For many Uber/Lyft drivers, rideshare driving is great: flexible schedules, earning money on your own time. However, sometimes rideshare driving isn’t all what it’s cracked up to be. Senior RSG contributor Jay Cradeur outlines the brutal truth behind why being a rideshare driver sometimes sucks.
I don’t know if it it was the winter slowdown, the cold weather or what. But I do know is that I woke up last week wanting to write about all the lousy things associated with being a rideshare driver. It helps to occasionally look at things in a brutally honest fashion. Crystal clarity is good. And like any job, there are positives and negatives associated with ridesharing. So let’s take off the rose-colored glasses and speak frankly about this thing many of us do to make some money.
Whether you are new to driving, have been driving for a while, or are considering being a driver, this article will lay out seven real challenges of suiting up each day, filling our tanks with gas, and hitting the road.
1) You Are Not Going To Get Rich Doing This!
If you thought you were going to make a good living as a rideshare driver, you are about 5 years late. Those were the good old days. 10% commission. High rates. Not too many drivers. Strong demand.
Times have changed. You can still make decent money, but the days of making thousands of dollars a week in top markets or even over $1,000 a week in small to medium markets are gone. I work in San Francisco, which is considered by many to be the best driving market in the US. If I put in a strong 50 hours, and earn maximum bonus revenue and make good tips, I can peak at $2,000 but of course, that doesn’t go nearly as far as it sounds with our high cost of living.
Even just last year, it was much easier to make $2,000 in a week. But Uber and Lyft both lowered the bonuses and lowered the per mile rate, all of which now require more time of a driver to earn the same revenue.
This shows my earnings in a Monday-Wednesday week. I tend to make $30 per hour before bonuses. Bonuses and a strong weekend will push me close to $40 per hour. It used to be much better and much easier to generate strong earnings.
2) Your Body Will Hurt
If you go to a doctor and ask what is the best thing you can do to improve your health, I guarantee you it won’t be “go sit in your car for 8 hours a day, 6 days per week.” No, being stagnant is not so good for the bod. Sometimes I will drive for 6 hours without getting out of my car. I will just keep on going.
Then, when I do get out of my car, I move very slowly. I feel the aches and pains of my last work out. Things are stiff and creaky. I realize many folks these days are spending eight to ten hours sitting on their behinds tapping away on a computer. At least this is true here in the tech mecca we call the San Francisco Bay Area.
You can manage the situation by stopping every couple of hours and taking a short walk. Be sure to get to a health club (places like Planet Fitness are nearly nationwide and only $10 a month) each day or so and work out. Give your heart a good work out. If you are a driver, you need it.
3) Uber And Lyft Are Not Your Partners
This has been one of the biggest disappointments of my short rideshare driving career. I keep wanting Uber and Lyft to be a company that really and truly cares about the drivers. I envisioned a company that leveled the playing field and rewarded hard work and performance.
Instead, those who started a few months ahead of me are still paid more, even though I have done at least 10,000 more rides than most. Maintaining a high rating means nothing in terms of increased earnings. Even bonuses come and go with the wind. Bonus assignment is “randomly” made.
Show more loyalty to a company and they will reward you with a lower bonus. Uber and Lyft changed their rates not too long ago, increasing the per minute rate and slashing the per mile rate, leaving many drivers seething at the overall cut in pay. I am grateful for the opportunity to drive and resentful for being manipulated like a cog.
4) I Bet You Did Not See That Coming (Hidden Expenses)
Damn, I need new brakes! Or how about this one: I was driving four passengers through a rough part of town called the Tenderloin. At a stop, a homeless guy walked up to my car and kicked my door, startling me and my passengers. After delivering my passengers, I stopped and discovered a big dent in my door. That is a $1,000 hidden expense.
If you are driving your own car, rapid depreciation is another hidden expense. I spend $35 a month for a car wash subscription. Rideshare insurance can be more expensive than regular insurance. I need a fatter phone plan to accommodate all the data I am downloading each day. Hidden expenses, they are everywhere.
5) What Did You Say To Me? (Nasty Passengers)
In my over 22,000 rides, I have had just a few nasty passengers. You never know when you will get them. Just a month ago, I was driving some young partiers to an early morning club. It was 5:30 a.m., and they were leaving one party and heading to another. I asked a question, and one of the girls snapped at me, telling me she would prefer silence because she felt I was being too judgmental.
I know from experience to shut up when a passenger behaves rudely. And that is the job at times: Shut up and drive. We do have to put up with a fair number of ego-inflated a-holes. Perhaps this is true of just about every job out there.
6) Oh Boy, Another Airport Run! (Boredom)
I don’t know how truck drivers do it. There are times, lots of times when I am very bored with the driving gig. Another passenger. Another trip to the airport. Drop off. Pick up. “Hey, how ya doin?” “Great, how bout you?” “Have an awesome day!” And on and on it goes.
Truck drivers don’t even have the passengers to break up the monotony. If I were a truck driver, I would fall asleep, crash my truck and perish. With rideshare driving, we at least have fairly consistent distractions with the many passengers. Thank God for Spotify and podcasts.
7) There Is No Future Here
Nope. There is none. No pensions. No medical benefits. No future. We will all be replaced by machines. AVs. Self-driving cars. Robots.
We drivers will be replaced just like factory workers are being replaced across the globe. Artificial Intelligence is the future and it is here now. Driving is a job that can easily be replaced by a machine. Work while you can, but know that it will one day be coming to an end. It’s temporary. You will need to find another gig, one which requires skills a machine can’t provide or replicate.
That’s all the bad stuff, the disappointing stuff, the stuff that if you think about it too much, you might get angina. However, there is value, powerful self-awareness in knowing the good, the bad and the ugly of your chosen profession. They say the first step in solving a problem is defining the problem. When we look at rideshare driving in this most unflattering light, we can make adjustments to make it better, more valuable, and more worth our time.
Or we can always quit and do something else. Perhaps the tide is turning. Only time will tell. Be safe out there.
Readers, do you sometimes feel like rideshare driving just sucks sometimes? How do you turn your attitude around?
-Jay @ RSG