What To Make of The 2016 Uber Hourly Guarantees

Harry here.  Rate cuts have obviously been on a lot of driver’s minds lately and I’ll be writing about that next week when I get back from Mexico City (side note: give me a few extra days to respond if you’ve e-mailed me).  

But today, RSG contributor Christian Perea tackles the new hourly guarantee structure with Uber.  Uber has made some changes since last year’s guarantees and since the rules are often quite complex, we want to make sure that if you are driving during guarantee times, that you’re doing everything you can to meet the terms and maximize your income.

Uber car wrapped in money

What To Make of The 2016 Uber Hourly Guarantees

I’m no fan of Uber’s price cuts, and I am certainly not a fan of hourly guarantees. However, we have been getting a lot of requests to go over how this newest round of guarantees work, and today I’ll help clear up some confusion to make sure you can at least qualify for the hourly guarantees during the slow winter months.

You Have to Receive an Email From Uber to be Eligible

Update 1/18/16: A conversation with Uber’s reps has confirmed that you do not necessarily need to receive the email to be eligible.

In order to be eligible for Uber’s minimum fare guarantees, you have to have received an email from Uber stating that you are eligible for them. If you did not get an email that looks something like this, then you are out of luck.

Uber 2016 Guarantee E-mail

Uber 2016 Guarantee E-mail

This kinda sucks because if you did not receive the email, it seems like Uber has put you on their “bad kids” list.

How Do These Guarantees Work?

If you received an email, you will notice that Uber will offer different incentives during different blocks of hours throughout the week with differing minimum average ride requirements. Here is an example for Detroit:

How Last Years Guarantees Worked: Uber Guarantees Dissected

New UberX Rates in Detroit

New UberX Rates in Detroit

Gross Pay: The thing to remember about these hourly guarantees is that they are before Uber’s cut.  Which means if you’re paying 20% to Uber, a $20/hr guarantee is actually only $16/hr.

Hour Blocks: Think of each segment of hours as a “block“. This means that Friday from 10 PM to 3 AM constitutes a 5 hour block in which your average trips per hour within that block will be calculated to see if you qualify for minimum earnings. For example, you will need 8 trips to average above 1.5 trips per hour if you drive all 5 hours of that block.

The same hours on Saturday are a completely different “block” and even though it has the same minimum trips per hour requirement, it will still be calculated separately from Friday or any other blocks of hours. Which means you would have to do another 8 rides during that block to get paid in full. The same goes for all of the other blocks (although they have different ride requirements).

Minimum Trips/Hour: Each block of hours has a minimum ride requirement. They are calculated by dividing the total trips you did in that block by the total time you were logged in to drive. For example, we see above that for the $20 dollar blocks, the requirement is 1.5 rides per hour. This means that if you get 8 rides between 10PM and midnight in Detroit without getting another ride until 3AM, you will still be paid out because you averaged 1.5 trips per hour.

It is important to note that trips are counted by the hour in which you accept the ride. So if you accept a ride at 8:55 and end it at 9:00 it will count towards whatever trips are measured in the 8 O’clock block.

Acceptance Rate:  There is a minimum acceptance rate you must maintain in order to qualify. Most markets are at 90%. If you got the guarantee email, it will be listed there. The acceptance rate is calculated throughout the week instead of for each hour or “block” of hours. We are still unsure about cancellation rates but will update once we find out.

Surge Pricing: You know that surge pricing you get all excited about? It means very little now because whatever you make on surge will go towards your hourly guarantee. Last year I found that I would have several slow hours and get a big surge ride at 2 AM. It didn’t matter though because those rides were still under what I made via the guaranteed hourly, and all I did was take a lot of risk driving drunk people for no extra benefit.

Check Your Email:

The hours and conditions vary in every market. My suggestion is to make a sketch of each block throughout the week. This can come in handy because come Friday at 9:50 PM in Detroit, you may want to logout to catch a ride early in the 10 o’clock hour. Just make sure that you calculate that you met the 1.2 ride minimum for the previous “block”.

Other markets have strange terms and conditions and those may need to be taken into account as well. Feel free to forward your hourly guarantee emails to christian@therideshareguy.com and I will update accordingly.

You don’t have to drive the entire “block” of hours to qualify

Important to note is that you do not have to drive a whole block to qualify. As long as you maintain the right acceptance rate, average ride requirements, and watch your blocks of hours, you will still qualify.

Can You Still Hack The Guarantees?

Relevant From Last Year: Ubers Fare Guarantees Hacked

Last year Harry wrote about how to hack Uber’s fare guarantees.  The strategy involved going to a place which had a high volume of short rides and spending a couple hours racking up the rides.

Once you have the needed number of rides, you re-locate to an area of low demand.  This worked great for drivers who lived in a really slow area since they could watch Netflix and drink beer while getting paid hourly guarantee money.

Uber has upped the hourly ride requirements this year but I think it’s still possible to take advantage of this strategy.

Don’t Request Yourself: Last year, a lot of drivers would attempt to do the rides they needed and then request themselves to log hours and get paid for them even though they weren’t actually giving rides. Uber has security measures in place to prevent this from happening, so if you do it, don’t be surprised if you get caught and deactivated.

Hourly Guarantees Are Actually a Price Ceiling.

Related: Why Hourly Guarantees Are a Sham

The more you drive, the less you bring home in profit. Here is a really basic graph I made. It’s not scientific. I didn’t gather lots of data on drivers or anything, its just a general outline. (Yes this is recycled, but its very relevant)

Hourly fare guarantees from Uber are bad

You can see that by giving the fewest number of rides/driving the least amount of distance that qualifies for the criteria, you are making the highest margin in profit. Fewer miles driven, lots of “guarantee” money collected. As you try to “beat” the guarantee, you effectively lose money. Unless you give a large ride on high surge. Since all hours have only 60 minutes in them, you are limited in being able to beat it.

So for most hours, your guaranteed hourly will actually act as a price ceiling. If you qualify for the guarantee hours and give a big ride on one of those hours, it means nothing because it is used to subsidize the guarantee. It takes all the fun of driving around and hunting for whales.

Workforce Control

Uber has a pretty consistent history with their wonderful Winter Warm-Up Guarantee, where they lower prices in almost every market throughout the United States every January and put drivers on an hourly guarantee.

You Have To Play Their Game

This means that the only way to earn an income for full-time drivers at this point is to play Uber’s Warm-Up game and to follow their requirements to a tee. The picture above shows how drivers were placed into a position to meet strict standards that really resembled being an employee in order to make any money. You still had the option to not play their game, but at much lower rates obviously!

So a lot of the Winter Warm-Up effectively allows Uber to control and predict driver behavior. If you want to make any money, it’s a system where drivers are forced to log certain long hours in order to survive financially.

In the past, Winter Warm-Up forced drivers to accept calls that made no sense, often more than 20 minutes away. It forced drivers to take any call they could on a slow day no matter how shady or poorly rated the passenger was, all in the name of racking up enough rides during each promo block.

Competitive Lock-out

If you subscribe to chasing the guarantees on Uber, it effectively locks you out from driving for other services. As a strategic measure it prevents driver attrition to Lyft or delivery companies. If you have to meet minimum ride requirements then you won’t have time to meet Lyft’s new Power Driver bonus scheme. Effectively drivers end up having to choose one or the other.

Our Take

This year’s guarantees are lower than last year, which I find strange since Uber says drivers ‘earn more when prices go down’.  Shouldn’t the guaranteed payouts be the same as last year then?  I think that pretty swiftly disproves their theory, although you should already know that.

Either way, I suspect that many drivers will not make as much as in years past after they account for the expenses of running their vehicle, and Uber takes their cut from the guaranteed hourly rates. Suffice it to say, many drivers will probably start leaning more heavily on alternative players in this space.

What do all of you think about his years Winter Warm-Up from Uber? Plan to drive?

Make Every Mile Count

Did you know that every 1,000 business miles can save you $540 in taxes? Never miss another mile with the new QuickBooks Self-Employed automatic mileage tracker.

-Christian @ RSG

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In 2014, Christian left his job at a mental health center to drive full time for Lyft and Uber. Since then, he has driven for mostly Lyft with a little bit of Sidecar and Postmates thrown in for experimentation and Uber when he doesn't feel like talking to people. He likes to talk about Politics and Economics over a good beer to whoever will listen to him.
  • Joel Ayala

    I try to start working with Uber but they decline my application because of a felony. The felony is “failure to provide workcomp”, is the most stupid felony ever. Uber decline me, Lyft decline me, but I found a job driving school bus. How is that possible?

    • It’s a form of discrimination, you should file a complaint so the Dept of Justice can investigate.

      The naked truth –

      Who uses school busing in America = The Poor (Metro areas)

      This is why bus companies have no issue giving you a job.

      Who uses ride share = The middle class and the rich

      Just like Uber used to restrict accounts to those with credit cards until it was exposed as a PR disaster, so now they take pre-paid debt cards, secured credit cards and Pay Pal…

  • rgrandall

    Here’s another piece of information on the Winter Warm Up Guarantee: Trips per hour are determined by the START time of the ride, not the end time. (I got a confirmation of this in an exchange of email with Uber Support.) So if you drive 7:00 to 10:00 am and have five rides and the last one starts at 9:50 but ends at 10:10, then you still have 5 rides in 3 hours = 1.67 rides/hour and you are over the 1.5 rides/hour threshold (for LA area at least) and are eligible for the $20/hr gross ($15/hr net) guarantee. However if that last ride starts at 10.01, it falls outside of the 7 to 10 block and you have only 4 rides in 3 hours = 1.33 rides/hour and you do not qualify for the guarantee …..

    Now, since UBER alone controls IF or WHEN you get that ride ….. you have to call this a seriously FLAWED “incentive” program. The only things you can control as a driver are WHEN you go ONLINE and WHERE you do it. Asking us to jump through a hoop when they can move the hoop at will is just nonsense …..

    • Obamamerica2015

      It’s all fraud. Smoke and mirrors. You’ll never see more than a few pennies of an incentive.

    • Christian Perea

      I have controlled that in the past by logging off ten minutes before an “hour block” begins. That way I don’t end up spending the first part of the hour in a 30 minutes ride that won’t even count.

    • Guillermo Manuel Gutiérrez

      Is the START time of ride the time when you get the ping? Or the time when you swipe “Begin Trip” on the app?

  • rgrandall

    HOWEVER — What remains totally UNCLEAR is how the trips per hour threshold applies to hours outside of the “Incentive Periods” aka “All Other Hours” ….. Do they lump them all other hours together and treat it as a block ? Do they apply it to each hour ? Totally unclear. Here in LA, the trip per hour threshold for All Other Hours is 1.5 trips, the same level as for the morning and afternoon “Incentive Periods”.

    Does anyone else have any intel on this issue ?

    • Christian Perea

      the blocks for “other” hours should be counted as large blocks but that is actually a good question and I am going to try to find out. I would probably try to maintain the 1.5/hour as if they were one giant block though.

      • rgrandall

        But Uber is NOT doing it that way …. I got my first look at how they do it when I checked out my weekly summary from last week: Each day is divided into several ‘blocks’ — for example, Monday to Thursday have four blocks: 7am to 10am, 10am to 4pm, 4pm to 7pm, and 7pm to 7am. You must average 1.5 rides per hour within any of those four blocks to qualify for the ‘guarantee’ for that block.

        A really weak and flawed managerial choice of metrics, in my opinion, since it is NOT one that I as a driver can control in any positive sense: It’s a total crap shoot whether I get 5+ rides or 4 or fewer rides during the 3-hour morning “Incentive Period” — the first qualifies for the guarantee, the second doesn’t. …. So … how can I be motivated or “incentivated” by something I can not control ? …. It’s just as likely to frustrate, infuriate and DE-motivate me.

        HOWEVER — In one negative sense, I CAN control the outcome: Say I start at 7am and by 9:15 I have just 4 rides totaling a net of $30 or less. What do I do? Do I wait and hope I get another ride before 10am, thus qualifying for the guarantee? If I don’t get one — no guarantee, no $45 net for the 3 hours of work. What if it gets to 9:35am and still no ride? Then what? — Here’s what: I go offline for Uber because if I do, I will still have 4 rides divided by 2.58 hours = 1.55 rides/hour and I will get 2.58 x $15 net = $38.70 net instead of $30 net from Uber. That’s 29% more.

        So that accomplishes the exact opposite of what Uber “management” wants from me as a driver — which is to stay online and to take rides only from Uber ….. And the same logic can be applied to all four blocks of the day … all day …. and all week. In essence, it encourages me to “switch off” unless I’ve already locked down the guarantee for that period.

        • Obamamerica2015

          Uber will manipulate and falsify data to avoid paying the incentive. They will say you did not accept rides even when you accept 100%. When you ask for data they tell you there is no data, the system “automatically” calculates the numbers.

          They have created false algorithms to prevent having to pay the incentives. Combined with lower fares, they are truly screwing their partners

          I was 100% loyal to Uber. No more. This is complete Bull crap

    • Obamamerica2015

      It’s all fraud.

  • Gordon_Gossage

    Not just in this article, but whenever you report “gross per hour” that’s before Uber’s commission of 25/20, right?. However in NYC where there are other costs per hour in addition like NYC sales tax, black car fees etc is the gross AFTER deducting those fees?

    Also when you say per hour, is that every hour the app is open? if not, what is the definition of the “hour” you are using. thx!!!

    • Christian Perea

      Per hour means gross fares per hour. That is not after Ubers commish, which means that the hourly “guarantees” are actually much less than they advertise in these emails

      Hours are counted by how long you are logged in to accept rides or are already in a ride. If you log off it stops counting the hours.

    • Obamamerica2015

      It’s completely fraudulent Gordon. Even if you hit the required rides per hour and accept 100% of rides, Uber will tell you you did not, and therefore you do not get the hourly rate.

      It’s a total sham

  • ztrain101

    The really crazy thing is that in info above is that the Safety fee is $2.30. What is this money going towards? This is outrageous!!

    Has anyone ever seen a breakdown of where this money goes?

    • Christian Perea

      The safety fee is counted as part of the total revenue capture for Uber when they present their numbers to investors. Investors like to see that Uber captures more than 25% of revenue. Raising the fee allows them to buff the number for investors. Its really just a fee for lobbying and deregulation.

  • 1 AlaskanAssassin

    Last night was my first night as an Uber driver, and brave or stupid, I’m using my F150 pickup!
    I’m in L.A. and I haven’t signed up for Lyft or any others yet, just Uber.
    I did 12 trips between about 10pm and 4:30am, that netted me about 100 bucks. 3 to LAX, a couple short (<2mi) and a few medium ones. And one 45 mile freeway trip!

    As a new Uber driver I am very curious about these strategies, because looking at all the work I just put in, and subtracting the nearly full tank of gas I used.. Eesh. Definitely time to learn to play the game correctly, if this has any viability at all as an income.

    Great info here, I'll keep reading for updates -Please date the articles.

  • rgrandall

    UBER WINTER GUARANTEE: WHEN DOES IT END ??

    I hit the guarantee last week and got some extra earnings out of it ….

    BUT … when does the guarantee end? This week? Next week? When?

    THANKS !

    • when uber says so 🙂 But probably 1-3 months..

      • rgrandall

        Thanks, Harry !

    • Obamamerica2015

      The Winter Guarantee is a scam. Uber will falsify data to tell you you did not accept enough rides. They have no data to support their claim. They are committing fraud on a huge scale.

  • Obamamerica2015

    Uber drivers beware!!! NJ Uber is not being honest with their hourly guarantees!!!

    I hit the required 90% threshold and 1.2 rides/hour requirement 2 days last week. With their $20/HR guarantee, I should have made roughly $120 for the 6 hours of driving during the 4-8PM hours (3 hours each day) I only made $30 one day and $42 the next. Uber gave me $0 incentive payment, basically screwing me out of the $50 or so promised.

    I have sent several messages to Uber about this inconsistency, and hopefully they will do the right thing, but I’m not holding my breath. It’s a multi Billion dollar company that’s trying to nickle and dime its drivers.

    • I’d wait to hear what Uber has to say. If you met the terms, you will get paid.

      • Obamamerica2015

        I already know what they are claiming. Although I completed a perfect 7 out of 7 requests, they somehow calculated this as a 64% acceptance rate.

        Unreal!

      • Obamamerica2015

        Uber is committing fraud. I had a 100% acceptance rate on 2/3 and they are claiming it was 64% to get out of the incentive.

        Totally fraudulent

      • Obamamerica2015

        Why do you keep deleting my response?

      • Obamamerica2015

        As an update, Uber has failed to support their allegations regarding my acceptance rate. I have moved 80% of my driving to LYFT. Their loss

    • kurt

      Yeah, I was scammed out of two paychecks too. It seems hard to believe that a company this big can just lie to its employees and trick you without any repercussions. I’m looking into pressing charges somehow but I don’t know where to start. It’s f***ing bananas that they can just lie and cheat and somehow get away with it

      • Obamamerica2015

        Yep. Its all a big f’n joke. They cannot provide any data to support their claims about acceptance rates. As more partners figure this out they’re looking at a massive class action lawsuit. If you want to tell me I only accepted 64% of rides and therefore I don’t get your Winter Guarantee, you better damn well be able to prove that with data.

        • kurt

          No but the funny thing is in my case, there was no reason. Last time they pulled some fine print bs, but this time I followed everything to the letter and they didn’t even give a reason. They just stone wall me with the uber “””support””” system and won’t pay me. I got an email this morning after sending my sixth email saying they may do something next pay period but who knows.

        • Tahir

          The best thing is to drive with lyft during uber guarantee period. I experimented driving only for lyft for past 2 weeks. The request rate for lyft was fairly low than uber, but I made the same amount of money with their better rates. The end-week profit, working with lyft was more than uber, as I drove less, hence fewer expenses in gas. I also got a little amount of time in between rides to relax. By the end of the day I earned more, driving less miles on the road.

    • DEREAL82

      Fair to say you are not an uber employee however a partner. While you are entitled what was promised, that can’t be achieved under the terms of being an employee. Uber doesn’t employ drivers, drivers partner with uber. That’s the uber concept and that’s the only reason uber exist.

  • Taurus5778

    I just joined Uber and they are taking 28%….I thought they only took 20%?

    • 25% for new drivers, are you sure it’s 28%? That may be new in your market..

      • Taurus5778

        I sent an email to uber and they told me, as of last year it’s 28%. I think that’s ridiculous, not sure how anyone can make it worth while at that rate.

  • Q2U

    Scammy.

    In South Bay Silicon Valley – they say you have to have 67% in the coverage area, which they only provide as a low resolution, small scale map so you are mostly guessing. Then, even if you are in the middle of the zone, peak hours Saturday night downtown, their computer will make certain you are sent requests outside of the zone. If you don’t accept, you lose guarantee. If you go offline to drive back to zone, you lose guarantee. You suck it up and follow their computer, they give you a couple in zone to keep you driving, but then calculate when to send you back outside the zone.

    They stole 4 hours of guarantee from me this way Saturday night. Some of the Uber Pool fares were only $2 driving across town.

    Net? You get to spend your time and a lot of gas money chasing a guarantee that their algo will make certain you will not get. Though I had 13 trips all in the San Jose area, I was told that only 60 of the 66% (not even the 67% which was in that ‘fine print’) required were in the zone for that period. Right – I saw that the requests I had seemed conveniently just past the line …. They were not by choice!

    There should be a formal complaint and investigation on this. They shouldn’t offer a guarantee to lock drivers in at such poor pay rates, and then use their algos to prevent pay out. Seems highly illegal.

    • Wow so you’re getting requests outside the guarantee area – that is frustrating. Maybe you should let the pax know they’re going to need to cancel.

  • Karen

    Im still trying to figure out how to avoid getting screwed on end of the block rides. This morning I had a request come in at 9:57am when the guarantees ended at 10am. I picked the guy up at 10:02 for a 30 minute trip half way across Chicago. I was $25 short of my guarantee so basically that extra 30 minutes from 10:02-10:30am (a $16 fare) went uncompeheated even though I picked him up after 10??? I couldn’t cancel because of acceptance rate requirements but could I have canceled after 10am and asked him to re-request or would canceling after 10 for an earlier request still affect my acceptance during the guaranteed period? #momentswhenubersucks

    • Wow – that’s pretty unlucky. I think you’d have to do the ride to be safe and also ensure you get the guarantee.

  • Marvin willis

    Uber in Chattanooga is very poor… Would like to drive in Knoxville and maybe Atlanta…. Just wondering how to find out about incentives for those areas. Any help appreciated.

    • You could try e-mailing support@uber.com but not sure they’ll give you the best info on weekly incentives for those markets. They can give you sign up bonus info though.

      Your better bet may be to reach out to some drivers on FB and join some local FB groups and see what they’re saying/posting: therideshareguy.com/facebookgroups

      • Marvin willis

        thank you!

  • Marvin willis

    had to choose three more forums and jump through a lot of hoops just to join this forum……. hope it was worth while

  • Crescendo Group

    Seems like the concept of the incentive is pretty similar across different countries. In Singapore Uber updates the requirement every week according to the latest trend.

    From experience, if one were to drive during the incentive period, a part time driver can earn enough to cover the cost of the car. A full time driver would of course need to drive for the full day. But nevertheless the incentive period is critical to the success of the driver on whether can they make enough earnings for the day.

    Uber also recognized there are drivers on various working hours, they have come up with different scheme to cater to the lifestyle of these drivers.

    Get the latest Uber/ Grab Singapore Incentive program from firstlane

  • shadowsofprotection

    Anyone in Silicon Valley find themselves in a HUGE surge map area and the ride comes through with base rate? This has haappened to me many times over the last month and I called Uber on it. In one exchange they admitted to having issues with the accuracy. Last time, I was dead smack in the middle of 20 square miles at at least 1.8 surge, the ride came through at base rate. Uber denied it was surging …

  • double-tap

    I have a question for you on this subject, for the last three weeks (fri. sat. sun) Uber has been offering a $40.00 per hour guarantee here in the Napa Valley, it sounded great on the surface, but it is clear that Uber has invited everybody and their 13th cousin to drive these days, people from surrounding cities are flocking to drive in Napa on these three days, we have AT LEAST 5 times the drivers in the area than usual making it very difficult to even get the 1 ride per hour minimum to qualify.

    It also seems Uber is shutting out drivers who have lower ratings from this incentive, I have two local friends that have mid 4.8 ratings ( I am at 4.92 and have gotten the invitations) that have not been invited to drive, this totally shuts them down from making any money during the weekends when they would normally drive…I hate to say it, but I think this is Ubers way to get rid of people who they feel are not making the grade, they say they are going to switch to lyft….mission accomplished!

    The reason I say that is the situation here does not warrant this so-called incentive, it isn’t that busy here,very rarely is there a surge going on, just enough business to make everyone happy.

    Your thoughts?

    • Yea that’s somewhat typical of these Uber guarantees – they over-invite/extend to too many drivers. Maybe a good time to drive for Lyft with everyone doing Uber..

  • GiantSteps

    I have been driving for Uber for a few months. I have a top rating 1.82 and I constantly see these promotions in my app yet I have not received a single email or text allowing me to take participate.

    So while all these incentives sound great, what percentage of drivers are actually getting to be a part of them? They only exist for a select few and to make potential drivers think they will make more than $14 an hour.

    Uber is a friggen scam. They should not exist. The company is sickening and its ethics are non-existent.

    • If you’re seeing them in your app, you should be eligible. You may not be getting uber’s e-mails. Email support@uber.com and make sure you are opted in to receive all e-mails.