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How I Survived Driving Part-Time in the Suburbs

All I wanted to do was make $200 a week driving 10 to 12 hours for Uber. I thought it would be easy but it led me on a 1,500 trip odyssey.


A little less than 3 years ago my wife and I retired. We sold our house and moved into a condo near by. The leases on our cars ended and we leased a Honda Accord to save money. We justified becoming a one car family by saying that if we needed another car we could just take Uber. Our first Uber experience came about a year later. My wife had to fly to a family wedding and she took an Uber to the airport. A couple of weeks after her trip she came home from the store and informed me that we had put less than 4,000 miles on the Honda in over a year. She said that because we have all these miles that we're paying for and not using I should try driving for Uber. She thought it would be a good way for me to get out of the house and besides it wouldn't hurt to have some extra money. Now, it would be an understatement to say that her suggestion didn't go over very well at first. But soon enough, there I was taking pictures of my license and other auto documents. In what seemed like only hours I was approved. Because I had never been in an Uber we decided to practice before I tried driving for real. We got in the car. My wife ordered an Uber. I took the request and we headed to a local bar. When we arrived she jokingly tipped me $5. Little did I know, at that time, I wouldn't be seeing many $5 tips.

I'm guessing my initial experience with Uber was far from unique. Rushing off like a fireman when I got a trip request. Having trouble finding addresses. Not knowing that the person staring at their phone is my pickup. And being very surprised how little I knew about a town that I had lived in for 30 years. But after a few dozen trips things calmed down.
323844

It was around trip number 50 that I realized that I wasn't making any money. I assumed I was doing something wrong. I read everything I could find on the web about rideshare driving. More specifically, how much do drivers make? I learned very quickly that you could read anything you wanted. Drivers can make $100 an hour. Drivers can't make minimum wage. And everything in between. I read about making sure you play the right music for your riders. Offer them water and phone chargers. Now, I'm driving people to the airport. They are paying $26 and I'm getting paid $13 and change. Twenty years ago I was paying $35 to take a car to that airport and leaving a $10 tip. Music, water, phone chargers? I'm thinking that for $26 they are lucky just to get to sit inside the car!

I live in the suburbs. We all know the first rule of rideshare driving is to get out of the suburbs. But I didn't want to get out of the suburbs. The whole idea of driving for Uber is the convenience of driving when and where you want. Driving in the suburbs pretty much means you can forget about making money with surge and promotions. Surge happens on New Year's Eve. I got a promotion bonus once. $14 for making 12 trips. As my little niece would say "Big Whoop de Doodle." When I first started driving I set what I thought was a very reasonable goal. I wanted to make $200 per week in 10 hours. After all, I'm bringing a $25,000 car to my job that Uber gets for free. After a hundred trips I wasn't anywhere near my goal. I read somewhere that only 20% of suburban drivers make it to 100 trips. I guess I was one of the 20% that didn't realize that driving your car into the ground for minimum wage is just plain stupid.

On trip #100 I began charting my time spent, rider ratings, miles driven, pickup locations, drop off locations, pay and tips. When it was time to work I would get in my car and drive to a local "good spot" and wait for a trip request. In the suburbs the time it takes to get a trip request can be anywhere from seconds to a couple of hours. And it is really random. I'd get a trip. Complete the trip and drive to another "good spot" or a least to a spot where the neighbors wouldn't call the police and wait for my next request. I was only spending a third of my time making money. I was driving half of my miles without pay. After 300 trips here's what a pretty typical week looked like:

323845

This is far from what I would call a great part-time job. But except for the time I spent sitting in my car waiting for a trip request I was really enjoying it.

I decided that if I wasn't going to make any money I was not going to do the part of the job I didn't enjoy. So I tried something radically different. Instead of going out to drive I put myself "On Call." This means I stayed home doing whatever I would normally be doing. The only requirement was that I had to be dressed to drive and if I took a trip request I had to be ready to leave. That didn't mean I had to rush out the door like a madman. Nobody is going to die if it takes me an extra minute to make a pickup. Not only that, I decided that after I completed a trip I wasn't going to find a "good spot" to sit and wait for my next request. I was going to head home. If I got and accepted a trip fine. If not, I was back home.

I had gotten rid of one third of the time I was working. But here is the thing that really surprised me. The time I spent driving getting paid and the amount of money I made stayed the same. At first I though it was just a streak of luck. So I started alternating weeks. One week going out to drive, the next week being "On Call." It wasn't luck. The results were the same. After another 300 trips things looked like this:

323846

I spent the same amount of time online. The miles driven and the money I made were about the same as before but instead of hanging out in parking lots I was hanging out in my house. I stopped thinking about quitting and started trying to figure out how to make more money.

The first thing I tried to do to make more money was to reduce my dead miles. I had been accepting trip requests up to 6 minutes away. I cut this to 4 minutes. The amount of trips I took plummeted. The amount of "On Call" time went way up. It didn't take long to figure out this wasn't going to work. I knew there was only one other place to get more money. From My Riders.

I thought there was no reason I shouldn't get a lousy 20% tip on each ride.
After all, the people I drive never get tired of telling me how cheap Uber rides are. Then I had a really startling revelation. I was hoping for a 20% tip on my pay. I realized that my riders don't tip on what I get paid. They tip on the fare they pay. Uber was keeping half of my rider's fares. Take a look at this graphic:

323850


There is no time or expenses associated with a tip. It's FREE Money. I love FREE Money. I became obsessed with getting tips.

I decided I was going to get all of my riders to tip. I was so annoying. Nobody got into my car without hearing that I was retired. Nobody got into my car without hearing that I have to drive double miles. When they would thank me for the ride I'd tell them don't thank me. Tip me. I probably did get a few more tips by doing this but it cost me the easy camaraderie I had with my riders. That was what I enjoyed about driving. Now, I didn't enjoy it. So I knocked it off.

I started going over all of my records to see if I could find something in common about the riders who tipped. As I discovered patterns I started turning down trips where I figured I wasn't going to get a tip. It turned out that the exact spots I had called my "good spots" to hang out and wait for a trip request were among the worst places to get tips. My acceptance rate plunged from over 80% to well below 50%. But after hundreds of trips Uber hasn't said anything. Now my typical week looks like this:

323851
It took me 18 months and 1,500 trips but I'm finally happy to say that I not only enjoy driving for Uber but I'm also getting paid a decent amount of money for my time.

Now I'm wondering what the next step is?
 
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kcdrvr15

Well-Known Member
The next step is, check with your insurance agent, ask them how much for commercial livery insurance for your vehicle, get the recommended amount from your insurance agent for your state, if it's not too expensive, as in only $2-$300 more per year, consider getting setup for a "car service". You might find out that alot of your tipping customers in the suburbs will call you directly or even make an appointment with you for ride. You don't need taxi lic, but in some jurisdictions you will need a " Livery" lic. In my market, it only cost me an extra $200 year for commercial insurance, the livery lic cost $12.50, and my "livery permit" is my commercial drivers lic. I get a lot of calls directly from former uber/lyft pax that I gave my b-card to.
 

VanGuy

Well-Known Member
I'd say take your data and identify spots that really are good for getting tips, and then see if there's anything around there you'd enjoy doing while you're on call. For example, if I could hang out at the stripper bar and know I stood a good chance of getting a good ride with a decent tip I'd be all over that.
 

NotMe

Active Member
Dilemma is simple: you can’t make money without driving but any none payed miles kill your profit. Solution is DF while commute or on the way back home. Unfortunately when probably to get ride towards your destination is low it does not work thus you should drive only when chances get home with rider are hi.
 

IMMA DRIVER

Well-Known Member
All I wanted to do was make $200 a week driving 10 to 12 hours for Uber. I thought it would be easy but it led me on a 1,500 trip odyssey.


A little less than 3 years ago my wife and I retired. We sold our house and moved into a condo near by. The leases on our cars ended and we leased a Honda Accord to save money. We justified becoming a one car family by saying that if we needed another car we could just take Uber. Our first Uber experience came about a year later. My wife had to fly to a family wedding and she took an Uber to the airport. A couple of weeks after her trip she came home from the store and informed me that we had put less than 4,000 miles on the Honda in over a year. She said that because we have all these miles that we're paying for and not using I should try driving for Uber. She thought it would be a good way for me to get out of the house and besides it wouldn't hurt to have some extra money. Now, it would be an understatement to say that her suggestion didn't go over very well at first. But soon enough, there I was taking pictures of my license and other auto documents. In what seemed like only hours I was approved. Because I had never been in an Uber we decided to practice before I tried driving for real. We got in the car. My wife ordered an Uber. I took the request and we headed to a local bar. When we arrived she jokingly tipped me $5. Little did I know, at that time, I wouldn't be seeing many $5 tips.

I'm guessing my initial experience with Uber was far from unique. Rushing off like a fireman when I got a trip request. Having trouble finding addresses. Not knowing that the person staring at their phone is my pickup. And being very surprised how little I knew about a town that I had lived in for 30 years. But after a few dozen trips things calmed down.
It was around trip number 50 that I realized that I wasn't making any money. I assumed I was doing something wrong. I read everything I could find on the web about rideshare driving. More specifically, how much do drivers make? I learned very quickly that you could read anything you wanted. Drivers can make $100 an hour. Drivers can't make minimum wage. And everything in between. I read about making sure you play the right music for your riders. Offer them water and phone chargers. Now, I'm driving people to the airport. They are paying $26 and I'm getting paid $13 and change. Twenty years ago I was paying $35 to take a car to that airport and leaving a $10 tip. Music, water, phone chargers? I'm thinking that for $26 they are lucky just to get to sit inside the car!

I live in the suburbs. We all know the first rule of rideshare driving is to get out of the suburbs. But I didn't want to get out of the suburbs. The whole idea of driving for Uber is the convenience of driving when and where you want. Driving in the suburbs pretty much means you can forget about making money with surge and promotions. Surge happens on New Year's Eve. I got a promotion bonus once. $14 for making 12 trips. As my little niece would say "Big Whoop de Doodle." When I first started driving I set what I thought was a very reasonable goal. I wanted to make $200 per week in 10 hours. After all, I'm bringing a $25,000 car to my job that Uber gets for free. After a hundred trips I wasn't anywhere near my goal. I read somewhere that only 20% of suburban drivers make it to 100 trips. I guess I was one of the 20% that didn't realize that driving your car into the ground for minimum wage is just plain stupid.

On trip #100 I began charting my time spent, rider ratings, miles driven, pickup locations, drop off locations, pay and tips. When it was time to work I would get in my car and drive to a local "good spot" and wait for a trip request. In the suburbs the time it takes to get a trip request can be anywhere from seconds to a couple of hours. And it is really random. I'd get a trip. Complete the trip and drive to another "good spot" or a least to a spot where the neighbors wouldn't call the police and wait for my next request. I was only spending a third of my time making money. I was driving half of my miles without pay. After 300 trips here's what a pretty typical week looked like:

This is far from what I would call a great part-time job. But except for the time I spent sitting in my car waiting for a trip request I was really enjoying it.

I decided that if I wasn't going to make any money I was not going to do the part of the job I didn't enjoy. So I tried something radically different. Instead of going out to drive I put myself "On Call." This means I stayed home doing whatever I would normally be doing. The only requirement was that I had to be dressed to drive and if I took a trip request I had to be ready to leave. That didn't mean I had to rush out the door like a madman. Nobody is going to die if it takes me an extra minute to make a pickup. Not only that, I decided that after I completed a trip I wasn't going to find a "good spot" to sit and wait for my next request. I was going to head home. If I got and accepted a trip fine. If not, I was back home.

I had gotten rid of one third of the time I was working. But here is the thing that really surprised me. The time I spent driving getting paid and the amount of money I made stayed the same. At first I though it was just a streak of luck. So I started alternating weeks. One week going out to drive, the next week being "On Call." It wasn't luck. The results were the same. After another 300 trips things looked like this:

I spent the same amount of time online. The miles driven and the money I made were about the same as before but instead of hanging out in parking lots I was hanging out in my house. I stopped thinking about quitting and started trying to figure out how to make more money.

The first thing I tried to do to make more money was to reduce my dead miles. I had been accepting trip requests up to 6 minutes away. I cut this to 4 minutes. The amount of trips I took plummeted. The amount of "On Call" time went way up. It didn't take long to figure out this wasn't going to work. I knew there was only one other place to get more money. From My Riders.

I thought there was no reason I shouldn't get a lousy 20% tip on each ride.
After all, the people I drive never get tired of telling me how cheap Uber rides are. Then I had a really startling revelation. I was hoping for a 20% tip on my pay. I realized that my riders don't tip on what I get paid. They tip on the fare they pay. Uber was keeping half of my rider's fares. Take a look at this graphic:


There is no time or expenses associated with a tip. It's FREE Money. I love FREE Money. I became obsessed with getting tips.

I decided I was going to get all of my riders to tip. I was so annoying. Nobody got into my car without hearing that I was retired. Nobody got into my car without hearing that I have to drive double miles. When they would thank me for the ride I'd tell them don't thank me. Tip me. I probably did get a few more tips by doing this but it cost me the easy camaraderie I had with my riders. That was what I enjoyed about driving. Now, I didn't enjoy it. So I knocked it off.

I started going over all of my records to see if I could find something in common about the riders who tipped. As I discovered patterns I started turning down trips where I figured I wasn't going to get a tip. It turned out that the exact spots I had called my "good spots" to hang out and wait for a trip request were among the worst places to get tips. My acceptance rate plunged from over 80% to well below 50%. But after hundreds of trips Uber hasn't said anything. Now my typical week looks like this:

It took me 18 months and 1,500 trips but I'm finally happy to say that I not only enjoy driving for Uber but I'm also getting paid a decent amount of money for my time.

Now I'm wondering what the next step is?

How are you calculating your "Work Time"? Are you just guessing here? Your last screen shot seems like you're sitting at home with your app on for 7 hrs with no pings. Something doesn't add up here.
 

oldfart

Well-Known Member
my market is small town/suburban and vacation home/retirement home market and our market is seasonal. My goals are to gross $1250 a week in season and $750 a week in the off season. I dont think about dollars per hour, For me the most important number is total dollars earned, but I want to do it in the most efficient way possible, ie in the least amount of time and driving the fewest miles

So to that end (efficiency) I have been keeping three set of numbers since the first of the year.

paid time vs total time about 33%
paid miles vs total miles about 50%

looking at your pie chart our numbers are pretty close,,, It looks to me that you are getting paid for just 25% of your time and 50% of your miles We are pretty close I think

I am always trying to balance wasted time against against wasted (dead) miles.. What Ive found when I try to improve my paid time ratio, by driving to my favorite "hot spot", after a drop off, my dead miles are out of control and when I try to improve my paid miles ratio my wasted time ratio goes all to hell Things seem to fall into a nice balance when my paid time is at about 33% (if i read you last pie chart correctly yours is at 25%) and like yours my paid miles are at about 50% of total miles.

and the third number i keep is the most important and that is

gross income to total miles.

Year to date im at 71 cents per mile, I finished last year at 67 cents per mile. Given the number of miles I drive that's almost a $3000/yr improvement. So Im happy, but I want to do better


In any case I want to do better and other than trying limit long pickups and then working where the ride takes me, Im not sure what I can do working the uber and lyft apps to do better... So Im asking the same question as you..... What now?

What Im doing is what kcdrer15 advises in his post above I bought commercial insurance and got my Vehicle for Hire permit and formed my little airport transportation business. Now when I take someone to or from the airport I give them my card and ask for their future business. I charge the same thing uber would charge but I keep the whole fare which amounts to a 50% pay raise


I envy your position.. You are driving a car that costs you nothing (beyond the lease payments) except gas...If you had to consider depreciation, repairs and maintenance, I bet that dollars per hour number you calculated would change a lot
 

OldBay

Well-Known Member
Sitting at home waiting for pings is no different than waiting in the airport lot waiting for trips. You still aren't free.

I've tried the waiting at home and it only works when I'm about to start a shift.

Depending on your market you can probably do better. Longer shifts will cut down dead miles
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Sitting at home waiting for pings is no different than waiting in the airport lot waiting for trips. You still aren't free.

I've tried the waiting at home and it only works when I'm about to start a shift.

Depending on your market you can probably do better. Longer shifts will cut down dead miles
 

Ylinks

Well-Known Member
  • Thread Starter Thread Starter
  • #11
How are you calculating your "Work Time"? Are you just guessing here? Your last screen shot seems like you're sitting at home with your app on for 7 hrs with no pings. Something doesn't add up here.
Good observation. I only drive in the afternoon. I usually turn the app on around noon and off by 4PM. I can honestly say that after more than 1600 trips I have never driven during rush hour or at night. To make matters even worse, fully half of the miles I drive are dead miles. I actually believe that it is impossible to avoid this if you drive in the suburbs. Uber has had a much greater impact on the suburbs than it has on the city. In the city you could always call a taxi. In the city Uber is just a matter of cost. Before Uber you were out of luck in the suburbs. There were no cabs. Here is a perfect example. A few days ago the battery in my Honda went dead. I pulled the battery out. Got an Uber to take me to the dealership. Got a new battery. Came home via Uber and put the new battery in the car. Total time was less than an hour. And yes, I tipped the driver $10. Before Uber, if you lived in the suburbs, this would have been a major inconvenience. If you drive the right people in the suburbs they understand the value of your service and are quite willing to reward you. Remember I said I accept less than half of my trip requests. I never accept a trip unless the combination of rider rating and pickup location tells me I have a high probability of getting a decent tip. So, yeah, I sit around at home with the app "finding trips" for about half the time. It's not unusual for me to decline 6 or 7 in a row. But it's not like I am just sitting around waiting for a ping. What do I do while I'm sitting around waiting for a trip I'll accept? Well, for one thing, I wrote this article and made the graphics while online. Maybe this week I'll write an article about how Uber has changed life in the suburbs while I'm waiting for a trip.

BTW: I just may also get a few dollars in cash tips that I didn't include. Lol.
Post automatically merged:

Sitting at home waiting for pings is no different than waiting in the airport lot waiting for trips. You still aren't free.
As I wrote to IMMA DRIVER:

"What do I do while I'm sitting around waiting for a trip I'll accept? Well, for one thing, I wrote this article and made the graphics while online."

Maybe this week I'll write another article for a site that pays for content.
 
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Ylinks

Well-Known Member
  • Thread Starter Thread Starter
  • #12
I envy your position.. You are driving a car that costs you nothing (beyond the lease payments) except gas...If you had to consider depreciation, repairs and maintenance, I bet that dollars per hour number you calculated would change a lot
I went over my miles on the lease so I extended it for 12 months. At the end of that time I will buy it for about $300/month for 3 years (with zero down). Add $42/month for an extended warranty. So my expenses will be pretty much the same.

Of course, by then Uber will be paying $0.15/mile and $0.02/min. LOL

Also, please understand I did not write this article for people who need rideshare income to survive. I wrote it for part time suburban rideshare drivers. Uber says most of their drivers are part timers. My goal is a modest $200 per week with no constraints on my working hours. Cherry picking rides the way I do I would have to go online 96 hours per week to make $1200. If I passed out my card I might have an appointment to pickup somebody at 10AM on Thursday. If it's a beautiful Thursday morning I'll be on the beach. That's why Uber works for me.
 

TheDevilisaParttimer

Well-Known Member
Good observation. I only drive in the afternoon. I usually turn the app on around noon and off by 4PM. I can honestly say that after more than 1600 trips I have never driven during rush hour or at night. To make matters even worse, fully half of the miles I drive are dead miles. I actually believe that it is impossible to avoid this if you drive in the suburbs. Uber has had a much greater impact on the suburbs than it has on the city. In the city you could always call a taxi. In the city Uber is just a matter of cost. Before Uber you were out of luck in the suburbs. There were no cabs. Here is a perfect example. A few days ago the battery in my Honda went dead. I pulled the battery out. Got an Uber to take me to the dealership. Got a new battery. Came home via Uber and put the new battery in the car. Total time was less than an hour. And yes, I tipped the driver $10. Before Uber, if you lived in the suburbs, this would have been a major inconvenience. If you drive the right people in the suburbs they understand the value of your service and are quite willing to reward you. Remember I said I accept less than half of my trip requests. I never accept a trip unless the combination of rider rating and pickup location tells me I have a high probability of getting a decent tip. So, yeah, I sit around at home with the app "finding trips" for about half the time. It's not unusual for me to decline 6 or 7 in a row. But it's not like I am just sitting around waiting for a ping. What do I do while I'm sitting around waiting for a trip I'll accept? Well, for one thing, I wrote this article and made the graphics while online. Maybe this week I'll write an article about how Uber has changed life in the suburbs while I'm waiting for a trip.

BTW: I just may also get a few dollars in cash tips that I didn't include. Lol.
Post automatically merged:



As I wrote to IMMA DRIVER:

"What do I do while I'm sitting around waiting for a trip I'll accept? Well, for one thing, I wrote this article and made the graphics while online."

Maybe this week I'll write another article for a site that pays for content.
Or you could figure out when, where, and why people move about the city and capitalize.

If you actually treated this like a real job you could meet your goals in 8 hours and be done for the week. Instead of sitting around waiting on the perfect ping.

In the afternoon people are driving to the suburbs not away so your pings are already halved because of your start time. Ideally they come back to back to cut time waste and dead mileage. Every time you go back home your racking up dead miles and time waste too. That’s just two small observations.

Really rethink your plan of attack and execution. I do this part time and have a regular full time job. 3-4 hours right time and place +$100 then free for the rest of the day.
 
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MadTownUberD

The Trendy Transporter
Moderator
Have you considered taking really LONG pickups, like 15-20 minutes away? At least in my market, I get paid a decent amount just to drive to the pickup, and that affects cancel fees as well. I find I do well in terms of gross $/mile on mornings when I seem to be the only car in the city driving way out to the suburbs to pick people up and take them all they way to the airport.
 

JimD

Active Member
If you want to understand someone's behavior, you must first understand their perspective.......
........................................................Dr. Robert G. Brown, Fl. Atl. Univ., circa 1980 something lol
 

Kurt Halfyard

Well-Known Member
Author
Moderator
I do a very similar thing. I get a fair bit done around the house while 'on call' in the evenings.
My dead miles are less expensive --both in fuel and maintenance because I'm driving EV-- and when at home I am always 'fueling'.
I generally make between $200-$600 a week.
Tipping however is less than 5% of my earnings.
My strategy is to keep my expenses very low (fuel, maintenence).
 

Declineathon

Well-Known Member
Dilemma is simple: you can’t make money without driving but any none payed miles kill your profit. Solution is DF while commute or on the way back home. Unfortunately when probably to get ride towards your destination is low it does not work thus you should drive only when chances get home with rider are hi.
Some drivers set the destination filter to their home zipcode, so they dont get drawn out of bounds
 

Declineathon

Well-Known Member
I liked your post.

I'd like to hear more on how you bumped the tips up to half the passengers. I used to get appx 11% digital / 4% in cash. Now I get about 20% overall. I want to improve. (have the homespun tip sign, obvious spot to glance the 1's 5's and 20's, and mention tipping when it's appropriate). How did you data mine, and find high tipping area's- I'm no where near Jupiter FLA, so I'd be keen to know if they are: Airports, golf clubs, dentist offices, etc.

We drivers are up against a behemoth of newly minted MBA's with degrees in Behavioral Sciences, triggering our responses towards counterproductive pickups. One must take back control of ones own reactions to this invasive app.

I do something similar to you: The car is fueled up and clean ready for the morning. If my body wakes me up early enough, I turn on the app, cut the sound off (Android-Settings-Notifications-Quiet all Notifications) And just wait for a Longride 45+ with long pickup. Main point- I stay put. There's no miles on the car, it's cost free to me to wait.

From there, I park and cherrypick for <4mile pickups, etc. Eventually, using the Destination Filter to get back homeward.

I think it's really healthy for us drivers to take some time and figure out an approach.

Driving around with both apps flashing rides is dangerous, anxiety giving, full of mistakes and u-turns, and just in general bad for your health and the rest of us driving-

Parked, crosswords, in the shade, favorite music on- Yeah that's the trick.

I've got maximizing time and minimizing dead miles under control, now I'd like to improve extracting the most out of each ride- namely tips.
 
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