How much does a Lyft driver make when renting a car to drive?

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

POSITIVES

  • 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)

NEGATIVES

  • 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

FINANCES

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.

EXPERIENCES

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:

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Timbs Supreme Court Case: Amicus Briefs Stack Up Against Excessive Fines

In late November or early December, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear Timbs v. State of Indiana, a case that will decide whether the U.S. Constitution’s protection against excessive fines applies to state and local governments, just as it has applied to the federal government since 1791. The case involves the forfeiture of a $42,000 vehicle for a crime involving a few hundred dollars. The Indiana Supreme Court held that the Eighth Amendment’s Excessive Fines Clause applies to only the federal government and does not apply at all to state and local authorities.

“Our client, Tyson Timbs, has already paid his debt to society,” said Wesley Hottot, an attorney with the Institute for Justice, which is representing Timbs. “He’s taken responsibility for what he’s done. He’s paid fees. He’s in drug treatment. He’s holding down a job. He’s staying clean. But the State of Indiana wants to take his property, too, and give the proceeds to the agency that seized it. As we explained in our merits brief, there are limits, and this forfeiture crosses the line. We are asking the U.S. Supreme Court to reverse the Indiana Supreme Court’s ruling. This case is about more than just a vehicle; it’s about whether 330 million Americans get to enjoy their rights under the U.S. Constitution.”

Nineteen amicus (or “friend-of-the-court”) briefs have been filed thus far in Timbs. Among the more notable amici are:

  • The ACLU, R-Street Institute, Fines and Fees Justice Center and Southern Poverty Law Center, which submitted a brief that examines the effect of excessive fines and fees on the poor, as well as the use of fees to raise revenue for the government.
  • The American Bar Association’s brief examines how the Excessive Fines Clause protects equality of justice under the law.
  • The Constitutional Accountability Center’s brief spotlights the history of the passage of the 14th Amendment, and abuse of fines and forfeitures in post-Civil War southern states.
  • The DKT Liberty Project, Cato Institute, Goldwater Institute, Due Process Institute, Federal Bar Association Civil Rights Section and Texas Public Policy Foundation’s brief examines the abuses of forfeiture, fines, and plea bargaining.
  • The Drug Policy Alliance, NAACP, Americans for Prosperity, Brennan Center for Justice, FreedomWorks Foundation, Law Enforcement Action Partnership, and others’ brief examines the history of civil forfeiture and how it came to be.
  • Three prominent scholars of the Eighth Amendment submitted a neutral brief that provides a deep dive into the history behind the Excessive Fines Clause, going back to Magna Carta.
  • The Institute for Free Speech’s brief documents the danger of excessive fines for technical violations of campaign finance laws.
  • The Juvenile Law Center and 40 other organizations filed a brief that chronicles the harsh effects of excessive fines on juveniles in the criminal justice system.
  • The NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund’s brief provide a history of the 14th Amendment and asks the Court to revisit cases where it declined to incorporate portions of the Bill of Rights against the states.
  • The Pacific Legal Foundation’s brief documents abusive fines by state and local governments.
  • A collection of scholars, represented by UCLA School of Law Professor Eugene Volokh, filed a brief that discusses how excessive fines impact the poor.
  • The U.S. Chamber of Commerce filed a brief that examines how state attorneys general and other state and local government agencies impose excessive fines on businesses to raise revenue and even for political reasons.

Opposition amici in the case are due October 11.

The Institute for Justice released a high-resolution video news release that recounts Tyson Timbs’ battle to get his vehicle back and to extend constitutional protections against excessive fines across the entire United States.

The absurdity of Chicago’s rally of Uber & Lyft drivers

Today, drivers for Lyft and Uber are planning a rally to protest their low “wages” and the abuse some have taken while driving. It is absurd because they are all independent contractors and have the option to leave and do something else.

One female driver said she was tired of being “hit on” by riders. Another driver complains that he is only making a net profit of between $10-12 an hour. Then stop driving and do something else. It’s a far better idea than standing around, spending hours protesting for no money when you could be spending those protesting hours finding another gig or driving.

Perhaps these disgruntled drivers could change their mindset from that of an employee to that of a business owner. This can be seen when a driver describes the revenue and profit he or she generates as “wages.” When I have taken rides with Lyft and Uber, I can tell within a minute or two if the driver is thinking like an entrepreneur or an employee. Almost universally, the experience with the entrepreneurial thinking driver is far better than those who think as an employee.

 

Florida Senator Jeff Brandes offers bill to reform driver license suspension rules

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Yesterday, January 6, 2016, Senator Jeff Brandes (R-St. Petersburg) announced SPB 7046, related to penalties and fees, has been filed. The proposed legislation will dramatically reform the driver license suspension and revocation process in Florida, and follows a series of hearings by Senator Brandes in the Transportation Committee on the topic.

“Losing a driver license is a devastating penalty which most heavily impacts those with the least ability to afford it. For years the state has piled on driver license suspensions as an additional sanction for various non-driving related activity,” stated Senator Brandes. “This legislation will help thousands of Floridians who are caught in a relentless cycle of debt within the legal system. This bill will reduce a major burden on our courts from license suspensions, and it will give many Floridians a means to get back to work.”

The proposal follows media reports last year detailing the substantial number of driver license suspensions occurring annually in Florida. Following those reports, Senator Brandes and the Transportation Committee held several hearings and heard testimony by the State Division of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, elected Public Defenders, and various Clerks of Court. This proposal is a result of those hearings, and it is designed to radically reduce the number of suspended and revoked driver licenses. The bill establishes an alternative system for sanctions for the more than 1.2 million driver license suspensions annually.

SPB 7046 removes suspension and revocation penalties for certain non-driving-related offenses. Individuals who would have their licenses suspended today for many financial related issues will instead be issued a hardship license. The reform package also reforms a controversial surcharge in law for fines or fees which are sent to collections, and clearly establishes the right of a defendant in financial hardship to enter into community service as an alternative method of payment. Finally, the bill eliminates the felony criminal charge for a third or subsequent driving while license is suspended or revoked resulting from a defendant’s inability to pay a fine or fee.

My two days as a Lyft driver

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Some who know me well, know I like to do “experiments” and experience things a bit out of the ordinary. For instance, since it has become mainstream to have a smartphone, I went almost all summer with a “dumb” phone — no camera, no apps. It was both liberating and occasionally frustrating. I have since come to my senses and am again using a smartphone.

As part of another experiment, this past Friday, September 11, 2015, I was approved to become a Lyft driver. If you are not familiar with Lyft, it is very similar to Uber, but a bit more casual and IMO, fun. If you do not know what Uber is, when even my mother knows what it is, then I can only assume you are not from this Earth, in which case, this post will be meaningless. This past summer, all around good guy Earl Stewart of Earl Stewart Toyota gave me the idea, as he had become an Uber driver. As well, I have written extensively about the regulations facing ride share tech companies like Lyft and Uber for some time, even including a couple of posts here on this blog. So, I thought I would immerse myself in this new age of sharing rides which has the taxi companies all up in a huff. And just to qualm any fears, I did not drive around town with a large pink mustache attached to the grill of my BMW.

Uber and Lyft drivers come from all walks of life, some are retired, some are millionaires looking for interesting experiences, some are young people trying to get by and some are your typical “soccer moms” who are looking to earn a little extra money for the family. Heck, even politicians  have become Uber drivers.

I started off early Saturday morning and my Lyft ride was this person’s first Lyft – so we already had something in common since he was my first Lyft. What a great guy — interesting and fun. I picked him up on A1A as he was leaving his girlfriend’s place and needed a Lyft to his office. We had a great conversation on the ride to West Palm Beach. My next Lyft was for a great young guy, in college for sports medicine and aspring to become a sports doctor and open a sports management company in the future. He was leaving an overnight shift and needed a Lyft home — super interesting guy.Another was taking a young guy to work in Boynton Beach who had come to Florida by way of San Diego following a girl. According to him, it was a big mistake as he was now “stuck” in South Florida without the girl and without his prior job, which he loved — working on a sports fishing boat.  My last Lyft of the day (I was only on the driver platform for two hours) was driving a nice young lady to her work in the West Palm Beach area.

All and all, though I was only out two hours, I derived this could be a good way for someone needing some extra cash, or someone to do this full time. I have calculated I would net $13 per hour after car expenses, which is more than many low-wage Palm Beachers make. If they had a quality car, like one from Earl Stewart Toyota (shameless plug, even though I have no financial connection to the company), they could do alright. Admittingly, I did not drive during the reportedly more lucrative times (at night during the weekends and special events) so the $ per hour number could rise substantially if drivers drove during those times. One friend said he made over $1,000 driving on a recent Friday and Saturday night.

I went out Sunday, intermittingly — in the morning for a time, mid-day, and for an hour later in the afternoon. I had six Lyfts which were mostly people going to or from work and one Lyft was from a group of people leaving the beach. I ended the weekend doing ten Lyfts and getting a 5 out of 5 rating from those who rode with me.

What I discovered in this admittingly limited window into the ridesharing world, is that most people using Lyft (and I assume all ridesharing companies) are hardworking, honest people just looking to get ahead in this world. It was inspiring, frankly.

I do not know how much more Lyfting I will do, but overall it was fun and interesting. As you can also guess, I feel the regulation stranglehold our elected officials are trying to use to ruin the future of transportation is appalling. Those calling for more regulation are doing so at the behest of the old, traditional cab companies, which according to everyone I’ve asked, offer far worse service than either Lyft or Uber. Rather than scale up their businesses, they are attempting to use the strong arm of the government to shut down their competition. Commissioners say they are doing it in the name of “safety” but NOT ONE person has come forward to offer ANY evidence Lyft or Uber are any less safe than traditional taxi companies and there is even mounting evidence that companies like Lyft and Uber are making things SAFER on the roads. Heck, even MAAD has come out in support of ridesharing companies like Uber and Lyft. Bureaucrats have temporarily succeeded in beating down the high-tech newcomers in Broward County where Lyft and Uber are  no longer permitted by the county government to pick up rides and the county is far worse off for doing so. Fortunately, Broward County Commissioners are meeting this month to fix what they screwed up due to high demand from citizens who are fans of both Uber and Lyft.

One last thing, if you want to try Lyft, use this link to get a free $20 first ride!

IF you think you may want to become a driver, use this link to get a BONUS!

BROWARD UPDATE: Since this blog post, Lyft and Uber are legally back in Broward County with the added ability to pick up and drop off and the Fort Lauderdale Airport and the cruise port.

GENERAL UPDATE: I will be doing another Lyft experiment the week of November 9, 2015, driving for 40+ hours to see what it is like full-time. What can I make financially? Will I continue to enjoy it or will it seem more like a job? Find out the following week when I post here on my blog. Follow this blog to find out!

Florida Gubernatorial candidate fights Real ID in court tomorrow

Florida Gubernatorial candidate Adrian Wyllie continues his fight against Real ID and the State of Florida in court tomorrow, July 18, 2014 at 1:30 p.m. He will be in a hearing at the Pinellas County Justice Center in Clearwater, Florida to dismiss the state’s charge against him for traveling for personal purposes without their permission. Should the judge rule in favor of his motion, then Real ID will have been found to be unconstitutional in Florida. If the judge denies the motion, there will be a jury trial in August. Wyllie is facing Rick Scott and the Democratic primary winner (Charlie Crist or Nan Rich) in the general election in November, 2014 to be Florida’s next governor.

Read the FULL story here.