When it comes to earning extra money there are two rules: Work with what you have, and maximize your hourly rate.
That is one of the reasons driving for ridesharing companies like Uber and Lyft are so popular with moms: You use what you have (extra time, a car), and you can make a great hourly rate. Best of all, rideshare driving is entirely flexible, as you work when you want, which is so important for busy single moms.
What is ridesharing?
Ridesharing is exactly what it sounds like: a privately owned vehicle and driver on-call can give rides to anyone with a smartphone app. In many areas, ridesharing has replaced traditional taxis – and for good reason. Uber rates now even beat taxi fares in most cities and can be summoned much more conveniently than yellow cabs.
Other benefits of Uber and Lyft’s are that they tend to have higher standards and regulations, cleaner cars and seamless smartphone transactions. Being on the driving side of this booming industry has its perks. Whether you’re between jobs or on the hunt for a good side hustle, ridesharing can be a promising, lucrative venture.
What are the best rideshare companies?
Rideshare giants Lyft and Uber have established themselves as mainstays in the industry, outlasting similar startups that have since closed their proverbial car doors. While there are other rideshare companies, these two have dominated the market in a way that allows drivers and riders to use either in pretty much any location in the United States, and many places around the globe – great news for mamas looking to make some spare change, no matter their locale.
Is ridesharing a good side hustle for single moms?
Many elements of working for companies like Uber and Lyft are especially great fits for single moms: flexible hours, cash incentives, and independence. Uber has rolled out its Instant Pay program, which allows drivers to withdraw their earnings anytime, and not have to wait for payday. Lyft, too, has jumped on board with their Express Pay system. When compared with the biweekly pay schedule of more conventional jobs, the instant financial relief makes driving for a rideshare company even more attractive.
But what’s driving for Uber or Lyft really like? If it’s truly the ultimate side hustle, why do so few women drive for rideshare companies?
According to Forbes, only 14% of Uber drivers, and 30% of Lyft drivers are women. Understandably, the thought of driving strangers to unknown destinations can make anyone a bit nervous. However, research suggests the perception of driving for these companies may actually be scarier than the reality.
Pros and cons of driving for Uber and Lyft
Make your own schedule
Among the biggest benefits of being a driver is the flexibility it allows. Not many part-time or full-time jobs can offer a there-when-you-want-it work schedule; something crucial for busy moms looking to make more money.
Need to drive 20 hours on weeks when the kids are at their father’s house, but can only squeeze in a few hours other weeks? Perfectly fine. Need unexpected time off when your day job is busy, or kids are home on break? Take it! Choose your own schedule and work as often or as rarely as you’d like, for as many hours as you’d like!
Get paid more during peak times
During times of particularly high demand for drivers, like bad weather, rush hour, or special events (like sports games or concerts), fares can double or even triple to incentivize drivers to pick up riders. This means you’ll make exponentially more money for the same ride during times when there are no special events. Uber calls this price hike “Surge Pricing,” and Lyft calls it “Prime Time.” (Read below for tips and tricks to catch more rate surges.)
When you sign up to become a driver for Lyft or Uber, look for a promo code for a sign-on driver bonus. If you know someone who already drives for either Lyft or Uber, be sure to ask them for their referral code so you both get a little extra spending money.
Lyft driver bonuses can pay anywhere from $50 to $200, while Uber‘s bonuses have reportedly been up to $1200. Note: Sign-on bonuses are not retroactive, which means it’s crucial that you remember to enter the code at the time of sign-up in order to earn the cash.
Passenger referral bonuses
Passenger referrals are a great way to diversify your earnings when driving for rideshare companies. When you refer someone to sign up to ride with Uber or Lyft, you make extra cash. Lyft pays drivers $10 per referral, and Uber gives drivers $30 in extra ride credits — perfect for paying for your own trip home after a night out (don’t be that rider who barfs in the Uber!), or getting a ride to the airport for that vacay you’re paying for with Lyft earnings.
Uber Partner driver discounts
Uber’s driving incentives don’t end at sign-on bonuses; they provide an increasingly large network of rewards, discounts, and services for their fleet of drivers that are definitely worth taking advantage of.
One great way to reduce the costs of driving for Uber is to take advantage of their fuel and maintenance program. Get discounts on gas with the Partner Fuel card, which allows you to buy gas at a deep discount and deducts the cost directly from your earnings. Drivers report saving as high as 15 cents per gallon – sometimes even more. As for maintenance, the program grants you 15% off at Auto-Zone, Firestone, Maaco, Meineke, Midas, Jiffy Lube, Sears Auto Center, and Valvoline. Sweet!
Phone plans are also discounted for Uber drivers – a great perk since you’ll be conducting all of your business through the app. When you drive with Uber, you’ll save 15-18% on your monthly bill through AT&T or Sprint. These savings can be even be extended to your immediate family. While you’re at it, enjoy your free Pandora subscription, also courtesy of the Partner program. BAM!
Lyft’s Accelerate program
Lyft’s answer to Uber’s Partner program is called Accelerate: Premier Driver Rewards. This rewards program operates on a three-tier system (Silver, Gold, Platinum), based on the number of rides you’ve given. There are perks for each level, and as you level up, those rewards accumulate.
Every driver earns Silver when they join Lyft. This rewards program includes access to “Honest Dollar,” the first savings platform for independent contractors. Other Silver rewards include tax support with Intuit’s software at a discounted rate, discounts on monthly phone bills, family plans, and accessories through Verizon and the opportunity to find a health insurance plan through Lyft’s eHealth network.
Earn Gold, and you’ll have access to Silver rewards plus discounts on auto maintenance, tires, and tune-ups, in addition to other useful savings on things from screen repairs to gym memberships. Platinum-level drivers – those who give 200+ rides per month – get these rewards AND free roadside assistance from Allstate.
Understandably, driving strangers around by yourself doesn’t sound like a safe idea to most people. Uber and Lyft both realize this and work constantly to assure that both riders and drivers alike are vetted by a public rating system. This allows you to see a photo of the rider, as well as their ratings by other drivers prior to accepting the fare.
To add an extra layer of security, download an app like Find My Friends, which allows a designated friend or family member to track your whereabouts in real time during your shift. And, as with anything, following your gut is crucial. If you don’t want to continue a fare, you may drop off the passenger mid-ride, and report them to the app.
Tips not guaranteed
For both Uber and Lyft, tipping drivers isn’t the norm (though it’s greatly appreciated). However, both apps allow a tip to be added post-trip, and will not take any portion of the amount.
Depending on the distance between rides, the area in which you drive, and the number of hours you work, there can be a good deal of downtime between rides. Be strategic and either plan activities or errands to do during a slow time, or plan to work when and where it’s busy.
How to become an Uber driver (step-by-step)
1. Go to Uber.com on a computer or download the Uber app on your phone. Once there, click “Become a driver” and fill out the fields – or, if you already have an Uber account as a rider, just log in.
2. Enter the city you’d like to drive in, plus a driver referral code. (Use code: PRGEY if you don’t already know an Uber driver for a referral!)
3. Enter your social security number in the fields provided. Uber will use this information to perform a background check.
4. In most cases, you’ll need to have a quick vehicle inspection performed by a certified Uber inspection agent. Uber will help you find a nearby inspection center location. Bring your license, registration, and insurance card with you on your visit.
5. Scan or take a photo of your vehicle inspection form and upload it under “Driver Sign In” on uber.com/sign-in.
6. Upload your other documents (drivers license, vehicle registration and proof of insurance). If you’re using the app, you’ll be able to take photos of these documents.
7. If you haven’t already done so, download the Uber app on your smartphone.
8. Click “play” on the Uber welcome video for a complete visual guide to next steps and more detailed info.
9. As long as your documents are approved and your background check is successful, you’ll receive a welcome kit in the mail from Uber in a few days (if there’s high demand, it could take up to two weeks). This kit will include all of the information you need to start driving, including an Uber decal for your windshield.
How to become a Lyft driver (step-by-step)
2. Fill out your basic information in the fields provided. This will include entering your social security number for Lyft’s background check.
3. Once you’ve completed the online application, a Lyft mentor will email you. You’ll be required to take the mentor for a drive, during which he/she will observe your vehicle and your driving abilities. Following the ride, they will take a photo of you, your car, and your drivers license, which they’ll submit to Lyft on your behalf.
4. Once approved, you’ll receive confirmation, and you can download the app if you haven’t already, and begin driving!
Rideshare driver tips and tricks:
Maximize your earnings:
Driving during peak times can ensure a more efficient shift. During weekdays, aim to drive between 6 a.m.–10 a.m., and 2 p.m.–8 p.m. On weekends, the busiest times are evenings and late nights. These are also the timeframes when surge pricing is most likely, so you’ll increase your odds of earning the inflated fares! Other ways to earn surging fares include hanging out around large events, work on the holidays, and be near large clusters of bars and clubs around closing time. A little bit of strategy goes a long way.
Get a good phone mount:
Rideshareapps.com, a very successful rideshare driver, recommends drivers get the Kenu Airframe. The mount attaches directly to your car’s air vent, allowing the phone to be cooled while accessible at the same time. It costs $18 and is built with super-durable materials.
Taxes as a driver
As a relatively new industry, rideshare individual contractors often don’t fully understand how to estimate taxes owed on rideshare earnings. This guide to rideshare taxes is invaluable and is a great read when starting out as a driver. Keeping in mind what expenses to track from the beginning will really pay off at tax time.
Real moms review rideshare driving
I reached out to the mamas in our Millionaire Single Moms closed Facebook group. Here is what other single moms say about driving for Uber and Lyft:
I did Lyft for about 6 months and I really grew to enjoy it. But looking back it was not worth it for me. It takes a lot of time, energy and really you don’t make enough. It’s a good quick fix if you’re in a tight spot but otherwise, I would not recommend it. – Andrea, Sacramento, CA
I drive for Uber and Lyft and love it for a flexible, part-time job. I’m using it solely to pay off my divorce lawyer bill. I work when I want, for how long I want. I’m very careful to save money each week for taxes, and keep the income from this job in a separate account and pay the lawyer from that. – Tracy, Rochester, NY
It’s great for when you low on cash and need extra to pull you through or want to do something extra with the kids or yourself without going into your budget. I call it fun money. – Ann, Durham, NC
Driving Uber gave me some extra cash, and got me out of the house. I met some cool people and met some not so cool people. You’re a 1099, so you have to pay your own taxes, and I decided it was just not worth it. Most people expected candy or snacks/water for their trip, to load and unload their stuff and extras like that you don’t get paid for. I did Uber while I was injured and couldn’t lift heavy bags so people would get mad and didn’t understand that those mints and water and chips were something I paid extra for, not the company. Plus it made a mess in your car and the next person would complain to Uber that your car was dirty. Just wasn’t worth the little bit of money. – Amy, Chicago, IL
Share in the comments: Have you ever driven for Uber or Lyft? What has been your experience?
Holly Johnson is a financial expert, award-winning writer, and mother of two who is obsessed with frugality, budgeting and travel. In addition to serving as contributing editor for The Simple Dollar, Johnson owns Club Thrifty and is the co-author of “Zero Down Your Debt: Reclaim Your Income and Build a Life You’ll Love.”