Senior RSG Contributor Sergio Avedian (Surge-io) went out and drove for Uber after being idle for almost two years due to the pandemic! Could he apply the same strategies as he did before? He shares what he learned, plus his earnings from driving for a week in Los Angeles.
For the last two years, I have taken off from rideshare driving. This is mainly due to COVID and not wanting to have strangers in my car. Furthermore, like Paula’s recent article highlighted about what other drivers are doing after rideshare, I went back to trading stocks full time.
However, I recently received an email from Uber, directing me to the following: “$100 for 3 rides and $150 for a 20 trip quest.” I figured I could make a quick $500 for a day’s work. I had to say yes to this request!
Hitting the Road in LA After Taking Two Years Off
I went out in the early afternoon on Saturday, September 25. As many of you know me by my nickname (Surge-io), I try to only drive when the city is lit up with surge.
I had two goals: I definitely wanted to finish the 20 for $150 quest, as that is $7.50 extra per ride. In addition to that, Uber had also sent me 3 for $19-$28 consecutive ride bonuses for almost the whole day.
Combine the two promos, we are talking $15.50 extra per ride, and add the potential surge, I figured I should easily make $500.
As you see above, the city was lit up pretty much the whole day, but I quickly figured out that Uber algorithms wouldn’t let me go for the quick score.
I started getting requests from miles away, sometimes as far as 10 miles, especially when I was going for the consecutive trip bonuses. I had heard there was a shortage of drivers, and from the short period of time I was out there, I can confirm that.
I would check for the nearby drivers on my passenger app, and it was nothing like the old days when you would see 6-8 cars piled up like ants on top of each other at every intersection.
As you can see above, I was averaging roughly $65 per active hour with the promotions, and $37 per active hour without the promotions ($58/online hour and $35/online hour).
What do you think happened next? Well, Uber being Uber, I did not get a quest for the upcoming week nor did I get consecutive ride bonuses.
I guess Uber figured out this was a hit and run, and they don’t like losing money.
As I will discuss in a future article, I thought Uber would lose a lot of money. To my surprise, the way the rides were priced for passengers (outrageous pricing for all rides), Uber almost broke even after paying me those juicy promotions.
I think the passengers are getting used to these high prices. The next thing Uber will do is to get rid of these promos (as they have done with me this week) and start making money for the first time since its inception.
What Did I Learn After Taking Two Years Off?
I am not known for accepting every ride, I was very picky before the pandemic of when and where I drove in order to take advantage of the old surge multiplier as opposed to the flat rate surge (Penny Surge) now.
Things have changed for the worse after Prop 22 for the driver. Not seeing the passenger destination is a huge hit.
In addition, not accepting at least 5 out of the last 10 rides comes with a heavy price to pay these days, as you are basically driving blind. You will not see the upfront destination shown nor the estimated pay for that particular ride.
You almost need to accept a majority of requests, but when they are 10 miles and 30 minutes away, it is a tricky situation, especially if you’re in the middle of a consecutive streak. The following ride was sent to me on the last leg for me to receive a 3 for $24 ride bonus. I reluctantly accepted it, but in the old days, I never would have!
Flat rate surge is another painful discovery. Basically, you turn on the app to find yourself in the middle of high surge, but then the minimum flat rate surge shown on your next ride is almost always half of what the driver sees on his/her app.
What you get above the minimum depends on variables such as where the passenger is or if Uber decides to share the wealth with you. I must say I miss the old surge multiplier.
If you are going after consecutive ride streaks, here’s a suggestion. Use both your destination filters without a timer, and set them up from one end of the city to the other in order to squeeze the Uber algorithms to feed you short ride after short ride in hopefully a surge zone.
Otherwise, Uber will send you to Timbuktu to pick up a passenger. I must have lost at least another $100 this weekend by turning down requests due to pick-up distances that were mostly sent to me on the second or third leg of a consecutive streak. Tricky Uber, nothing has changed on that front!
I was hesitant to drive again but I couldn’t say no to the lucrative bonuses, and I wanted to write about my experience. Before it all ends, and it looks like it ended for me after just one week (no promos), go get the money.
We all know good times for drivers are very rare in the rideshare world.
Will I drive on a part-time basis like I used to pre-pandemic? NO! Will I drive again if I was offered promos like this past weekend? YES!
The demand is strong even with the exorbitant pricing Uber algos are throwing at the passengers. Shortage of drivers is also evident by the ride requests coming from further locations. I’ve had multiple 7-8 mile and 20 minutes away pick-ups this past weekend.
It is odd, how effortless driving was for me. I guess being a rideshare driver is like riding a bike. I did 20 rides, all passengers were wearing masks and were well behaved – maybe I got lucky this weekend.
Be safe out there!
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-Sergio @ RSG