What It’s Like Driving Post-Pandemic in the Midwest

What is it like driving for Uber and Lyft in the Midwest? It’s a very different market than New York City and California, that’s for sure!

Below, senior RSG contributor Paula Gibbins shares the perspective of a Minneapolis/St. Paul driver – her husband Adam – about what earnings and incentives are like, strategies for accepting rides, and more.

While the majority of drivers seem to be from the California region, there are several of us in other markets as well. I’m from the Minneapolis/St. Paul area and today I’m going to share how things went my first two weeks back after taking over a year off due to the pandemic.

Long-time Uber and Lyft Driver (3.5+ Years!)

I’m Adam and I’ve been driving for Uber for about 4 years, and I’ve given over 4,500 trips on that platform and I’ve driven for Lyft for about 3.5 years and I’ve given just shy of 2,000 rides with them. On Lyft I have a 5-star rating and Uber I have a 4.94-star rating.

I’ve taken all kinds of rides and have had all kinds of passengers, but when the pandemic hit, I knew it was time to take a break. My wife Paula and I both have asthma (she has it much worse than I do, and I didn’t want to bring Covid home to her).

So, I sat back and watched the numbers. Once we were both vaccinated, I felt comfortable enough to get back on the road and see what happened.

Post-Pandemic Precautions

Before the pandemic I didn’t have a dash cam. I’d always wanted one, but just never got around to ordering it.

I checked out dash camera guides for rideshare drivers, found one I liked, and installed it myself. It’s rear facing, passenger facing and through the front windshield to cover all my bases.

I’m not necessarily worried about the passengers (though these days you never know). I’m more interested in covering my butt if I get into an accident. There are some crazy drivers out there.

Of course, I have rideshare insurance – but I’d still prefer to be covered with my dash cam just in case!

Also, Paula had written an article about this little air purifier thingy that sounded pretty neat, so we installed it in my vehicle to help circulate and purify the air on a regular basis. It’s been pretty hot in Minnesota this summer, and I didn’t want to have to keep the windows cracked if I didn’t have to.

Almost all of my passengers have asked me about it because it’s not everyday you see an air purifier in a car. Some at least seem to appreciate it.

Hitting the Road in the Midwest

Of course, to get back on the road I had to make sure all of my documents were in order. It had been over a year, so everything needed updating if I didn’t keep up with it throughout my time away.

Having trouble updating your background check documents with Uber and Lyft? Here’s what to do if you’ve been unfairly deactivated!

Once everything was ready, I decided to take it one app at a time.

I started driving for Uber for the first week. There were incentives that I took advantage of, but nothing as crazy as thousands of dollars or anything. However, I did cash in on the 3 rides for $100 deal.

I didn’t want to go too crazy and burn myself out, so I started off slow. I did three days that first week, all on Uber.

As you can see above, the promotions made a big difference in my earnings. With the promotions, I made about $35 an hour.

Without, it would have only been about $21/hr.

I kept pretty busy overall. I didn’t have more than 10 minutes of downtime in a row. I actually made a little more than what this shows too because I got cash tips, as well.

Next, I decided to do Lyft to see how they compared. There were promotions being offered there, as well, so I took advantage of them as best I could.

With their promotions, I ended up earning decently more in a shorter time period.

I drove a total of 20 rides, which is what the promotion was for, and earned a grand total of $383.05 in a little over 7 hours of online time.

That ends up being about $54 an hour, all told.

The Midwest is a Different World: Tips for Drivers in Smaller Markets

Now, those are higher earnings than I used to average.

Before the pandemic, it was around $22 an hour I was earning, so the extra promotions are definitely helping out right now. Plus, with limited down time, I’m earning more than ever.

One thing to keep in mind, however, is that the midwest is a totally different beast from LA or other big cities.

There are all these drivers on the west coast or in other big cities that say you have to be selective in how far you drive to pick people up and yadda yadda yadda. That strategy doesn’t always work around here.

In a market like mine, that is pretty spread out (there are several counties that make up the metro area of the Twin Cities, and some get into farmland territory), you’re just going to have to understand that long pickups are going to happen.

There were several trips I took over those two weeks where I was 10 to 15 minutes away from my passenger. Likely even further than that on Lyft, which has a smaller presence out here.

The Lyft ones I’ll be less likely to take, but the Uber ones do pay out. If it’s far enough away, I do get paid for the long pickup, making it worthwhile to take them.

In some smaller markets, if you want to make any money, you take every ping you can get. As the saying goes, beggars can’t be choosers.

Plus with the incentives being mostly per-ride based, it was more worthwhile to take everything to get all of my rides in to get that incentive.

In this market, if you’re not downtown, you’re going to be driving some distance to get to your passenger. And that’s actually what I prefer. I hate downtown because of the constant construction, traffic and lack of safe places to pull over for pickups and drop offs.

It also makes most sense out here to multiapp as much as possible. If it’s slow on one app, you hope it’s busier on the other to help fill in the gaps.

However, when I’m going for incentives, I try to play it the best way I can. Uber’s incentives end a day before Lyft’s, so I’ll prioritize Uber over Lyft until I reach that incentive. It’s all a matter of playing the game the best way you can.

Do you drive in a smaller market? Do you also have to take every ping you get in your market? Let us know!

-Paula @ RSG