Maxing out the ride: Useful accessories for Uber and Lyft drivers

Make life easier for you and your passengers with a few helpful items

According to a 2018 JPMorgan Chase Institute study, monthly earnings for Uber and Lyft drivers fell 53 percent from 2013 to 2017, from $1,469 to $783. Another study from MIT found a significant number of drivers actually making less than their state's minimum hourly wage. Ridesharing companies disputed the studies, but the evidence suggests that it's tough out there for drivers in the gig economy.

The ridesharing services compete in most of the bigger American cities, so it's very much a buyer's market. And drivers will do better if they have an edge — and if riders have a good experience. So if you drive for Uber or Lyft, maybe it's time to stack the deck with some useful — and inexpensive — accessories to dress up your ride.

Here's a guide to some innovative products, available online, for empowering and enhancing your ridesharing business with five-star ratings.

Person cleaning car with microfiber clot and maintaining shine

Getting started

There are some items — a kit of essentials — you'll want to have on hand right from the start to make life easier for you and your passengers. You'll want a phone mount for your phone, a charging cable for you, and a universal charger for your passengers. Other helpful items are a tissue box, emesis (barf) bags, and either cloth or paper towels. For the unexpected, you'll want gloves, a rain poncho and a tire patch kit. If you have to ask why you need this stuff, you probably shouldn't be driving for Uber or Lyft.

Sometimes you can find pre-assembled kits online so you don't have to buy everything individually. The eight-in-one Rideshare Kit (when in stock) includes a universal phone mount for hands-free operation, a car charger, a four-port USB charging hub and charging cables for iPhones and Androids, a male-to-male auxiliary cord, a tissue box holder that attaches to the car's headrest or visor, emesis bags and two microfiber towels. A cheaper version is the Rideshare Essentials Kit ($25), which lacks the charging stuff but adds the element of emergency repairs with gloves, masks and a tire patch kit, plus mileage and expense logs.

Sweet memories

Both Lyft and Uber allow tipping, and many drivers are providing their passengers with back-seat candy dishes and cellphone charging to put them in a generous mood. But why not combine all three? There's this combination tip box on Amazon, though sometimes you can find similar items for less money on eBay or elsewhere. If you're handy, you could even make your own. This tip box is illuminated to get passengers' attention. The candy bin is made of transparent plastic so you can be ready with a refill. There are dual charging ports for grateful passengers.

Hint, hint

In case your passengers don't get the message about rating and tipping their driver, one of these 6X4-inch hang tags reminds them about it, and spells out the services available — charging and music selection. The other one (the bad cop) tells them they can't smoke, eat, vape or drink alcohol. In case your passengers take offense, the signs are tear-resistant.

Getting away clean

Passengers also really appreciate a clean car, and when they encounter one they'll want to ride in it again. To that end, a good hand vacuum — operating off the car's 12-volt power — is essential. At $50, this cordless Black and Decker unit certainly isn't the cheapest available, but it has a lithium-ion battery, smart charging technology that reduces energy use, strong suction, a bagless and washable dirt bowl and a two-year limited warranty. On the other hand, there are much cheaper corded vacuums available, like this one from Xool, equipped with a HEPA filter.

Sitting pretty

If your passengers are riding on leather seats, AMMO makes a Mousse Interior Conditioner. Thinking ahead, you may want to keep the company's entire interior regimen kit on hand. Turtle Wax Upholstery Cleaner goes after lint, cat and dog hair, and dirt. Speaking of which, a sturdy lint roller is good to have on hand. Scotch-Brite makes quality items for car interiors.

Uber Driver App

No hands

Cellphone holders will come down to personal preference (and the phone you own, though many are universal), but there's no doubt a good one is indispensable — GPS is the ride-sharing driver's best friend. eBay has a big selection (priced between $5 and $20). Most use suction cups to attach to the windshield, and magnets to hold the phone, but there are also units that mount in the CD player slot (assuming you're not using it for music) or the vents. The important thing is that the mount is flexible enough so that you can see the phone without taking your eyes off the road.

A permanent record

A good dash cam is your protection against both bad passenger behavior and getting blamed for an accident that could be somebody else's fault. This Magellan RoadMate dash cam also offers GPS with North American maps and 8 GB of internal memory (expandable via microSD to 64 GB). A windshield mount and a power adapter are included.

Other things to keep on hand:

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