One of the first things new drivers will realize is that their earnings are very, very volatile. Some hours are fantastic. Others will go days without having a good few rides. Patience is key as well as understanding that sample size is also important. It's difficult to draw conclusions about how well you are going to do if you are only giving one ride a day. As your number of rides increase, the volatility in your earnings decrease and will probably settle around ~$20/hour, depending on the hours you drive. Uber knows this and attempts to get more drivers out on the road during popular times (usually rush hour M-F as well as barhopping times after 7:00 PM on Friday and Saturday). If you ride those times, you should expect to earn more money. In my short time driving for both Uber and Lyft, I have come up with a few tips and tricks to maximize your earnings:
(Remember: Uber is offering $300 to try 40 rides driving for its platform! You can try it out, see if you like it and then quit!)
My hour earnings are typically higher during commuting hours, up to 50% higher! This is perfect for those who are looking to supplement their income while working a full time job. What this author does is drive Uber/Lyft for a few hours in the morning before shutting it off and working. When the evening commute picks up again, I turn it back on and hit the road. The money isn't earth shattering: I probably earn ~$80/day doing this, but an extra $1,500/month that fits my schedule pretty easily is about as easy as money can get. The major issues with this strategy is that some rides will take you far from your destination. Uber is trying to fix that with their destination feature, but I have had very bad results with it so far (I'm patient though!)
Sometimes you will finish a ride and see surges happening all around you and want to run after it. What has been my experience is that after 10 minutes, 6 miles and the patience of a deity, you will only be given a ride for another 12 minutes with no surge. You can add a lot of frustration, miles and expenses trying to chase a surge that may be very short in nature. Let the surges come to you by driving in generally popular places during popular times. Trying to squeeze out a small surge has more often than not frustrated me than actually provided good results.
This was a blast to watch happening all around me (red is surging areas).
You can't predict where rides will be unless it's a major event or you are driving specifically to a city center. You'd be surprised how many rides are coming from residential areas (often to city centers) and then you will get a ride from a city center to somewhere more suburban. By running from where you already are, you are adding miles to your car without a guarantee of returns. My strategy in the mornings is to get everything ready and put the app on and stay inside ready to go. I will take my time and check e-mails, maybe make coffee and get some reading in until my first ride comes in (I start early). If there is a common route of commuting (for me it's towards downtown San José or up the peninsula towards the tech firms in Mountain View, Milpitas, Palo Alto, etc.), you will often pick up somebody near your home and bring them on their morning commute. If your commute happens to be on the same route, it's awesome. You get paid to go where you are already going to go!
The only downside to declining rides is that Uber will give you a little timeout after declining three rides and will send you a little e-mail. You may not get the 'guaranteed hourly rates' either that Uber offers, but these are so low that they are not worth bending over backwards for. My experience has been that the more selective I become in the rides I choose, the better my hourly rates are. This morning, in fact, I received a call asking for a 15 minute non-surge ride in the opposite direction I was heading. This was followed by a 12 minute ride to a rider with a 3.0 (!!!) rating. Followed by another 14 minute ride. I declined all three and received a 4 minute timeout. After that was done, I immediately got a 4 minute call for a 4.9 with 1.3x surge. I would undoubtedly make more money with this strategy than chasing around all the rides. I don't have an exact formula but I have found that anybody <4.5 rating is not worth picking up. Drivers are very patient people so to receive a <5 star rating usually means the rider doesn't value the driver's time or will be extremely impatient. Just let another driver deal with the hassle.
One of the major features that I am excited about (for Uber) is the destination feature. It allows you to place your destination in and will (in theory) only pick up riders along your route. My experience so far has been very negative: the PICKUP will be along the route but the destination will often be in the exact opposite direction. Hopefully they can remedy this to make this work better because the time it has worked for me has been extremely pleasant. Driving in the Bay Area can be frustrating when commuting, the 101, 280, 680, 880, 85, 17 all can back up quite frequently, but they all have a carpooling lane in certain parts. What this means is that during peak hours, you can (sometimes) get paid to go faster on your route! It has only happened a few times for me so far but I have picked up a passenger, in a surge, along the route I was going to drive. $20 later, I actually SAVED 10 minutes because I was able to use the HOV lane along the 101. Your mileage (literally) may vary.
Many people will like driving for Uber. Many people will dislike driving for Uber. Part of the joy for me is that it is a very low commitment way to earn money. If I enjoy it, great. If not, no big deal. With ultimate flexibility in hours using the car I already own, I am able to sample what works for me and doesn't work. This pitch appeals to a lot of people, especially those who are trying to save for a wedding, vacation, pay own debt or even just spend the time. With the sign-up bonuses that Uber/Lyft offer, it provides an additional incentive for people to try it out. It is possible to supplement your income by getting some of your friends to try it out. Just make sure to be honest about expectations and what they can earn (nobody likes being pitched something and having it not live up to their promise!).
Everybody's story is different. Everybody's market is different. The best way to find out what works for you is to go out and try it out! It is very low commitment to attempt and I don't see any major reasons holding people off from trying it out. If it doesn't work out or you don't like it, there's no problem picking up the fast $300 (link again) and then quitting. It may give you some perspective for when you hail your next ride too!
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