“I’m thinking about getting into driving for Uber or Lyft (or both). Is it worth trying to do this for money?”
Friends and readers will often ask me about becoming a rideshare driver for extra cash since I drove for Uber in 2015 and then did a huge piece on it. This was one of the most popular pieces that I ever did on here. It was also the most controversial piece. I shared my experiences and it turned it something that I wasn’t ready for.
Now I’m here to tell you if it’s worth your time to drive for Uber or Lyft.
Should you bother with driving for Uber or Lyft?
I couldn’t believe some of the responses to my experiences with driving for Uber. I ended up writing a book (So You Want to Drive For Uber?) on the topic as I was one of the original people in Toronto to get into this and to document the journey. I then asked my friend Tomasz to write about driving for Lyft.
[Full disclosure: I only drove for Uber so that I could write about it. I wanted to be the first to test out this new technology. I had no intentions of trying to make it work as a full-time gig. I also wasn’t that desperate for the money that I would be willing to give up my weekends forever (it’s okay to enjoy your weekends).]
The idea of the sharing economy and ridesharing has gotten people talking. Articles have come out to suggest that Uber drivers could make a killing. Other articles came out breaking that drivers barely make any money. The whole earnings situation for being a driver has become a hot topic.
I feel like I had to do a follow up based on comments, angry emails, feedback from drivers in real life, and social media rants. We’re going to look at why driving for a ridesharing company can be a decent idea, why it could be a terrible idea, and if it’s even worth driving at all.
Let’s look at the benefits of driving for Uber or Lyft.
When I shared my experiences with driving for Uber, I never once identified this as a way to get rich quick or as something that you should do full-time.
I was pretty clear in my thinking (at least I thought I was). I felt that driving could bring in some money, but you would also be incurring expenses in the process.
These are the benefits of working as a driver for extra money…
Being a driver for Lyft or Uber is as flexible as it gets when it comes to making a side income.
I really enjoyed the flexibility of driving. It’s still pretty baffling to me how you could turn on the app whenever you please to make some money. Whenever I felt like making money, I turned the app on. When I was done with it, I turned the app off. That’s as flexible as it gets when it comes to side hustles.
You don’t believe me? Hear me out. There’s no other source of additional income that’s this flexible.
- Blogging? You’re not guaranteed to make money. You may waste a hefty amount of time and money.
- Freelancing? There are deadlines. You don’t always have work. You also can’t always get in the zone to freelance.
- Working at Starbucks? You get a set schedule. You have to be at work during specific hours. You have a boss. You have co-workers. You can’t just show up as you please.
- Part-time gig? Same thing. Set hours.
When I was a driver with Uber, I wanted to test out all of the times. I would turn the app on at random hours to see what demand was like. I would get busy on a random Tuesday after training, Sundays before family dinner, or when I felt like risking it, I would drive on a Friday night.
You see where I’m going with this? You can make money at your convenience. You won’t find anything else that works around your schedule like this.
Being a rideshare driver can be a solid source of extra income.
I’ve spoken with drivers who have a system. They work certain areas at specific times. They bring in a steady cash flow.
If you work during the surge times and try to take advantage of bonuses, you can bring in some extra bucks for the bank account.
This is where driving for Uber or Lyft can become a decent additional income.
It’s also important to stress that stuff happens in life. Sometimes you need to bring money in to deal with unexpected situations.
I’ve spoken with older friends who needed to make money and relied on driving. My friend Vickie is in her 70s and she needed some cash. She would drive when she was taking caring for her husband. She would turn the app on and hit the road. When she found that it wasn’t worth it any longer, she moved on.
The barrier to entry to be a rideshare driver can be low.
There are certain conditions to meet (car quality, age, driving record, proof of insurance and criminal record) to get in. They go through the documents fairly quickly.
You don’t have to worry about a strict screening process. You don’t have to pass a test nor do you have to struggle to get in. I remember going in on a Monday to submit my documents and then driving on Friday evening. I’m sure that it helped that I didn’t have a criminal record nor any accidents under my belt. I also went in person because I wanted to attend the information session so that I knew what was going on. I also wanted to get everything handled smoothly.
A low barrier to entry means that you can get in quickly and start getting paid. This is the easiest and best part of making money of being a rideshare driver.
What are the negatives of trying to make money by driving for Lyft or Uber?
I’m not here to sugarcoat anything or to promote something just to earn a few bucks on my end. I want to the paint the picture clearly so that you know what you’re getting into.
What are the cons of being a rideshare driver?
The people that you have to deal with.
You have to deal with some interesting characters as you try to make money as a driver.
I personally hated dealing with annoying drunks who wanted to drink in the car. They would try to drink an open beer in my car, sneak in an extra person, or yell at me for the cost of the ride.
Luckily, I can fend for myself, but this would be a terrible situation for someone to have to deal with. I couldn’t imagine my parents or a timid person dealing with these obnoxious fools.
What makes the people worse is the rating system. Someone can give you a bad rating for no reason. Your rating then drops and you risk being kicked out of the system after a few low ratings. That’s a huge blow if you’re relying on this money.
I realize that the rideshare companies can’t control every single person that signs up to be a passenger. It just needs to be pointed out that you won’t always be dealing with the best passengers.
You’re not making what you think you are.
There are also hidden fees to think about.
What are these hidden fees?
Gas, car washes, insurance, tolls, maintenance, and taxes. You certainly can’t forget the percentage that the rideshare companies take.
You also don’t get paid when you’re not driving as you wait for passengers or when you’re driving to pick someone up. This means that you’re not making exactly what you think you are. This down time isn’t reflected in your earnings report.
My friend Vickie who reminded me that oil changes happen more frequently when you’re always on the road. The harsh truth is that you’re adding more wear and tear to your vehicle. This also means that you may have to replace your transportation sooner than you would like to.
This is something to think about.
Is it worth putting all of these miles on your car?
I can’t answer that for you. It does shock me when I get picked up in a brand new luxury vehicle. If I were to buy a new car, the last thing I would want to do is to be driving strangers around.
There are also other cons to being a driver with Uber or Lyft. You may struggle with getting help from customer service and you could also get stuck with a low rating through no fault of your own.
What did the readers have to say?
R. Schwartz was very upset with his time as a driver (he seemed to be frustrated with me for some reason):
“The numbers you claim are not realistic. I average $10.00/hour payout. Subtracting fuel and vehicle expenses and it’s half that. You’re UNINSURED except when going to an assigned passenger and dropoff. Your personal insurance will deny any claim and cancel your policy in the event of an accident. My passengers are drunken, arrogant college students who sneak drinks into my car, risking my livelihood and freedom, will just sit yakking on their phone while keeping you waiting, and almost never tip. They try to cheat you out of surge pricing by dropping the pin outside the area they’re in and then call you to tell you where they really are, AFTER letting you drive to a spot 5 miles away from where they are. How much is Uber paying you to lie?”
Jonathan wasn’t sure about driving:
“I too am skeptical about how much you can make, I drove 1 day for 4 hours and made $74 it was a holiday weekend as well… but my sister-in-law only does Uber Eats and she seriously makes $500 a week which is more than I make in my current job. I saw the pay stubs on her phone and it made me start driving again but just as strictly part-time to afford life. I also plan on using the money from Uber to maintain my vehicle, tires oil changes tune up etc..”
Bob chimed in with a reality check.
“Stop bitching and get a real job. You need literally no qualifications to become an Uber driver! You honestly expect to make more than people at McDonald’s? You will never make the same as a college graduate. What the hell do you expect? You want to make more money? Get a real job!”
That’s just a handful of the comments. Go read the article for more.
Should you drive for Uber or Lyft for money?
This is a tough question to answer. I can’t ignore the negative comments. However, I also can’t deny my friends or drivers who have told me about how they enjoy driving on the side for money.
Here’s what it comes down to…
It really depends on how badly you want/need the money and what your time is worth.
The best thing to do is to experiment and then run the numbers.
Here are the numbers that you need to think about:
- How much you’re really making per hour.
- The cost of gas.
- The additional cost of maintenance on your vehicle.
- Taxes and fees.
If you try this for a few weeks and don’t find it to be worth it, then don’t do it. You don’t have to be a rideshare driver.
My buddy Matt drives in the mornings to bring in some extra money as he spends his days working on his business. Every driver has a different story and reason for why they do it.
There’s no such thing as the perfect side hustle. You always have to deal with annoying customers, trying to make more money, and regulations. When it comes to convenience and flexibility, driving is as good as it gets. When it comes to money, you can always try to do something else for money.
Here are my conclusions on being a driver:
It’s up to your to test out side hustles to see if the rewards are worth the effort. I’m not sure why people feel the need to be so outraged. You have the option to quit. Nobody’s forcing you to go all in on this.
You can also sign up with Uber Eats to deliver food on your bike
Have you tried being a driver? Have you tried making money with Uber or Lyft? How did it work out for you? Let us know in the comments…