Uber Boost+: How it Works for Drivers

How is it that Uber constantly tinkers with driver incentives on what seems like a weekly basis? Why are they doing this even if it costs them money? Why is there such a wide variability in incentives from city to city, even from driver to driver in the same city? Here we are as unsuspecting workers, dealing with a new twist.

However, over the past six years I’ve been driving for Uber, every time they zig, I have learned to zag and come up with a strategy to maximize my earnings. This was the case over the past weekend, where I followed my plan exactly and averaged $60 an hour on Saturday and Sunday.

Not too shabby! I took advantage of everything Uber was offering me and made sure they all overlapped – long live the Show Me The Money Club!

Over the last year or so, we’ve gone back and forth from driver shortages to oversaturation to shortages again due to high gas prices. So what does Uber do? Introduces Boost+!

What is Uber’s Boost+?

Recently, the following message showed up in my app. I was very curious because in 2018 we had a similar bonus offer called just BOOST.

Editor’s note: It may have been even sooner – we covered ‘Uber’s Earnings Boost’ in 2016! However, most of the recent chatter about just ‘Boost’ has occurred since 2018, so this may be a new (or second, or third) iteration of Boost. 

That ended shortly after Uber figured out they were losing money on every ride. I suspect the same will be the case with the New and Improved BOOST+ (sounds like a new detergent commercial) because they lost money on me all weekend long.

Uber definitely did not make 50-60% on my rides. I have not done a spreadsheet yet, but I wouldn’t be surprised if at best Uber broke even from the typical, average Uber driver pay. But I may be an outlier!

The following screenshots are self-explanatory. Sign up for BOOST+ and enjoy the cash!

My Boost+ Strategy

With dollar signs flashing, I devised a strategy and went to work only during the hours I was offered this gift, then switched to the Lyft app for their abundant 3 for $18 streaks to head home.

Here are some rides from a recent adventure. Do you think these were profitable? Do you think Uber lost money on them? (The answer is yes.)

I had many more rides to show you where Uber lost money, but suffice it to say, there’s no way this incentive will last more than a few weeks with numbers like these. Either Boost+ will be eliminated or numbers will be reduced, as Uber did with Consecutive Ride Bonuses.

If you received Boost+ offers recently like I did, chances are you made good money!

Why Did Uber Introduce Boost+?

Why would Uber be interested in losing money this way? I have a theory.

Take a look at the times when most lucrative offers are on the table: from 6-8 am weekdays and 10 am – 1 pm on the weekends, with a few others sprinkled in.

For the weekdays, once a driver is out there in the Hot Zone, they are not just going to take the money and run like I do; they are most likely going to keep driving for a few extra hours without incentives when Uber not only will make up what they lost but also a ton more.

Uber’s idea is to secure the driver supply inside the core, throw them a few dollars but have enough drivers to cover the demand for rides from passengers, which is at pre-pandemic levels.

Another thought is that a driver must sign up to get the BOOST+; if you don’t, no incentives for you even if you are in the Zone. Once you sign up, Uber has a clear idea of how many drivers are out driving (kind of like clocking in). Then the following week, they’ll adjust the numbers to accommodate demand.

Otherwise, why would they choose to lose money on every ride?

Here are some more rides from Sunday where Uber lost money on all of them. I was smart enough to turn the app off when the promotion ended, switch to the Lyft app, and head home with a Destination Filter.

These were all short rides with minimal pickup miles, and on some of them I averaged over $10 a mile.

Takeaways for Drivers

Now is the time to sign up for Uber! If you’re seeing Boost+ in your market, it’s clear Uber is trying something out – and it may benefit you greatly, if you employ some savvy strategies like the ones I mentioned above.

I love it when a strategy is successfully tested and executed to perfection. Will I go out this weekend again and do a bunch of rides? Absolutely, as long as Uber doesn’t cut the Boost+ numbers to something like $2 extra per ride.

I think the sweet spot for this new and improved Boost+ is about $6-7 per trip (that is an additional 2x on minimum rides). Anything above that is total gravy, and double digits like they were recently is definitely one for the ages.

Pair that with surge, and you’ll be part of the Show Me The Money Club (SMTMC)!

Have you seen Boost+ offers in your city? What do you think of them?

-Sergio @ RSG