Is there a “right time” to sign up and drive for Uber or Lyft? While you definitely have to sign up with a referral code to get any sort of bonus or guaranteed earnings, when you sign up with a code could make a difference in how much you’re offered. Today, RSG contributor Melissa Berry details how sign up bonuses work, if using a different referral code will earn you more money, and if signing up at a certain time of year really matters.
Before I started driving, I assumed you could just get started, start earning money, and get a bonus for doing so. Boy, was I wrong! I signed up to drive during the summertime in Phoenix, AZ, where I live. This is the wrong time of year to do many things in Phoenix, including:
- Be outside
- Start driving for Uber/Lyft
- Assume you’re going to get the best sign up bonus
If you’re looking for one easy answer to the question of “What time of year has the highest signup bonuses?” you won’t exactly find it here – but you will find strategies to figure out when is the best time of year to get sign up bonuses in your market.
Ready to sign up and drive for Uber and Lyft? Head on over to our sign up bonuses page!
What Are Sign Up Bonuses?
First, what are sign up bonuses? If you’ve been driving for more than a month, you may think you know all about sign up bonuses. However, sign up bonuses have really changed in the last year, with Uber going from “bonuses” to “guaranteed earnings” depending on where you live.
In the past, sign up bonuses were just that: money on top of the money you made for driving. If you signed up in Fort Worth, for example, in the past you could have been offered $500 as a bonus for giving 200 rides in 90 days. So any money you made driving around those 200 passengers + $500 bonus = what you made in 90 days.
Not so nowadays. In many cities, when you sign up with a referral code, you’re offered an amount “guaranteed.” In the Uber example for Los Angeles below, you’re offered $1,340 on your first 200 rides guaranteed. This means you give 200 rides, and let’s say the total amount you make on those $200 rides is $1000 (you earn $5 per ride). Do you get that $1,000 plus $1,340?
Nope! You get $1,340 – $1,000 (your earnings from the 200 rides) = an extra $340. It’s something, but it’s not like the bonuses of the past. And in many markets, the guaranteed amount is nowhere near $1,340.
Sign Up Bonuses Vary
Sign up bonuses can vary dramatically depending on where you live. Below is a screenshot of what Uber is advertising in Los Angeles, which is far higher than what I was offered in Phoenix.
Uber and Lyft make it very difficult to find out what bonus you’re offered – only Lyft shows you what type of bonus you could get after you click on a referral code link.
Overall, if you want a sign up bonus, you have to go through a referral code. If you want to find out what sign up bonus is offered in your city, you can always submit an inquiry to verify the amount. The sign-up bonus is based solely on the new driver’s city (your city) so it doesn’t matter whose link you use (as long as you use someone’s), the bonus will be the same.
Lyft’s bonuses go all the way up to $1,000 and you can contact Lyft to find out what the current bonuses are. Once you sign up for Lyft, you’ll get a confirmation e-mail (and Harry will too if you use his link) with the bonus amount and the terms.
Luckily, Uber offers retroactive referrals, which means even if you’ve signed up to drive with Uber but forgot to enter a code, you could be eligible to receive a referral bonus/guarantee.
Uber allows for retroactive referrals within 15 days of activation so if you didn’t sign up with a referral code, you can contact Uber through the driver app to get it added. Go to Account-> Help-> Payments and Rewards-> Driver Referrals -> Report a missing driver referral.
They may also ask for:
Name: Harry Campbell
Uber e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Uber phone #: 310-428-2765
Or submit an inquiry here and let them know you signed up but forgot to enter Harry’s code (3e3dg) and wanted to confirm the bonus.
Sign Up Bonuses Are Affected by Demand
Here’s an interesting thing about sign up bonuses: they can be affected by demand. That seems rather obvious, but here’s where it gets interesting: demand varies by city.
As I mentioned above, I started driving for Lyft in the middle of the Phoenix summer. I unfortunately didn’t keep my screenshot of my bonus offer, but it was very low – something like $200 “bonus” after giving 150 rides in 30 days. I wasn’t thrilled. However, while writing this article (during winter in Phoenix), I was offered two dramatically different sign up bonuses (yes, I am kicking myself).
This is where knowing your market comes in handy. Sign up bonuses are driven by demand for drivers. What are the busy seasons in your city? When there are a lot of visitors to your city. In Phoenix and Tucson, September through March/April are the busiest times of year: we have golf tournaments, festivals, parades, and tons of out-of-town visitors looking to escape those Minnesota/Canada/northern winters.
The same goes for other Sunbelt areas, like Florida, parts of Texas, southern California (although I imagine Southern California is popular year-round given their excellent attractions and weather).
I checked out UberPeople.net and, not to give away their secrets since they’re very particular about what they share, their comments seem to confirm this.
If you’re ready to sign up right now, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t. In my years of covering rideshare trends as RSG editor, signing up sooner rather than later always seemed to pay off. But if you can or want to wait, it could be in your best interest to consider your city’s busy season (in many other parts of the country, that’s spring and summer) and then check out sign up bonuses.
General Sign Up Bonus Trends
If you’re not sure when high season in your city is, or maybe your city is popular year round, consider the following general sign up bonus trends:
- After summer: September and October we typically see higher sign up bonuses, as college kids reduce their hours driving (back to school) and as Uber/Lyft gear up for Halloween and the holidays
- Around New Year’s Eve: one of the biggest rideshare nights of the year, for very good reason
- Summer months: out-of-state visitors may not want to rent a car for a short visit, and if your city is popular in the summer (think: festivals, attractions, Disney, etc.), you’re likely to see higher sign up bonuses
Generally, you can expect to see smaller sign up bonuses after January through April, as demand is reduced for drivers. It makes sense: people aren’t traveling as much, college kids could be back on the road, fewer big events during these months (minus the Super Bowl).
It Does Matter if You Use a Referral Code
It is imperative you sign up to drive for Uber/Lyft with a referral code if you want to get a bonus. In general, it doesn’t matter whose referral code you sign up with… although I found a better deal with Lyft using Harry’s code.
When I first started researching for this article, I typed in “sign up to drive for Lyft” and got this guarantee:
Basically, it’s a promo where I’ll get $500 once I complete 150 rides in 60 days. Not too bad, right?
I was going to move on with the article, but decided to click on Harry’s referral code link with Lyft, and I received this notice:
$750 bonus in my first 60 days? Well, not quite. While this is a better code to use, keep in mind that you won’t automatically get $750. You get an extra $2.15 for every ride you give in your first 60 days up to $750. If you don’t give $750 worth of rides in 60 days, you don’t get $750. You get whatever you made within those 60 days.
The same presumably goes for the $500 offer above – I only get a total of $500 if I complete 150 rides in 60 days. If I don’t complete 150 rides in 60 days, I only get what I made.
Unfortunately, that offer is now gone for me, even if I did for some reason want to get $500 instead of $750. Lyft now directs me to their “official new Lyft driver bonuses” page, which would have been helpful 4 months ago:
Are these actually bonuses? Will you get $200 on top of whatever you made driving if you give 100 rides in 30 days? Or are you given an extra amount up to $200? You won’t know unless you sign up and go to your Driver Dashboard for more info, because Lyft’s Help Center doesn’t spell this out for you.
Takeaways for Drivers
Overall, the sign up bonus process can be difficult and confusing. Not only do you have to consider the right time of year to sign up, you also have to find a good link to get the best bonus.
It seems like Uber is the most straightforward about this: while time of year (demand) may matter, it doesn’t appear like using a specific code matters. Using Harry’s code is great because it helps all of us here at RSG, but you don’t have to use it.
Lyft, on the other hand, almost seems to revel in making this confusing. Between my crummy first bonus offer (something like $200 for a million rides in 5 days, that’s an exaggeration but basically) to $750 in 60 days with Harry’s code to $100 for 50 rides in 30 days, you really have to do your homework.
Keeping track of the high season in your city seems like your best bet – once that time comes, do your homework and make sure to use a referral code when you sign up. You won’t get anything if you don’t sign up with a referral code (although Uber does allow for retroactive referrals).
Readers, what have been your experiences with sign up bonuses or guarantees in your city? Any strategies you’d like to share?
Burnt Out Talking To Passengers? Deliver Food With Caviar!Click to Sign-up!
-Melissa @ RSG
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