Chicago is a busy city, where many people live out of town and commute in, and even more visit as a tourist destination. This can mean year-round profit for Chicago Uber drivers.
But how much can rideshare drivers really earn in Chicago? Here’s everything you need to know about driving for Lyft and Uber in Chicago.
Driving for Uber in Chicago
One of the most popular cities in the United States is Chicago, with people coming from all over the world to visit the Bean, the Willis Tower, Navy Pier, and more.
This, along with hundreds of thousands of commuters around the city, keeps rideshare drivers busy day and night. In this guide we’ll cover the best times and areas to drive in Chicago and so much more directly from Chicago drivers themselves!
Sign-up to Become an Uber Driver in Chicago
Signing up to become an Uber driver in Chicago is straightforward – the application process is similar to many other cities.
Signing up to drive for Lyft is similar to driving for Uber as well. You simply start by inputting your mobile phone number and continue from there.
Chicago Uber Driver Requirements
The following are the minimum Uber and Lyft driver requirements to be approved to drive on their platforms:
- Valid driver’s license — Temporary or out-of-state licenses are also acceptable (Lyft); Have a valid US driver’s license (Uber)
- 1 year of driving experience and be 25 or older (Lyft); Have at least one year of licensed driving experience in the US (3 years if you are under 25 years old) (Uber)
- Meet the minimum age to drive in your city (Uber)
- Pass driver screening: reviews your driving history and criminal background check (Lyft)
- Any smartphone that can download and run the Lyft Driver app (Lyft)
- Use an eligible 4-door vehicle (Uber)
The following are car requirements for Uber and Lyft drivers in Chicago:
- 15-year-old vehicle or newer (Uber and Lyft)
- 4-door vehicle (Uber and Lyft)
- 5-8 seats, including the driver’s (Lyft)
- Valid license plate — Out-of-state plates are also acceptable (Lyft)
- Good condition with no cosmetic damage (Uber)
- No commercial branding (Uber)
- Pass a vehicle inspection (Uber and Lyft)
You will also need to make sure that you have the required vehicle insurance. We recommend you also look into rideshare insurance, which is an add-on that will protect you during all parts of your drive.
Live in Illinois and need rideshare insurance? Look into Stable, an insurance company that’s geared toward insuring rideshare drivers! Learn more about Stable here.
Chicago Uber Driver Hotspots
Chicago is sometimes called the city of neighborhoods, with 77 different “community areas.”
But not all of those neighborhoods are as profitable as others for rideshare drivers in the Windy City.
If you live in Cook County, here are some of the best Uber hotspots with the highest earning potential:
- The Loop: With the Chicago River, Millennium Park, the Art Institute, and a ton of shops, businesses, and restaurants, the Loop is central to the city and gets consistent ride requests from tourists and commuters.
- Streeterville: There are plenty of hotels, shops, and restaurants in Streeterville, and Navy Pier is a popular spot for ride-hailing.
- Wicker Park: Wicker Park/Bucktown is also full of artsy restaurants, bars, and music venues. You can pick up a lot of ride requests on weekend mornings and late nights.
- Hyde Park: Hang out near the University of Chicago to find a steady flow of students and faculty needing short-term rides. The Museum of Science & Industry and restaurant and shopping scene draw plenty of riders to this southside neighborhood, too.
- River North: The Hubbard Zoo and rich nightlife in River North make it a good spot for picking up riders. You can get a lot of rides in the morning on the weekend and late night throughout the week.
- Lakeview: Lakeview is a bit more residential than the neighborhoods above, and you can usually count on commuter rides during the work week. Wrigley Field also draws a lot of fans during baseball season.
- Lincoln Park: Lincoln Park is also more residential. Between its upscale homes, cafes, shops, theater life, the Lincoln Park Zoo, and DePaul University, it’s one of the best locations for rideshare and delivery drivers in Chicago.
How Much Do Rideshare Drivers Make in Chicago?
Below is a breakdown of how much Uber drivers make in Chicago compared to Lyft drivers:
YipIt Data, a company that specializes in market research for the disruptive economy, found that weekday daytime volume is higher for Lyft than Uber, but weekday nighttime demand was higher for Uber than Lyft. This research is based on public data from Chicago in March 2022.
Weekend daytime volumes comprise a similar % of all volumes for both companies. However, Uber (20%) weekend nighttime volume was higher than for Lyft (17%), if you’re wondering which company is busier.
Your rideshare earnings are determined by five factors:
- Base rate: You get paid a guaranteed fare for picking up passengers.
- Distance rate: You get paid per mile, based on the city where your ride starts.
- Time rate: You get paid per minute, based on the city where your ride starts.
- Tips: Passengers tip you directly through the app – and you keep 100% of your tips. Always.
- Bonuses: Opportunities to earn extra cash become available at the busiest times and places.
Lyft’s rates may vary by city, region, and time.
According to Indeed, “Average Lyft Driver yearly pay in Chicago is approximately $64,354.” It does not specify if this is with drivers who consider themselves to be full-time or part-time drivers.
ZipRecruiter estimates Chicago rideshare drivers earn about $33,485/year.
Data shows that Uber is overwhelmingly more popular than Lyft (Uber has 75% of ride volume market share) so if you’re not sure which company to sign up with first, it makes sense to try Uber! This research is based on public data from Chicago in March 2022.
After speaking with several Uber drivers in the Chicago area, I learned that a part-time driver can earn around $400 per week, which is the equivalent of giving about 20 rides per week per driver Keith.
Bilal said that by multi-apping and maximizing his time and earnings, he’s bringing in around $1,200 a week on average. David cited similar earnings, saying that he aims for around $1,000 a week before expenses.
Both Lyft and Uber driver pay vary greatly by time of day, rider demand, and other factors.
Minimum Pay Law for Uber and Lyft Drivers in Chicago
According to an article in the Chicago Tribune, in March 2022, a minimum pay law was proposed for Uber and Lyft drivers in the city of Chicago. The proposal should help protect the drivers’ pay by guaranteeing minimum earnings.
Companies like Uber and Lyft, and their supporters, are against the law, citing that these enforcements would hurt ridership because fares would have to increase to cover the minimum requirements.
As part of the proposal, drivers would have a minimum per mile and per minute amount they could earn, or a minimum trip amount of $5, whichever is higher.
The article states, “The starting minimum per minute would be 30 cents, and the minimum per mile would include a $2 base and a $1.20-per-mile rate. Each year, the per-minute and per-mile rates would be adjusted for inflation.”
“Drivers would also receive at least 80% of what their rider paid, according to the proposed ordinance.”
And finally, the ordinance would also give drivers some protection when it comes to deactivation or disciplinary action taken against them when a customer files a complaint.
As of now, there has been no movement on this proposal but make sure to bookmark this page for more updates!
5 Tips for Rideshare Drivers in Chicago
Check out these driving strategies from Chicago Uber drivers.
1. Safety First
One common factor among the drivers I spoke with was safety. Chicago has been getting a less-than-stellar reputation lately due to carjackings and seemingly random acts of violence throughout the city.
As Bilal stated, even “good” areas are becoming dangerous. He and several others have completely stopped driving nights due to safety concerns, despite the fact that nights often come with surges, helping drivers earn more. But they feel it’s not worth the risk.
Keith said that you’re
“Damned if you do, damned if you don’t when it comes to safety in Chicago.”
He tends to stay in the suburbs instead of downtown so that he has some level of safety built into his day.
Keep your eyes open and pay attention to your surroundings. If you’ve got your head buried in your phone and not paying attention to who is approaching your vehicle, you’re making yourself an easy target.
For more tips on staying safe as a driver, check out our article on driver safety.
2. Know the Traffic Patterns
Chicago is known for horrible traffic during rush hours, and sometimes even outside of that.
“When there’s bad traffic, don’t take long trips.”
He said it’s just not worth the money for the amount of time you’ll be stuck in traffic. If the request comes through as a 90-minute fare from downtown to O’Hare Airport, he cancels.
3. Treat People the Way You Want To Be Treated
“I look at people and I treat them like I want to be treated myself. I give them a better ride as a result of that. Everybody deserves respect until they don’t…It’s the little things that we do for each other that make the biggest difference.”
4. Give Mondays a try
Bilal said that he tends to drive on Mondays and can keep very busy. He says that Mondays are better than Sundays for him.
The other drivers have put in a full, busy weekend so they take Mondays off. Bilal suggests taking Tuesday or Wednesday off instead as those are his slower days typically.
5. Utilize destination filters
Driver David said that he uses his destination filters to be more strategic throughout his day.
He says that staying downtown in the loop is the most profitable area for him, so he’ll use his destination filters to place himself there as much as possible.
What are Chicago Uber and Lyft Drivers Saying?
Red, the Rideshare Ginger, shares his insight from driving in Chicago here:
YouTuber RonniespeTV highlighted a driver who earned over $2,000 in a week driving Uber in Chicago:
The driver in the video utilized his destination filters to help maximize his earnings. He also mentioned that a driver should never sit at the airport in Chicago because it is a waste of time.
Driver Elijah said,
You have to think about it as a small business. Evaluate each decision. Do quick math in your head. If it’s not profitable, don’t take it. You don’t have to be desperate and take ones that are not profitable.”
Bilal also mentioned that he enjoys the tourism of Chicago. There are so many different cultures and it’s always busy, always something happening downtown. He concluded with “It’s a good place to drive.”
Resources for Chicago Rideshare Drivers
LegalRideshare can help drivers who have gotten into car accidents and have injury claims.
Harry has interviewed Bryant, and he’s also an excellent resource for drivers who have been injured while driving for rideshare or delivery companies:
Stable is an insurance company in Illinois that helps provide customized coverage that rideshare drivers need. They even offer dash cam rewards for drivers who take the extra step to have a dash cam in their vehicle.
Independent Drivers Guild – Illinois
Illinois has a chapter of the Independent Drivers Guild, which is the “largest rideshare driver organization in the nation.” It is a driver-led advocacy group whose primary mission is to “fight for the right to collective bargaining.”
The Illinois chapter has accomplished the following:
Through organizing, the Illinois Drivers Guild has won valuable new benefits for drivers. Notably, we have secured mental health benefits for Illinois drivers as part of our pioneering Driver Wellness Program. Crucially, we also offer members free and affordable legal services to help to fight unfair tickets, and accident support.”
Learn more about the Illinois Independent Drivers Guild and get involved here.
Alternatives to Rideshare in Chicago
Don’t feel like driving around people in Chicago? You’re in luck with delivery company Relay! Relay Delivery is available in Chicago and focuses on food delivery. One big difference about Relay from Uber Eats? Relay drivers are paid hourly!
Is Driving for Uber in Chicago Worth It?
Yes and no. Drivers in Chicago need to make up their own minds when it comes to the violence and safety issues plaguing the city. With little to no support from Uber and the city itself, drivers are taking their own lives into their hands.
However, as one of the drivers pointed out, anything can happen at any time, anywhere. It’s not specific to Chicago. Allowing strangers into your car is always a risk, so you have to be the one to decide if you’re comfortable with it or not.
Monetarily, it sounds like Chicago can be a profitable city as long as you’re willing to find the sweet spots that work best for you and your schedule, and put strategies to work, such as working on Mondays and/or sticking to the suburbs or downtown (whichever you find most beneficial).
Like most cities, you get out of the experience what you put into it. If you need some extra cash, driving for Uber and Lyft (and even delivery apps) in Chicago may be a great fit for you. Just get out and try it!
Do you drive in Chicago? What tips or strategies do you have for Chicago-area drivers?
If you are looking for more city driving tips, check out the guides we have below!