If you have been considering driving for one of the ride-sharing companies, I have some helpful information for you. Like me, you probably have used both Uber and Lyft, picked the driver’s brain for information, looked at late-model cars with good gas mileage, and now you are ready to make your move. Your last burning question, and one that you probably have not found a definitive answer for, is how much will I actually make driving for Lyft or Uber?
Like me, your decision will most likely be influenced by recent bad news about Uber. If you are someone who cares about image, as your potential customers probably will, your best bet is to start out with Lyft. They were the first app-based ride-sharing company, and their business continues to grow with an untarnished reputation; regardless of what the competition is doing.
After a year of being an urban dweller without a car, walking and taking the trolley everywhere, I decided to take the plunge. I bought a sweet ride for below blue-book value at Enterprise Car Sales, and I went to the Lyft orientation. You get someone who is an experienced driver, a “mentor,” who gives you a one-hour run-down on what to do for making the most money. I got a new phone with a big screen, got the phone holder, the dash cam, put the candy in the center console, logged on, and away I went. You get a nifty website that shows your daily earnings, breaking it down by amount per ride, the tips, your current feedback score, and total number of hours driven.
At a glance, it seems like you are making around $25 per hour. That looks good in your head, until you sit down with pencil and paper and really figure out what is going on with your net take-home pay. First, Lyft takes 25% right off the top. Say bye-bye to a quarter of your earnings right there. Seems fair, right? I mean, it is their app, and they are letting you drive around under their shiny, popular brand name. So, you really can’t argue that one unless you are a millionaire to begin with and can venture capital your own company. Secondly, despite the fact that Lyft allows riders to tip you right in the app immediately after they exit the ride, only about 10% of riders tip, and of those tips, you only get tipped about 10%. So what is 10% of 10 percent? That’s right, 1%. So, let’s say you drive hard all week and make $500 (the gross number, before any deductions,) you may be lucky to see $20 in tips. Sad but true. You are the best transportation bargain in town, and tightwads are looking for you.
Then look at your total hours driven, and divide your net by that, and you drop down below $20 per hour. Now, figure in your gas. I use a simple formula of multiplying my total hours driven by 60 (because I average about 60 miles per hour when driving), then divide that number by your miles per gallon. My car shows me my mpg in the tripometer. You may have to keep a note pad. Anyway, this number gives you the total number of gallons of fuel burned. My city averages about $3.25 gallon; so I multiply that by gallons of gas used, and I get my total fuel cost for that pay period. I subtract that from the pay amount showing in my Lyft dashboard, and take that number and divide it by total number of hours driven. What do I come up with? $8.35 per hour.
That’s right, folks, you make less than you would at a fast-food restaurant; and this is conservative if you only figure on fuel costs. Also remember that you have to pay lump sum taxes on this at the end of the year. There will be wear-and-tear to your vehicle, your monthly car payment, insurance payment, miscellaneous such as candy and water if you choose, your SiriusXM satellite subscription if you really want your passengers to enjoy the ride (obnoxious commercial radio ads really kill the vibe and the rapport with your riders.) This is under ideal conditions, with nothing going wrong. That means, you look at your daily website, pick your peak hours to drive within, hit the bat mobile, log on to the app, and drive for 6 hours straight with no breaks. That is how I drive, because I want the “power driver” bonus. But even for an ex-military and type-A guy like me, it seems like an impossible goal. In other words, Lyft is going to hustle your ass off to its riders, and your decision whether or not your whole heart is in it, is reflected squarely in your driver rating. Get a consistent 4.6, and you may be deactivated.
How hard can it be, you ask? As a person who has been #1 in every school I attended, fastest to qualify ins ship’s systems on my submarine, in the history of the naval submarine fleet (according to my boat’s captain,) I can tell you it can be very hard. Why? Because every rider is different, and every rider thinks they are your boss for 15 minutes and $4.25. Yes, even the nice ones are secretly plotting against you, ticking off things that will ding that 5-star rating. I get it. I am a huge consumer advocate, and being a red-blooded American, I want the best customer service for my money. But once you get behind that wheel, all bets are off!
For example, I drove last night, trying to cover all the peak hours, for a total of 6 hours. I never log out, and I don’t take bathroom breaks. So it is boom, boom, boom all night. At this pace, you really don’t notice the time, because you are chatting with interesting people, cool music in the background, and racking up bank. All is cool. Then, just like playing poker, your fatal hand is going to come when you least expect it. Enter “Chelsea.” A call from the mall, it is late Friday night, and is she on a date? No, she’s out shopping because it’s all about her. Well, big old malls have ONE street address for that entire monolith that you see driving up to. Sure, Waze and the Lyft app have GPS location on both sides, driver and rider; so your pick up location shows with an accuracy to about 50 yards. To some people, that is unacceptable. Especially Chelsea. She’s an educated, independent college woman out spending her parent’s money as fast as she can to stave off major depression after tanking her final exams in a profession that her parents chose for her; and you are a moving target for all of her passive aggressive crap that wants to land on someone’s face; or rating page.
Chelsea is the impossible passenger to figure out, and she likes it that way. She won’t speak up, but you notice that she is shadowing every one of your turns in her app. She is guiding you where to go, AFTER you make a wrong turn. She gets you confused, because she knows she can. Don’t ask her if she likes the music, because she will waste your time going through all of your satellite channels without uttering more than a “meh” for each one. Ask about the temperature? “It could be better.” Like which way, hotter or colder? Meh. Nevermind, I just missed another turn, and there goes any potential tip. You get these riders. They are out for themselves only, and if you give them a chance, they are out for you. Despite all my joking to lighten the mood on the way to Chelsea’s destination, she would have none of it. My tip was her intentional eye contact as she slammed the door, just to let me know that I had failed all of her impossible expectations. And my point about poker? It came out of the blue at the end of my otherwise cool and groovy night.
So, if you want to drive for Lyft, it is a fun and rewarding job, requiring you to refine your craft constantly. It is a simple job, with a million variables, those being within the realm of human nature. If you like to drive, you will be doing it for the sheer enjoyment of it, and some beer money. That is about all. You will not make a living as a Lyft driver. Call me whatever you want, but I am here to give you the free truth.