How much I make in one week as a driver for Uber and Lyft
US man Clarke Bowman is a part-time driver for Uber and Lyft. He kept track of every penny he made driving for one week.
OPINION: About a year ago, when I first thought about signing up to become an Uber and Lyft driver, it seemed like the job was just too good to be true.
A flexible job where you can make money, work whenever you want, with no minimum hours, no required uniform, and no angry boss? It seemed like it would be too good to be true.
Well, after many months of being a driver, it is not too good to be true. Being an Uber or Lyft driver is a great side hustle to have in this rapidly growing gig economy.
When I tell people I drive for Uber and Lyft part-time, they will usually ask me the same question: "Is it worth it?"
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I believe that yes, it is worth it.
Take one week in September for example. For seven days last month, I kept track of every penny I made driving for both companies, and wound up making $US257 (NZ$408) for less than 14 hours of work – that's about $US19 an hour.
I also kept track of every interesting moment along the way, from a questionable passenger who wanted me to break the law, to a blown tire that prevented me from making over $US100 on one of the busiest days of the week.
I kicked off the week making $US41 in just two hours. The day was short, but an absolutely great day. "Tipping day," I called this.
I got home from work, walked the dog, grabbed a bottle of water and hopped in the Prius at 3.38pm.
Before I even backed out of the driveway, I received a ride request on Lyft. It was a couple of guys coming back from working on a boat. I drove them less than two kilometres, dropped them off, and was pleasantly surprised on the app when they tipped me $US5. A six-minute ride and I had already made $US7.98.
From there, the rides came in nonstop, and so did the tips. A $US1 tip here. A $US3 cash tip there. People were in a great tipping mood. I usually get a few tips each day, but not every ride. I'm not complaining – I will always take tips. But they were especially welcome today because traffic was very heavy, and I wasn't covering many kilometres.
The last trip came in, and it's a guy I pick up at his house. He said he was picking up his motorcycle that he left at a bar the night before, where he said he drank too much watching Sunday football games. It was a short trip, but he was very nice, made me laugh, and he gave me a $US5 tip and a 5-star rating before he got out of the car.
Monday nights are usually slow, and since I had already made more than usual, I called it a night at 5.36pm and signed off the apps.
Two trips on Uber for $US19.27 and three trips on Lyft for $US21.68 gave me a grand total of $US40.95. I worked for 1 hour and 58 minutes, making $US20.82 an hour. I drove just 59km.
And I was home in time for dinner and Monday Night Football.
On Tuesday, my fiancée had dinner plans, so I took the night off and didn't drive.
This is the beauty of the job. If you don't want to work, you simply don't work.
No boss telling me I had to come in because it was busy. No coworker texting me every 10 minutes asking if I could cover his shift. No annoying phone calls from customers or vendors. Tonight it was just my fiancée, a cold beer, and a plate of delicious chicken nachos.
Wednesday was a very frustrating day.
I was stuck at work late this day, and by the time I got home and was ready to drive, it was already after 4pm. I officially started working at 4.31pm.
I got a Lyft ride request from a woman, but when I pulled up, she was nowhere to be seen – but there was a man waving at me with the Lyft app open on his phone.
"This can't be the right person," I thought. I verified who he was supposed to be riding with, and he indeed had the right information. This happens somewhat frequently, where someone will order a ride for someone else. I personally don't like it because I don't know exactly who is getting in my car.
Why don't they have their own account? Were they banned from the app? Are they hiding something? What is the reason?
Well, this guy seemed nice enough. He sat in the back, popped his headphones in, and I started the ride. "This ride has two stops," the voice on the app said.
14km and 30 minutes later, I pulled up to the first stop. It's a daycare. He hopped out and said he'll be right back. Maybe the woman that ordered the Lyft ride works at this daycare and he's picking her up.
I have too much faith in humanity.
A few minutes later, he walked back to my car along with a very small child and no car seat.
He tried pulling on my door, but I had already locked it. He started pounding aggressively on my window. I rolled down the passenger window and kindly asked him, "Where is your car seat?"
"I don't have one. Let me in, it's fine, it's really fine."
No. It's not fine. It is really, really, not fine. Not only is it illegal to drive with a child with no car seat, hundreds of children die each year in Florida because they ride without one. I'm not going to jail, nor am I going to be in one of those statistics, all for five bucks.
"I'm sorry, if you don't have a car seat, then I can't take you."
"No, it's fine," he said. "The other Ubers do it all the time."
This is where it gets tricky for drivers. The law says children 5 and under must be in a car seat, but how do you know who is 5 years old? Are you going to ask a child for their ID? What if there is a really big 5-year-old, or a very small 6-year-old? How do you tell the age? And are you supposed to believe the parent? How do you know if they're not lying?
Uber and Lyft aren't exactly helpful here either, and almost try to remain neutral. Uber says they expect everyone to follow local laws, but it's up to a driver if they want to accept a ride or not. Lyft also says children may require a car seat if local laws require it. In some cities, Ubers and Lyfts can come equipped with car seats, but not in my city.
Luckily for me, this child was clearly 3 or 4 years old, and 100 per cent needed some type of car seat.
"Let me in or else!"
Or else you'll walk home? OK, I'm done here. The ride is done. I'm not going to deal with this. Now I know why this guy doesn't have his own Lyft account.
I pulled away and ended the ride, with the guy chasing my car waving his arms in the rear-view mirror. I immediately called Lyft support to tell them what happened before this guy, who apparently doesn't care about the safety of his child, reports me in a false claim of some kind. I told Lyft the story and was assured everything would be taken care of.
I got another request nearby, this time on Uber. It was a nice lady who works at a DMV who, ironically, tells me she hates driving. This ride also has two stops. She's very nice and we're having a good talk.
I pull up to the first stop. It's another daycare.
Let me give her the benefit of the doubt.
A few minutes later, she walks back out of the daycare with a baby, except this child is in a proper rear-facing car seat. She gets in, straps the baby in, thanked me for waiting, and off we go. I dropped her off at her apartment a short while later. She told me I was super nice and that she would "tip me in the app" once she got upstairs and got her hands free. There's an inside joke among drivers that when people say, "I'll tip you in the app," they never actually do, but this lady was not one of the liars, and she actually did tip me $US5.
I did a few more short rides after this before I ended up close to my house and called it quits.
Two trips on Uber for $US22.95, 3 trips on Lyft for $US24.84, for a grand total of $US47.79. I worked for 3 hours and 4 minutes, making a not-so-great $US15.58 per hour. I drove 80km.
The thing I love about this side job is the flexibility that I have with it. I'm not required to be anywhere. There is hardly any other part-time job in the world where you can work or not work, literally whenever you want.
The plan was to start working as soon as I got out of my main job, but my hair was getting a little bit long, so I scratched that plan and decided to get a last-minute haircut instead.
With the great feeling you get after a fresh haircut – and with hope that I wouldn't run into any more car-seat issues – I started working at 4.59pm and immediately received an Uber ride request. I picked up a nice guy who talked about what it was like to be a plumber. I dropped him off a few minutes later, he thanked me for the nice conversation and the cold A/C, and the screen flashed that I received a $US3 tip. Sweet.
Immediately I receive another request, this time for a woman going to a bowling alley, who told me she loves Uber and Lyft because "I can drink as much as I want!" That eight-minute ride was good for a few bucks and a $US2 tip.
Another request. This time it was a very nice older man at the mall who was going a very short distance. He told me that he doesn't drive anymore due to his health. He asked how the Prius works, so I showed him some of the features.
This led to him talking about how it seems like the world and its technologies are passing him by. He then started talking about how I should never take anything for granted, how I should try to live each day to the fullest, and how I should always strive to be a good person above all else. I was moved.
I arrived at his drop-off location, and he told me to keep doing a great job, but before he got out he made me show him how he could tip me in the app because he said I deserved it. I showed him where to tap, and I received a $US3 tip.
I got another request, this time on Lyft. I sat outside a house for five minutes and no one came out. I gave them another 20 seconds, just in case they were somehow busy – nope, no one came, and no one called. Why do people request a ride if they're not ready?
Sorry, but time is money. I marked them as a no-show, and Lyft gave me a $US5 cancellation fee.
I did one more short ride and since it was close to dinner time and I had made a lot extra in tips, I decided to head home.
Two trips on Uber for $US12.60, two trips on Lyft for $US17.69, for a grand total of $US30.19 – which more than covered the price of my haircut. I worked for 1 hour and 19 minutes, making $US22.93 per hour and driving 38km.
More importantly, I was home in time for dinner and Thursday Night Football.
This was an interesting night.
After giving hundreds of rides, I can definitively say that Uber is more popular than Lyft in my area. Uber accounts for about 60 per cent to 70 per cent of all the rides I have ever given.
However, on this night, for hours I was questioning if my Uber app was even working, or if there was a server issue on Uber's end. I restarted my phone, twice. I even contemplated reinstalling the app, thinking there had to be a glitch. I started working at 6.06pm and didn't get an Uber ride request until 9.26pm.
Before that, it was all Lyft. I have seen a stretch where it was only Lyft requests for maybe an hour or so, but I have never seen a stretch where for over three hours it was only Lyft requests.
It started out as a decent night, with mostly short rides from hotels and dropping people off at bars and restaurants. I love this crowd because nobody is too tipsy yet, but they are tipsy with their spending habits, and usually throw a couple extra bucks my way.
There was a stretch where it was very slow, so I signed off and took a long break, since it was probably going to be a long night.
My third Uber request of the night came while I was still on a ride – Liz, an estimated 8-minute drive – with a pickup spot right near where my current drop-off was. It was getting very busy downtown, and Uber was surging because of it. It's a short ride, but I'll take a short, easy drive any day.
However, as it turned out, Liz was anything but easy. It's busy, there's tonnes of traffic, and I'm sitting at the intended pickup spot, and there's no Liz in sight. A car is honking at me. The cop directing pedestrian traffic is glaring menacingly at me to move as I'm blocking part of a lane.
Liz, where are you? I have now been waiting almost five minutes and there is no passenger.
Five minutes came and went. I waited another 10 seconds for good measure and sorry Liz, but I'm not waiting anymore. Time for me to cancel the ride, mark you as a no-show, and charge you a cancellation fee. Sorry, but you have literally cost me money by not being ready.
Making matters worse, I was never granted my $US5 cancellation fee from the company, even after a lengthy back-and-forth with its support team – the representatives I spoke with claimed I never waited the full five minutes. But I didn't have time to argue, because I suddenly got a ride request for a 56-minute trip, with surge pricing to boot.
The long drive was nice. It was a woman and her dad, who told me he was a retired emergency room surgeon, going up north 65km away. It started raining so hard that I slowed down to 48 kmh on the highway, and we could barely see out of the windshield, but the dad's stories kept everyone calm, laughing and entertained. He told us some crazy stories, some sad stories, and even some hilarious stories, one of which involved a man with unexplainable lower abdominal pain and an X-ray of a pickle jar – with two kosher pickles still in the jar – shoved somewhere a pickle jar should never be shoved. I was laughing so hard I was nearly in tears.
I completed the ride and he handed me $US15 cash and thanked me for driving so well in the monsoon-like rainstorm. A one-hour long ride for $US43 and a $US15 tip, for basically $US58 in an hour – sweet!
At this point, it's near 11pm, I'm80km from my house in the middle of nowhere, and I was getting tired, so I set the destination modes on both Uber and Lyft. That's the setting drivers activate when they're on their way home, ensuring they will only get matched up with passengers going the same way.
Lyft drivers used to be able to use destination mode six times per day. But after a recent change, drivers are now allowed only two uses available, a significant downgrade. It counts as a "use" as soon as you activate the mode.
Thirty minutes later on the highway, with no rides, I get a text notification from Lyft saying, "Sorry! We couldn't find you a match along your route, so we've signed you out of driver mode." Excuse me, what? So I set the destination mode again at a red light as I drove near a known busy area.
30 minutes later, I get the same notification and I'm signed out. I have no more destination uses available.
I am still logged in on Uber. For reference, the Uber app does not log you out if you go 30 minutes without receiving a request. It will keep you logged in until you reach your destination.
I arrived home shortly later with only one short ride on the entire way back.
Two trips on Uber for $US68.28, eight trips on Lyft for $US40.66, for a grand total of $US108.94. I worked for 5 hours and 44 minutes, making $US19.00 per hour, and driving 225km.
I slept in a little on Saturday, tired from the busy night before.
I started working at 8.05am and immediately got a nice Uber ride down to the airport. I made great time with little traffic. Early Saturday mornings are best for the highway. It was a nice lady who worked in insurance, and she talked informatively about the effects of hurricanes on the insurance industry and how Florida got very lucky with Hurricane Dorian missing us.
She tipped me $US5 shortly after I dropped her off.
It was a long time after that until I got another ride, and it was approaching my personal 10am cutoff, so I set the destination modes for home and got a ride shortly after along my way.
I was home by 9.45am.
Two trips on Uber for $US29.47, 0 trips on Lyft. I worked for 1 hour and 40 minutes, making $US17.68 per hour and driving 64km.
My week of tracking my driving profits ended with a complete dud.
I woke up ready to start the day. I showered and put on my best polo and a positive attitude to be extra happy for the day's potential football passengers – the Patriots were in town to play the Dolphins that day. I was very excited. I knew today was going to be a big money day, evident by all the Patriots fans in town I saw walking around downtown and hotel areas.
But first, my fiancée and I had plans to go to church and then drive to a bakery for a meeting about our wedding cake.
The phrase "make plans and God laughs" couldn't be more true, because right as we were about to pull into the church's parking lot, I heard a flap-flap-flap coming from the rear of the Prius. Oh no. "Please be a stuck bag on the bumper," I said as I got out to look.
Spoiler alert – it was not a stuck bag, but instead it was the world's longest nail stuck into what is now the world's flattest, unpatchable tire.
My fiancée went in the church to say a couple of prayers to the big man, and I went deep into the crevices of the trunk to retrieve the flat. It took a while to change that flat tire with the kit that came with the car, but I got it done, drenched in sweat from Florida's early morning heat. Then we went home. I changed out my super sweaty polo, switched to the other car, and off we went to the cake meeting.
Afterward, I had to then find who was open on a Sunday to replace the flat tire. While I was on the phone calling places, I figured I might as well get four new tires altogether, and an oil change too, since my car was almost due for those. Safety first.
My fiancée picked me up from the tire store, and I hoped I wouldn't be waiting too long until the car was fixed. Maybe I could catch some of the afternoon surge.
I waited, waited, and waited. The hotels surged and then stopped. The demands on the heat map spiked everywhere, then disappeared. Deep into the fourth quarter of the football game, they finally called to tell me the car was ready for pickup. But looking at the current time, the football stadium was too far away to catch the football demand, and it was nearing 5pm, which was when I wanted to stop driving anyway.
So my driving plans started with a blowout from my tire and finished with me watching the Patriots blow out the Dolphins.
$US430.22 to fix my car. Zero trips on Uber, Zero trips on Lyft. I drove 13km round trip to the tire store and back, where the attendant did give me a big tip – check your spare tire regularly to ensure it has enough air.
END OF THE WEEK
So there you have it. That is how one week of being a part-time Uber and Lyft driver went.
In total, I drove 11 trips on Uber and 16 trips on Lyft, for a total of 27 trips.
I worked 13.75 hours total.
I made $US257.34 gross pay, which gave me an average of $US18.72 per hour, before expenses.
I made $US152.57 on Uber, and $US104.77 on Lyft.
I put 468km on my Prius, using about 21 litres of gas, which is about $US13.22 in gas expenses for my area.
I could have worked a lot more hours and made a lot more money, and I probably missed out on at least $US120 because of my Sunday car troubles, but the important thing is that I fit time for this job when it fit for me. I wasn't forced to work any number of hours like another part-time job might. If I was tired, I could go home. If I wanted a break, I could take a break. The flexibility you get with a job like this is incredible.
Fourteen flexible hours is not a lot of work, and $US257.34 gross pay is a fair amount of extra money for just simply driving around, listening to music, and making jokes and conversation with mostly nice strangers I'll likely never seen again.
It's easy, and sometimes fun.
Just watch out for those pesky nails.
This story was first published by BusinessInsider.com.au