There are lots of folks who like to complain about rideshare driving but one question that rarely gets asked – why are they still doing it? Senior RSG contributor Jay Cradeur investigates some of the reasons drivers still drive for Uber and Lyft despite their complaints.
It seems that all the news about rideshare driving these days is bad. Uber and Lyft are not profitable. Drivers are sleeping in their cars. If you read some of the press, there are many drivers who can’t even make minimum wage. Our driver pay has been cut in many different ways, from lower per-mile rates to reduced bonuses, to less profitable surge and personal power zones.
60 – 80 hours per week driving is not a safe way to make a living. So then why is it that those who are complaining the most continue to drive in these conditions? This article will delve into the mind of the rideshare driver and look for answers.
Most Don’t Stick Around
First, most drivers don’t stick around. Two-thirds of all drivers quit after 6 months. I believe there are two reasons for this. First, many people use rideshare driving as a stop-gap. Rideshare driving may fill a gap between jobs, between college semesters, or while someone is saving up some money for a trip abroad. Many drivers don’t expect to be driving more than a few months.
Second, rideshare driving is not as easy as you might think. It does take some skill to manage the passengers, take the best route, drive safely, and put in the hours required to make a decent weekly revenue. Many who start with the rideshare driving quit because it is hard. Something better comes along and many drivers jump at the chance to do something that requires few working hours and better pay.
But Then There Are Those Who Do Stick Around
Even with a thriving economy and jobs aplenty, there are guys like me who continue to drive. At this point, I am admittedly a part-time driver. However, for three years, I was putting in 50 hours plus each week. Why? Why do drivers keep doing it? Here are the reasons I think we stick it out.
1. Habits Are Hard To Break
Human beings get comfortable once they start doing the same thing over and over. We are creatures of comfort. Instead of saying “To hell with this rideshare driving, I am going to go find something better,” drivers stick with the driving because it is a known commodity. As the old saying goes, “better the devil you know!”
2. Passenger Interactions
I marvel at the fact that I have had no less than 25,000 interactions with passengers. Some of them are cursory greetings. Some are deep conversations about the future of civilization and artificial intelligence. It is remarkable to me that two people who met not more than a few minutes ago can engage is some of the most interesting, touching and intimate dialogue.
I believe this is possible because we both know we will most likely not see each other again. It is much easier to speak freely when there are no real consequences.
3. Stimulation Of The Open Road
There is something so wonderful about driving my car, the window slightly cracked while I am watching the sunrise over the San Francisco Bay.
Another fantastic experience is coming down Market Street and seeing the entire city of San Francisco from above. Or recently, I caught the sunrise over the California state capitol (see photo above).
Each city, highway and small town has its own moments of magic. There are different smells to each city. The smell of Chinatown in SF, for example, is unmistakable. There are also different sounds to each part of a city. All of these sensations keep many of us longing for the open road and we get our fix of it when we drive for Uber and Lyft.
4. We Have Irrational Hope It Will Get Better
We drivers are a hopeful bunch. We are entrepreneurs who see the glass as half full. AB5 just passed and many of us are hopeful that something positive will come out of it. Even though Uber and Lyft have continued to make cuts, and we can expect more, somewhere, somehow, we think they will turn it around and become our legitimate driver-partner. We are drivers and we keep hope alive.
5. Easy Work, Quick Pay
Last Thursday, I drove from 5 AM to 9:15 AM. I had seven long rides in Sacramento. I cashed out $129.97.
Once you have learned the basics, and then the finer points of rideshare driving, you can go out and earn $25 to $30 per hour and then push a button on your screen and have that money instantaneously in your bank account (or in my case, Paypal) then you can hit your ATM machines and you have your cash.
That is attractive to many people. It is as close to instant gratification and you can get. You need money. You drive. You have money. Best of all, you can do it whenever you want.
6. Freedom and Flexibility
Let’s say that driver pay has decreased by 20% since I started in December 2015. I base that number on the following spreadsheet:
Even at 20% less pay, rideshare driving does provide freedom and flexibility. I can still make a decent paycheck each week, put the pedal to the metal, save up for a few months, and then take off for Thailand, or Japan, or Buenos Aires.
It is up to you. And, as I mention so often on my podcast The Rideshare Dojo, you and I are free to use our time to pursue our Plan B and then eventually quit the rideshare driving all together while setting ourselves up for fantastic future endeavors.
Most likely, nothing much will change in the next five years. We may be a hopeful bunch, but it also serves us well to be realists. Rideshare drivers will continue to experience death by a thousand tiny cuts. When we get good news, such as the passage of AB5, we can celebrate and feel better.
But as I write this, nothing has changed. And come January 1, 2020, I don’t expect anything will change. Expect the worst. If that does not work for you, then you need to start figuring out your ‘life after rideshare’. For those of us bitten by the rideshare driving bug, I will see you out there on the open road.
Readers, do you think Jay’s above list is true for why drivers keep driving? Why do you keep driving?
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-Jay @ RSG
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