How Much Can You Make With Lyft?

FT Contributor
A person walking up to her Lyft driver with her smartphone in her hand.

The meteoric rise of the gig economy has been defined by few things more than ridesharing. The ability of anyone to use their phone to pay for a ride at any time has caused millions of individuals in the last decade to sign up for companies like Uber and Lyft to make a quick buck driving people around in their spare time.

While the ability to hail a cheap ride at the push of a button is revolutionary, a question that naturally arises is, “How are things working out for the drivers?”

To put it another way, how much money do Lyft drivers make? A recent survey by The Rideshare Guy put the answer at a comfy $17.49 per hour. Not bad for a side gig, right? However, there’s more to that number than meets the eye.

How Does Lyft Work?

In order to understand how much Lyft really pays, it’s important to consider what it takes to be a Lyft driver in the first place. 

It all starts by applying to become a driver. The application process can be a bit complex; you must prove both your own abilities as a driver as well as the fact that you have a roadworthy car. The specific requirements are outlined in the section below.

While all of this may seem like a lot of work, once you’ve set up your Lyft account, applied to become a driver, and been approved, things begin to get easier. From there you can sign into the app, tap “Go Online,” and then wait for your first ride. When a rideshare is offered to you, you’ll have around 15 seconds to accept it.

The beauty of rideshare as a side gig is the flexibility of the work itself. You can set your own hours and work anytime day or night. Lyft also provides resources and support for their drivers around the clock so that you always can get an answer to any questions that arise while you’re on the job.

In addition, Lyft drivers are paid weekly via direct deposit. However, if you find you need your side gig cash right away, you can pay a small fee to use Lyft Express and have the funds transferred immediately (although keep in mind that your financial institution may not allow you to access the funds until the next day).

Lyft Driver Requirements

The process to become a driver begins with your age. The age requirements vary by region, although typically if you’re under 21 you cannot drive for Lyft. In addition, you must have at least a year of driving experience to your name, regardless of your age.

You must also have a current in-state license and submit to a background check that will inspect your driving history and criminal record. They make a special point on the Lyft website to clarify that this is not a credit check.

Once you’ve proven your track record, it’s time to move on to your vehicle. There are two options for your vehicle when driving for Lyft. You can use Lyft’s car rental service Express Drive to rent a car, or you can drive your own.

Most often, drivers use their own cars. If this is your plan, your car must meet certain qualifications. You can find the age limit for Lyft vehicles in your region by visiting the “learn what you need to drive with Lyft” page and entering your city. A Lyft driver in Rochester, NY, for instance, must have a vehicle manufactured in 2004 or later. The vehicle must be a 4-door with a minimum of 5 seatbelts (including the driver’s).

You’ll be asked to upload various documents such as your car insurance and registration and have a driver profile photo taken. Depending on where you live, you may need to get your car inspected as well.

You’ll also need to possess a working smartphone to accept rides and navigate. In summary, the basic driver requirements are:

  • You must meet the minimum age requirements.
  • You must have a working driver’s license and at least one year of experience behind the wheel.
  • Your car must be approved.
  • You must have a working smartphone and Lyft account.

Lyft Driver Pay

When a Lyft driver completes a trip, they receive payment. That payment amount, reflected in the previously mentioned $17.49, can vary dramatically depending on factors like the year, time of day you typically work, and the geographic region. Even with these factors taken into consideration, every summary and report tends to vary — often dramatically — when offering a per-hour total.

Lyft itself reported that its riders make nearly $30 per hour when driving customers. However, when you factor in time spent waiting for trips, the number drops back down to the $18 to $19 per hour range.

One thing that everyone does tend to agree on, though, is the fact that the initial number isn’t what a Lyft driver actually takes home. There are several factors that water down the initial figure.

For one thing, Lyft takes its own cut of each ride. While this number once again appears to fluctuate, it seems to be around 20% of the total. In addition to this, drivers must take into account the costs of:

  • Car or lease payments.
  • Car repairs and maintenance.
  • Fuel.
  • Some tolls, licenses, and permit fees.

When everything is added up, these costs and fees take a significant chunk out of a driver’s paycheck. The Rideshare Guy survey put the after-expenses take-home pay of a Lyft driver at $11.55 per hour.

Lyft Driver Bonus

Fortunately, Lyft provides a couple of options for drivers to maximize their earnings. The first is the Lyft driver bonus. This includes:

  • Prime time pricing: This temporarily increases the pay per ride when the demand increases. If, for example, a football game ends and several hundred people are looking for rides at the same time, the price will spike, allowing drivers to make more money for their efforts.
  • Referral and new driver bonuses: Lyft also provides a series of different incentives that allow new drivers to make more money. For instance, one code guarantees drivers $1000 if they give 125 rides in the first 30 days.
  • Tips: Lyft drivers can also receive tips through the Lyft app, helping to boost their earnings if they provide quality rides for their clientele.

Lyft Weekly Guarantee

Finally, Lyft offers guarantees to its drivers. These can be weekday, weekend, or weekly guarantees. Much like the new driver referral, at times drivers will receive an email informing them that if they give a certain number of rides that week, they’ll be guaranteed a baseline income.

Say, for instance, a driver is guaranteed $30 if they complete three rides by the end of the day. If they give three rides and only make $20, Lyft will still guarantee them the $30. If, on the other hand, if they give three rides and make $45, they’re paid $45.

The Lyft guarantee program is a nice way for drivers to rest assured that they’ll be meeting a certain threshold of income at the end of a long day of driving.

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