This post originally appeared on The Rideshare Guy Blog and Podcast but since I’m on my honeymoon I thought it would be a good article to post since the number one question I get from people is: How Much Can You Make Driving for Lyft and Uber? I drive in Orange County (OC) (and sometimes in Los Angeles (LA)) so these are my experiences driving there but I wouldn’t say there’s any monumental difference compared to other cities although you do definitely make more in the bigger cities.
How Much Can You Make Driving For Lyft and Uber in OC/LA?
Even though I’m now a registered Uber and Lyft driver I haven’t had much time to drive for both platforms at the same time. I wrote about my first weekend doing both a couple weeks ago and the rides were overwhelmingly Uber. Even though I’m a part time driver, I really don’t have any set times that I like to drive though. I kind of just head out whenever I feel like it or whenever I’m bored.
With that being said, I decided that I was ready to try out my first full Saturday night driving for both Lyft and Uber. It was actually my first full Saturday night in general ever since I normally do other things on Saturday nights. But here in Orange County, Friday nights are usually a little bit slow. I haven’t had much luck making the big bucks on a Friday night but it seems like Saturday nights are always heading towards surge or Primetime around 11 pm up until around 2 or 3 am.
Analyzing My Saturday Night
It’s a little hard to keep track of all your rides while you’re driving but I usually take an in-depth look at my statistics using Sherpa and some of my own calculations the next day. The best thing about driving part-time is that you can really cherry pick your hours. I usually turn on Lyft and Uber at my house and if it’s slow, I might postpone going out until it gets busier.
And that’s exactly what happened on this night, I checked in around 7 pm and then again at 8 pm and there were still tons of drivers out. I went into driver mode for a while but didn’t get any requests within a few minutes so I figured it would be better to wait until later.
9:24 pm – First Uber Ride: 1.36 miles, 5 minutes, $5.75, 9:33 pm – 9:38 pm
I usually like starting off the night from my house with a Lyft request since after Uber’s cut, Lyft driver pay is actually higher right now. But after about 10 minutes of no requests, I decided I’d rather have an Uber ride than no ride at all. Your first ride is also when you should reset your trip odometer on your car so that you’ll know how many total miles you drove for the night. I actually forgot to do this but I’ll show you guys a good quick way of estimating your miles at the end of this article.
When you log on to your Uber partners dashboard and view a trip in the summary form, the time listed is actually when you begin the trip. If you want to know when you got the request, you have to click on the trip ID and open the trip details. That way you know how long it took you to get from wherever you were to your passenger. I’d like to see this feature integrated into Sherpa so that you don’t have to calculate it manually. This number is important because you’re not getting paid for any of the drive time to the passenger so if you can figure out ways to track this number and reduce it, then you will be able to get more rides and make more money.
9:47 pm – Uber Ride: 2.24 miles, 10 minutes, $8.17, 9:54 pm – 10:04 pm
After I dropped off the last passengers at a bar I pulled into a parking lot across the street and hung out for a few minutes. For now, my strategy is to remain in the same place for 5-10 mins after I drop someone off. If I don’t get any requests during that time, I’ll make a move but during busy times this rarely happens. I got another Uber request at 9:47 pm that was only a minute away but I ended up waiting over 5 minutes for these guys to get out of the house.
With Uber, there’s an ‘Arriving Now’ button that I usually hit when I’m 30 seconds to a minute away but I think I’m going to start hitting it earlier since 9 out of 10 times the passengers are not waiting outside. This especially applies to late night rides, when people have been drinking they tend to take longer so give them a 2-3 minute heads up if you want to minimize your waiting time. The only downfall to this strategy is that if they come out and you’re not there, they may be more inclined to give you a lower rating.
10:07 pm – Uber Ride: 2.15 miles, 8 minutes, $7.78, 10:09 pm – 10:17 pm
10:18 pm – Uber Ride: ? miles, 13 minutes, $6.11, 10:20 pm – 10:33 pm
I got a request shortly after my last passengers right across the street. This is another reason why I like hanging out at bars since you can quickly drop a group off and get a group that’s leaving from the same place. I gave two girls a ride and to put it mildly they were having a great time. They were having such a good time that they kind of distracted me and I forgot to start the trip until we had almost arrived.
I e-mailed Uber right after but I think the best thing to do when you forget to start a trip is select a fare review (when you end the trip) at the end of the trip. Uber ended up only giving me $6 for the trip but it probably should have been closer to $10. Either way, lesson learned, don’t forget to start the trip!
10:37 pm – Cancellation by Uber Passenger
I got a request but they quickly texted me and said, “Sorry gotta cancel”. No big deal because I hadn’t even left yet and the pick-up would have been right around the corner.
10:49 pm – Uber Ride: Cancelled by me as a No Show, $5
I hung around the bars on the Peninsula for a bit and got a call a few minutes away on Lido Island in a residential area. I’ve started texting the passengers a quick blurb that says something like this: “Hey this is your driver, I’m on my way. See you soon. -Harry XXX-XXX-XXXX” Since Uber and Lyft both use a VOIP number for passengers and drivers, you can just copy and paste this text message every time you get a new passenger. I actually copy and paste it once a ride ends so that as soon as I get my next ride I can send it to them and try to avoid any cancellations that way or butt dials.
Related Article: RSG Podcast Episode 1: Tips for New Drivers
I also include my Google Voice Number so that if they need to contact me outside of the TNC VOIP number they can. Once you’ve disconnected from a rider, those numbers no longer work. So this could come in handy if a passenger forgets something in your car or wants a ride later on. If it’s slow, that’s a good way to get extra rides.
I got the request at 10:49, arrived at 10:53 and texted the passenger again. The house was dark and since I hadn’t heard from the passenger at all, I called twice and then cancelled the request as a no show. Since more than 5 minutes had elapsed, I got a $5 cancellation fee. I’m still experimenting but based off Uber’s policies it seems like the 5 minutes start when the request is made (that’s also when I send my text) so if it takes you more than 5 minutes to get there, you can probably wait a few minutes and cancel if they no show and you should still get $5. The 5 minutes does not start once you arrive at the passenger’s location to the best of my knowledge.
11:03 pm – Uber Ride: ? Miles, 10 minutes, $5.57, 11:03 pm – 11:13 pm
One of the benefits of giving out your Google Voice number is that if you really like the passenger (and they like you) you can mention to them that they can text you if they need a ride later. Even though I give out my number to every passenger, a lot of them don’t even realize it or they assume that the VOIP number is my number. I’m probably going to print out business cards in the future but this is a good temporary solution.
I also like to hand out my number to people I pick up that live near me. For anyone that lives near me, I make sure to let them know I live right down the street and can give them a ride whenever they want, just text me. That eliminates a lot of the drive to passenger time that you don’t normally get paid for.
My last ride ended right near the two girls I had picked up earlier and they texted me and asked if I could pick them up again so I obliged. I feel kind of dumb but I actually forgot to start the ride again until we were almost there. I e-mailed Uber about it but I don’t think they will make adjustments if you forget to start the trip like Lyft will. This is kind of a bummer but it should make you remember to start the trip.
11:30 pm – Uber Ride: 6.52 Miles, 17 minutes, $15.30, 11:40 pm – 11:57 pm
11:58 pm – Uber Ride: 5.33 Miles, 11 minutes, $12.33, 12:04 am – 12:15 am
12:34 am – Uber Ride: 3.81 Miles, 10 minutes, $10.24, 12:37 am – 12:47 am
12:50 am – First Lyft Ride: 4.5 miles, 9 minutes, $9, 12:55 am – 1:04 am
It took 3.5 hours but I finally got my first Lyft ride of the night. When I’m driving for both, I make sure to have both apps on and running and as soon as I get a call for one platform I accept and then turn off the other app. Once I end a ride, I go back online for both apps. You can see from my last two rides, after Uber’s commission you’re actually making more with Lyft and that amount is magnified the longer the trip is.
1:06 am – Uber Ride: 6.22 miles, 12 minutes, $13.82, 1:10 am – 1:22 am
1:29 am – Lyft Ride: 11.5 miles, 18 minutes, $19, 1:40 am – 1:58 am
2:12 am – Last Uber Ride of the Night: 11.46 miles, 14 minutes, 1.5x Surge Pricing, $30.88, 2:17 am – 2:31 am
There hadn’t been much surge/PT all night in the area I was driving in but around 1:30-2 am when everyone wanted to go home, pretty much everything was surging. Unfortunately I had just missed out on PT on the last ride but I got one nice 1.5X ride on my way home. Generally at the end of the night, I’ll start heading home from wherever I am and just keep doing rides until I make it home without any requests. I was headed home at this point and I got one last surge request just a few minutes from my house so it worked out well.
2:54 am – Arrived home
Breaking Down the Numbers
I think Lyft and Uber can be a great source of second income but it’s also important to carefully analyze how much you’re really making. The biggest mistake I see from drivers is over-estimating their pay. Lyft and Uber only provide you with the miles you drive while you have an actual passenger in the car and they show the fare payout before taking out their cut (Lyft’s cut is at 0% right now). If we were to calculate my hourly rate based on that, I would be able to tell people that I made $64/hour ($148.95/2.33 hours)!
You have to remember it’s in Lyft and Uber’s best interests for you to think you’re making as much as possible. They know that when you see you made $100 and only drove for 2 hours, you can quickly say oh cool, I made $50/hr while I was driving when in reality the numbers are probably much lower. Luckily for you guys, I see this type of ‘fudging the numbers’ all the time in the financial industry so I’m used to it.
My Real Pay
When you take into account the Uber commission, the time driving to a passenger and down time, my average pay drops way down to $22.68 per hour. Now that’s still a pretty good rate but note that I didn’t include gas in these calculations since everyone’s MPG is going to be different. I would estimate that I get around 20 MPG on city streets so how do we figure out how many miles I drove?
The easiest way is to start your trip odometer when you leave your house but I almost always forget to do this. I’m really bad at starting trips and trip odometers if you couldn’t tell by now. If you forget to reset your trip odometer, a good way to estimate your total miles driven is to double your total miles (the number from Uber and/or Lyft). This larger number is probably conservative since you’ll rarely drive more miles to pick up a passenger than the ride will be but it should provide for an accurate hourly pay calculation.
So let’s say I drove 114 miles and I get 20 Miles Per Gallon. That means I used 5.7 gallons of gas which sounds about right for one night of driving. Right now, I’m paying about $3.90 per gallon for midgrade gas so that means I need to subtract $22.24 from my total fare of $124.76. So after accounting for gas, my hourly rate drops even further to $18.64/hour ($102.52/5.5 hours).
Is it Worth it For $18.64/hr?
Since I work full time, I don’t drive for Lyft and Uber because I need the money. I do it because I enjoy it, it’s fun, the hours are flexible and yea the extra money is nice. I think $18-$19/hr is about the minimum that I would be willing to drive for though. I do make more per hour at my day job but driving is a lot easier than my day job so that’s something that I definitely consider.
Even though I ended up driving for five and a half hours last night I had a lot of fun. All of the passengers I met were cool and fun people, nobody puked in my car and instead of spending money, I actually made money. I’m not as young as I used to be so now when I go out my hangovers tend to last a full day, thus ruining any productivity I might have had on a Sunday.
Realistically, as an Uber/Lyft driver in a major city you should be able to make $20-$35/hr depending on the time you drive. During absolute peak times, you can probably clear $30-$45/hr but that usually doesn’t last longer than 1-2 hours. I’d say a safe estimate for normal busy times in the LA area would be $20-$30/hr and for Orange County it’s a little less at $15-$25/hr after taking into account things like gas and down time. Not bad for sitting in a cool air-conditioned car and driving people around.
Luck of the Draw
On this particular Saturday night for whatever reason there were a lot of drivers out. The bars were all packed and there were plenty of people out but it just seemed like there weren’t as many requests as there should have been. I think that’s evidenced by the fact that I had an average wait time in-between passengers of over 7 minutes. When I drive in LA on a busy night, I never go more than 2-3 minutes without a passenger.
Even though I would have liked to have made closer to $30/hr I’m not really discouraged by my night since I know a lot of times it’s really the luck of the draw when it comes to getting those long high paying rides. I took one couple for a $19 ride and after I picked them up, I saw that that area was now surging.
Overall, I’m pretty happy with my first Saturday night driving for both Lyft and Uber. I didn’t make as much as I wanted to but I did learn a lot about my driving habits and gained some very valuable analytics data. Going forward, I’ll be able to compare my future runs and see if the strategies I’m employing are actually working.
The spreadsheet I created for this analysis is completely free for all of my readers and I really encourage you to check it out and leave me a comment on this post if you have any questions about how to use it. It’s a little complex I know, but it kind of has to be in order to gain the type of insight that will make you a more efficient driver.
Fare Analysis Spreadsheet
Readers, if you made it all the way to the end of this 2,500 word post I congratulate you! What do you think about my first night driving for Lyft and Uber? Is there anything I could have done better, differently or just the same? What do you think about the spreadsheet I created for analyzing your real earnings? Is it worth the hassle to figure it out or are you happy doing what you do?
-The Rideshare Guy
Drive for Lyft
Earn up to $35/hr driving for Lyft. Sign up here using my referral code.
Track All Your Accounts With Personal CapitalPersonal Capital lets you see all of your accounts in one convenient place. Sign up now for free.
This post originally appeared here.
Michael Shames says
Hey Harry –
Don’t want to interrupt your honeymoon. But at some point, I’d love for you to weigh in on the insurance issues surrounding Lyft (and Uber). From the best that I can tell, the degree to which the driver or passenger are insured are somewhat unclear given the insurance companies’ discomfort with rideshare arrangements. Any insights you have to offer would be great.
Harry Campbell says
No problem, we’re on the way back. I did a podcast on the insurance aspect a few weeks back. The only thing that’s changed is Uber’s driver insurance is now primary which is even better/safer for drivers.
Just started Uber. To make it simple – you make about %50 of what the fare says. Uber cut – %25 starting Sept. 2014 – Gas 3.50- Car up keep – Car depreciation and miles to and after pick up and drop off.
I see so many people try to fight this reality…. long term. I think it’s better to set your expectations lower and be suprised when it’s better?
The only scammy twist is they could post what you made right below the fare. So…………………
a little snake oil is obvious to me. I still think it’s a great alternitive and worth it in several ways. it I think it might keep us all in line a bit more and hone our social skills?
Most of all………….. I like that us drivers all…… drink less alchohol now!?!
Harry Campbell says
Yea I’d say that’s a fair assumption. And you’re 100% right about expectations, I see a lot of people fighting the fare cuts bc they are used to making more (since they’ve been driving for 1-2 years and rates used to be higher). New drivers that are on-boarding though are happy just to have a job and make decent money.
You won’t get rich being an Uber driver but if you need some temporary full time work or even better if you can do it part time and really cherry pick the busiest hours you can make some decent coin. And yes, not drinking on fri/sat nights and driving instead might be the biggest $$ saver.
Check out my new site for more info: http://www.TheRideshareGuy.com
I’m Uber DC driver. My statistics show between $9.00 (7:00 am to 7:00 pm) to $14.98 (7:00 pm to 4:00 am). Between 4:00 am and 9:00 am could go up to 18.00 weekdays, so your are lucky in LA indeed, but I do not believe it. First Uber takes $1.00 fee each trip (for a $5.00 trip means 20% buddy!). Second they takes 20% of the 80% left. Summarizing, discount fees go up around to 28% by trip. I am writing this July 17 of 2015, summer season. Greeting to everybody.