A popular assumption in 2019 is that Uber and Lyft drivers live lucrative lives thanks to their side gig. While this may have been the case a couple years ago, one of the most common gripes you hear from the rideshare community is that no matter how many hours of hard work they put in, they aren’t making what they would like to be.
This is especially true for new drivers, since they have a learning curve to conquer. While ridesharing is not complicated, it’s more challenging than what many believe. Unlike a typical job where most employees make a similar amount of cash, seasoned drivers make more than brand new drivers since they have tips and tricks up their sleeves to become more savvy behind the wheel.
If you’re a newbie in the rideshare arena, there’s no need to fret. Time and experience will hand you nifty hacks that will impact your bottom line, but in the meantime, you could be doing a few things to increase your rideshare income today. Here are the top ways that Uber and Lyft drivers use daily to rake in more cash!
Please note, some of the links on this page are affiliate links. This means if you purchase a product or sign up for a service we may receive compensation, which we use to continue providing free valuable content for you! We only recommend things we independently research and/or support ourselves. Thank you for your support!
Ingenious Hacks to Make More Money as a Rideshare Driver in 2019
1. Join Referral Programs
Sign Up with Freebird
Freebird is the main way that many rideshare drivers earn hundreds in additional money each month. If there is one thing you take from reading this entire article, it’s to join Freebird - like, yesterday.
What is Freebird? It’s an app for Uber and Lyft drivers to promote rides to passengers through these companies. Each passenger that you send Freebird’s way earns you a $10 commission! Plus, each of those passengers you provide with a ride gets $10 as well. It’s an easy-peasy win-win. You can sign up for Freebird here to start making more money today!
Enlist New Rideshare Drivers
The rideshare gig economy isn't going away anytime soon, which is why the big guys like Uber and pay current drivers to recruit newbies with a simple referral code. You can also enlist people to work for Doordash, Postmates, and others as well!
Build Your Own Advertising or Referral Program
Hit up local businesses and ask if they would be willing to provide you with a commission if you refer potential customers to them. It sounds complicated, but it’s actually really freaking EASY!
First, negotiate with the owner a monthly fee for this creative service. Then, print off business cards with their information, and be sure to include your name or promo/discount code. OR, you can place an ad for that business on your car. You can seriously be as creative as you like with this idea!
2. Sell Items
There are many things that you could sell to passengers as a rideshare driver. Think about it, when you have someone in your car for a period of time, you can easily strike up a conversation and learn what interests them. You can sell those you chauffeur around something they need, such as a charger for their phone, or something they want, such as a piece of jewelry. Pretty clever, right?
Who doesn’t like snacks, gum and easy-to-tote drinks? You can easily sell these tempting items by displaying them in your backseat with the passenger(s).
There are a couple ways we recommend displaying snacks in your car to ensure everything stays organized and easily accessible throughout your shift.
A simple, back seat organizer with tons of pockets and cooler bag keeps everything organized, fresh, and easy to reach for backseat riders.
Make sure that you purchase delicious, eye-catching snacks that riders won’t be able to keep their hands off of, such as:
If you’re not much of a DIY driver, Cargo has you covered! This company is a startup that created a car vending machine that is packed with snacks for free. Passengers download an easy-to-use app on their mobile device, scan you machine, and shop for what you got! Once they are paid, you hand them their goodies and you get paid a commission for everything you sell. Pretty sweet if I don’t say so myself!
Sell Seasonal Items
At big name stores, when it snows, the shovels come out. When it rains, raincoats and ponchos make their appearance, conveniently by the entrances. Well, you can be doing the same savvy selling as a rideshare driver!
- Sell umbrellas and ponchos when an unexpected storm hits
- Sell pairs of gloves, hand warmers, and hats during the cold winter months
- Sell flip flops and sunglasses during the heat of the summer
- Sell phone chargers, adapters, emergency disposable chargers and portable power banks (an easy sale when a passenger asks you to charge their phone with your cable!)
A Positive Outlook on Drunk Passengers
Uber and Lyft drivers don’t totally love the inevitable drunk passenger, as much as those passengers despite the feeling of being hungover. Take this as an opportunity to make some additional cash!
If you’re picking up people late from the bars, ask them if they would like to purchase a hangover cure to go with their complimentary bottle of water. Make sure to tell them to drink it before they hit they hay and that they will feel awesome in the morning. It’s a darn easy sell!
3. Be More Strategic
Boosting your earnings as a rideshare driver is not just about making money, but also about saving it. Utilize these tips to ensure you have more money in your wallet when the end of the year comes around!
Maximize Your Deductions During Tax Season
To ensure that you’re getting the most from your yearly tax return as a rideshare driver, check out this Ultimate Rideshare Tax Deduction Guide. You can also learn how to claim the standard mileage deduction for rideshare drivers here.
Track any Business-Related Expenses
Uber and Lyft drivers are self-employed, meaning that you’re in charge of keeping track of and reporting everything yourself, or with the assistance of a CPA. However, hiring a professional can get expensive and cut into your earnings.
Here are a few options you can consider:
- QuickBooks Self-Employed ($10/month) - QuickBooks is the king of accounting software, which is why it’s a go-to option for businesses of all shapes and sizes. Thanks to its ever-growing popularity, the creators have made a light version for self-employed hustlers that is even designed for mobile users. There’s a small monthly fee, but it’s well worth it when April rolls around.
- Wave (Free) - If you’re a penny-pincher, the Wave app is for you! It’s a great (and free!) QuickBooks alternative. It offers ways to track business expenses via your bank account and receipt imaging. If you need payroll or invoicing services, they offer these too, but these are paid services.
- SpreadSheet - Another free option is to create a simple spreadsheet that allows you to track your income, expenses and mileage. This can be very simple and if you go this route all you need to do is enter a line item every time you receive a payment from a rideshare company and on another tab, enter a line item each time you have an expense.
Come tax time, it will help if you categorize all your expenses using the same categories that appear on your Schedule C:
- Car and truck expenses
- Commissions and fees
- Contract Labor
- Insurance (other than health)
- Legal and Professional Services
- Office Expenses
- Rent or Lease
- Repairs and maintenance
- Taxes and Licenses
- Meals and Entertainment
- Other Expenses
Download an App to Track Mileage
No matter if you’re a rideshare driver or drive for your 9 to 5, you should have a mileage tracking app installed on your mobile device to ensure you receive everything you deserve from your deduction. There are many free apps out there that accurately document your mileage. The best part is that all you have to do is pull up the data within the app and enter some numbers when tax season creeps in.
Implement Strategies to Get More Tips
It’s important to make a good first impression on your passengers! From dressing nicely to installing a tip jar or a reminder for passengers to leave tips on the app within your car, this can go a long way to increase your overall earnings. Click here to read clever strategies to help you increase your earnings from tips.
Document Your Rideshare Journey
Did you know that you could an income as a driver even on very slow days? That’s the beauty of passive income! With the booming popularity of content creation, you could easily create a blog, YouTube channel or podcast (or all three!) talking about your rideshare experiences, what you have learned, product reviews, and more.
The possibilities are endless. Become an affiliate with platforms like Amazon, link products into your content, and you can start earning a nice income from these methods, even while you’re out driving!
Reduce What You Pay for Gas
Our absolute favorite app to ensure you never have to pay the full price for gas again is GetUpside. Plus, you can continue to save on your grocery bill and when you eat out at restaurants, even when off the clock.
4. Drive Smart, Not Hard
The key to making a good income as a rideshare driver is when and where you drive.
The bigger the city you live in, the more options you’re going to have. Thankfully, neither Uber or Lyft has a shortage of what cities their services are offered in, however, the bulk of their trips happen in limited markets. This explains why New York, Boston, Chicago, San Francisco, and Los Angeles have the biggest sign up bonuses.
If you don’t reside in one of the above cities, no biggie - but understand that your average income as a rideshare driver will be lower than if you lived in a more populated area.
Despite a smaller population, there are numerous ways that you can strategically achieve more rides and a bigger paycheck!
Where’s the Alcohol?
As a rideshare driver, I tend to set my sights on Friday and Saturday nights, as well as booze-filled holidays such as New Year’s and July 4th. It’s during these times when the demand for drivers is the highest and surge pricing is likely to accompany it. While this strategy is by no means foolproof, it is a recommended place to start if you’re dead set on maximizing your profits.
I myself am not a fan of sitting around in traffic, but commuting hours during the week are also a great time to get out there as a driver since many folks like to use Uber or Lyft instead of making the commute themselves.
It’s pretty darn simple to learn when the busiest/best times to drive are since both Lyft and Uber send out summaries weekly and have up-to-date heat maps. However, keep in mind that those maps are not created just by the number of passengers who are requesting rides. It also considers the times and places where there aren’t many drivers out.
For instance, if that map informs you of 100 requests from riders and there are 200 drivers out to fill them, you have just a 50% chance of getting a ride. But, when you find an area where there is 25 rider requests and there are only 15 drivers, you are guaranteed to fill up your backseat, and maybe even get surge pricing, too.
Go Out and Get that Dough When No One Else is
Obviously, it’s vital to your rideshare income to target the times when there are very few drivers out and about. While Friday and Saturdays can be extremely lucrative, other drivers have the same idea. If you’re not seeing very much success during the weekend, don’t follow the crowd and pick times and places were there are a few passengers requesting rides and only a couple of drivers out.
- Airport passengers surge typically from 3 to 7 in the morning - very few drivers will get up to pick up riders during this time. Also, there’s hardly any traffic and passengers travel longer distances during the wee hours.
- Many drivers stay up late on Friday and Saturday evenings chasing that surge. While it’s a great strategy, be smart! This means that you can take advantage of the morning hours when other drivers are too tired or sleeping in after a long night. No, passenger requests won’t be high at 8 AM on a Saturday or Sunday, but you know that there will be folks that had just a bit too much fun and will now need rides home. Take advantage of this!
Rideshare During Holidays
I’ve found that holidays are some of the best rideshare driver days. Here is a list of the most lucrative holidays to drive for Uber and Lyft:
- New Year’s Eve
- St. Patrick’s Day
- July 4th
- New Year’s Day
- Super Bowl Sunday
- Valentine’s Day
Drive During Special Events
Keep a lookout for big shows, concerts, festivals, etc. happening in your area and get prepared!
Experiment for Experience
All the suggestions we’ve listed so far in this article are ideas to help you to decide where to start. No one knows the uniqueness of all the situations you’ll face as a new rideshare driver since every location that Uber, Lyft, and other rideshare companies offer their services in is different.
However, if you apply the way of thinking that you’ve learned about today, you will begin to take notice of patterns, which will help to put yourself in a position to make a heck of a lot of money in the near future! Don’t be hesitant to experiment and try new things. If you notice an increase in earnings when you switch something up, stick to that.
Make Sure to Cash in on Weekly Incentives
Everyone knows about that nice sign-up bonus you receive when you start as a new driver. However, many drivers forget to check into their weekly incentives, which means you could be losing out on additional cash that you deserve. Not all cities have incentives.
A word to the wise: be sure to read the fine print of these incentive programs to ensure you’re not wasting your time. Uber puts out incentives now-a-days to get drivers to come out and drive since they’ve switched up their rates so much, for instance.
There is certainly a way that you can be sure you’re getting the most from incentive. For instance, say Uber sends you a bunch of “do 20 trips and make $60” type of offers. This sounds like chump change, but say you get 20 trips in. This means you’re receiving a $3 tip per ride, which can add up fast.
If this is your case, I suggest going to drive in an area such as a college, where many students request short rides to the bar. If you get 2 to 3 of these rides per hour or more, you’re golden!
5. Earn More by Branching Out
Diversify the way you earn an additional income with your rideshare gig:
Become a Driver for More Than One Rideshare Company
While we suggest that you do pick either Uber or Lyft to start out as a rideshare newbie, after you get your feet wet and get the hang of it, add on another! In fact, 67% of rideshare drivers in a 2017 survey say they do the same! (I know, we sound crazy, but hear us out.)
Being a driver for both of the biggest rideshare companies in your location enables you to greatly increase your chances of getting passenger requests. When times are slow, turn on both the Uber and Lyft apps! I personally like to drive with Lyft since they typically have higher rates and allow for tipping within the app. However, there have also been times when I make more driving for Uber - hence why I like to keep both as an option.
Rideshare Stagnant? Fill in the Gap with Delivery Gigs
A strategy that I personally use today is driving for services like Instacart, Uber Eats and Doordash. I tend to do this in the middle of the afternoon when rideshare is slow, so I’m still earning when I’m out and about. If people are inside, they tend to order other things instead of requesting a ride from you, so why not play both sides? Clever, we know.
You’ve just read some of the best ways to earn more as an Uber and/or Lyft driver! Tell us what you think about earning as a new driver - have you used any of the above methods? Or are you a daredevil who'd rather just turn on the app and see where the day takes you?
Want to put your car to work for you? Click here to sign-up to drive with Uber, Lyft and other various side gigs!