Strategies from a College Town Driver: Levi Earns $40-50/Hour!

Senior RSG contributor Sergio Avedian has interviewed many people on the Show Me the Money Club (SMTMC). This interview with Syracuse driver Levi is all about Levi’s positive attitude and strategies for driving in a college town market. If you’re enjoying Sergio’s interviews (Roxie, Kyle, Emanuel, and Jeff), please leave a comment below! 

All of the drivers I’ve talked to and featured throughout this series epitomize what’s going on in the gig economy right now: the market is saturated in most places and is facing tough macroeconomic conditions, yet these drivers use all the tools in their toolbox to make ends meet and enjoy what they’re doing.

I met all these amazing drivers after I started the weekly SMTMC livestream, every Tuesday at 3PM PST on the Rideshare Guy YouTube and on all the major podcast channels. If you haven’t visited the SMTMC, you should check it out (there are replays for all past episodes, too!) Check out the Show Me the Money Club playlist here.

Another SMTMC Town Hall Alumni is today’s subject, Levi from Syracuse, who is blessed with writing talents in his own right. He also has his website called Tip You In The App, please check it out, as it is a wonderful source of information for drivers.

Levi from Syracuse

Getting Started with Uber and Strategizing Ahead of Time

Levi’s background is in economics, so he knows a thing or two about money and managing his finances. After many years as an executive in the corporate world, he had enough. He became a freelance consultant and a content creator. To support his passion for golf and traveling, he started driving for Uber right before the pandemic hit.

He lives in Syracuse, NY, home of Syracuse University. He figured out his game plan before he even bought a car for rideshare, unlike most drivers who just download the Uber app, fill the tank, and push GO.

Since he was in a college town, he concluded that most college kids would use Uber for their transportation needs and that most trips would be short. With that in mind, he bought his Prius Prime and went to work.

Levi and his Prius Prime

“Some think driving an Uber is like being a bartender or a priest in a confessional booth. I think it’s more like the best part of a blind date.”

Related: The Best Cars for Rideshare Driving

Figuring Out His Market

Not all markets are the same! Levi drives in a college market, meaning his types of rides would look different than a non-college market in terms of types of rides, demand, and timing.

It was clear to Levi that Uber promotions (Weekly & Weekend Quests, Boost, Consecutive Ride Bonuses) would make up the bulk of his driver earnings. He figured early on that college students used Uber a lot, typically did not own cars, and are very comfortable using technology. As most college kids spend their parents’ money, they kept ordering Uber rides for extremely short trips, which put minimal wear and tear on his car and his body.

Finally, most importantly, Levi felt like tips were the best way to maximize his earnings. He tries to earn 20-30% of the fare in tips. Same with tips, more rides meant more tip opportunities.

As I always advise new drivers, Levi stacked all the cards in his favor. This is where he separates himself from the average driver: he had a plan and executed it perfectly. Considering all the Uber offers, his charm and outgoing personality took care of the rest. He is a top earner in his city to the tune of $40-50 per online hour.

Levi’s stats in late October/early November

He completes about 25-35 trips on Friday and Saturday nights between 9 pm and 2 am, since most college kids are ordering Uber at the same time, and he takes full advantage of surge.

“The base fare is $4.30. Also, we typically get $2 promo for each ride we pick-up on campus. There are surges for most rides ranging from $1.50 to $15. Finally, the quests range from $60-$120 for 50 trips. This means in two nights, roughly 10 hours of work I can make about $500 and drive maybe 100 miles. $50 an hour is good money!”

New Uber driver and curious about how Uber fares are calculated? Check out this video from Uber’s Driver Learning Center all about upfront fares: How earnings are calculated: upfront fares

Drawbacks to Driving in a College Town

As a resident of Los Angeles, home of a bunch of major colleges, I have learned the hard way that giving rides to college students is not an easy task. There are pros and cons; Levi sums up some of the challenges:

  • College kids drink way too much, and most of them are absurdly drunk by 10 pm
  • Instead of ordering an XL, they want to get 5 or 6 people into my Prius.
  • It’s dangerous with so many people out on the street, with most not paying attention to traffic
  • Students aren’t on campus 4+ months out of the year, so you have super slow months
  • Big events on campus can mean traffic is horrible

But as always, Levi finds the positives of driving for Uber outweigh the negatives. That is his personality, which was evident during our Town Hall meetings on SMTMC.

“But those things are easy to manage after a little while. Mostly I keep a bunch of vomit bags ready and act like an adult, especially when the frat boys get rowdy. Some of the students complain about sketchy Uber drivers, you know, the ones that think they’re a student. 

I’m a grandfather and happily don’t get caught up in the party scene. I keep it simple and offer a safe ride. To entertain the students, I have lights under the seat, play popular movie songs, and hand out Lifesavers. It’s amazing how 20 cents worth of effort gets me $5 tips. Overall I enjoy it. The students are from all over the world and have great stories. It’s making for a fun book!”

Takeaways for Drivers

All the people I have met and interviewed are great Uber and Lyft drivers and an asset to their communities. Not just because they are amazing human beings but because they have plans and execute them to perfection. This series has unequivocally become my favorite, and I will keep at it as long as the readers enjoy them. These articles will be video versions on the RSG Youtube channel shortly.

Editor’s Note: If you enjoy Sergio’s series, comment below and let us know your thoughts!

There is a lot of negativity surrounding the gig economy these days. Is it perfect? No – things could be better, from pay to safety. But all these drivers have figured the game out, not because they earn top dollars in their markets but because they make the gig economy work for them as opposed to working for the gig economy.

Here is a final quote from Levi; thank you, my friend, be safe out there! And if Uber driving ends, I know you will make a great Santa!

“My goal is to grow a community of gig economy workers, people like me who drive rideshare, deliver food, or other gig jobs. I want the content to educate, enlighten, and entertain you. Tip You In The App is about making the most money while enjoying what we do. Ultimately, I want you to read a blog or watch a video and be inspired. This isn’t easy work, and few appreciate what we do. Well, I understand what you do and how hard it is. I’m cheering for you!”

What do you think of Levi’s earnings and college town driving strategy?

-Sergio @ RSG