The Perfect Uber Driver

Many long-term (> 1 year) Uber drivers, particularly the full-time (> 30 hours weekly) take self-refined strategies to maximize earnings/hour–their earning RATE. The strategies are somewhat unique for each city, but the general principles for maximizing ridesharing earnings rate segment the day into something roughly like:

  1. Drive 3-6 AM for airport/train runs
  2. Drive 6-9 AM in lower traffic rush areas (morning commuters, maybe a suburb->edge of city)
  3. Stop rideshare driving 9 AM - 3 PM due to slow call rates (other job, rest, Postmates, etc.)
  4. Drive 3-7 PM rush, depending on city (e.g. state capitol, federal offices, financial district to airport/train, quick commute home, bad weather)
  5. Drive 7-10 PM happy hour / cocktails cleanup. Professionals wanting a quick ride home. Less trouble than after 10 PM.
  6. Risk/reward hours: 10 PM - 3 AM: risking belligerence, vomiting, overloading but reward of surge, long ride home, less traffic.

Each of these time ranges slides around based on your city, area of city, time of year, demographics, etc. The range above is tailored a bit to Boston.

The perfect Uber driver for Uber Technologies, Inc.

Not necessarily the best driver for their own earning rate!

  • Driving for multiple years for Uber.
  • Driving UberX/Pool with car nice enough for Uber Select (which strangely, has not come to Boston).
  • priority is maximum hours on road, more specifically maximum passenger rides regardless of time of day or sub-11 mph speeds
  • willing to commute to other parts of state (even two hours one-way) for more passenger hours

If the driver has a hybrid car, with $0.20/minute rates in Boston, the loss of sub-11 mph speeds is mitigated. If instead the driver is coming from New Hampshire in a 2002 Suburban, it is harder to make Uber driving worthwhile in Boston.

Examples of Uber drivers not being profitable to themselves

Some of these driver examples are quite profitable to Uber because

  • they keep the typical wait time to 3 minutes during the day and 5 minutes at night in Boston.
  • surplus drivers -> no surge -> even more riders/hour for Uber (remember their fixed per ride fees!)
  1. drive 12+ hours/day: health risks, fatigue, accident risks–there typically are fewer than 12 hours/day where earnings rate is worth the risk for a given Uber driving model
  2. drive with goal of maximum occupied time: without regard for sub-11 mph minutely rates, dead time between short rides
  3. buying/leasing car for Uber or needing Uber income to buy it: This can be financially devastating as Uber can fairly capriciously deactivate drivers, particularly those who aren’t ready to dance to Uber’s tune.
  4. sub-$1000 jalopy: Some will disagree and note profit margins with a virtually free car, but in major cities jalopies are ultimately a bad plan in my opinion because: (a) breakdowns are expensive on city roads, buddy can’t just tow you home (b) code enforcement–cops will see your pollution spitter and ticket for violation of safety, possibly worse (c) riders will downrate you when 99% of urban Uber cars are not jalopies

Examples of possibly profitable Uber drivers

Note: Uber can be a seriously money losing proposition where you trade car life for money. It is risky when people quit their job to drive Uber, or buy/lease a car to drive Uber.

The highest reward/risk model for Uber drivers is to drive during the highest earning rate hours in your locale. This might be only two hours a day, and the rest of the time may not be profitable enough for you, vs. wear on car. That’s a huge problem if you bought/leased a car to drive Uber! Remember that driver rates can change at any moment without recourse, this has besaddled many a former driver or bondaged them further into driving for decreasing returns. Another way is to chase rewards tiers, where by getting N rides per week, you get a bonus for all rides (including those already taken). But those promos can disappear at any time.

A few other groups for whom Uber driving can be somewhat profitable with older (already depreciated but still safe/reliable) cars, 6-15 year old ALREADY OWNED car as allowed in your Uber zone include:

  • at-home parent with kids growing and increasingly self-caring
  • empty nester winding down full-time job
  • new normal economy worker at less than full time job
  • weekend warrior: hitting prime hours, maybe even a couple hours during the week

That encompasses a strikingly large percentage of the population, and very likely has something to do with Uber’s blindingly high valuation despite massive driver turnover–there’s ten people ready to take your place as a driver.

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