Gas prices have been increasing since the beginning of the year and, for now, show no signs of slowing. However, there is no sign Uber/Lyft are willing to increase commission rates for drivers to offset these increases, so how can drivers handle this cut into their earnings? Senior RSG contributor Jay Cradeur offers some tips on how drivers can save money at the pump and while driving.
As drivers, we need gas to fuel our cars and it is no secret that the price of gas is going up.
Gas is the second biggest expense in my rideshare business, behind only the cost of my rideshare lease ($149 per week). I drive a 2013 Toyota Prius, which gets 50 miles per gallon (MPG). This certainly helps to offset the increase in gas prices. But for many drivers, a vehicle that gets 20 to 30 miles per gallon means this price increase is even more significant.
This article will evaluate the severity of the price increase while suggesting a few strategies to reduce the impact on your business. Let’s start with a chart:
This shows the price of gas over the past year. This is the average price in the US. Some areas, like the San Francisco Bay area, have a much higher price. I am currently paying $3.89 per gallon.
On average, this chart indicates the price has increased from $2.40 per gallon last May to $3.00 per gallon now, a 60 cent per gallon bump, or a 25% increase. Let’s translate this to a driver’s perspective so that it makes sense.
Real Impact on Expenses
On average, I drive about 250 miles per day, 6 days per week. Let’s say I drive a car that gets 25 MPH. That means in an average day, I use 10 gallons of gas, or 60 gallons per week. At an average increase of 60 cents per gallon, that is $36 dollars per week extra that I am paying for gas. Over one year, working 48 weeks in a year, that is over $1,700 in added expenses. It is significant.
What Can You Do?
Let’s break it down by the day. 10 gallons at a 60-cent increase is an extra $6 per day in expense. Some of you may be thinking that Uber and Lyft might increase fares or offer drivers a bump in commissions to help us out in this time of higher gas prices, but neither company has even acknowledged the increased gas prices to the best of our knowledge
However, there are a few things you and I can do to maintain a high level of profitability.
Do One Extra Ride Per Day
This has been a successful strategy for me. Each day I set a goal for both number of rides and total net commission. For example, a typical weekday goal is 25 rides and $250 in net commissions.
In order to account for price increases in gas, I can bump that up to 26 rides and $260 in commissions. This will completely offset the increase in gas expense. Yes, of course, I am working an extra 20 minutes or so. But I can justify it because I am still reaching my goals.
Upgrade Your Car
If you drive a car that only gets 20 MPG, then you may want to consider getting a car that gives you better mileage. If you upgrade to a car that gets 40 MPG, then you have just cut your gas expense in half.
This option is best for people who are full time drivers. If you are a part time driver, then the gas increase does not have as substantial an impact. Full time drivers will see a significant increase in profitability with a fuel efficient, high MPG car.
Shop Around For Best Gas Prices
I know all the lowest priced gas stations in San Francisco. Many of them are Flyers and Arco. If you don’t know where the lowest priced gas is in your area, then download an app called Gas Buddy. It will give you live gas prices in your neighborhood as well as other cities you may visit.
This screenshot from the Gas Buddy app shows there is an 80-cent spread between the lowest priced gas in San Francisco and the highest. Be sure to note where the price is a cash price. I always pay with my credit card so the price is usually 10 cents more per gallon.
You can also get low gas prices at Costco, Sam’s Club, and some grocery stores such as Safeway. Find the gas station that is convenient and least expensive. It is well worth it to find the cheapest gas in town and work it into your daily schedule.
Alter Your Driving Habits Just A Bit
I don’t recommend you do too much to change how you drive. It is important to keep moving toward the areas that will give you the best chance to get a ride. With the use of destination filters, you can usually get a ride back from a long ride so if you get a good one, take it.
I do suggest that if you are in a prime location and you have not received a ping, then pull over and turn off your car to save on gas. Specifically, turn off your ignition if you’re waiting more than 10 seconds.
Contrary to popular belief, restarting your car does not burn more fuel than leaving it idling. In fact, idling for just 10 seconds wastes more gas than restarting the engine. When I was a kid, I was told that starting your car burns a gallon of gas. Apparently, that is urban legend. Turning off your car will save you gas. And if you’ve noticed, new cars do that automatically now when you come to a stop.
Earn Extra Tips
During the last few months, I have worked hard to become a better driver deserving of more tips. Can you earn an extra $6 per day in tips to offset the increase in gas prices? I know you can.
As rideshare drivers, we are operating our own business. Increasing expenses is part of the deal. You can’t rely on Uber and Lyft to bail us out, even though they should. It is up to us to figure out the workarounds necessary to maintain our profitability. When we break it down to real numbers, $6 per day is manageable. Each of the suggestion above can help you to make up the difference.
There is an old expression: “Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater!” Gas prices have gone up, yes. However, this is still a great gig. We perform a wonderful service. Our passengers are happy most of the time. We get to be outside, looking at scenery, experiencing engaging conversations, learning new things, and then cashing out every night to put money in our bank accounts. It’s not bad. In fact, it’s pretty darn good.
Have you noticed the increase in gas prices and, if so, how are you dealing with the increased cost of gas as a driver?
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-Jay @ RSG
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