Thursday, June 18, 2015

My Experience Driving Lyft and Uber in DC, code for DC $750 referral bonus for new Lyft drivers

So, I just started working Lyft in DC.  Here are the answers to all the questions I had when considering whether to work Lyft.  Later, I'll do the same deal for Uber!

If anyone is signing up to drive for Lyft in DC and needs a referral code for the $750 bonus, here's mine: VIRGINIA147995

Just apply on the Lyft site with that code, or use this link:

The way the bonus works is this: Apply AS SOON AS POSSIBLE.  The bonus only applies to the first 1,000 applicants.  Lyft is not generally known for their bonuses, so $750 is a pretty big deal.  Uber is recruiting Lyft drivers, so you could theoretically drive with Lyft until Uber puts out a bonus for existing Lyft drivers, and wind up with even more in bonuses.

You need:
- DC metro area drivers license (VA, DC, and MD residents can drive for Lyft in DC).  Insurance for the car in your name.
- 2004 or newer car that is reasonable clean and free of major dents or damage (major stuff that could make your passengers question your driving skills).
- Friendly personality, ability to pass a basic criminal/driving history background check (for questions on this I would check with Lyft... they are pretty motivated to hire drivers, so if you have something explainable in your history I would tell them and see what they say)
- Complete 50 rides within 30 days of being approved as a driver.

So.. what is it like to drive for Lyft/Uber in Washington DC, and is it worth it?

This was my Lyft experience.
 APPLICATION.  I got a referral code and was really careful to enter it when I applied online.  It took about 2 min to fill out the forms.  A week later Lyft sent me an email saying I was approved to take my mentoring ride/road test. 
ROAD TEST.  I clicked the "request mentor for road test" option on the Lyft app (self-explanatory once you get to this point).  30 sec later I was driving 1 mile to meet my mentor, Eric.  He was very friendly, spent about 10 min explaining Lyft and giving advice on driving, took a pic of me and the car, and checked the car for cleanliness and functionality of lights, wipers, airbags, etc.  Then he hopped in and we went for 2 ~10min drives.  During one I followed the GPS to a point (Google Maps or ATT Navigator are the approved apps for this).  During the other drive he gave me directions to a point.  I got a little nervous and missed a turn on the GPS drive, but it was not a big deal at all.  All in all it was a low-stress mentoring session and Eric was very helpful.  I got a chance to ask any questions I wanted to.  (On this note, Lyft's online question answering service has also been very helpful and responsive... it seems to be a good community of drivers).  We parted and Eric sent in my info.  An hour later I got an email from Lyft saying I was approved to drive and could do my first ride.
FIRST DRIVE.  I wasn't sure how it all worked until I did this.  Here it is:
Open Lyft app, in the upper right is a little symbol of a steering wheel.  Push it.  You are instantly available as a driver.  Push it again and you are instantly done working for the time being.  It's a simple as that... work whenever you want, for 1 sec up to 14 hours straight.  There are no minimum times or scheduled hours.. the ultimate in flexibility.
If someone near you requests a ride, their pic, distance to them (eg 5 min), and the average rating that other drivers have given them pops up on your phone.  You have 15 sec to accept the request.  If you don't it will just go away.  It doesn't really matter if you accept or not, but Lyft likes you to turn off the app when you're unavailable, and there are some bonuses available if you accept more than 90% of requests.  For me, this mean I usually try to accept a request, unless it is so far away I feel I will lose money on it, or if it's late and I'm in a part of town I'm not comfortable with.  You don't see where the rider is until you accept the request.  After accepting you can easily cancel the ride if you want, though it's not the best for your rating to do it alot.  I did this once for a ride that would have taken me 20 min out of town during prime time, just to pick the rider up.  You don't know where the rider's ultimate destination is until they get in the car. 
I accepted my first rider, drove to them, and pushed "arrive" on the app when I got there.  They had entered their destination and it popped up automatically on google maps for me.  When we arrived I pushed "drop off" and gave them a 5star rating.  Then I was available for the next ride.
It took me about a week to figure out what times of the day where worth driving and which weren't.  After 14 hours of driving in a 24 hour period, you have to take 6 hours off, whether or not the 14 hours were continuous.

- an almost instant part time or full time job
- hourly pay is pretty decent if you plan it right
- complete flexibility in setting your own hours and taking time off
- great sign-on bonuses
- meet interesting people, hear stories, brighten someone's day if they're stressed
- Lyft increases availability of transport service to the deaf, mute, and blind communities.  Fare-sharing allows drivers to make more money, passengers to save money, and increases efficiency of the transport system.

- High hourly wages are definitely not guaranteed; it all depends on volume of requests vs availability of drivers
- Potential for a lot of frustration at earning levels if you do not carefully assess your costs and wind up working during slow periods, working <50 20="" a="" and="" br="" etc.="" for="" gas="" hrs="" losing="" lot="" lyft="" needing="" of="" paying="" repairs="" to="" vehicle="" wk="">

SAFETY and PEOPLE: I've done 50 rides so far, and all of my riders have been friendly and nice.  I have not yet run into anyone who was unpleasant or made me feel uncomfortable.  About 50% of people want to chat, and the other half spend the ride on their phones/computers/phone conference/resting from a long work day.  A lot of people have interesting or funny stories to share.

AVERAGE HOURLY PAY: I have found that I gross $15-$25/hr in DC, depending on whether there is prime time pricing going on in the pickup area (+25%-100%), WHEN I DRIVE FOR 50-60 MIN OUT OF THE HOUR.  However, during a 14 hour weekday, I wind up only actively driving for about 50% of the time, so the hourly rate is less.  I'm OK with this because I bring my computer and get work done when not driving.  If it were not for this, though, it would really only be worth driving during commute hours and weekends, when I'm actively driving 75-100% of the time.

NET HOURLY PAY:  This is a hairy one.  So, these are the costs involved for driving Lyft:
1) Opportunity cost for down time when waiting for a ride request.  It's not really worth driving during non-prime hours unless you have something worthwhile to fill your off time: online work, writing, reading, simultaneous Uber driving, etc.
2) Fuel.  I drive a Prius and at 45 mpg and this works out to about $8-$10/$100 gross earned.
3) Other car costs: I consider most car costs, such as registration, insurance, etc, as costs I would have anyway.  Insurance: the vast majority of drivers use regular car insurance and don't mention to their insurance companies that they're ridesharing.  Commercial insurance costs roughly $6-10,000/year.  Lyft and Uber do provide some coverage when you're driving; this is worth researching for up to date info before signing up.  Wear and Tear: I put an average of 200 miles per day on the car during a 14 hour day.
4) Taxes: You have to pay an extra 15.3% self-employment tax.  On the other hand, you get to deduct expenses such as fuel and food and maintenance.  I average this out by deducting 10% of my gross for taxes.
5) Lyft takes a 20% commission, unless you turn the app on > 50 hrs/wk, including 10 hours during prime times- morning commutes and weekends.

I work > 50 hours/wk.  So, my net earnings tend to be:

$100 gross earnings:
- $10 for fuel
- $20 in Lyft commissions
+ $20 in commission rebate because I turn the app on for >50hrs/wk
- $10 in taxes
+ $8 in tips
$88 net earnings per $100 in gross earnings, minus car maintenance and repairs depending on your luck.

Since I've just started with Lyft, you'll have to wait for an updated post showing average daily earnings/hours worked.  It will make it very clear why it's only worth working prime time hours, or coupling Lyft with Uber work in DC!

BONUS: They didn't confirm when I signed on that I qualified for the $500 sign-up bonus, however it did show up as promised the day after I completed my 30th ride.

Hope this was helpful for those considering entering the sharing economy.  Again, you need a driver referral # for the $750 double-sided sign on bonus; ask your Lyft driver for one or use mine below:


Just apply on the Lyft site with that code, or use this link: