Many people see Uber and Lyft as much the same. I’ve driven for both companies nearly two years as of this writing, In this review I will compare and contrast driving for Uber vs Lyft–which is better? I have generally preferred Lyft. That’s changing.
For the vast majority of the past year and a half or so, I have driven almost exclusively for Lyft, although sparingly for Uber. I began with Uber. Soon after I discovered Lyft. For a while I drove for both concurrently. I no longer do that. I drive for one or the other on any given day.
Although this review is biased, I will make every attempt to be fair and honest.
The review will be solely for passenger pick up/delivery.
I will focus primarily on the following factors:
- My Final Thoughts
An Introduction And Overview Of The Two Companies
If you’re unfamiliar with either company or both companies, they are both ridesharing companies based in San Francisco, CA. Both have apps that can be installed on a smart phone by both drivers and passengers. Once installed, the user sets up a profile. From there, they are able to request rides from the app. Those who have been approved as drivers and who have the app turned on and are in driver mode are able to receive those requests.
The driver who is closest to the passenger at the time of the request will receive the request and can opt to accept or decline the ride.
Payments are handled online via credit card, debit card, or PayPal. Drivers and passengers are not required to exchange money.
Earnings–How Much Can You Really Make?
Both companies take a portion of drivers’ earnings. Generally that portion is 25%, which means drivers earn 75% of each fare. However, that’s the way it is now. It wasn’t always like that. Depending on when someone signed his/her contract the percentage could be different.
For example, my current contract with Lyft was signed when drivers received 80% and Lyft takes 20%, which is still how it is for me.
When I began with Uber it was the same, or so I thought. Apparently, I started with Uber almost simultaneously at the same time they changed the percentage from 20-25%. For a short time, I received 80%, until one day I received notification that it was/is supposed to be 75%, which is what it is now. As far as I know that’s what it is for all new drivers as well.
On the surface it appears that drivers make out pretty well. However let’s have a closer look.
What many people don’t take into account is the high cost to drivers to earn their keep.
The way it works with Lyft (Uber may be slightly different but very similar) is as follows:
- Passengers in most of Southern CA where I live pay 96 cents per mile plus 15 cents per minute (prices may vary from region to region) for a ride.
- The minimum fare is 3.20
Here’s a realistic scenario:
The driver receives a ride request that’s 10 minutes away from where he/she is, which could be 5 miles away.
Off you go to pick up the passenger. You have no idea where the passenger will be going and you have absolutely no idea who you’ll be picking up, although there is a name assigned to the account holder who requested the ride. That doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll be picking up the account holder. It could be a spouse, boyfriend/girlfriend, client, or a host of other possibilities, although most of the time you actually will be picking up the account holder.
When driving for Lyft, if the ride will take longer than 45 minutes the driver is alerted that it’s a long ride. Uber has a similar notification system for long rides. Other than that, the driver does not know anything about the ride until they arrive at the pick up spot.
Let’s assume the rider wants to go five miles and it takes 10 mintes to get to their destination.
The fare will cost the rider approximately 6.30 ([5 miles x 96 cents] = 4.80 plus [10 minutes x 15 cents per minute = 1.50]).
Assuming the driver earns 75% of that, means the driver earns 4.73.
If a driver is able to do that three times in an hour with no down time between requests, it would mean the driver would earn 14.18 for that hour.
Perhaps you’re ok with that. But wait! What has it cost to earn that 14.18?
At the end of the hour, to drive to the three pick ups, the driver has driven 15 miles that he/she isn’t paid for (5 miles to each pick up), as drivers are not paid for the time it takes to drive to a pick up. Drivers are only paid for the time and mileage when someone is actually in the car.
The driver drives another15 miles that he/she is paid for (5 miles from pick up to destination).
Also, the driver has spent 30 minutes of “windshield time” driving to pick up passengers that he/she is not paid for, while being paid only for the 30 minutes it takes to actually drive someone from the pick up to the drop off spot.
Let’s do the math:
The driver has driven a total of 30 miles and it has taken a total of 60 minutes.
If the driver earns 75% of the fare (96 cents per mile) that means the driver earns 72 cents per mile. However, the driver is only paid for the 15 miles someone’s in the car. Furthermore it cost the driver 60.8 cents per mile for 30 mile while only being paid for 15 miles.
In other words the driver actually earns 72 cents x 15 miles=10.18 but it cost him/her 18.24 (60.8 cents per mile x 30 miles).
The driver also actually earns 12 cents per minute (15 cents x 75% of 30 minutes) which means he/she receives $3.60 for 60 minutes of his/her time.
The bottom line is it cost the driver 18.24 to earn 14.18.
The only ones who win in this scenario are Lyft and the passenger. It’s a great deal for the passenger. Lyft profits on every ride. As you can see, drivers aren’t always so lucky.
It’s possible the passenger could leave a tip. However, drivers cannot count on that. Some days are very good. Others are not. A realistic average figure is that earnings are boosted by about 10% in tips. If that’s the case, this driver would have still lost money.
Is it always like that?
There are countless scenarios. What I presented is realistic and nowhere close to worst case scenario.
Let’s have a look at best case scenario:
Assume your next door neighbor requests a ride which means there is no cost associated with driving to the location to pick him/her up.
The neighbor wants to go somewhere that is exactly 60 miles away and it will take exactly 60 minutes to get there. Because your neighbor likes you, he/she tips you $10.
The fare for the passenger would be approximately 66.60. The driver would earn 49.95 plus a $10 tip for a total of 59.95.
Not bad for an hour’s work. Right?
Let’s not forget it cost 36.48 to earn that (60.8 cents per mile x 60 miles).
Now your net earning is 23.47. Still not bad. Right? Let’s not forget you earned a $10 tip that you can’t/couldn’t count on.
Now, you’re 60 miles from home.
If you’re extremely lucky, (I’m talking a one in a million chance here), perhaps you pick up someone where you drop off your neighbor and he/she is your other next door neighbor so you’ll get paid to the same amount to drive back home.
As I said, this is best case scenario–perfect world scenario.
This is not a perfect world!
The reality is, if you’re lucky enough to be in a highly populated area, you’ll probably be able to make some other pick ups in the area. However, there’s no guarantee they’ll be going your way. It’s entirely possible to get another request that takes you another 20-50 miles away from home.
There’s no way to know what will happen.
What if you decide to just turn around and drive home and you have no passenger? It will cost you 36.48 just to drive home.
Yes, it can and does happen.
There are ways to boost your income as rates fluctuate during peak hours when demand is higher than normal and there are bonuses that can be earned based on the number of rides given in a week, especially during certain time periods, like rush hour commute times.
What I have presented in this section is for the most popular, regular Uber/Lyft pricing schedules. There are upgrade services that I have not discussed here. Those rates may be different that what I’ve discussed.
Here Are Some Company Policies
- Both companies require a thorough and extensive background check which includes an examination of a driver’s driving record and possible arrest record.
- Both companies require a thorough initial and annual vehicle inspection
- Account holders are supposed to be at least 18 years of age (Many are not).
- Passengers under age 18 are supposed to be accompanied by someone who is at least 18 (Many are not).
- If someone requests a ride, they have up to two minutes to cancel. If they cancel after that, they are charged a cancellation fee. It used to be that they had five minutes. It has recently been changed by Lyft to two minutes and as far as I know it has also been recently changed by Uber as well.
- When drivers arrive at a pick up spot, Lyft riders have five minutes to enter the car. Drivers are paid the minuscule amount of 12 cents per minute to wait. If riders do not arrive within five minutes, drivers are expected to call the rider. If the rider does not enter the car within the five minute time frame after the call, the rider is charged a no-show cancellation fee.
- Uber drivers are required to wait for two minutes for a rider to enter the vehicle. After the two minutes are up, they are paid a per minute fee for waiting. I am not exactly sure what that amount is at the moment as it was recently changed. I believe riders are charged 25 cents per minute (drivers receive 75% of that).
- In order to qualify for most incentives, drivers are expected to complete 90% of all requests in a week.
- When driving for Lyft, if a driver has to pay a toll to pick up a rider, it comes out of his/her pocket and is not reimbursed. Uber has recently revised the policy so drivers do not have to pay for tolls if picking up a rider.
- Drivers are expected to always pick up passengers with service animals. They rider is supposed to notify drivers if they have an animal but they often don’t. Failure to pick up riders with service animals is cause for dismissal.
- Both companies offer a rental program if drivers do not want to use their own vehicles. The cost to rent is around $200 per week, although the costs can be reduced based on the number of rides given in a week.
- Drivers are covered by the company when driving and the company app is turned on. I know the deductible for Lyft’s insurance policy is $2500. I don’t know for sure what it is for Uber but it’s probably similar.
- Drivers are required to provide proof of their own personal auto insurance.
Drivers and Riders Rate One Another
After a ride is completed, both the driver have the opportunity to rate one another and to leave comments that support the rating.
Both companies use a five star system with one star being poor and five stars being excellent.
In theory, this is a good system. The reality is, some people abuse the system and can be downright unfair. People can leave nasty remarks and rate a driver poorly for any reason, which includes no reason at all.
The problem is, a driver’s ability to continue as a driver relies on good ratings. An overall rating of less than 4.6 out of 5 is cause for dismissal of a driver. As far as I know, this is the case with both Uber and Lyft.
I can’t speak to how Uber handles it when a driver contests a poor rating. With Lyft, I have found them to be reasonable and have had poor ratings disregarded.
However, drivers are not privy to who left which rating as riders’ ratings and comments about drivers are anonymous. That makes it tough to know who’s trashed us and/or why.
Generally speaking, I rate just about all riders five stars and most riders rate me five stars.
I realize I’m not going to please everyone and it’s expected that I will receive a rating less than five stars at times. However, there have been several times when I’ve been given one-star ratings and have absolutely no idea why.
On a daily basis, drivers are provided with the previous day’s ratings, although drivers do not know who left which rating. Drivers are also provided with their overall driver rating. This is the same with both companies.
If a rating drops a few points in one day, it can only be because one or more riders trashed me and gave me a poor rating.
When that happens, I will mentally review my rides from the previous day. Sometimes I may have only done one ride the day before. It’s easy to figure when that happens. However, if there are several, it can be daunting to try to figure who threw me under the bus.
God forbid a driver should make any kind of a mistake like miss a turn etc., forget to address someone as ma’am or sir, or have a difference of an opinion. Those are the things that earn drivers poor ratings. In other words, regardless of if it’s a driver’s fault or not, riders can and do bury drivers for the most insignificant things like not smiling enough or not being friendly enough or being too talkative.
You never know whom you’re dealing with.
I expect a poor rating if I do something that causes a problem for someone or I treat someone rudely. The truth is, I treat everyone respectfully and I’ve never caused anyone any harm. Oh sure, I’ve made mistakes and taken longer to get someone to where they wanted to go than they think is proper etc.
The bottom line is, drivers are expected to provide five-star service to everyone. Riders sometimes expect way more than what they’ve paid for. The most difficult riders are usually the ones who are most likely to leave a poor rating.
When either a driver or rider rates the other with a rating of three stars or less, the two are never again paired. That’s at least the way it is with Lyft. I’m not exactly sure if it’s exactly the same with Uber, although I believe it’s at least similar.
Driver Support Has Improved
It used to be that the only way drivers could get any support at all from either company was via e mail. Lyft was always far and away superior in responding and the responses were from real people. Uber support seemed to be algorithmically generated, although I can’t verify that it actually was.
Recently that’s changed.
Now both companies offer phone support. However, the phone support with Lyft is conditional. Drivers must request a call via e mail and there are only certain subjects that qualify for phone support. Otherwise, it’s still e mail support only. Furthermore, at least with Lyft, the response times take much longer than before.
On the other hand, drivers can now call Uber and speak to a live support person. I have found the phone support to be very good.
Both companies also now have support centers where drivers can go and speak to a support person face to face.
Reputation Is Changing
One of the reasons I said earlier in this writing that I have generally preferred Lyft to Uber was because I felt Lyft had a better reputation. I also believed that the riders were better.
I’ve heard many riders say they think more highly of Lyft. I can’t say I’ve heard too many riders say they prefer Uber to Lyft. Then again, I have spent much more time driving for Lyft in the past year and a half or so.
Despite the recent report that Uber’s system was hacked and the company did not reveal it and despite the shake up of the corporate structure, as of this writing, Uber is in the midst of what they are calling 180 days of change. I believe this is in direct response to the notion that their reputation is not as good as Lyft.
On the other hand, I feel that Lyft has gone the other direction. I believe their attempts to compete with Uber rather than set themselves apart, they have homogenized the space and it has become more difficult than ever to know which is better.
As I write this, I’d have to say that on this day, Uber is headed in the right direction and Lyft is in the midst of an identity crisis and has lost and continues to lose its edge.
Perhaps others feel differently.
Let’s Wrap It Up–Here Are My Final Thoughts
If you’re looking for a way to earn fast cash, both Uber and Lyft will provide that. Both pay weekly and both allow drivers to cash out daily if they choose. If you’re looking for something that you can do literally any day and any time of day any day of the year, both Uber and Lyft offer that opportunity.
There are positive and negative points with each company, although they are largely much the same.
Although there’s a lot of flexibility as far as when to work or not work, the reality is, drivers have very little control over their collective destiny and the net earnings are often minimum wage, sometimes less.
They are a great public service. Drinkng and driving has been drastically reduced as a result of Uber and Lyft.
Both Uber and Lyft are profiting at drivers’ expense. The companies profit with every ride. Drivers sometimes lose money while making money for the company.
Although most riders are appreciative and some are very generous, others are just plain nasty and/or much more problem than they’re worth.
The public has learned to play one company against the other, often ordering a ride from both companies at the same time then canceling one of them at the canceled driver’s expense. Drivers are not compensated for lost time or wasted mileage. There’s a lot of both.
I believe the only way to truly be profitable is to take advantage of the rental program. However, to be truly profitable and make it worth a driver’s while means working 60-100 hours per week–no exaggeration. If you ask me, if you have to work that many hours, you’re not really working when you want.
On the other hand, if you have nothing else going on and you’ve got a clean driving record, both companies are available and you can start almost immediately.
Lastly, at this moment, regarding the question of driving for Uber vs Lyft- which is better, I give the nod to Uber. I feel they’re making lots of positive changes.
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Lyft seems to be having trouble staying out of its own way. Furthermore, they have put my driver status on hold because of a minor fender bender and will not allow me to drive for them until the damage, ever so slight, is repaired. I’m upset about that.
I’ve had the damage repaired and have been driver for them again.
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Whether you want to drive for Uber, Lyft, or both, I am happy to be your personal mentor.
I’m glad to have been able to have them to fall back on these past two years but things have changed for the better for me and I no longer need to depend on them. I don’t recommend anyone put themselves in a position to have to depend on them but as I said, if that’s all there is, they’re there for you.
I plan to devote more time to more rewarding and profitable activities.
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If you have questions or comments about driving for Uber vs Lyft–which is better, leave them below and I will respond as soon as possible.