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How to Calculate Your Hourly Earnings Driving for Lyft and Uber

How much are you really pulling down per hour, driving for Lyft or Uber?  This could be the most important number to track, as it will help you adjust your driving week to week and ultimately help you decide if rideshare driving is right for you.  Start by logging into your Uber account and navigating to your payments page.  For Lyft, go to your driver history page.

I drive a 2012 Toyota Camry LE and 90% of my driving takes place between 6:30 am and 7:30 pm, Monday through Friday in North New Jersey.  During the two weeks discussed below, I only drove for one platform.  The week I drove for Uber (UberX only), my Lyft app was never turned on and vice versa.  If you split your time between platforms, you can still calculate earnings/hour as described below but if you run both apps simultaneously, this method will  not provide a reliable earnings/hour number.

Here's the math for computing your earnings per hour:

[(Trip Earnings + All bonuses + Tips) / Online Hours] - Vehicle cost per hour = Earnings per hour

Further down, we'll discuss "Vehicle cost per hour" which includes gas, insurance and vehicle maintenance but let's start with the numbers provided by Uber.  Please note, the calculations discussed in this post should not be used for tax purposes. 


 Part 1:  Your Uber Hourly Earnings 

Here's my weekly earnings from September 17 - 23, 2018:


The questionable number here is the "Total Earnings" of $611.93, because it includes tolls which are charged to your E-ZPass account, then included in the fare.  Tolls are a wash, you make no money from them.  Uber includes them here because it's part of your pay, but it shouldn't be included in your actual earnings.

"Online hours" is the total time spent searching for a ride, going to the pickup and driving the passenger.  If the app is open but you're offline, it's not included in "Online Hours".  It's best to convert this number to a decimal by dividing the minutes by 60.  In this case:

33/60 = 0.55 hours

So total online hours for the week is 24.55.

Uber currently has three different "bonus" types for New Jersey drivers - Rewards (Gold, Platinum, Diamond), Consecutive Trip and Quest Promotions.  Just add them all together.  I received $27.50 in Consecutive Trip bonuses so that's my total bonus for this week.

You should add your cash tips to the "Tip" figure provided by Uber.  I received $10 in cash tips this week so tips totaled $35.88.

If you incurred "Instant Pay Fees" for cashing out early, I recommend not including these because they aren't initiated by Uber and really have nothing to do with your job as a driver.

"Past Activity Adjustments" are adjustments for rides that took place during a previous week but the number is usually small and will have a negligible effect on your earnings.  We'll leave this out of the calculation.

Now it's simple to calculate your hourly pay.  Make sure to use the "Trip Earnings" number provided by Uber, not "Earnings" or "Total Earnings".  The formula is:

(Trip Earnings + Bonuses + Tip) / Online Hours

So driving for Uber, my hourly earnings (excluding gas, maintenance and other factors) for this week are:

(457.90 + 27.50 + 35.88) / 24.55 = $21.22/hour



 Part 2:  Your Lyft Hourly Earnings 

Now that's take a look at November 12-18, 2018, driving for Lyft:

Lyft driver weekly earnings screen


The "Total Earnings" number should be ignored, as it includes tolls.  Use the "Earnings" number instead.  The three types of Lyft "bonuses" - Prime Time, Bonus Zones and Ride Challenge - should be added together.  This week, my bonuses totaled $81.14 . I earned $8.00 is cash tips which brings my total tips for the week to $39.00 plus $15.00 in canceled rides.

Use the following formula for computing your hourly Lyft earnings:

(Earnings + Cancel Earnings + Bonuses + Tip) / Online Hours


So driving for Lyft, my hourly earnings (excluding gas, maintenance and other factors discussed below) for this week are:

(581.42 + 15.00 + 81.14 + 39.00) / 36.05 = $19.88/hour


This is a simple way to calculate your baseline earnings and it's perfect for comparing earnings across platforms if you drive for both Uber and Lyft.

If you track your earnings every week, you'll see quite a bit of variation, due to time of day, bonuses, surge pricing and many other factors.  The last week of September 2018, I was driving exclusively for Lyft, hit a $98 bonus, lots of tips and ended up making $26.21/hour, my best week on record.



Part 3:  Other Expenses 

Determining how much it costs to drive a certain car in a certain geographic area is a challenging task, requiring consideration for everyday expenses like gas, known expenses like tires and brakes and unknown future expenses like a new transmission.  I looked on various websites to find an accurate cost per mile for my 2012 Toyota Camry LE and found mostly conflicting numbers:

  • IRS - Granted a mileage deduction of 54.5¢ per mile for 2018, used as the cost of operating a vehicle for rideshare, regardless of the vehicle. 
  • Triple A - Estimates 54.45¢ per mile for medium-size sedans driven 20,000 miles/year or more
  • "How Much Does it Really Cost to Drive Your Car for Uber and Lyft" - 35¢ per mile, for a 2017 Camry
  • Calculator.me - 20¢ per mile according to the "Vehicle Operating Cost Calculator" 

Each of these make different assumptions and none account my personal driving style and locations I drive in.  The IRS number seems the most flawed because it's a blanket number for all vehicles.  For lack of a better method, we'll average the other three to reach a best guess cost per mile for my Camry:

(0.5445 + 0.35 + 0.20)/3 = 36.5¢ per mile

This significantly reduces my earnings per hour.  For the Uber example above, I drove 557 miles in 24.55 hours so that's 22.69 miles an hour.  Now we multiply the cost/mile and the miles driven/hour:

0.365 * 22.69 = $8.28 cost/hour

For Lyft, I drove 822 miles in 36.05 hours so $22.8 miles an hour.  The cost per mile this week is:

0.365 * 22.8 = $8.32 cost/hour

The platform we're driving on should have no bearing on these costs, so averaging them gets us approximately $8.30 in "other expenses" per hour.

Subtracting $8.30 from the earning per hour calculated above lowers my hourly earnings to $12.92 with Uber and $11.58 with Lyft for the weeks discussed.  As mentioned earlier, these number will vary from week to week but clearly vehicle expenses are a huge detriment to hourly earnings.

Suppose I drove an older, less dependable vehicle with poor gas mileage and used the IRS figure of 54.5¢ per mile.  In this case, my hourly vehicle cost skyrockets to $12.40/hour, cratering my earnings for Uber and Lyft to $8.82/hour and $7.48/hour, respectively - both below the New Jersey minimum wage of $8.85.


Conclusion 

My personal data should not be indicative of  all NJ drivers, as this is hardly a scientific study. But assuming my data is somewhere near the NJ average, we did learn a few things:
  • The method outlined in parts 1 and 2 (before "other expenses") is a simple way to track your hourly earnings and compare them across platforms.
  • Don't rely on a single week or even a single month of data when drawing conclusions about how much you make.  These numbers will vary widely over time.
  • Gas, vehicle maintenance/repairs, depreciation and other factors dramatically reduce your earnings
  • Driving the wrong vehicle (low MPG, poor dependability) may lower your earnings to below the New Jersey minimum wage of $8.85.  In which case, you should consider a new job.
This is officially my first post as a rideshare blogger so I hope you enjoyed it and learned something new.  Please feel free to further this discussion using the comments below.  Thank you for your time!

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