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    7 min read

    Is it worth it to drive on New Year’s Eve anymore? While it may not yet be New Year’s Eve 2020, 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 contributor Jay Cradeur outlines the tips and strategies you need to know for driving on New Year’s Eve 2020. 

    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?

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    Quite a few things have changed since I wrote a New Year’s Eve article last year.  Let’s dive in and see how these changes have impacted this driver’s ability to earn on New Year’s Eve.

    My Strategy for New Year’s Eve Rideshare Driving

    Last year I made $623 on New Year’s Eve without any bonuses. But this year (2019), Uber offered a few significant bonuses, which I could not ignore.

    New Year’s Eve 2018 bonuses for Uber in San Francisco

    Even though I have been driving almost exclusively for Lyft this year, I decided to commit to Uber and attempt to secure all $280 in bonuses.  In the past, I have been burned by offers like this because with so many drivers, and Uber’s waning demand in San Francisco, it can be difficult to secure enough rides to hit the goal.  During the day, I drove for both Uber and Lyft so I could get familiar with Uber’s updated app in preparation for the night’s quest.

    My strategy was to drive my normal morning shift and earn $200.  Then I would break my night into two sections.  The first section would be from 6 PM to 10 PM with my goal to earn $100 and also secure the $100 bonus.  This would put me at $400 for the day.  The second and final section of the night would be from 10 PM until 4 AM with my goal to earn another $150 plus the $180 in bonus funds, which would put me at $730.  Let’s see how I did.

    Preparation

    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 Amazon.com 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

    Recently both Uber and Lyft changed the mileage and minutes compensation figures here in San Francisco.  Both companies increased the per minute figures, which do not account for a very large percentage of our compensation.  Both companies also rather dramatically reduced the per mile figures, severely reducing the amount of money a driver can make, particularly on lucrative long rides.

    In the past, I felt quite confident that I could earn $30 per hour.  However, with the new 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.

    Summary

    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?

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    -Jay @ RSG

    Jay Cradeur

    Jay Cradeur

    Jay Cradeur, a graduate of the Haas School of Business at UC Berkeley, is a full-time driver with over 26,000 rides. Jay has a driver-focused podcast: Rideshare Dojo with Jay Cradeur. When Jay isn’t writing articles or making videos, he is traveling the world. You can see what Jay is up to at www.nomadjay.com.

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