I Put Lyft’s Freedom and Flexibility to the Test

Senior RSG contributor Sergio Avedian has never been one to blindly accept Uber and Lyft’s claims of driver flexibility and freedom, so we challenged him to really see if drivers are as flexible and free to earn money on their own schedule as the companies say. Sergio tried out Lyft – does he agree that driving for rideshare might be one of the best options to earn money?

The major selling point for Transportation Network Companies (TNCs) like Uber and Lyft are freedom and flexibility. Since the independent contractor (IC) model is their bread and butter, both Uber and Lyft have successfully recruited new drivers with this sales pitch. However, keeping them on the platform is another issue, as our driver surveys have found over 60% quit within one year.

In order to replenish the driver base yearly, they’ve been pounding this drum loud and clear since their inception. Uber and Lyft (and other gig companies) used the freedom and flexibility aspect of rideshare effectively enough (with the backing of $220 million) to pass Prop 22 in California with an overwhelming majority.

I must admit, I have been a long-time skeptic of this flexibility and freedom rhetoric. I fully disagree with Uber and Lyft’s notion that drivers are independent contractors (ICs), because we are not. However, do drivers really have unlimited freedom and flexibility? I put Lyft to the test to see if I was really a driver with ‘freedom and flexibility.’

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Putting Lyft’s Rhetoric to the Test

Recently, both my kids were off school due to spring break. I had full days of fun planned for them, but they asked me if they could catch up on much-needed sleep since they are up at 6:30 AM daily to get ready for school.

I am an early riser and have been all my life, so I thought what better way to go out during the morning rush hour in the San Fernando Valley (a suburb of Los Angeles) and do a few rides before the kids even woke up? Since I’m not a top Lyft Ant and will never be one, I don’t know where a passenger is going when I accept a request. But I had a plan!

I have 2 destination filters (DFs) every day. I have written many articles about how to effectively utilize DF to my advantage on both platforms. This week was going to be a test of many things, including DF on Lyft and 3 for $15-18 Streak Bonuses that Lyft has been offering me between 6-7 AM and 8-9 AM.

Lyft is pretty stingy when it comes to surge, so anything on that front would have been pure gravy.

Right at 6 AM when either 3 for $15-$18 Streak was available on Monday morning, I set my DF, as seen below, to about 12 miles away. I know the San Fernando Valley well since I’ve lived there for the last 20 years!

Since I know where most ride requests are, I knew that with my DF set with a 1-hour limit would open me to rides in all directions, especially toward my ultimate destination.

Sure enough, almost immediately, I got a request a couple of minutes away, I finished the Streak Bonus in less than an hour, and I was almost on top of the destination pin.

Then, as seen in the second screenshot below, I waited for 8 AM and set the DF back to my house. I completed the return Streak in less than 90 minutes, and I was home.

I was onto something! I made as much money as I would make on Lyft in the Valley as I do in the City since Lyft’s streaks could be started anywhere unlike Uber.

Wow, I was thrilled! After a couple of hours of work, I was back home, the kids were up and we were ready to go to the beach.

Lyft Continues to Offer Me Freedom and Flexibility

Here are my results with the same strategy for April 11-17, 2022! Were there some issues with the Lyft network? Of course. Were there some customary long pickups on the third leg of the streak? Sure, there were. Were there many rider switches on my way to the pickup? Sure, there were. But the results were nothing short of extraordinary as far as I am concerned.

I repeated my strategy all week, sometimes in the mornings, and sometimes in the afternoons when the kids’ schedule allowed me to do so. Without those Streaks, my results would be horrible, but let’s stay positive here.

On Sunday, I went back to my early scheduled ride plan since Uber was offering me good Boost+ in the morning. Sunday was the worst day as far as my results are concerned, as Lyft threw me a curveball as you will see below with a 9-mile, 18 minute pickup on the third leg of the Streak. Can’t win them all!

Monday, Tuesday, Friday, and Saturday were great, I did a few hours of work and then went back home with minimal miles put on my car. Those Streaks came in handy!

Is this what Lyft means by flexibility and freedom? If so, I liked it a lot.

Would I do this if Lyft was not offering the juicy Streaks? Absolutely not, but this goes to show that every driver has to make a plan and execute it to the best of their ability.

This is $365 for about 10-12 hours of work I would not have in my pocket if I did not drive. I was able to monetize the hours I would be waiting for the kids to wake up.

Bring on flexibility and freedom! Lyft, I Pinky Swear, I will do this every morning during rush hour in my neighborhood if you keep offering me the Streaks.

Sunday Not So Fun Day

The good times eventually came to an end on Sunday, when I was trying to get into an Uber hot zone to take advantage of Boost+.

I picked up my scheduled ride in the morning, then did the second one with ease – and then Lyft sent me this beauty. I begrudgingly accepted it because I wanted to end up in the Uber Boost+ zone as well as finish the Streak.

Wow, could it have been true? There was no closer driver to this passenger (below) than me? I find it hard to believe.

Once I picked him up, on our way to LAX, he said that he was assigned another driver six minutes away, but somehow the Lyft algorithm switched the ride to me. You noticed it is a Scheduled pickup; this happens a lot on the third leg of Lyft Streaks.

Here are my Sunday results for Lyft and Uber after I got in the Uber Hot Zone where Boost+ was being offered for a couple of hours.

Both times for Online and Active hour were almost identical, and I made just about twice as much on Uber as I did on Lyft. $28.50 per Online hour on the Lyft platform, and $40 per Online hour on the Uber platform.

Takeaways for Drivers

Including Sunday’s fiasco, which lowered my numbers appreciably, I averaged $36.50 per active hour and $28 per Online hour on Lyft. Just the Valley experiment produced amazing results with $37 per Active hour and $31 per Online hour.

Maybe the trick is to just squeeze the Lyft algorithm twice a day for 6-9 rides during Streaks. I will keep doing this until Lyft either lowers or stops offering me 3 for $15-18 Steaks.

After putting Lyft’s freedom and flexibility rhetoric to test, my kids and I say thank you, Lyft! I have made decent money with minimal miles on my car instead of watching TV with a cup of coffee waiting for them to wake up – that is truly flexible work.

Where can I go and get that kind of money in a few hours? Clocking in and out when I please! I must say, I might actually agree with Lyft about their freedom and flexibility pitch!

Do you think Sergio is drinking the Kool-Aid, or do you agree that Uber and Lyft offer excellent flexible and free opportunities to earn money on your own schedule?

-Sergio @ RSG