These days, it seems like everyone is using rideshare programs. If you aren’t a driver for one of the big rideshare companies, like Lyft or Uber, chances are good that you’ve at least used their apps to call a ride or been with a friend who has. In fact, rideshare apps are so popular these days that there is an entire generation of college students who have never been in a taxi and exclusively use ridesharing. One of the most frequently searched questions online when it comes to ridesharing is how much drivers can earn in a typical week or weekend. Here, we’ll examine some of the variables that determine how much money a driver can make using the Lyft app.
You Get Out What You Put In
The first thing to remember is that you can’t make money if you don’t put in the time. Ridesharing apps work like this: First, the driver (who has already registered with the service and been screened) turns on the app on their mobile phone when they are ready to drive. There is no requirement to be in a particular location when turning on the app. You could be hanging out on your couch watching television or already cruising a trendy area of town. The app notifies a driver, typically the one closest to the potential rider, that a ride has been located. Then, the driver heads to the rider and picks them up to take them to their destination. The charge to the rider depends upon how far away the rider initially was from their destination. For a driver to make good money using Lyft, or any other rideshare service, it’s crucial to have the app in driver mode and helpful to be in more populated, urban areas—where a ride request is more likely to happen.
Location, Location, Location
Lyft doesn’t operate in all cities, but does operate in most major metropolitan areas and quite a bit of the surrounding suburbs. This makes sense, because someone living in the suburbs and going into urban areas on the weekends doesn’t have to drink and drive or spend $100 on a taxi to get home. But, Friday night revelers don’t just use Lyft to get to and from their homes. Short Lyft rides are commonplace to get from one hopping venue to another throughout the night. That’s probably why some Lyft drivers claim that they make most of their money just by giving short but consistent rides around a small geographic area on weekend nights. Wherever the nightlife is popular in your city, that’s where you want to go on the weekends.
What about weekdays? Well, money can be made driving for Lyft during the daytime as well. Increasingly, workers and college students are relying on Lyft to get to and from work and school. And many Lyft drivers report that turning on the app early in the morning, as in 5am or earlier, often results in coveted early morning airport riders. Rides to and from the airport tend to be longer than commutes to work, resulting in greater per-ride profit.
Tipping is just one way that Lyft stands out from other rideshare programs. When driving for Uber, for instance, their policy is that tips are neither required nor expected. With Lyft, tips are certainly not required, but the ability to tip a driver using the Lyft app makes it decidedly more tip-friendly. In fact, drivers that drive for both Lyft and Uber often cite the frequency of tips as the factor that causes them to favor Lyft.
So, Really, How Much?
Alright, now that we’ve discussed the mechanics of making money with Lyft, strategies for getting rides, and the difference tips can make, it’s time to answer the ultimate question as best as possible. Various surveys of Lyft drivers report that, while the answer differs by city and day of the week, the average money that a Lyft driver makes typically comes in at $15-20 an hour. Keeping in mind the expected variance because factors affecting frequency and length of rides will differ wildly, this estimate already takes into account Lyft’s 20% commission and the frequency of tips. Lyft claims that its drivers make $35 an hour, but many feel that the number is misleading because it may not be taking into account downtime between rides but rather only the time spent actually driving a rider. In addition, drivers are responsible for their own gas, car insurance, car maintenance costs, and self-employment taxes, all of which make the “final” hourly amount smaller. All things considered, it's possible to make decent money driving for Lyft—just remember to deduct your costs from the amount you’re getting paid.