Lyft Versus Uber: An In-Depth Comparison

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Being a rideshare driver is a flexible way to make money in your free time. You can name your own hours and earn more money than some other side hustles. In this Lyft versus Uber comparison, you will learn which service is better for you.

Uber and Lyft are two legit ways to make extra money. But, one platform might be better for you than the other. Or, you can drive for both and pick the best rides in town!

Are you ready to maximize your earnings and avoid rookie mistakes? Great, let’s get started.

Becoming a Rideshare Driver

Whether you drive for Uber, Lyft or both services, they share a few common traits.

To become a rideshare driver, you must meet these three basic qualifications:

  • Meet a minimum age requirement (more about this later)
  • Own or lease a 4-door vehicle
  • Have a clean driving and criminal record

Both Lyft and Uber offer leasing and rental services if you don’t own an eligible car. Both companies also require you to carry rideshare insurance.

If you don’t qualify as a rideshare driver yet, you can still deliver for UberEATS. Some drivers also double as food deliverers when ride demand is slow.

Benefits of Being a Rideshare Driver

Here are the key benefits of being a rideshare driver:

  • Flexible hours
  • Be your own boss
  • Minimal startup costs
  • Meet new people

People are relying on public transit more than ever. As a result, there’s constant demand for rideshare drivers. You are the quickest way from points A to B.

Flexible Hours

As a rideshare driver, you’re an independent contractor. This means you’re not an employee like you are with regular part-time jobs.

This flexibility lets you drive for both companies. Most drivers join Lyft and Uber to earn the most money. They pick the best ride available at the time.

You’re not restricted to only working for one employer or a certain shift. You choose when you work. Each week, you can drive a different schedule or even take a month off. If your day job has variable hours, driving for either service easily fits into your schedule.

This flexibility means you are the boss. You work as little or much as you decide. Uber and Lyft don’t require you to take a certain number of rides each week. You only have to provide a good ride experience to keep an active account.

Few Barriers to Entry

If you already own a vehicle, Lyft and Uber have few barriers to join. You don’t have to buy special equipment or rent office space as other startups do.  

Once you pass the background check and vehicle safety inspection, you can start driving right away. The entire onboarding process takes from 48 hours to three weeks to complete. It can take up to three weeks if your city has local rules you must meet in addition to Uber and Lyft’s.

Lyft Versus Uber: Which Is Better for Drivers?

We’re not going to recommend one company over the other. Both services have their own pros and cons. You will make money with either one. How much you earn depends on how often you drive.

This section compares some of the different aspects of being a rideshare driver. In some categories, both Lyft and Uber are similar. In others, one is the clear winner. Knowing what to expect while driving for Uber and Lyft helps make the decision easier.

Ride Demand

In most cities, Uber has more daily ride requests than Lyft. A January 2019 study by Second Measure estimates that Uber controls roughly two-thirds of the rideshare market. Although Lyft is gaining market share.

Second Measure estimates the average rider uses Uber 5.8 times monthly versus using Lyft 4.9 times per month.

During August 2018 in New York City, there were 436,000 Uber rides and only 122,000 Lyft rides. For this same month, there were approximately 63,000 Uber vehicles and 34,000 Lyft vehicles. Uber only has twice as many drivers in New York City but has triple the ride requests.

One reason Uber has more riders is because they were the first successful rideshare company with a national presence. After all, uber is now a verb for ridesharing to a destination just as people google information on the internet.

Lyft will keep you busy too, but demand can vary by city. Lyft now serves 300 U.S. cities, but they haven’t been operating in some of them for as long as Uber. For instance, Lyft didn’t add 100 of those cities until calendar year 2017, two years after Uber reached the 300-city milestone.

The January 2019 Second Measure study shows that Lyft is most popular in west coast cities where riders choose Lyft 45% of the time.

You should value quality as much as quantity when it comes to driving. Different types of riders use both services. Try both out to judge from your own experience.

Winner: Uber

Driver Pay

Several variables affect how much you make driving for either company. In general, Lyft pays more than Uber. This is partially because drivers report larger rider tips from Lyft riders. While the pay from Lyft isn’t incredibly more, it helps offset the lower number of potential rides.

Your earnings with either company depend on several factors:

  • Time of day
  • Day of week
  • Ride distance
  • Driving time
  • Your region
  • Base fare paid by the rider

Both Uber and Lyft calculate your earnings based on the above factors. In addition to your mileage, you can also get paid by the minute. As long as you have a rider, you’re getting paid.

Drivers earn more on weekends and during peak driving hours because riders pay higher fares. Driving in a big city can also earn you more per ride. In select cities, drivers can earn extra bonuses if they drive on certain days or in special zones. Once again, it comes down to supply and demand.

Some drivers report that Uber pays better than Lyft during peak hours and special events. During these times, riders pay “surge prices” that are higher than the standard fare.

Winner: Lyft

Driver Bonuses

Both Lyft and Uber offer bonuses for new drivers. The bonus amount depends on the city you live in and the number of rides you complete.

Current drivers can also make extra money from recurring bonuses. You can participate in weekly bonuses and challenges. Some bonuses require you to complete a specific number of rides. Other bonuses pay more if you drive in peak hours or featured areas.

Riders can also leave you a tip with either service. In the past, only Lyft drivers could receive tips. Now, Uber drivers receive tips too!

Drivers state Lyft riders give better tips than Uber riders — possibly because some Uber riders are still in the habit of not tipping. But, Uber has more competitive bonuses.

Winner:  Toss-Up

Driver Support

This is another area where the better option depends on your personal experience. Just like you love or hate your home internet provider, rideshare customer support is similar in nature.

Both Uber and Lyft offer phone support for drivers. You can also visit a local partner office to get in-person support at a local Uber Greenlight Hub or Lyft Hub.   

Some drivers prefer Lyft because they state their agents tend to explore each driver complaint further. Drivers also state that Lyft customer support agents can be more friendly to talk to.

But one driver I interviewed, Amber Bennett, stated she preferred Uber’s driver support to Lyft’s.

So while Uber tends to be better at resolving basic issues, if you have complex issues, Lyft may be better.

Ultimately the better driver support team is going to depend on your individual experiences.

Winner: Toss-Up  

Driver Taxes

Both Uber and Lyft issue you a Form 1099 to report your taxable income. Neither company withholds income tax from your payments.

You also have to track your eligible tax deductions like:

  • Mileage
  • Vehicle expenses
  • Unreimbursed tolls

All rideshare drivers also have to pay self-employment tax each year. To avoid a tax surprise, consider putting part of your income in an online bank account just for taxes.

Driving for Uber

Uber is like the “Google” of ridesharing services and is a household name. People talk about “ubering” even when they’re riding a competitor. Because Uber is now in our everyday vocabulary, the company has higher brand recognition. That’s a good reason to consider driving for them.

The main reason many drivers like Uber is that it’s busier than Lyft in most cities according to Second Measure. More riders use Uber than Lyft so there are more rides up for grabs. Since you don’t get paid unless you drive a rider, consistent ride demand is reason enough to join Uber.

This is also a general consensus among the drivers I interviewed for this comparison article. But that doesn’t mean there won’t be times when Lyft has more open rides than Uber.

Below is a basic summary of what to expect when driving for Uber.

Minimum Driver Requirements

Uber requires the following for its drivers:

  • Minimum age to drive in your city
    • Three years of driving experience if you’re younger than 23
    • One year of driving experience if you’re older than 23
  • Valid U.S. driver’s license
  • Documents to prove who you are
  • Clean driving and criminal record
  • Eligible 4-door vehicle

After you pass the background check, you may also have to get a special operating license from your local city. This might require attending a defensive driving course.

Uber Vehicle Requirements

Your vehicle must have four doors and seatbelts for at least four passengers. In addition to this basic requirement, your vehicle must also meet these standards:

  • No older than 15 model years
  • Clean title only (can’t be rebuilt, salvage, etc.)
  • No cosmetic damage
  • Must carry rideshare insurance

For 2018, your vehicle must be a model year 2003 or newer. In 2019, your car needs to be a model year 2004 or newer. Your local town might have additional requirements for your vehicle too.

If you don’t own an eligible vehicle, Uber offers a leasing service. You can also rent a car if you do have a car but it’s in the shop and you must keep driving to make money.

Depending on the quality of your vehicle, you can offer luxury rides. The UberX and UberBlack programs are for upscale vehicles. Maybe you have a leather interior or a luxury SUV to drive. Both of these programs pay more per ride. But, you can still earn plenty with the basic Uber service.

Driver Bonuses

Uber offers three different types of driver bonuses. The bonus amount depends on your home city.

  • New driver bonus
  • Quest
  • Boost

New Driver Bonus

You have to complete a set number of rides in a period of time to earn this bonus.  

Quest Bonus

With the Quest bonus, you get a cash bonus when you complete a set number of trips. You might have one week or a weekend to earn the bonus.

Boost Bonus

The Boost bonus focuses on busy hours and areas. Depending on the time and area, you can earn more. The Boost bonus is higher than the surge pricing.

Uber Payment Options

Uber pays weekly via bank direct deposit.

With Uber Instant Pay, you can request real-time payment up to five times daily. Instant Pay deposits your balance on your debit card.

In the Uber app, you can track your earnings in real-time. Uber itemizes your pay statements so you can quickly see your income and expenses.

Other Ways to Make Money with Uber

You can also drive for the UberEATS program when you don’t have riders.

If you currently don’t qualify to drive for Uber, you may still qualify for UberEATS because the delivery requirements are more flexible. You don’t need a 4-door vehicle to deliver for UberEATS. Depending on your area, you can deliver by:

  • Motorcycle
  • Scooter
  • Bike
  • Walking

Your car can be up to 20 years old and either have two doors or four doors.

And, you only need to be 18 years old to join. But, you must still pass a background check.  

You can be an Uber and UberEATS partner at the same time. When you’re not driving people, you can deliver food. This is another flexible side hustle to make money in your spare time.

Driving for Lyft

The Lyft driving experience can also be very rewarding. Because Lyft usually has less ride demand, some drivers recommend joining Lyft first to gain experience. You won’t feel overwhelmed with all the options. When you’re ready to drive more often, then you can become an Uber driver too.

Other drivers prefer Lyft because the average rider tends to tip better and can be more friendly. This isn’t always true, but it’s a common theme in many markets.

Learn how to find the best rides on Lyft to earn more money.

Lyft Driver Requirements

Lyft has similar driving requirements to Uber. The one difference is that you must be at least 21 years old to drive, and have a clean driving record. With Uber, you must have three years driving experience if you’re under age 23. If you get your license at age 17, you can potentially drive for Uber when you’re 20.

You also need to pass a criminal background check. And, you may have to obtain a special driving permit. This depends on your home city.

Lyft Vehicle Requirements

Your vehicle must have four doors and at least five seatbelts. You must also comply with any state or local rideshare laws. Your vehicle can’t have any cosmetic damage beyond basic scratches.

Lyft does appear to have a stricter vehicle policy. In most states, your vehicle must be model year 2005 or newer. In other words, your car can’t be older than 13 years.

With the Lyft Express Drive program, you can lease or rent an approved car. Active drivers can qualify for smaller leases based on the number of completed rides.

Driver Bonuses

New drivers also qualify for an introductory bonus. You must complete at least 20 rides in the first 20 days to earn a bonus.

Lyft also offers these bonuses for current drivers:

  • Weekly ride challenges
  • Power zones
  • Streak bonus

Weekly Ride Challenges

Similar to the Uber Quest bonus, you must complete a set number of rides in a limited time to earn the Weekly ride challenges.

Power Zones

Earn more by driving in high-demand areas or busy hours. Lyft now calls these busy hours Prime Time. These bonuses start when there are more ride requests than drivers.

Lyft also has a peak hours bonus available during the busiest hours of the day. You can see these bonus windows in the app in advance.

Streak Bonus

Get a streak bonus by accepting two back-to-back Lyft rides. This bonus can keep you from switching and accepting your second ride on Uber. Or, only doing one ride before going home.

Lyft texts you when this bonus is active.

Lyft Payment Options

You get paid weekly with Lyft via direct deposit.

With Lyft Express Pay, you can request same-day payment when your balance is $50. This minimum redemption threshold is higher than Uber Instant Pay.

Should You Drive for Uber, Lyft, or Both?

The onboarding process for Uber and Lyft is similar. Each company has its own unique culture, but it’s not like comparing apples to oranges.

To help make your decision easier, here’s a brief summary of each service.

Uber is busier so you have the chance to complete more rides.

Lyft doesn’t have as many riders but tends to pay more per ride.

Since riders are going to choose the option with the best price and the shortest wait time, you should consider joining both Uber and Lyft. Driving for both lets you maximize your potential income.

Must-Read Advice for New Rideshare Drivers

Becoming a rideshare driver is as easy as submitting an application. But, do you know what it takes to become a successful rideshare driver?

Driving for Lyft or Uber has many benefits. You get to name your hours and earn more than other side hustles. At the same time, this flexibility can make it hard to develop a routine. The sooner you learn the ropes, the more money you can make.

Below are several tips you should apply to avoid common rideshare driver mistakes. These tips come from four different rideshare drivers.

Ride Lyft or Uber First

Harry Campbell, a driver who writes a blog about rideshare driving, recommends every new driver to take a ride first. If you’ve never been a rideshare rider, this is an absolute must! Think of these test rides as an internship.

Use this time to ask the driver about their experience and advice. Some of the questions you might ask include:

  • Most popular routes
  • Best times to drive in your city
  • Items to include in your car
  • Areas to avoid (i.e. areas that are unsafe, lack rides or pay low)
  • Most common rider problems
  • Their best and worst driver experiences

If Lyft and Uber both serve your city, ride both! Being a rider also gives you an idea of how to be a better driver. By riding with different drivers, you can look for positive and negative trends.

By offering a better experience than other drivers, you can avoid rookie mistakes. And, you can receive more positive reviews early on. These reviews help you get more rides in the future.

Bonus Tip: Read Campbell’s book The Rideshare Guide to learn more about tricks of the trade!

Drive for Lyft and Uber

As a new driver, you might only decide to apply for either Lyft or Uber first. After earning your new driver bonus, you can join the other service. If driving for one company pays the bills, don’t feel pressured to drive for both.

If you drive for both, you must shuffle between both apps to find the best ride. Campbell uses the Mystro app to remain logged into the Lyft and Uber apps at the same time. He quickly finds the best rides and minimizes his downtime. Remember, you only make money if you’re driving, not idling.

Know Your City

Becoming familiar with your city has many benefits that can increase your pay. You know the best places to look for rides, and being in the in-demand area means you get first dibs on the open ride requests.

A rider isn’t going to wait 30 minutes for you if another driver is only five minutes away. Being too far away means you won’t get as many rides and you’ll make less money.

Knowing local shortcuts and the best hangouts is what separates the great drivers from the good drivers. This knowledge helps you earn larger tips and get a positive driver rating. Your driver rating is almost as important as how much you earn, because a good rating ensures you’ll continue to get rides.

Some of the city topics you should know about include:

  • Fun facts
  • Popular restaurants and attractions
  • “Locals-only” hotspots
  • Good hotels and shopping districts
  • Safe neighborhoods

You want your riders to feel secure. If they are tourists, acting as an informal guide helps them plan their visit.

Interact With Your Riders

With any side hustle, have fun! As a rideshare driver, that means talking to your riders. Not only can you get a bigger tip, but your riders can give you advice on where to look for future rides. Plus, you will hear many interesting stories to entertain you and help pass the time.

That said, not every rider wants to carry on a conversation, so don’t be too pushy. For your chatty riders, answer their questions and be helpful.

Remember the Golden Rule: Treat others as you want to be treated. Being kind and helpful creates a pleasant experience for everybody.

Choose Your Passengers Wisely

Lyft and Uber are very flexible side hustles in many aspects. You get to name your hours and can decline riders you don’t feel comfortable driving.

As the vehicle owner, you’re responsible for keeping the interior clean. If a rider makes a mess in your car, you have to spend time and money cleaning the interior before your next ride. While Lyft and Uber offer cleaning credits, they are only issued in extreme cases. That means you have to spend money on cleaning supplies.  

Most rideshare drivers tell you that Friday and Saturday nights offer some of the best pay. But, most riders during these hours spend the night partying. They can be extra rowdy and make a mess in your car.

Driver Eddie Doyle recommends new drivers to avoid driving at night unless you can tolerate difficult riders. Instead, log a few rides in the daytime first. You gain experience with more cordial riders so you can set firm expectations when driving at night.

After trying a couple of night rides, you may still decide that driving at night isn’t worth the extra pay. Some drivers never work the party hours because it’s an unenjoyable experience. The decision depends on your personality and your patience for difficult riders.

Drive on the Weekends to Earn More Money

Driving on the weekends usually pays more per route than on weekdays. You don’t have to drive weekend nights after the bars close to earn a big paycheck. Even on a Saturday afternoon, you can earn more per ride. This is because there’s more demand on the weekends and fewer drivers.

You can also make good money driving on weekdays, but you need to know the best times. Certain times of day are naturally slower than others. Being flexible with your driving hours lets you drive during the busy times and avoid the slow hours.

Drive a Used Hybrid

Your three largest expenses as a rideshare driver are:

  • Vehicle purchase price
  • Gas
  • Routine maintenance and cleaning

If you need to get a car loan, buying a used car will give you a lower monthly payment than a brand new vehicle. Until your car loan is paid off, you can’t start enjoying the profits of being a rideshare driver. Instead, you’re still trying to break even.

Hopefully, you can use your current vehicle for ridesharing. When that’s the case, your two recurring expenses are gas and maintenance.

If you must buy a car, buy a used car that’s fuel efficient. The ideal rideshare car is a used hybrid. Even the taxi companies use hybrids because they are reliable and use minimal gas.

Jon Sycamore has logged more than 2,284 rides in the past 18 months. He drives a 2014 Ford Fusion that gets 40 miles per gallon! When he first started driving, it was three years old, which is an ideal age for a car you’re buying for rideshares.

Most cars lose half their value in the first three years. By buying a three-year-old vehicle, you get a “like new” vehicle at half price. You should still have several years before you need to pay for large repairs. More importantly, investing in a three-year-old “like new” car today means you can get up to 10 years of rideshare service from it.

Log Your Miles

As a rideshare driver, you can deduct the miles driven for business on your taxes. Current IRS tax law lets you deduct 54.5 cents per mile driven. Make sure you keep a written log of how many miles you drive each day.

As an example, you can deduct $545 for every 1,000 miles you drive. This money can offset your gas and maintenance costs. Circling back to buying a used hybrid, if it costs less than 54.5 cents to drive a mile, you make a tax-free profit.

Because Sycamore drives a fuel-sipping car, his actual costs are about 16 cents per mile. At that rate, he profits 38 cents per mile tax-free, plus his regular driver earnings.

Plan Your Routes

Another common tip among drivers is to plan your route. When you look at the in-app map, you can see where the peak zones and special events are. Taking these rides makes you more money, but only if you are already nearby.

You don’t get paid for your gas and time to get into position. If other drivers are closer than you, the surge prices can disappear before you arrive. Then you’ve driven all that way for nothing.

Instead of “chasing the surge,” find the places that offer consistent rides and have few drivers. When it happens to be in a surge area, even better. Even without the surge pay, you can still earn a regular income by taking back-to-back ride requests.

Treat Your Side Hustle as a Business

Too often the term “side hustle” is thrown around for any way to make money in your free time. While you can make plenty of money as a rideshare driver, you need to make smart decisions.

The reason why you drive is to earn the most money in the shortest time possible. Treating driving like a business encourages you to make smart decisions.

You need to look at your income and expenses. Driver Amber BennettWilliams recommends creating a budget for your business. Another option is making a profit and loss statement. This exercise puts your goals and expenses on paper so you can see how much money you must make each month. Making a budget lets you can quickly see if you are profiting or losing money.  

Your budget should include the following expenses:

  • Gas
  • Maintenance costs
  • Cleaning supplies
  • Insurance
  • Monthly car loan payment

Lyft and Uber itemize your income into these four categories:

  • Total miles
  • Total drive time
  • Rider tips
  • Driver bonuses

To make money being a rideshare driver, your income must be greater than your expenses. Don’t forget that you also have to pay taxes on your rideshare earnings. You might set aside 30% of your earnings to cover your potential tax bill.

Tip: You can quickly create a budget or profit and loss statement using Quickbooks.

Know Why You Want to Be a Rideshare Driver

With any side hustle, you need to know why you’re doing it. Keeping in mind why you want to be a rideshare driver helps you stay motivated and intentional in the way you approach the business.

Every driver has their own reasons. Maybe you’re doing it to pay off debt. Or, you need a side job with flexible hours while you launch a different business. Other drivers simply want to start a new hobby and enjoy meeting new people.

Your reasons for driving help determine how much money you need to make driving. If you don’t need to earn as much money, for example, you can be more selective with your driving hours or the routes you’re willing to take. But, you might not know this if you don’t make a plan.

Listen to Well Kept Wallet Podcast Episode 84 for extra rideshare driver advice from Harry Campbell.

Summary

Lyft and Uber are both very similar but are popular for different reasons. Uber tends to keep drivers busier, but both services offer a flexible side hustle. When you want to be your own boss and enjoy being with people, either service is a good option.

Do you drive for Lyft or Uber? What advice do you have for new drivers? Let us know on our Facebook page!


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2 COMMENTS

2 responses to “Lyft Versus Uber: An In-Depth Comparison”

  1. Josh Steinberg says:

    Hey Josh,

    I love Uber and Lyft. They’re both one of the many ways I suggest to make money for young adults on my blog. Who wouldn’t want to get paid to ride around all day?!

    Thanks!

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