How much you ‘make’ as a rideshare driver comes down to two main things: how much and well you drive and how much you spend. Are there ways to increase how much you earn by decreasing your expenses? We think so! RSG contributor Chonce Maddox Rhea breaks down typical Uber driver expenses and how you can pay less to earn more.
On average, a rideshare driver’s income can vary depending on the market, among other factors. Our Uber driver survey revealed that many drivers are earning an average $20 per hour. While this is well over the minimum wage in several states, I talk to too many drivers who feel like they still aren’t bringing home enough income.
Why? One of the most common reasons why is overhead costs. As independent contractors, drivers are responsible for covering all of their expenses and taxes. With the passing and possible implementation of AB5, drivers could become employees, but that seems like a long way off – if it ever even happens. In addition, this may only affect California drivers, and not drivers throughout the US.
Today, many drivers are feeling burdened by their monthly expenses on top of sudden rate adjustments and new payment structures rolled out by Uber and Lyft. This article breaks down which expenses you can expect to budget for along with some potential ways to lower costs.
Looking for quick ways to save some money or spend less? Check out these quick links:
- Get cheaper insurance by shopping around at our Insurance Marketplace!
- Save the wear and tear on your car by getting a rental, like HyreCar
- These apps will save you money on gas costs
- Get cash back on your phone, auto repair costs, and more with Rakuten
Common Uber Driver Expenses
Insurance is a required expense for any driver, but rideshare drivers have more risks, especially since you may not be covered during Period 1. Obtaining rideshare insurance helps close this risk gap and most companies tend to offer options for drivers these days.
Geico, Farmers, State Farm, and Allstate are among some of the top options to choose from, but it really depends on you and the state in which you live. You can find a full list of rideshare insurance options by state here.
In terms of costs, we here at RSG did some digging and found out that in California, drivers can expect to pay anywhere from $113 to $205 per month on average for rideshare insurance.
The average car payment in America is $554 for a new vehicle and $391 for a used vehicle. Depending on the type of car and loan amount, you could be paying more or less. On top of paying off your car, you’re putting tons of miles on it and the value is depreciating.
One option you may want to consider looking into is leasing a car through a program like HyreCar. For one weekly fee, you can drive a vehicle with HyreCar, with no fees, no contracts and no waiting.
You can find options like HyreCar, Maven Gig and more over at our Vehicle Marketplace here.
Of course, you’ll want to run the numbers and see how much you’re actually driving and what you’re earning on average to see which option would be the most cost efficient.
Gas and Tolls
Gas is just an inevitable expense that comes with the territory. Last year, RSG contributor Jay Crader noted he drove around 1,500 miles per week.
“My car gets 50 MPG, so I am using 30 gallons of gas per week. I am paying around $3.59 at my local ARCO. This may vary widely depending on how much gas costs in your city. Doing the math, my total weekly gas expense is a whopping $107.70.”
Luckily, there are some options for saving money on gas! We’ve found several apps that will save you money on gas here.
In addition, you may want to consider as your next vehicle purchase or rental an electric vehicle. We compared the 5 best electric vehicles for Uber and Lyft drivers here – you may be surprised by the results!
With regards to tolls, when you’re completing an Uber or Lyft trip and have to go through a toll, you will pay out of pocket, then the company will reimburse you since it will come out of the passenger’s fare. However, if you have to go through those same tolls on your way back home and don’t have a passenger in the car, it’s your sole responsibility – so be sure to budget for this.
Repairs and Maintenance
Repairs and maintenance costs are going to pop up more often for rideshare drivers, since we naturally drive much more than the average driver. This means more money coming out of your pocket for oil changes and other services to keep your car running properly.
Jay says: “There two expenses that I have incurred on an annual basis are tires and brakes. My latest set of 4 tires was $500, and my latest brake job was also $500.
You may not need to get your brakes replaced as often as once per year, but as I drive the many hills of San Francisco, I have to ride my brakes pretty hard. The per week expense is $19.23.”
Your average cost may be higher or less, depending on a variety of factors, but in general, maintenance will be something you will need to budget for. Drivers will certainly need more frequent oil changes than the regular driver as well. Depending on what type of oil you use, you could spend anywhere from $15-60+.
Miscellaneous Uber Driver Expenses
Don’t forget about those miscellaneous monthly and annual expenses that you will still pay as a rideshare driver. Some of those might include:
- Cell phone bill (to use the app and navigation)
- Car wash
- Parking and permits
- Meals (if you’re going to be one the road for a while and take a few breaks)
- Satellite radio or music streaming subscription (or a subscription to Audible!)
- Water and possible amenities for passengers
Luckily, you can save on a majority of these expenses by using a cash back app like Rakuten. You can read our full Rakuten review here, but basically, you can shop through the Rakuten portal online, through the app, or in person and get cash back on your purchases. Yes, even on your phone bill (Rakuten offers cash back with Verizon, AT&T, and Sprint) and your auto purchases (like AutoZone, Auto Parts Warehouse, and more). Rakuten can help you save on many common Uber driver expenses!
How Much a Driver in New York City Spends to Be a Rideshare Driver
Cameron is a TLC Licensed driver in New York City. He purchased a 2018 Suburban last year new and has since driven 94,107 miles with the car.
“I have gone through at least 1 oil change per month and that ranges from $50 to $85 each time because it’s synthetic. I have also rebuilt the transmission for $2,900, replaced one set of tires for about $1,000 and replaced my rear brakes for $550 with the OEM version because they lasted me about 80,000 miles. The tip here is you get what you pay for. Always think in the long term and get parts that you know are gonna last a long time.”
Cameron also shared that his overhead in NYC is $6,800 per month. Here’s how that breaks down.
Truck Payment: $1,500
Taxes: He sets aside around $200/week
Cameron feels like rideshare companies don’t factor in the various costs drivers have to pay when they’re considering the fares and mileage rates.
“This is why I believe that the rideshare companies would be better suited if they allowed us as drivers to charge ”X” amount of dollars above what they charge. That would at least allow for us to account for changes in insurance costs in total costs, and especially in gas costs. All in all I have to earn about $12,000 a month in order to keep this business alive, that equates down to about $3000 a week. In order to make that kind of money I have to make a minimum $450 a day.”
Richard, on the other hand, is retired and has been driving for Lyft part-time in Sioux Falls, South Dakota for the past two years.
He recommends drivers switch to a prepaid phone plan if they haven’t already and choose a reputable company with a dependable cell and data coverage. He also does his own oil changes every 3,000 miles to save money.
Here are some monthly and one-time expenses he’s incurred:
Monthly Car Wash: $24
Phone Bill: $40+
Tires and Alignment: $500+ (annual)
Nice Weathertech Floor Mats: $160 (one-time)
Headlight Bulbs: $100 (annually)
Phone Mount: $40 (one-time)
How Much This Philadelphia Driver Spends to Be a Rideshare Driver
Kelly C. is a Philadelphia rideshare driver who has been tracking his income and expenses religiously for the past few years. Kelly actually created a detailed spreadsheet that helps him track everything from the number of rides he does and the time he spends online, to the mileage and how much the trip costs.
He fills in the spreadsheet weekly to come up with monthly summaries like this one below that includes how much each ride pays on average along with how much he makes per hour:
Kelly uses TripLog to track his mileage and Quicken to track his rideshare expenses then he adds this data to his spreadsheet.
“My biggest expenses is gas but I use GasBuddy which gives me a 5% credit at Sears which I use for oil changes and other non-complicated auto expenses. I work Wednesday through Sunday usually in the afternoon and use the destination filter at times.”
Looking for more ways to save money at the pump? Check out our top recommendations for the best gas apps to save you money!
Having a spreadsheet system can be a great way for drivers to have a backup record of their income and expenses all in one place. In November 2019, Kelly earned a gross income of $4,909 by driving for Uber and Lyft. He drove 4,722 miles and his expenses included:
- Gas: $624
- Auto Maintenance/Services: $608
- Car: $110
- Materials and Supplies $18
- Taxes and Licenses: $40
- Other Business Expenses: $232
- Car Depreciation: $326
The fact that Kelly measures his car’s depreciation is interesting and something rideshare drivers can keep in mind. It’s no secret that your car depreciates each day, so the value it’s worth right now will be lower tomorrow and each day after.
Kelly factors depreciation in because he knows that he will eventually have to replace his car and can prepare for this huge expense and even predict when it’s going to happen. Calculating depreciation and other common rideshare expenses can also be a great way to compare your costs if you were considering leasing your car for Uber or Lyft.
Kelly averages out all his numbers for the entire year, as you can see in this screenshot of his spreadsheet report below:
As you can see, Kelly drove 62,905 miles in 2019 and completed 3,684. He earned $58,177 and his expenses were around $20,687.
“In 2019, I bought a Toyota Avalon for $12,500 with 68,750 miles on it. This is a model I’d owned before so I knew it ran well. I used to sell cars and determining your vehicle depreciation is all about lost value per mile,” Kelly shared.
Kelly recommends a simple formula for determining this. Start by estimating the maximum number of miles you can get out of your car.
Kelly estimates he can get at least 250,000 miles out of his vehicle.
Once you have this number, you just subtract the mileage that your car currently has, then divide it by what the value or what you spend for the car.
- 2012 Toyota Avalon had 68,750 miles when Kelly bought it and he estimates that the car will run until at least 250,000 miles
- 250,000 – 68,750 = 181,250 miles left.
- The vehicle’s value at the time of purchase was $12,500.
- 12,500/181,250 = $0.0689 = rate of depreciation per mile
By running the numbers, Kelly determines that his car depreciates by $0.069 per mile driven
Tracking Your Profit and Loss
Keep track of all your Uber driver expenses by tracking your profit and loss each month with a program like QuickBooks or GoDaddy Bookkeeping. Both are pretty affordable and will allow you to keep a record of your income and all your expenses.
This will come in handy around tax time since you can deduct certain expenses from your income and tax a ‘tax break’ so to speak.
You don’t really need to set up a separate business entity so long as you keep track of everything and consult with a CPA or tax professional. You can also use programs like TurboTax – their walkthrough process makes filing straightforward.
The bottom line is that tracking expenses and income is so crucial. You don’t get to keep everything you earn, so it’s best to have a solid idea of what your overhead is and know that it can be quite different from the next driver.
What do your rideshare expenses look like?
-Chonce @ RSG