UPDATE: On April 29, 2019, Lyft lowered its per mile compensation to drivers to offset high insurance costs of their Express Drive program. As a result, I can no longer recommend this program except in extreme circumstances where you only want to net $10-13/hour and have no other means for a vehicle. Under the current rates, drivers are paid $0.664 per mile if they use their own car and $0.488 if they rent the car through Lyft’s Express Drive. Depending upon the vehicle you choose to use to drive (I recommend a Prius or other high MPG, low maintenance car), then you should use your own car or buy a car specifically for the purpose of driving. That way, you can write off the entire cost of the car purchase offsetting your tax bill — even if you finance the car. That, in addition to other deductions, should eliminate any income taxes most drivers have for at least the first year of driving.
So, we are back with another experiment. This time revisiting one of my favorites — LYFT driving. You may remember, back in late 2015 I did an experiment trying to learn how much those driving their car for Lyft were actually bringing home after expenses. These days, you do not even need a car in order to drive for Lyft…or Uber, for that matter. Both companies have agreements with rental car companies so potential drivers can rent a car instead of using their own car or if they do not own a car. This opens up additional opportunities for those seeking to earn money with Lyft.
We’ll get into some of the experiences I encountered while driving, the finances, as well as weighing the positives and negatives renting a car through Lyft’s Express Drive Program. Scroll down to the section that interests you most. My Lyft/Hertz rental car is due back on Thursday; will I turn it in or keep on with the fun?!?!
Drivers for Lyft are as varied as the riders. Some drivers are actually millionaires or well-off people (some retirees) seeking to find something to do, while others are just normal people needing to get income and have been living paycheck to paycheck. You have the freedom to go on or off the driving platform at will, so this is a great choice for those seeking to maximize the freedom of their time. Use this link to start driving for Lyft!
Spoiler alert: Renting a car through Lyft’s Express Drive only makes sense if you are doing this full time. Everything mentioned herein relates to South Florida driving and “based” out of Southern Palm Beach County. This blog post is also only based on two weeks for the experiment. Situations may be different in other cities.
POSITIVES and NEGATIVES to RENTING
- No wear and tear on your own car (driving 200-300 miles each day is typical for a full-time driver)
- Ability to earn money when one does not own a car
- Most of your costs are that of gasoline and car washing
- All insurance and maintenance are included with the rental cost — minus tire flats and should you end up with a cracked windshield. As well, there is a $1,000 deductible on the insurance.
- Make at least 100 rides each week will bring the cost of the rental down to about $95 per week (from $237)
- Freedom to work your own hours as well as start and stop from any location in South Florida
- Unlimited miles and the ability to use the rental vehicle for personal use
- No long term commitment
- Tax deduction of 58 cents per mile (includes all miles while on the platform not just when the passenger is in the vehicle)
- Somewhat limited availability of rental cars, as well as the variety of vehicles available (this is not a typical Hertz car rental arrangement)
- Cost – if you do not meet a certain number of rides, then you are on the hook for the entire $237 per week rental cost
- Need to travel to/from Dania (near FLL) to pick up and drop off the rental car
- $250 deposit (refundable)
- Limited to only driving on the Lyft platform and NOT Uber with the rental car
OK, so let’s see if all this makes any sense to do. When I first learned about this rental car program I could not understand how anyone could earn money renting a car as a driver. The results show that if one is driving casually or to supplement their income by driving part-time, then I do not recommend renting a car to drive for Lyft. Driving part-time, you are not likely to meet the threshold to qualify for $140 per week of rental rewards which would make your per hour net not worth doing, in my opinion.
I took on this experiment again after reading some drivers were making only $5 per hour and yet would read elsewhere $35 per hour. Additionally, I head up a Meetup discussion group where one question posed was, “What was your favorite job?” I had to admit that my stint in 2015 driving for Lyft was the most fun way I had earned money in my 50 years.
You are not going to get rich driving for Lyft, but you will earn an average income. The average Palm Beach County resident earns around $50,000 per year and this is within range of a full-time, quality Lyft driver — at least from my experience.
So, let’s assume you are driving a minimum of 45 hours per week and preferably over 50 hours each week. This amount of time would be typical for a regular job. The advantage here is you have the ability to go on and off the driving platform at your whim. The least busy day of the week in South Florida seems to be Wednesdays. Lyft shows this through their demand graphs and I have confirmed this myself. Much to my surprise, my busiest day of the week is Sunday. If one is considering driving, I would recommend driving six days a week and taking Wednesday’s off. By law, you are only allowed up to 14 hours a day to drive, no matter how you split those hours up during any 24 hour period.
The bottom line is you can net $800 to $1,000 per week driving through Lyft’s Express Drive program. Your costs are the gas and the rental car. If you are trying to determine your net per hour, it comes in at between $15 to $20 per hour. This can increase if you drive a more fuel-efficient vehicle and choose to drive in the evenings, assuming you have the temperament to deal with drunk people. I am super nice to riders and have a gregarious personality; however, dealing with the logistics associated with picking up drunk riders is an experience which I have little tolerance.
The rental car I was able to choose was a 33 average miles per gallon Hyundai Elantra. If one was able to get a Prius (50+MPG) for example, your net margin would obviously be greater. Another consideration is you are able to write off as a federal tax deduction all the costs of rental including operational costs or take the 58 cents per mile deduction (see your tax professional).
If you are facing a large tax bill before taking on this endeavor you may want to consider foregoing the rental car program and buying a Prius or other 50+ miles per gallon vehicle as you will likely be able to write off the entire purchase cost of the car. If this is a factor, make your decision after consulting your tax professional as everyone’s tax liabilities are different due to their personal situations.
WOW! So, the experiences…one could write a book. If one is looking for variety, freedom, and fun, then driving for Lyft is for you! You will pick up people from all walks of life and take them to all sorts of places — it truly runs the gamut. If you like people and you like driving, this could be the profession for you.
You can drop off someone in a lower income area and next pick up an individual who owns a $5+ million home. I truly appreciate the upper-income people taking a regular Lyft as, unless they have requested a “Lux” or “Lux Black” Lyft, they do not know if you’re showing up with an average car or a little Corolla. They are the most down-to-Earth wealthy people and like everyone else, are just looking for a nice ride to their destination.
Just like there is a wide range of riders, drivers do not know if they are going to be on Palm Beach or Key Biscayne. They could be at the beach one moment, then way out in horse-country the next.
I guess the biggest change from 2015 to now with regard to riders is that back then, about 40% of my riders were recovering addicts. This time around it is rare to pick up those in recovery. I never had a bad ride with any addicts, so I do not care, it is just an observation. Most people seeking a ride are mostly going to work, going to the airport, or are doing the “walk of shame.” During this experiment, I was going out at 5 a.m. so early morning experiences may be different than 5 p.m.
Sometimes, you end up being somewhat of a psychiatrist. During this experiment, I had a man my age start crying in the back seat as he opened up about how his life has changed recently. One of my first rides was a 20-year-old girl who had gotten herself in a very difficult situation at a Super 8 motel that I “rescued” her from. Rescue is a valid word for what happened which is similar to another rescue I did for another single girl in 2015 in Fort Lauderdale during my prior experiment.
Another time during this experiment, I picked up a 30 +/- year old man on Sunrise Blvd in front of an apartment complex for which he exited after hooking up with a girl overnight. He seemed like a super nice guy and we had a great conversation during his ride. I was shocked to see I was dropping him off at his waterfront home, where the yacht at the dock in the back was bigger than his large multi-million dollar home.
Often, a driver has riders who work for billionaires in $20+ million homes. I had a ride yesterday for the chef of a well-known billionaire who I was glad to see honoring the NDA (non-disclosure agreement) he signed as a condition of his employment. Not that I was asking for any information, but it was a welcome contrast to an experience I had with a staff member for a South American billionaire who spouted out all kinds of awful details about the family.
Then sometimes you just have rides where people are engrossed in their phones and choose not to communicate with the driver, which is fine. After all, Lyft is somewhat of a utility. Overall, drivers are there to serve and offer the best experience for the riders. Some riders want to talk, others do not, and that is OK.
The funniest experience during this 2019 experiment happened just the other day. I picked up a young gentleman at his house in the Eastern part of Delray Beach and he was going to a bank out on Jog Road, then heading back to his house. I thought he was going to sign some papers, as there are EIGHT other branches of this bank that were closer to his home, but I quickly learned he was only going there to withdraw cash from its ATM! While at the ATM, he discovered he didn’t have any money in the bank, so he spent the time on the way back to his home on the phone with the bank trying to understand why he doesn’t have any money. Shouldn’t he have checked his balance before he left his home? Shouldn’t he have used an ATM closer to his home to save on the cost of the Lyft? The ride cost him over $20 and though I felt bad for him, I think I know why he didn’t have any money in the bank that day.
Here are a couple of examples of where I drove during a couple of the days: