo in a residential area of Boston where not many cabs will come. I can get downtown in 25 minutes walking to the subway / “T”, but it’s not ideal for going out at night. The first week I lived there I tried to call a cab, and he never ended up showing! Since then I’ve been using UberX or Lyft (whichever is closer), and I can watch the driver pull up to my house on my phone. It’s really made my condo worth so much more to me since I’m able to live in a quieter / residential area, but still am able to get to the downtown bars/restaurants within 10 minutes.

    I’ve also experienced some crazy surges in UberX trying to get home from the bar at 2am, but they make it very clear on the pricing and my high fares home have only been due to laziness and drinking too much!

    Now all that’s needed is for Uber to team up with the Google driver-less cars, which I’m sure will take forever with government regulation. It might be years away, but the technology is nearly there and it’d make finding parking downtown a thing of the past!

    1. Nice! Better transportation to city outskirts will definitely help those property prices. I cant wait for another muni line to run towards Golden Gate Heights. Super congested during rush hour right now and will probably get worse.

  12. Wow, Jabir was hustling when the money was good. $7,000/month was quite good. The 50% cut is pretty tough, though. I guess it was an intro pricing period.
    I haven’t used Uber, but if we get rid of our car, then I’ll definitely try it out.

  13. Yes, I’m a huge Uber fan and started using UberX much more frequently than the black limos, due to the ridiculously low prices. Case in point, I can get to SFO from here for less than half the price of riding in a smelly-assed taxi. Speaking of which…Sam, I think you had an opportunity to write a more significant and meaningful post here — about the compelling power of disruption in general, and how the entrenched industries (or unions or lobbies) always litigate and fight back. This is happening all over the place, including here in California, with Uber. This is happening with Tesla in states like New Jersey and Texas. It has happened for years with Amazon and continues to do so. The power, the growth, the opportunities — go to the disruptors — be they companies, or individuals, or both.

    1. My hope is to have commenters write this compelling story for me. I wrote from the angle of Uber allowing those underemployed to earn money and fill the void. I think that’s a HUGE benefit to society. It feels good knowing that there is one more method out there to make money to avoid starvation.

      1. Nice point. BTW, the entrenched media have written about this exact point – of course taking the viewpoint that poor beleaguered underemployed Uber drivers are miserable. Clearly I may not get at “the truth” but a common tangent among the many Uber drivers I’ve spoken with in multiple cities is that they’re thrilled, they’re independent, they run their own businesses, they are entrepreneurs…

  14. Ben @ The Wealth Gospel

    I agree that it’s a good disruption. I’ve never used Uber before, but I’ll have to give it a try!

  15. I’ve never used Uber myself, but I have a few friends in the city that use them all the time. It is cheaper than a cab, at least for now. One of them told me that he called an Uber ride and an actual cab showed up. Maybe cabbies are also trying to get in on the action.

    1. I was reading about some rumbling while I was there this summer for Wimbledon. Disruption = bad for old industries, almost always good for consumers. Uber is signing up taxis to their tech platform though.

      The London Cab is an institution though!

    2. I was in London last June when that happened. My colleagues and I used Uber twice that day, including on a lengthy journey to Heathrow from the centre of London at the end of the day.

        1. As of a couple of weeks ago I am on sabbatical (loud throat clearing) and so don’t have access to the exact figure, but to my recollection it was about $120. There were three of us in the car.

  16. Stefanie @ The Broke and Beautiful Life

    Lyft also uses surge pricing. A friend of mine from high school is actually one of the co-founders. I’d like to be him right now ;)

  17. I have never used Uber, but my friends down the street do all the time. I think they said it’s about $30 each way for a trip downtown, which sure beats a DUI! (They are big drinkers)

  18. UberX is definitely cheaper than a cab in the Boston area. Usually a cleaner car, too!

    The driver quality is going downhill though. I’ve had to give directions to almost every UberX driver in the last couple of months, and that never happened before.

    Eventually I imagine the Uber experience is going to get just as crappy and commoditized as the taxi experience… and then another disrupter can come in an eat their lunch :-)

    1. Jay @ ThinkingWealthy

      You can actually input your destination in the app and it sends directions directly to your driver’s phone. I think that’s relatively new though (last few months).


    2. It is annoying when a driver doesn’t know how to get there, as all I want to do when I get in a car is NOT think about traffic and giving directions. Thankfully, the app allows you to put your target address in, and GPS is ubiquitous.

      I bet Uber will start competing more on quality of drivers once they do more dominating of the market.

      Most of us in America who drive got our drivers license at age 16-17. The same cannot be said for many taxi drivers. It’s an interesting dynamic. I would argue Uber drivers are more careful because they are using their own cars!

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