In 2017, Uber agreed to pay $20 million to settle an FTC lawsuit that accused the company of using exaggerated earnings claims to recruit prospective drivers. Since then, Uber and its main competitor Lyft have offered only general compensation estimations on their driver-info pages.
So, if you’re considering signing on with either company, how much can you really expect to make? The answer that GOBankingRates got from real-life side hustlers is pretty much in line with the one that both companies spell out on their websites: it depends. Let’s explore the situation.
Estimated Earnings Data Is All Over the Place
According to the top career and salary data sites, if you drive for Uber or Lyft, you’ll be either wealthy, almost broke, or something in between.
Salary.com gives almost identical annual earnings ranges for both rideshare companies:
- Uber: $25,366 in the 10th percentile to $53,259 in the 90th percentile with a median of $37,402
- Lyft: $25,367 in the 10th percentile to $53,260 in the 90th percentile with a median of $37,403
Glassdoor gives a difficult-to-believe average of more than $75,000, about double the Salary.com median and more than twice the $32,645 that Indeed cites as the average. It says that the top-earning drivers pull in $185,000 a year. ZipRecruiter says the average is more like $50,000.
Many Variables Will Determine Your Earnings
Both Uber and Lyft clearly state that earnings vary based on a long list of variables. The drivers who can plan for those variables and work them to their advantage are the ones who earn the most.
“As an Uber or Lyft driver, my earnings depend on a number of factors,” said RideFAQs founder Todd Bissell, who has been driving for both Uber and Lyft since 2018. “The most important factor is the number of rides I give. Other factors include the time of day, the demand for rides, and the length of the ride. If I give an average of 10 rides per hour, I make around $20 per hour. According to this estimate, I earn about $160 per day, or $800 per week. Of course, these numbers vary depending on the factors mentioned above.”
Location Is the Biggest Individual Factor
An extra $3,200 per month would be a welcome boost for just about everyone, but two different drivers who work the same number of hours can earn a much different wage depending on what kinds of rides they’re giving and, most importantly, where they’re giving them.
“As a driver for Uber or Lyft, you can expect to earn a good wage,” said Bissell. “However, how much you earn will depend on a number of factors, including the city you drive in, the amount of time you spend driving, and the number of fares you pick up.”
Rideshare driver assistant Gridwise used data from its own app to identify the best-paying cities for Uber and Lyft drivers. Its methodology included the cost of gas and insurance, which affect net pay the most. Therefore, San Francisco was removed from the list despite being in the top five because the cost of gas is so expensive in California.
These are the highest-paying metro areas in America in terms of hourly earnings:
- Pittsburgh: $26.44
- Chicago: $29.10
- Denver: $29.28
- Portland: $30.72
- Boston: $32.54
Those cities, however, are outliers.
“In general, Uber and Lyft drivers in large cities can expect to earn $15-$20 per hour,” said Bissell. “In smaller cities, earnings may be lower, but there are also fewer expenses associated with driving, such as gas and parking.”
No Matter the City, Savvy Drivers Always Earn the Most
Both Uber and Lyft outline strategies for making the most money as a driver, like using the app to work when and where demand is highest.
“The best way to maximize your earnings as a driver is to drive during peak times, such as during rush hour or on weekends,” said Bissell. “You can also earn more by picking up multiple fares in a short period of time.”
Smart drivers also pursue big events, holidays and other peak surge times.
“On high-volume nights like New Year’s Eve, I could make $300 an hour,” said life coach Star Staubach, who has driven for Lyft for several years. “In order to make a living wage, you’ve got to be willing to put in the hours and be strategic about driving — hitting peak times, driving the crowds for concerts, NFL game days and holidays.”
No matter how much you earn, of course, any job is always better if you enjoy what you do.
“Driving for Lyft and Uber was the greatest social experiment I’ve ever experienced,” said Staubach. “I came across a wide slice of life and loved it.”
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