On July 4, RSG senior contributor Will Preston had his best night driving with Uber ever. And while not every holiday will be as lucrative, today Will shares his strategies for maximizing your time on the road, taking advantage of holidays, plus how much he made.
I grossed $355 ($326 from Uber and $29 from Lyft) driving the afternoon and evening of July 4th, which is now the most amount of money I believe I’ve made per hour ($35) since I started driving about two years ago. While San Diego is a busy town with mid-range Uber rates, it has minimal surge, so for drivers in my town, this is a lot of money!
In this article, I’ll share the strategies I used to maximize my earnings during the July 4th holiday, plus the mistakes I made that kept me from making more.
For a comparison, 92% of my earnings on July 4 came from Uber and 8% came from Lyft. My total earnings came to $355 for the night.
Prior to that night, the most I ever made in a single night of driving was $300, and I worked much harder for that $300 then I did for this for this $355. That was the night of Saint Patrick’s Day, and was the busiest I’ve ever been while driving. It was constant surge and constant stacked rides for several hours, leading me to believe that I would never top that night.
Given how last weekend went – which was nothing like that – it’s a bit surprising that July 4th beat St Patrick’s Day. But it did – by $55.
Holiday Driving Strategy
July 4th is a very busy day, followed by an extreme surge, after the fireworks conclude. Doing well driving on that day requires a little bit of planning and a little bit of luck. Fortunately, I had both.
Like driving for any event, you need to do a little research as to what is going to be happening. For July 4th, you need to know where the fireworks are. More importantly, you need to know where people are going to go to watch the fireworks.
I live in North County San Diego, where we have fireworks on July 3rd, so I’ll need to drive down south on July 4th to get the big crowds.
On July 4th, I knew there would be fireworks in multiple locations down the coast, the biggest of which would be the fireworks on San Diego Bay. Prior to the fireworks starting, the key is to not be anywhere near where the fireworks will be. If I ever had downtime, I would drive away from where the fireworks were going to be, increasing the chance that I might get a ride towards said fireworks. Most of my rides all afternoon and evening were just that.
Once the “get me to the fireworks” rides died down, I started driving anywhere the rides took me. But the plan was to be back in the surge area before fireworks ended, which is why I was a bit worried when I happened to get a ride going quite far from where I wanted to be.
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The rider in question asked me if I could wait a few minutes, then take a second person to another location. I very politely informed him that I really needed to get to the area of the fireworks by 9:30, and politely declined the second ride. He understood, and I very quickly went offline and bolted back to San Diego Bay. This is part of the strategy Jay recommends – sometimes you have to decline some requests in order to make big money elsewhere. Don’t be afraid to tell passengers “no”.
Once I got just outside the upcoming surge area, I went back online to see what kind of requests I would to get. I took a gamble on a small ride before the big surge started. It was close and I figured if he was going very far away I would say no, since he wasn’t a surge ride. It turns out he was a short ride right into the heart of what would be the surge. My gamble paid off.
One other piece of the strategy is where I wouldn’t go. There is this spot in Mission Beach – one of the prime spots for fireworks – where you will be in a super long, unavoidable U-turn that will suck up your time and profits. I knew if I turned left at a certain light, I would be in that mess. I told the passenger about the situation and told them if I could drop them a block away, it would save me at least 30 mins in traffic. They said sure.
I talked to another driver that said he got stuck in that spot at the wrong time and made nothing after the fireworks. There are two lessons here: one, know your city! The better you know your city, the more you will know which places to avoid and how to get out of high-traffic areas. Two, don’t be afraid to ask your passengers to accommodate you. It helps to frame it as they’re doing you a favor – be polite and explain to them why you’d like to drop them off in X position instead of Y.
Finally, I’ve adopted a strategy of accepting Lyft Line requests more readily than I do UberPOOL requests, because they now pay the same rates as regular rides. I actually did four Lyft Line rides and got paid $29 for them. If Uber would do the same, people would be more open to taking pool rides.
The Best Strategies for Holiday Driving
The strategies I used worked well and I always seemed to be in the right place at the right time.
The biggest contributor was the 3X “ride from hell” that started in Pt. Loma after the fireworks. It took 1 hr 45 mins to go 18 miles due to the severe traffic. Normally I would hate sitting in that much traffic, but I knew that at least I was getting paid $18 an hour just for time. Almost two hours later, I dropped them off and made $85 on one ride. Nice.
Tips didn’t hurt either. 10% of my total pre-bonus take ($27) was with in-app tips. I also got some cash tips, but I forgot to count those.
There was also a quest of $25 if I hit 15 rides on the 4th. I hit that by 8 p.m. That’s not a ton of money, but it’s additive to the total. In contrast, there was no Quest bonus on St. Patrick’s day.
Another thing you should definitely use during holiday driving: destination filters. I live in North County San Diego and wanted to drive in the center of San Diego, where the action was. I set my destination to downtown and started driving.
A few minutes later I got a ride toward San Diego, then another from there to the center of San Diego. On the way home, I set my destination to my house and got a ride from near San Diego toward my house (but not that close). I didn’t really expect to get a ride close to my house, so imagine my surprise when I get a surge ride (1.3X) going from that area to about two miles from my house!
That means I made over $60 while “commuting” to/from where I wanted to drive. More importantly, I also profited more than any single night I’ve driven, since I didn’t have my usual 50-80 miles of deadhead driving. I drove 267 miles according to Quickbook mileage tracking, and got paid for most of them.
At my actual cost per mile of $.221, my costs were $59. That leaves me with a profit of $295 for the night. Destination filters don’t always do what we want, but they are a valuable tool that can help.
Strategies That Didn’t Work
Audio wasn’t working for stacked rides, and it was my fault. I wasn’t hearing a beep that caused me to look at the screen and accept the additional ride. Unfortunately, this is because I’m no longer using Mystro since I’m driving on an iPhone. Mystro automatically accepts those for you.
I knew this was a problem, but didn’t know how big of a problem until I saw my statement that said I had a 50% acceptance rate! There were times I was waiting for work that could have been filled with stacked rides.
This happened because I was listening to an audiobook via Bluetooth. The quick beeps just don’t get over to the Bluetooth, so you don’t hear them. Once I remembered this problem, I turned off Bluetooth. It’s been a while since I drove on a busy enough night where this was a problem.
Word to the wise: don’t use Bluetooth from your driving phone. You’ll miss beeps and ride requests!
The long ride (while profitable) was difficult. The two ladies in question were not locals and didn’t realize how bad the situation was. They said words to the effect that they knew it wasn’t my fault and that I was doing my best, but by the end of the ride, they were ready to jump out of the car and walk. Luckily for me, they were still 15 miles from their destination. It took 1.50 hours to go three miles, and then another 15 mins to go the remaining 15 miles.
Not every holiday will be this lucrative, and it’s tough to predict which holidays will be big in your city. In fact, your city might have festivals/parades/marathons that are very popular and lucrative for drivers, but you’ll know know that if you know your city.
Drivers need to know three things:
- Their city
- The events in their city
- How to be in the right place at the right time
By knowing and applying these three things, you will increase your profits – holidays or not!
Drivers, did you drive during the 4th of July and if so, what were your earnings like?
-Will @ RSG
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