Why The Best Times And Places To Drive Are Always Changing

With 30,000 new drivers signing up for Uber every month, 2015 has seen a huge increase in the number of available drivers.  A lot of the low-hanging fruits that used to be very lucrative for drivers are now saturated with competition.  It’s one of the reasons we created our course, and today, RSG contributor Scott Van Maldegiam takes a look at some of these once lucrative events and also shares some of his hidden gems.

There’s been a very interesting trend over the last 6 months.  Times when you would expect to make a lot of money driving are not as profitable as they used to be.  I have experienced these frustrations first hand and have read about other’s. Today, I’m going to go cover why this is happening and give a few examples of when this is happening.  Lastly, I’ll discuss some strategies to help you earn a little more during these times.

Special Events

We all love special events, especially events that last all weekend.  But with large amounts of people comes large amounts of traffic.  This traffic can offset any extra surge or PT you may make from these special events.  This is due to traffic going to the event as well as getting out of the event.  There’s also the time it takes to find your passenger also takes extra time.

The most recent example of a special event not being worth it is Coachella (a big music festival out in California).  While I wasn’t there, I read descriptions of drivers’ frustrations.  The traffic heading to the Uber lot was extremely heavy as well as the traffic getting out.  From what I could tell, drivers were lucky to get one ride per hour.  It was at a surge rate, but we all know we make more money when we are moving with a fare than when we are sitting whether we have a fare or not.

Another example is sporting events.  These are events when everyone is getting out at the same time.  Going out of your way to serve this demand is self defeating.  It takes a long time to find and get to your passenger and then it takes a long time to get out of the traffic to get your passenger to their destination.  There really isn’t enough time to get backScreenshot_2014-12-31-20-52-51 to the event to pick up another ride.

Special Dates

There are certain dates during the year when Uber, Lyft and Sidecar ask every available driver to get out and drive.  They say it is going to be crazy busy and there is lots of money to be made.  But when you put a large majority of the available Uber drivers on the road, you end up with a lot more supply than demand.

A good example of this was New Year’s Eve.  In Chicago, there were six Uber drivers at every intersection in the city.  That is not an over exaggeration.  You can see from the screen shot I took that night that most of the Chicago area is lit up except for the city.  This is the first time I have ever seen that happen.

Guarantees Offered

Like most drivers, I love those emails when Uber, Lyft or Sidecar are offering guarantees.  Of course, it also brings out more drivers trying to earn that same guarantee.  Those guarantees have a minimum number of rides you have to complete per hour.  The better the guarantee, the better the pay.  At least that is what seems logical.

Related Article: Hacking Uber’s Fare Guarantees

What experienced drivers have found is that it is better to drive during typically busy times when there are no guarantees offered.  The guarantees encourage drivers who wouldn’t normally be driving to drive.  This increases the supply and reduces the rider to driver ratio.


Be a Contrarian

Don’t be a lemming, and go against the grain once in a while.  We all know not to chase the surge/PT right?  This is similar.  By doing this, you will find new hot spots that you didn’t even know existed.

On Blackout Wednesday, a great day to drive, I decided that I didn’t want to go into Chicago.  I decided to start at home in the western ‘burbs and see where the night took me.  Long story short, I found a town with three bars with limited parking.  Whether I wanted to or not, the only way I was getting away from that town was to turn off the app.  It was a steady stream of surge rides with very little competition.  I should have learned from that and went to that area for NYE, but I didn’t.

Drive Away from Sporting Events

This really goes for any event where everyone gets out at the same time from a centralized point.  Do not be anywhere near these events unless you have a very specific plan for picking up passengers and know how traffic is rerouted after events.  I’ve also had success picking people up before the game ends, there are always people leaving early, especially if the game isn’t close.

Drive Early Mornings

This goes for everyday of the week.  Many drivers drive the late night weekend crowd, but very few drivers like to get up early in the morning to drive.  The rider to driver ratio is larger even though the demand is smaller.  There’s also a lot less traffic during the early mornings.

Cherry Pick Certain Events

Events that are great times to drive are events that have a large area to pick up passengers and area all day events.  Large music festivals are a great example.  There are people coming and going all day and generally don’t mind walking a bit to get away from traffic to save them some money.  Last year with Lollapalooza, Uber suggested that riders walk away from the event by a few blocks.  Riders were good about following this instruction because it worked to the rider’s benefit.

Drive Weekend Evenings When Guarantees Are NOT Offered

Most drivers think that if guarantees aren’t being offered, then it must be a slow weekend.  That may be true but the number of drivers that will decide not to drive will increase the rider to driver ratio to be higher than a weekend with a guarantee.  It may seem a bit counter intuitive, but I have found this to be true.

Do you find any of this to be true for you?  What strategies do you use that most drivers don’t know about?  Or are you afraid to give away your secrets?

-Scott @ RSG