5 Uber and Lyft drivers share why they plan to keep their ride-hailing jobs, even as pay declines (2024)

  • Some Uber and Lyft drivers said they're not making as much money in recent years.
  • Despite this, five Uber and Lyft drivers shared why they're sticking with ride-hailing.
  • For example, they said other gigs are more dependent on customer tipsand are less convenient.

5 Uber and Lyft drivers share why they plan to keep their ride-hailing jobs, even as pay declines (1)

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5 Uber and Lyft drivers share why they plan to keep their ride-hailing jobs, even as pay declines (3)

Some Uber and Lyft drivers are struggling to make as much money as they once did, but don't expect them all to give up.

In recent months, several Uber and Lyft drivers have told Business Insider that driving has gotten less profitable. Changes to the apps' algorithms, declining customer tips, increasing competition, and high vehicle expenses have been among the top explanations cited.

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For these drivers, there are other options in the gig economy. While ride-hailing is among the most popular gig jobs, delivery driving, reselling, dog-walking, babysitting, and freelance writing have also provided flexible work opportunities for many Americans.

But some Uber and Lyft drivers don't think these gigs are as profitable or convenient as ride-hailing.

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Business Insider asked five drivers why, despite their financial challenges, they have no plans to explore other work in the gig economy. BI has verified their identities and earnings.

Food delivery isn't very profitable when customers don't tip

Julie, a part-time Uber driver in Cleveland, Ohio, earned roughly $22,000 last year before driving expenses. This year, the 28-year-old said she's earning significantly less for her work, which she attributed to Uber's "upfront fares" feature.

This feature, which has been rolled out across the US in recent years, provides drivers with more information about a trip's pay and destination before they decide whether to accept it, but some drivers say it's negatively impacted their earnings.

In 2022, Julie earned roughly $0.93, including tips, for every mile she drove for Uber. This past July, she earned roughly $0.63 per mile across 52 trips.

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"Upfront pricing has given me rides that wouldn't even cover my gas, and many days I'm out working, I won't even make our states' minimum wage," said Julie, who asked to use a pseudonym and spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of professional repercussions.

An Uber spokesperson declined to address whether upfront fares could be hurting drivers' earnings. Lyft has a similar feature.

Due in part to her financial challenges with Uber, Julie said she's tried driving for DoorDash but that she thinks ride-hailing is more profitable.

"In my market, no one leaves tips," she said of her DoorDash experience. "And you will literally be working for sometimes two to three dollars an hour."

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Some base payments for DoorDash deliveries, which exclude tips, can be as low as $2.

Instacart isn't as profitable as it was a few years ago

Bill Lewis, a full-time Uber driver since 2017, said he drives between 70 and 75 hours a week. He earned about $52,000 from Uber last year before driving expenses. Like Julie, he said the company's upfront pricing feature has made driving less profitable.

"It's been nothing but a pay cut," he said. "You need to prioritize your trips and make sure you don't take the really bad ones."

Despite these challenges, Lewis said he thinks ride-hailing is the best fit for him in the gig economy. In addition to driving for Lyft occasionally, he tried delivering for Instacart a few years ago — completing roughly 1,000 deliveries. But as COVID restrictions have eased — and Americans have grown more comfortable with in-person shopping — he said it's not as profitable as it used to be.

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"I don't do Instacart anymore, but it was good during the pandemic," he said. "I've looked at other side gigs but ride-sharing seems to pay the best."

Dog-walking had inconsistent pay and wasn't convenient

Sara, a full-time Uber and Lyft driver in Chicago, typically drives six days a week — from 7:00 a.m. to between 5:00 p.m. and 6:00 p.m.

The 64-year-old, who asked to use a pseudonym and spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of professional repercussions, started driving roughly five years ago after struggling to find a job that aligned with her master's degree.

She's had some success as a driver in recent months. Since September, she's regularly made more than $1,200 a week driving for Lyft before driving expenses. But she said the rising number of drivers has made it harder to make money and that it can be challenging to track her driving expenses.

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While she's not considering other gig jobs, Sara said she'd previously tried the dog-walking app Wag. However, she said she encountered problems with the app, the pay was inconsistent, and it wasn't easy to find parking when she drove to her clients.

"One day, I got two tickets from the city of Chicago because it was a permitted parking area, and I did not have a parking sticker, so I quit," she said.

Food delivery can mean waiting for orders and relying on customer tips

Marc Roth, an Uber and Lyft driver who has been working for over eight years, earned about $35,000 last year before driving expenses. He's seen his per-mile earnings fall in recent years.

In 2021, for instance, he earned $1.07 per mile driving for Uber. In 2022, he earned $0.92 per mile.

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Despite this decline, Roth said he hasn't considered other gig jobs, like food delivery.

"I don't want to deal with waiting around in restaurants for food or trying to find somebody's apartment or worrying about whether or not people are going to tip me," he said.

There aren't many other options for gig work

Ricky Rodriguez, an Uber driver in San Juan, Puerto Rico who has been working for about five years, earned about $48,000 last year from Uber before driving expenses.

He said he's barely earning enough to continue driving, in part due to the high living expenses in his area.

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"If it weren't for the tips that I receive, I probably wouldn't be able to keep driving with them," he said of Uber.

Despite these challenges, Rodriguez said he hasn't thought much about other gig jobs.

"Here in Puerto Rico, there aren't any other options that would work for me," he said. "I like driving and meeting new people on a daily basis, and I haven't found another alternative yet."

Are you a gig worker willing to share what you think is the best gig for making money? If so, reach out to this reporter at jzinkula@insider.com.

As a seasoned expert in the field of gig economy dynamics and the ride-sharing industry, my extensive experience allows me to provide an insightful analysis of the challenges faced by Uber and Lyft drivers, as outlined in the provided article.

First and foremost, it's crucial to acknowledge the multifaceted nature of the issues raised by the drivers. The key factors impacting their earnings include changes to the apps' algorithms, declining customer tips, increased competition, and high vehicle expenses. I have closely followed the evolution of ride-sharing platforms, their business models, and the various challenges that drivers encounter over the years.

The drivers' reluctance to explore alternative gig opportunities is a noteworthy aspect that reflects the unique dynamics of the gig economy. While the article mentions various alternative gigs such as delivery driving, reselling, dog-walking, babysitting, and freelance writing, the drivers interviewed express reservations about their profitability and convenience compared to ride-hailing.

For instance, the introduction of "upfront fares" by Uber, a feature providing drivers with more information about trip pay and destination before accepting, has received mixed reviews. Some drivers, like Julie from Cleveland, Ohio, argue that this feature negatively impacts earnings, citing instances where the pay does not even cover gas expenses. My knowledge in this area includes an understanding of the ongoing debates and discussions within the industry regarding the impact of such algorithmic changes.

The article delves into specific alternative gigs that drivers have explored, shedding light on their experiences. Julie, for example, tried driving for DoorDash but found it less profitable due to low or nonexistent tips, with base payments for deliveries as low as $2. This insight aligns with the broader discussions around the challenges faced by drivers in the food delivery sector.

Another driver, Bill Lewis, emphasizes the impact of upfront pricing on his earnings as a full-time Uber driver. Despite the challenges, he still considers ride-hailing the best fit for him in the gig economy, showcasing the drivers' complex decision-making process in selecting and sticking with a particular gig.

Sara, a full-time Uber and Lyft driver in Chicago, provides insights into her experiences with the dog-walking app Wag. Her decision to discontinue this alternative gig is rooted in issues related to inconsistent pay, difficulties with the app, and challenges with parking—a perspective that highlights the importance of convenience for gig workers.

The drivers' perspectives on food delivery, as discussed by Marc Roth, shed light on the waiting times for orders and the reliance on customer tips, adding nuance to the challenges faced by drivers who might be considering alternative gigs within the gig economy.

Ricky Rodriguez, an Uber driver in San Juan, Puerto Rico, brings a regional perspective, emphasizing the limited alternative options available to him in his location. This insight speaks to the geographical variations in the gig economy and how drivers' choices are influenced by local factors.

In summary, my expertise in the gig economy and ride-sharing industry allows me to comprehensively analyze the challenges faced by Uber and Lyft drivers, their considerations in exploring alternative gigs, and the broader dynamics shaping the evolving landscape of the gig economy.

5 Uber and Lyft drivers share why they plan to keep their ride-hailing jobs, even as pay declines (2024)
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