The Highs & Lows of Driving for Uber on New Year’s Eve

Is it worth it to drive on New Year’s Eve anymore? While it may not yet be New Year’s Eve 2021, we’re updating our article from earlier this year to cover what you need to know about driving on New Year’s Eve for Uber or Lyft. Senior RSG contributors Jay Cradeur and Paula Gibbins share strategies on what to expect while driving on New Year’s Eve, strategies for drivers and couriers, earnings and more.

In this article, I will share some of the insights gleaned from a long day and night of driving.  Driving on New Year’s Eve is supposed to be one of the best days for us, the rideshare drivers.  Is it? Or better yet, is it still?

New Year’s Eve 2020 was a different animal, due to COVID. Fewer people out, fewer ride requests and lower earnings in general. However, not every year is like this. Here’s how 2020 went for drivers and couriers, and strategies on how you can do better in 2021.

New Year’s Eve 2020: How Did Drivers Do?

New Year’s Eve is typically a big deal for rideshare drivers. With 2020 being what it was, no one was quite sure what to expect this time. 

Drivers haven’t been out, due to the coronavirus. Also, many bars, restaurants, and other venues around the country were closed or had limited capacity. 

As with many things in 2020, the other question was whether delivering would be worthwhile as opposed to ridesharing.

Drivers took to Reddit to share their earnings. Based on the comments I saw, most people did decently if they decided to drive for the holiday. With many drivers opting out of driving, that seemed to leave more business for those who gave it a shot. 

Several Uber drivers reported decent earnings. A handful had $600+ in one day:

new years eve rideshare earningsOne driver showed astronomical earnings over two days for the week:

driving on new years eveThey earned $1,047 in a little over 22 hours of being online and had a total of 48 trips. 

The Bad: Earnings Depended On Where You Lived, How ‘Open’ Your City/State Was for Business During COVID

Not everyone had an amazing New Year’s Eve, however. 

This driver drove for about 11 hours and only earned about $270 in the Southern California area. 

driving on new years eve

These drivers chose to sit out due to their state’s restrictive policies:

driving on new years eve

Should You Drive for Delivery on New Year’s Eve Instead?

That brings us to deliveries. How did the delivery side of things work out for New Year’s Eve? 

driving on new years eveThis Dasher got a huge pizza order for a guy having a party. The order got him $53 for a 4-mile delivery, plus the customer let him keep 3 pizzas for himself to share with his family. 

Another posted a screen shot of the tip they received:

driving on new years eveTheir customer gave them $20.20 in tips in honor of saying goodbye to 2020. 

Another Dasher snagged a pizza run that would earn him $71.14, which is significantly higher than most DoorDash orders. 

A Grubhub driver posted their earnings for the day and they got around $215 on New Year’s Eve…$144 of that was in tips. 

driving on new years eveOverall, it seems like delivery had some good punches for the night, but no knockouts as far as overall earnings go. Even the person who Ubered for a good portion of the day earned more overall than the Grubhub driver. 

Of course, there’s also a huge difference between earnings when you look at tips. If rideshare drivers could earn the percentage of tips that delivery drivers do, they’d be unstoppable. 

Take Advantage of Bonuses

It’s been hit or miss every year if drivers are offered bonuses on New Year’s Eve. This may depend on the market and on what the platforms are predicting as far as demand goes. Bonuses are typically used as a means to get drivers on the road when they might not be inclined to do so otherwise. 

driving on new years eveThis Lyft driver took advantage of offers on New Year’s Eve and earned an extra $75 in streak bonuses but a total of $227.78 in bonuses overall. 

They were driving in the Portland, OR and Vancouver, WA area and put in about 13 hours total between Lyft and Uber. 

Preparation for Driving on New Year’s Eve

Below, we’ll share information on how to prepare for a typical New Year’s Eve night (post-COVID) – traditionally, a big night for people, bars, restaurants and more. This is how New Year’s Eve 2019 went for Jay – a much more typical outcome than NYE 2020!

The first step? Be prepared!

I knew the likelihood of someone puking in my car was high since almost everyone who would need a ride would be drinking.  And since I do not normally drive at night, I wanted to be prepared so I went on to and ordered some barf bags.

Jay making sure the barf bag works
Jay making sure the barf bag works

I was pleased to find some barf bags that were somewhat high tech.  They have a big round opening to catch all the vomit and are made of plastic so there would not be any leakage.  The bags arrived by Friday, right on time to get started with New Year’s Eve.

Strategy for Driving on New Year’s Eve: Break Your Day Into Shifts

In the past, I felt quite confident that I could earn $30 per hour.  However, with the current pay structure, it has been far more difficult, if not impossible, to reach this goal.  Consequently, what would have taken me six to seven hours to achieve, took closer to eight hours.

Driving for Lyft and Uber on New Year’s Eve

The Night’s High Point – First Evening Shift

I then took a long break, watched some TV, cleaned my car, took a shower, and hit the road at 6:00 PM.  I got lucky in that my first ride at 6:03 PM was a three-passenger Uber Pool.  I then got another ride immediately after, and by 7:00 PM, I already had four rides under my belt.

By 9:40 PM, I had reached 11 rides and secured my $100 bonus.   I also generated another $100 in revenue for a total of  $404.21 for the day.  Now all I needed to do was get my 13 rides in before 4 AM, which as it turned out, was much harder than expected.

Tracking my Lyft and Uber earnings for New Year’s Eve night

Final Evening Shift

This is where the New Year’s Eve experience took a nosedive.  First, I soon realized Uber had changed how they pay out Surge.  Rather than the normal multiplier that I was used to, now Uber was assigning Surge in dollars and cents.

Uber vs. Lyft surge on New Year’s Eve

Gone are the days of big fat long rides.  Now that Uber is doing it, I have no doubt Lyft will soon follow suit.  When I coupled this with the now lowered mileage rates, I felt a bit defeated and deflated.  Working for Uber and Lyft is like experiencing death by a thousand tiny cuts.

One of the big turn-ons for me as a driver, especially on New Year’s Eve, is the opportunity to get a ride at 5.5X.  I may not get it, but at least I had the opportunity to get it.  That thrill is gone.  Every ten minutes or so, I would check and see that Lyft was only getting up to 100% in Prime Time whereas last year it peaked at 500%.

However, the biggest disappointment came from the low demand for Uber rides.  I was truly busy for just about two of the six hours.  It was very dead from 10 PM to 12:30 AM.  During this time, I only secured four rides.

From 12:30 AM to 3:00 AM, I was able to get another six rides.  Unfortunately, I did not get any Uber Pools, and most of my rides were long.  At 3:00 AM, demand completely died and after twenty minutes of nothing, I decided to call it a night and head on home.  I was able to secure the $60 bonus, but I left $120 on the table.  Here are the final numbers:

Final total numbers for driving for Lyft and Uber on New Year’s Eve

New Year’s Eve Driving Low Point

Overall, the passengers were great.  I don’t normally drive at night, so I was curious to see what I would encounter.  I did have one woman who was quite belligerent and I gave her a two rating with the comment “disrespectful.”  However, my last ride of the night, the one that put the nail in my coffin, was this one:

When I picked up this threesome of serious partiers, I still thought I had a chance at the $120 bonus.  This would be my 10th ride, and demand was strong so maybe I could still get three more rides.  The original destination was 40th Avenue, clear on the other side of town.  As I was driving, two of the passengers seemed to think I was going to the wrong destination.

Not until I was five minutes away did the passengers ask me to change the destination back to downtown.  You can see in the ride summary above how I took a big, time consuming (and unnecessary) loop.  I could not believe my bad luck. Now I had to drive another fifteen minutes to our final destination.  After I made the drop-off, demand evaporated and my night was over.   I drove home thinking about what might have been.   When my head hit the pillow, it was lights out.


If it were not for Uber’s Quest bonuses, I would not have had a very good day.  Fortunately, even though I left $120 on the table, I did earn $160 in bonus revenue.  This performance was only $1 better than my earnings from last year.   I will not drive on New Year’s Eve again unless there is such a wonderful and realistic bonus that I can not pass it up.  But I doubt it.

The trend is for Uber and Lyft to keep taking things away, whittling this opportunity down bit by bit.  I do not see why this year will be any different than last year.  Still, I did make $624 which is not bad for one day of driving.  I slept in on Tuesday morning and then went out to eat a well deserved Mexican brunch.  Delicioso!

Readers, are you driving on New Year’s Eve? What is your strategy?

-Jay @ RSG