I’m a driver for Uber and Lyft — here are 8 ways I can tell someone is going to be a bad passenger within 5 seconds

The author, Clarke Bowman, drives for Uber and Lyft in South Florida.

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The author, Clarke Bowman, drives for Uber and Lyft in South Florida.
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Clarke Bowman

  • I’ve been driving for Uber and Lyft for almost a year.
  • The majority of my passengers have been kind and considerate, but some are downright terrible. And I usually know who the bad passengers are right away.
  • Here’s how I can tell in five seconds whether someone’s a bad Uber or Lyft passenger.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

My name is Clarke, and I have been a part-time Uber and Lyft driver for the better part of a year now.

I have given hundreds of rides to passengers from all over the world on the busy streets of southeastern Florida. People seem to like me, and I have maintained a 4.99 rating on both platforms.

I have learned a lot since I’ve started driving, including some things I wish I knew before I started the job. This gig has given me some funny stories, some heartwarming stories, and some horrible ones, but they all come with the job, and they all help to keep things interesting. I also have met some truly wonderful and inspirational people, along with some I hope I never have to see again.

People always love to ask me, “Who’s the worst person you’ve ever had in your car?” And when I start telling the stories, they all start the same way: I knew almost immediately that the person was going to be a bad passenger.

Now, these stories I tell are the most extreme examples. And before I continue, I just want to put it out there that 99% of my passengers are nice, normal people. It’s the 1% that make me want to pull my hair out. And with this 1% of people, I never find out they’re a bad passenger 15 minutes into the ride – I almost always know right away.

In my experience, bad passengers almost always immediately let you know that they’re going to be bad passengers, through some sort of verbal or nonverbal communication, and I’m sure they don’t even realize it. After so many rides, you get a feel of what is normal and when something is off.

It’s honestly pretty fascinating how terrible some people can be in such a short amount of time.

Here are eight ways I can tell in five seconds whether someone is going to be a bad Uber or Lyft passenger.


The passenger has a rating lower than 4.6.

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BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI / Getty Images

When I, the driver, receive a request for a ride, I get a few pieces of information: the passenger’s name, the pickup location, and the passenger’s rating.

Yes, passengers have ratings too, just like drivers. You can check your Uber rating in the top left corner of the home screen, though you can’t check yours on Lyft.

Now, I can, as an “independent contractor,” choose to accept or deny any ride request. I personally accept almost all ride requests (how else am I going to make money if I don’t accept rides?) but a passenger’s rating might sometimes sway my decision.

On both apps, ratings are 1 through 5. But this isn’t Amazon, and the ratings are a little bit weird. Pretty much every passenger is rated between 4.5 and 5. Nobody knows the exact formula to figure out a rating, but from what I have been able to figure out, it’s an average of your most recent rides, but somehow heavily weighted to be over 4.5. For example, if a driver rates you five stars, and the next driver rates you one star, your rating won’t suddenly be a three.

I hand out five-star ratings like candy. Almost every single person gets five stars from me. However, I’m not every driver, and some are apparently very stingy with their five stars and hand out lots of three- and four-star ratings.

It’s also worth noting that, according to both Uber and Lyft, if a driver gives a passenger a three-star rating or lower, they will never be matched with that passenger in the future.

Here’s what’s going through my head when I see a passenger’s rating, and why I tend to reject anyone with a rating lower than 4.6:

  • 5.0: You are good, but it also might mean that you’re just a new user and haven’t received a lot of ratings yet. Or you have lots of experience and maintain a perfect rating, and you’re great. I love five-star ratings.
  • 4.94-4.99: You are a great passenger with lots of rides, and I want you in my car.
  • 4.80-4.93: You’re a pretty good passenger, but a couple of people gave you a few four-stars, maybe a three-star. No sweat, as you’re still probably a great passenger.
  • 4.70-4.79: Here we enter the “hmm” territory of ratings. You’re probably still a good passenger, and I have given rides to many 4.7-ers who were great people, but you’ve done something in the past to tick off a few drivers. What did you do? Drivers are to proceed with caution, but they’re probably OK.
  • 4.60-4.69: OK, you have somehow earned quite a few negative ratings from a few drivers, and I don’t know why. If it’s very slow, I might accept, but honestly, probably not. Are you rude? Are you dirty? Are you mean? What did you do to earn such a low rating?
  • 4.50-4.59: You have an absolutely horrible rating and have really done something to tick off many drivers. You have probably thrown up in someone’s car. I will 100% not accept your rating late at night to reduce throw-up risk, and you will probably end up waiting for a very long time for a ride. I have accepted only two of these ratings, mainly out of curiosity, and both times I ended up highly regretting that decision.

They are approaching my car with a small child but don’t have a car seat.

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Inti St Clair/Getty Images

Like I said earlier, I hand out perfect ratings like candy. Some drivers get upset if people speak too loudly on the phone, or if their car door gets slammed too hard, or if the person seems “annoying” – I try to understand that everyone is different and has their own lives. If you’re any decent, normal person, you’re getting five stars.

But if you do something that is just out-of-line rude and disrespectful or try to do something illegal, you have just earned yourself four stars or less.

There are laws in place. Everyone has their own opinion on laws, but most of them are there to keep our society safe.

One of these laws has to do with child car seats. Hundreds of children die each year in car accidents in which they were not in a proper car seat. That is hundreds of innocent lives lost because people were negligent or too lazy to put their child in a car seat. I am not going to join one of these statistics, nor am I going to get a ticket over a $10 ride.

There’s some gray area about what size child should go in what size seat, and Uber and Lyft both essentially say to follow local laws on this issue, but one thing is for sure: The parent needs to supply a car seat if their child needs it.

And that clearly-under-3-year-old child holding a blankie 100% needs a car seat.

This has happened only a few times, and it’s never ended well, but I knew right away that they were going to be a terrible passenger.


They have an alcoholic beverage in their hand and try to get in the car with it.

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Getty Images

This somehow all goes back to the laws. We have laws to keep us safe.

I don’t think I need to explain to anyone why alcohol and driving don’t mix. I really don’t think I need to explain to anyone why drinking inside a moving car isn’t OK.

And an Uber or Lyft ride is not a limousine. This isn’t a party bus. You, as a passenger, can’t drink alcohol in here. Sorry.

Lots of you understand this and respect this. I am grateful for all passengers who decide to take an Uber instead of drinking and driving.

But some of you decide to try to bring the party with you. No, I’m not going to interrogate you about what is in your water bottle, but I also don’t think you have ice water in your red Solo cup at 7 p.m. on a Friday night when your drop-off location is a popular bar. Arguing with me that it’s just water when I smell the vodka on your breath doesn’t help your case either.

When you tell me with your actions that you don’t respect the law and are willing to break it by drinking in my vehicle, where I am responsible, you tell me that you don’t respect me, my belongings, or really anything. You are going to be a terrible passenger.


They start messaging me or calling me immediately with a very rude attitude.

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Garry Knight

These are rare, but they’re always exciting to receive.

There’s never a dull moment when 0.22 seconds after accepting the ride I get bombarded with messages from the passenger, with the first one saying, “Where the heck are you?” Feel free to replace the word “heck” with your favorite choice word, because that happened to me one time.

I know that everyone has bad days. I know things happen and we run late. I am upset some days, and some days I run late too. We are all human.

But please don’t take your issues out on me or try to make your problems my problems.

Messaging or calling me and saying rude things to me before I even pick you up is an almost guaranteed way I can tell that you are about to be a horrible passenger. Telling me that we need to hurry to the airport or your job and talking to me like I’m a piece of garbage is never acceptable.

I have had only a few of these, and now if I get one of these belligerent passengers, I just cancel the ride, as it is not worth the headache to deal with these people.


They try to fit more people than are allowed in the car.

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Kelly Sullivan/Getty Images

There are several options for passengers to order rides. There are shared rides for one or two people. There are normal UberX or Lyft rides for one to four people. And then there are Uber XL and Lyft XL rides for up to six people.

I’m not going to lie to you: There is a big price difference between a normal one-to-four-person ride and an XL six-person ride. Sometimes it’s more than double.

And I get it. Money is tough. Tell me about it, as I’m literally spending some of my free time driving strangers around versus watching Netflix.

So I understand that your group of five wants to go out and have a good time, even though money might be tight, and you guys want to be safe and take a ride out. That’s great.

And then the five of you try to squeeze into my very small Prius.

Now, people regularly compliment on my Prius and say it has much more room inside than they imagined. I’ve fit a very large TV in here before, and I’ve even seen a picture of a kayak inside a Prius before.

But that doesn’t change the fact that the Prius has only five seats, and I’m in one of them.

Florida law states that all drivers and front-seat passengers need to wear a seatbelt. Uber’s policy states that passengers are not to exceed the number of seatbelts in a car. Lyft’s policy says the same.

No, I cannot and will not take the five of you. This goes right back to the whole “respecting my car, respecting the law” thing. I have even had people offer me an extra $20 in cash to take all of them, which makes me wonder, why not just order an XL ride at that point?


They don’t want to put on their seatbelt after getting in the car.

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Witthaya Prasongsin /Getty Images

My parents taught me from a very young age that when you get in a car, you put on your seat belt. It’s just a thing you do. It doesn’t hurt, it doesn’t bother me, and I don’t even really feel it there, but it is there keeping me safe. I honestly don’t even think about putting on a seat belt when I get in a car – it’s second nature for me.

I thought everyone did this.

It was only when I was much older that I learned that, for some reason, people don’t like putting on seat belts.

I cannot think of a single reason in the world that you wouldn’t want to put on a seat belt in a car. One guy told me one day that he thinks they’re uncomfortable. You know what is probably more uncomfortable than a seat belt? Flying through the windshield because you weren’t wearing one.

Some people have this strange notion that their Uber has a magical aura surrounding it, protecting the car from any and all accidents that may happen, and feel like they don’t have to put on a seat belt.

I don’t get it. Put on the seat belt.

It’s also the law.

I have a little shtick I say when people get inside my car, and it goes something like this: “Hello, my name is Clarke. How are you? You are [name], right? You’re going to [location]? Great! There is a phone charger here for you to use. Please let me know if the music is too loud or if you want the A/C changed, and make sure you are all buckled up. How is your morning/day/evening going?”

Here is when I will check to see if their seat belt is fastened. If they suddenly forgot how their seat belt works, well, I guess I forgot how my gas pedal works too.

No seat belt, no ride.

So buckle up, for everyone’s safety – especially yours.


They try to change the ride completely or immediately have some ridiculous request.

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Tim Boyle/Getty Images

On most rides, people are allowed to add a stop or two. These are for quick stops, and most people get that. I have no problem waiting a minute or two while you run up to an ATM, a convenience store, or something quick like that. I’ll even wait in a drive-thru for the right tip or an extra cheeseburger.

But when a passenger gets in and immediately tells me, rudely, that we need to stop at X, Y, and Z – none of which is listed on the directions on the app – or that we need to go X, then Y, and then need to go pick up Z …

Yeah, no.

I am a driver. I drive you from point A to point B, maybe stopping at point C along the way. That is really all I do. That is what I’m being paid to do.

I had a person tell me one day, “I need you to drive me to Chick-fil-A, and then you need to wait for me while I shop at Walmart,” when their drop-off location was nowhere near a Chick-fil-A or a Walmart.

Those asking me to do extra things not listed on the app or not allowed are telling me that they are bad passengers.


They make me wait for them for something unnecessary.

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Andrew Burton/Getty Images

The greatest thing about Uber and Lyft is that it is so convenient. When you’re ready to go somewhere, you pull out your phone and tap the screen a few times, and one of the many available drivers comes and picks you up.

Maybe it’s just me, but I hate the feeling of being late or making other people wait on me. When I’m hailing a ride for myself, I’m practically standing on the curb by the time I complete the order.

Yet some passengers out there don’t share this thought process.

Five minutes is the amount of time you have to get in my vehicle when I arrive. In my opinion, that’s about three minutes too much, but that’s a different topic.

When I’m sitting still, I make the hourly rate for my area (this changes from city to city): $0.1275 a minute on Lyft, which equates to $7.65 an hour, and $0.13 a minute on Uber, which equates to $7.80 an hour – both of which are less than Florida’s minimum wage of $8.46. If my wheels are not turning, I am not making money. If I wanted to volunteer, I’d go work with the cute puppies and cats at the animal shelter. Sorry, but I’m doing this job to make money.

If you order the ride, you should be ready to get in the car as soon as the driver pulls up. Plain and simple. I know, I know, things happen – elevators are slow, you forgot something, or you’re carrying heavy luggage. I get it. I understand. I have no problem waiting a little bit. The majority of passengers are perfectly fine and ready within 30 seconds.

I’m talking about the people who wait until four minutes and 47 seconds to walk to my car. The people who walk up to my car with someone else, finish up a three-minute conversation that could be finished over the phone, and then get in by themselves. The people who stand there smoking a cigarette for four minutes, finish it, wave to me (oh, so you’re the passenger), and then hop in.

One day, my patience was running really thin. I was not having a good day. I pulled up to an office, and a lady walked out, gave me a wave, and gave me the waiting finger. She lit up a cigarette and made a phone call. Her body language screamed “I am selfish.”

Nope. I wasn’t dealing with this. I canceled and drove away. You should have seen how far that cigarette flew out of her hands as she ran after me in her high heels, waving her arms like a bird trying to take flight.

You don’t have to order the ride until you are ready. If you order a ride, have some common courtesy and be ready for your driver.


At the end of the day, the majority of people are great, and the bad passengers are few and far between.

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Scott Olson/Getty Images

I want to reiterate that the majority of my passengers are great people.

I will admit that doing this job has forced me to talk to strangers more than I ever would have, and I have met many different people, young and old, from almost every continent. We’re taught from a young age to never talk to strangers, but I have been pleasantly surprised just how nice and wonderful strangers can be.

The world, I’m learning, is a great place filled with nice people. It gives me hope for our future.

Almost everyone who gets in my car leaves with a smile and five stars.

The bad passengers are few and far between, but they are there. If there is one silver lining to the bad passengers, it is that they make the good passengers even sweeter.

Make sure you don’t commit some of the sins I’ve listed above, and you can be sure that your Uber and Lyft ratings will be close to a perfect 5.0.