The Best Times to Drive for Uber & Lyft

One of the first questions new and prospective Uber and Lyft drivers want to know the answer to – is what are the best times to drive?

And that’s a great question to ask actually.  Because one of the benefits Uber and Lyft tout to new drivers is the fact that you can work whenever you want.

It is true, in a way, that you can work whenever you want.  But, if you want to actually make money at it, then you’re going to have to work when there is demand.  Or, in other words, when it’s busy.

As Ridester’s Sam Choi tells us in his driver video training series, working whenever you want is “one of the beautiful things about rideshare, I could literally turn on my app right now and get a ping and just leave this video right now and make money!”

But, Sam continues, “Should I? No, because it’s not always an optimal time to drive.  That’s probably the most simple thing possible to say, but a lot of drivers don’t think about that. Where are people at and when do they need rides? That’s it.”

It Really Depends on Where you Are

A lot of your timing decisions actually depend on where you are and where you’re going to drive.  Things vary from city to city.  Timing is different in small towns than they are in big cities.  And timing is very different in resort areas.  So, a lot of when you drive will depend on where you drive.

There are some things most cities have in common though and we’ll take a look at those.  And keep in mind, we’re giving you general principles that can be broadly applied to most locations.  But things will differ in your specific area, so take these principles and apply them to what you already know about the area where you will drive.

Below is our assessment, after years of experience, of what you can expect from driving these different times.  After reading these, start to make a plan and figure out which one or ones you think you’d most enjoy working.

Let’s jump right into the best times to drive for Uber and Lyft.

Early Mornings

Early mornings are a great time to drive in most cities.  And when we say early, we’re not talking 7:00 or 8:00 in the morning, we’re talking more like 3:30-4:00 a.m.

Strategy:  To understand the early morning strategy, think about what people are doing that early in the morning.  What would someone be doing, going out at 3:30 or 4:00 in the morning?  Of course it depends on where you position yourself.  If you’re positioned in a location where there are a lot of bars, then you’ll probably end up getting the few last late night stragglers who are trying to get home!

So, that’s not where you want to position yourself at 4:00 in the morning.  Where you want to position yourself is in the suburbs outside your city.  And you want to choose upscale suburbs.  Suburbs where successful, working professionals live.  That’s because in those areas during these early hours, you’ll get a lot of people going to the airport for very early morning flights.

That means, you don’t want to position yourself in just any successful, working professional neighborhood.  You want to position yourself in this type of neighborhood that is as far away from the airport as possible!

That’s because your goal is to get the longest possible trips you can.  And your second goal is to get the longest possible trips you can get that can be completed within the quickest amount of time.  That’s because you don’t make much money on time.  You make the vast majority of your money on distance.  So, you want to get these long trips that you can complete with a minimal amount of traffic.

That’s why early morning trips are so key.  There is no traffic at 4:00 and 5:00 in the morning.  You should be able to get in one airport run and have enough time to go back to the same area for seconds.  If you can get two airport trips in, that’ll give you a huge leg up on your day.

Here’s what a typical good early morning would look like – if all goes well:

4:15 a.m. – you get your first call.  It’s an airport trip (of course, where else would they be going at that hour)?  You make $28

5:45 a.m. You’ve dropped your passenger off at the airport and made it back to your suburban staging area where you now get Airport Trip #2.  You make $28 plus a $2 tip for $30 total.

6:15 a.m. You’re back again at your suburban area and you’ve just now gotten trip #3.  It’s a trip to some random location nearby.  You make $8.

6:45 a.m. You’ve dropped them off and headed back to your staging area where you now get call #4.  It’s a guy going to work in the downtown business district – which fortunately for you – is about the same distance away as the airport!  You make $25 on this trip, with no tip.

7:30 a.m. – Now you’re in a bit of conundrum.  You’re in the downtown business district.  Traffic is starting to heat up and you’re not sure if you have enough time to make it back out to your suburban staging area.  You know you’re not going to get any calls downtown at that time, because people are coming into downtown right now – not leaving.

You feel good knowing though, that you’re up $91 and it’s only 7:30 in the morning!  And you’ve only been out for four hours!

Anyway, you decide to head for the suburbs for one last office run, but instead of going to the one where you started, you head to one that’s a little closer.

8:00 a.m. – You get a call from the near suburb and it’s an office worker going to her job.  This takes you back to downtown and you earn $11.

Now you’re up $102 in four and a half hours.  This puts you at a respectable $22.65 an hour.

It’s now 8:30 and you’ll have to figure out what to do next based on what you know about your city.  You might know of a residential pocket somewhere nearby where you can pick up another quick fare.  Or you might decide to throw in the towel for the morning and go home happy that you made $100+ in less than five hours!

Afternoons – Early Evenings

This time period is the exact opposite of Early Morning.  Now you’ll be taking all the workers home, who you earlier brought to work!

Afternoons is a very difficult time though because it’s at the height are rush hour traffic.  Your early morning drive was profitable because you didn’t have much traffic for the first part of it.  But afternoon drive – you’re going to start off in the worst of traffic.

The later the afternoon wears on though – the better traffic will get.  A lot of times you can make more in the early evenings – 7:00 – 9:00 p.m. than you can during the height of afternoon rush hour.

Strategy:  Position yourself in the downtown business district and just slog it out!

Late Evenings

Late evenings – especially toward the end of the week can be very good.  They would be our second choice after early mornings.  The biggest problem is you’ll end up transporting a lot of drunk people around.  Some drivers can tolerate this nuisance better than others.  So, if you’re one who can tolerate it, this might be a great time for you to drive.  If you’re not – consider early mornings.

Strategy:  Position yourself in areas with a high concentration of late night restaurants and bars.  Night clubs are also a good area.  Colleges and universities are good areas as well.

Mid-Day Weekdays

Mid-day on weekdays is generally the least busy time of all for Uber and Lyft.  This is because most people are usually indoors doing whatever it is they do during the day – and they’re not going to be coming out until later afternoon or early evening.  This is a great time for drivers to take a much needed break!

Strategy:  Relax, chill and take a much needed break.

Day Time Weekends

Weekend days are actually a pretty good time for Uber and Lyft drivers.  That’s because people are on the move.  They’re not chained to their desks at work on the weekends.  They can actually get out and move about – and they do!

Strategy:  During weekend days, you want to position yourself in residential areas.  Since people won’t be going to the downtown business district or the airport – you don’t need to worry about getting into a good position for those kinds of trips.

However, if there is some kind of local attraction, like a lake, park or beach, that people flock to on the weekends, then you’d want to position yourself in such a way that you could get the longest possible trips to those places.  And in the evenings you might position yourself in those places to get trips with riders who are coming back home.