Knowing where I work, a good friend asked me the other day what he might expect driving with Lyft. Gary was weighing options to help pay off his college debt — just like with any opportunity, he wanted to understand if he’d earn enough to justify his time.
Search for “what Lyft drivers make,” and you’ll get a lot of different answers. After busy weekends like St. Patrick’s Day, you can find screenshots on social forums, with some drivers making upwards of $600 in a single night. Other drivers in cities newer to Lyft, or those who pick up rides only during their morning commute to the office, report more conservative totals.
Understandably, we’ve seen a few external groups take their own guesses at what Lyft drivers make, usually as an hourly average across the country. This is an important topic, so we want to help set the record straight, and then shed some light on our approach to helping drivers earn the most with us.
Not as simple as it sounds
I’ve helped friends like Gary become drivers since 2013, when I joined Lyft as an early team member. I’d moved to the Bay Area from our hometown just 90 miles east, an area slow to recover from the recession and where it can be tough to find flexible jobs. Much was uncertain about this industry back then, but we knew one thing for sure: Rideshare driving breaks the mold of traditional work. People like Gary are drawn to driving with us for the freedom to log in and out at their leisure.
This begs the question: For work that you can stop and start any time, what’s the right time span (that is, the denominator) to determine pay per hour?
In the suburbs, Lyft is generally busiest on nights and weekends. If Gary wants to pick up some rides in the afternoon, he can open the app at home and watch TV while he waits to get a request — or go online with other apps, for that matter.
Does that time online count toward average hourly Lyft earnings? And if he leaves home and drives to a busier part of town, do you include his commute time?
In our industry, these phases of driving are broken into three periods:
We’re most certain about what drivers are doing between Periods 2–3, when they’re responding to a request and then driving the passenger to a destination. In those scenarios, median earnings are $29.47/hour nationally and $31.18/hour in our top 25 markets.
These figures are different when you include any time spent online. A driver could be doing anything in Period 1: driving, working with another app, or nothing at all — they could also be commuting, which generally isn’t paid time for other types of work. That’s why it’s not as straightforward to consider all periods when evaluating earnings. Still, in the spirit of transparency, we’re also sharing our best estimate at earnings that include Periods 1–3 that we believe captures all the time drivers are waiting for requests on Lyft.
Worth noting: Driving expenses — and tax deductions — vary for every individual, depending mostly on the year and model of their car, and how often they use it for ridesharing. The estimate we’ve found most useful for expenses is $3-$5/hour, from The Rideshare Guy.
Our commitment to drivers
Often when you ask Lyft drivers what they make, many will answer with goals: a down payment on a house, or a check off their bucket list; enough to keep the lights on during a career gap, or start a company to help people scale Mount Everest. The time it takes to reach these goals can vary with their lifestyle, location, and seasonality.
Our goal has always been to build a product that empowers drivers to get the most out of Lyft, and to make that as easy as possible.
To that end, here are some of the latest initiatives we’ve got underway to help Lyft drivers reach their full earning potential:
- Education on the best places to drive with improved real-time heatmaps
- Reducing expenses with fuel discounts, maintenance, and more through our Accelerate and Express Drive programs
- Pay transparency to show net earnings, what the passenger paid, and Lyft’s take
- Bonuses for great service and specialized rides, including for premium vehicles and a pilot in Denver to earn more on snow days
- Support for their lives outside of Lyft, including new education benefits from Guild and advice from Intuit on filing taxes
This week, Gary will borrow a vehicle through Express Drive — our rental program helps reduce his expenses — and join the 1.4 million people who’ve found a new income stream with Lyft. His riders will benefit, too: Millions of people in communities historically underserved by transportation have gained economic mobility through Lyft, expanding their own options for work.
We have a responsibility to treat our drivers well and help them succeed. We accept this responsibility not only because Lyft’s success depends on our driver community, but also because many drivers depend on Lyft. This is not something we take lightly, and we’ll continue working hard every day to create the best and most fulfilling economic opportunities for them.