How to Drive 12 Hours a Day (If You Want To)

Some drivers really want to maximize their earnings and take advantage of the 12-hour time limit set by Uber and Lyft. RSG contributor Jeff is here to show you his methods for the madness and why he decides to drive 12-hour days doing rideshare.

A few months ago, I told my rider that Uber only allows you to drive 12 hours in one day before you have to take a six-hour break. The woman asked me, “When do you take a nap?” Over the past 4 ½ years of driving rideshare, I have taken a couple of short naps, but I usually don’t. Last year, as an Uber driver I drove 12 hours for 113 days and 6 hours on 6 half days.

I have read that the average Uber/Lyft driver drives around 3-5 hours in a day. You never have to drive 12 hours in a day, but we have the flexibility that we could do it if we want to. If you’re on Uber and Lyft, you could drive more than 12 hours in a day.

When I go out to drive, I look at it as a business trip. If I’m driving locally in Myrtle Beach or if I’m driving south 70 miles to Charleston, it’s a fun business trip and I prepare for it. If you have thought about driving a full day, I’m going to answer some questions for you:

Why would anyone drive 12 hours in a day?

How do you prepare to drive that long in one day?

What do you do differently during a full day of driving?

Finally, what are the advantages of driving a full day as a rideshare driver?

Quick Summary: 

  • There are advantages and disadvantages to driving 12-hour days, and they vary depending on the person attempting the feat.
  • Take breaks often to keep refreshed throughout the day and add movement to your day.
  • Find the ways that work best for you to prepare for your day and cut back on any headaches that might crop up if things don’t go according to plan. 
  • Driving 12 hours a day isn’t for everyone! If this isn’t something you can do safely, please don’t attempt it.

Why Would You? 

When I signed up with Uber and Lyft in July 2018, I worked Monday-Friday as an independent contractor courier and got up at 4 am. I had Saturday and Sunday to drive rideshare, but I didn’t have any other good options. I did try driving a few hours during the week if I was home early, but I felt getting a few rides in the afternoon was not worth a lot to me.

I’d had driving jobs for many years and a distribution business for ten years. In addition to having many I/C drivers, I drove a lot of miles. For a few years, one day a month, I would deliver magazines for 19 hours in one day and 16 hours on another day. I was also doing physical work—driving rideshare for 12 hours in one day is much, much easier. Sometimes drivers are very comfortable driving long hours simply because they are used to it.

You might decide that for a holiday such as Valentine’s Day or Super Bowl Sunday (it’s basically a holiday), that you want to double or triple your income that day. Or, maybe each week, you have just one day that you can drive twelve hours.

One of the most important things I learned in college is time management. I realized if I took a single two-and-a-half hour class instead of two 75-minute classes, I would free up some time. I enjoyed taking the longer classes. If you can drive one 12-hour day, it may work better than working two 6-hour days. Everyone is different, but it is something to consider. Would you rather work five hours for five days or twelve hours for two days?

How to Prepare

You can drive 12 hours in many different ways, depending on your preference. I am usually online by 5:30 am and finish around 6:30 pm. When my wife was driving rideshare, sometimes I would go out early in the morning and drive half a day. I would meet her at the movie theatre, and after watching the movie, I would go out and finish my 12 hours of driving, and she would drive in the afternoon.

There are times that I drive between 11-12 hours or sometimes longer if I get a last-minute ride before my time is up. When we would drive to Charleston, I would get there early in the morning, and my wife would arrive late in the morning. We would meet at dinner time and talk about the day before heading home.

Some drivers will drive 4-6 hours and then go home for a few hours. They can eat, sleep, relax, whatever they want, and then they go out and drive. You may work all morning, have the afternoon off, and start again around dinner time.

When you decide to drive may be determined by the quests, bonuses, and/or streaks that you have on a given day or week. If you’re focused on maximizing your profits, you should be watching Sergio and Chris’s show, “Show Me the Money,” every Tuesday afternoon.

Make a schedule that fits you and what you want to do

Much like planning for vacations, you must plan your driving like you would anything else.

Car: Since I now drive only Friday-Sunday, I vacuum and clean the inside of my car Tuesday/Wednesday. I make sure I have a full tank of gas; I don’t want to think about getting gas in the first half of my day. On Thursday, I wash the outside of my car and attempt to clean the windows, which I quite frankly suck at.

Food: If you’re looking to bulk up and put on some weight, stop at a couple fast food places the day you drive and you’ll have no problem gaining weight. However, if you’re like most drivers, you’re not getting much exercise, so I usually avoid buying things on the road, unless I absolutely have to.

If you prepare what you’re going to eat that day, you’ll save time, money and some calories

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I do eat some healthy things. If I’m driving in Charleston, I’ll be eating lunch and dinner on the road. I’ll bring an ice pack in a small, black lunch box (pictured above). I throw the lunch box in a plastic bag where I put my snacks.

Don’t be alarmed, I don’t eat all this food in one day. I like to have choices. I’ll throw some cut-up cheese and strawberries in with the ice pack with my sandwich and a half. Pictured includes an apple, grapes, protein bar, granola bar, crackers and a few hard candies. What I don’t eat, I have ready for the next day. I’ll mix in sometimes, a peach, banana, saltine crackers, carrots, raisins, or pretzels.

Road trips are fun and having access to a variety of food is fun for me. I also have a large water bottle which is invaluable in keeping yourself hydrated during the day-it is a must. I don’t eat anything while I’m driving a rider-I’m talking with them.

Clothes: I want to save time when I’m ready to leave so I plan ahead. What will I wear that morning? I think it’s important to dress like you’re working. You only have a few seconds to make a good impression. I’ll never forget one of the first days in Charleston I saw a driver in a jacket and tie and he was very helpful to me. I don’t dress up that much, but I do wear nice shorts and a nice golf shirt.

If you’re in a cold weather climate, or start early, have several light layers of clothing that you can remove as the day gets warmer. Since I leave early in the morning, I don’t want to be looking for things then and I don’t want to have to do any thinking. Below is a picture of me at 5:00 am right before I go online Friday, January 12th, the day of my 10,000th rideshare ride.

How Is A Full Day Of Driving Different?

I think of my “business trip” in three 4-hour segments. The first segment I’m just getting the day started. I’ve got music playing and I’m singing, which would sound bad if anyone was in my car. It does wake me up and helps get my voice ready to communicate and entertain my riders.

When I drive south to Charleston, I stop just before my app goes on for a quick bathroom break and a quick look at the car, especially the windows. I had breakfast at home and I’m good for the next 3-4 hours before my first break.

Taking regular breaks on a long day is a must for you and your car

If this is the first time you have driven 12 hours in a day, the most important thing is for you to take a lot of breaks. On a normal day, I will take 3-4 breaks of 10-20 minutes at a time, but you can take much longer ones if you need to. Take advantage of a rider not being ready and get out of your car and stretch. I check my car, clean my mats and get some fresh air.

Opening a door for a rider from time to time, not only is great customer service, but it’s great for you to get out of the car. I joke with the rider that I need the exercise, but I really do. If you are physically able to help someone with their luggage, it’s good for many reasons; customer service and exercise are obviously two of them. Where and how luggage or bags are put in and taken out of your vehicle is important, also. I think it’s a lot easier for a rider to tip you when you’re standing there helping them.

Gas stations and bathrooms: It’s important to know the area you are driving in. Where are the bathrooms you are comfortable using? I’ll take a bathroom break earlier than planned if I’m in the right place, or even better, when I have a rider’s first stop at a gas station, I can run in and use the bathroom. I do enjoy getting paid while I pee. If I can, I use one of my bathroom breaks to get gas, and I’m always cleaning my mats and checking my car.

What stations have the best gas prices? I’ve been looking at gas prices on the road for decades, so I usually get a good price. If you want to make sure you’re saving every time you buy gas, there are many ways to do that, including with Upside.

Finishing the day: Twelve hours of driving time only includes the time that your car is moving. If you’re sitting in a parking lot waiting for a ride, it does not count. You can check your driving time on the app during the day. Uber sends a message when you have only two hours left on the clock, and they frequently remind you how much time you have left in the last two hours.

If you run the clock out, you can get one last ride in the last minutes. When you don’t want any more requests, just hit stop requests. But, once you’re out of time, it will warn you not to go online. I don’t think the phone will blow up, but I’m not taking that chance.

What Are The Advantages Of Driving A Full Day?

Knowledge: By consistently spending a full day, I have learned a lot about doing this. There are places I want to be while driving and places I want to avoid at different times. I keep records of what I do to estimate the number of rides and the money I will make on a certain day.

More satisfaction: I’ve averaged 23 rides a day over the past two years. I am much more satisfied with my income and effort after a full day of working than I was when I worked several days for a few hours. A difficult ride or lower paying ride is not a problem since I know I’m going to have 20 plus other rides that day.

Managing my time: I drive three days in a row, and I’m off four days, and I consider myself semi-retired. Although I drive 36 hours a week, on average three weekends a month, I’m a part-time, full-time driver. I consolidate my work time and off time, and it works for me.

MOST IMPORTANTLY: Prepare for a full business day and always take breaks when you need them.

Driver Takeaways

If you’re a rideshare driver that gets burned out easily by slogging through your days, working every single day of the week, you can try switching things up by trying out 12-hour days, filled with as many breaks as you need to power through. You could work a few 12-hour days and then take the rest of the week off and still work as many hours as you would have if you tried doing 6-hour days almost every day of the week.

To prepare for your day, you’ll want to fine-tune whatever works best for you and your schedule. Sometimes it’s as simple as filling up with gas the night before, preparing snacks ahead of time, and laying out your outfit (with layers if needed), so you have everything ready when you start your day.

Also, be sure to learn the area, so you know where your favorite rest stops and bathrooms are for quick, clean, and efficient breaks throughout your day.

Have you ever consistently done 12-hour shifts? What advice would you give to fellow drivers looking to try it out? 

-Jeff H. @ RSG