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. Because while one of the benefits of Uber driving is that you can work as your own boss on your own schedule, some times are better to work than others. 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.”
Even when using your own car and setting your own hours, not all hours are created equal. Let’s take a look at the best times to drive for Uber, so that you don’t just make a little extra money, but rather a lot of money.
- The Best Time to Drive Depends on Your Location
- Early Mornings
- Afternoons to Early Evenings
- Late Evenings
- Mid-Day Weekdays
- Daytime Weekends
- Frequently Asked Questions
The Best Time to Drive Depends on Your Location
A lot of your timing decisions 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 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.
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 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. Go to the neighborhood of this type that’s as far away from the airport as possible!
Your goal is to get the longest possible trips you can. And your second goal is to complete them within the quickest amount of time. That’s because you don’t make much money on the time it takes to give a ride. 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 nearby 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 over $100 in less than five hours!
Afternoons to Early Evenings
This time period is the exact opposite of early morning. Now you’ll be taking all the workers home.
Afternoons are a very difficult time, though, because you risk running into rush hour traffic. Your early morning drive was profitable because you didn’t have much traffic for the first part of it. But in an afternoon drive, traffic is going to start bad and get worse as early evening arrives.
As you approach late evening, however, traffic will improve (and so will your earnings). 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 (especially toward the end of the week) can be very good. They would be our second choice after early mornings, especially because increased demand for rides during this time can help you get increased fares due to surge pricing.
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. Nightclubs are also a good area, as are colleges and universities.
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 break.
Strategy: Relax, chill, and take a much-needed break.
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 should position yourself in such a way that you can get the longest possible trips to those places. And in the evenings, you might consider positioning yourself in those places to get trips with riders who are coming back home.
Uber and Lyft Driving FAQ
Before we conclude this guide, we want to answer a few common questions about the best times to drive for Uber and Lyft, as well as some more general questions new rideshare drivers have.
1. Do Uber and Lyft require drivers to follow a set schedule?
No, they do not. As an Uber partner or Lyft driver, you can drive as little or as much as you want, whenever you want. If you want to do occasional rideshare driving during your spare time, you’re welcome to. In this case, it’s a lot like any other part-time job, except that you control your schedule and don’t have a set hourly wage limiting how much extra income you can make.
On the other hand, if you prefer to drive with Uber or Lyft as your only source of income, you can treat the service like a full-time job. You’ll still be an independent contractor without benefits or a regular salary, but you’ll be able to make a much larger amount of extra cash than someone who just drives part-time.
2. What are the requirements to drive for Uber and Lyft?
If you want to be a Lyft or Uber driver, there are certain requirements you need to meet. While not as strict as the requirements to be something like a taxi driver or other professional driver, you won’t be able to drive for Uber or Lyft without meeting them.
The main requirements for both platforms are as follows:
- Pass a criminal background check
- Pass a driving record check (sometimes called a DMV check)
- Have sufficient driving experience (usually at least a year)
- Have a valid auto insurance policy (we also recommend looking into getting a rideshare insurance policy for extra protection)
- Meet the vehicle requirements for the type of Lyft or Uber rides you want to give
For more information about specific requirements, consult our updated guides to the Lyft driver requirements and Uber driver requirements. You should also consult the current Lyft vehicle requirements and Uber vehicle requirements.
3. Which Lyft and Uber services should I drive for?
When you open the Lyft or Uber app, you may have noticed that there are many different vehicle options available. Even if most of them are too expensive for you to consider using on a regular basis, that doesn’t mean you should limit yourself in the same way when working as a rideshare driver.
Here’s an overview of the different Uber and Lyft services, including the benefits of driving for each and some recommendations of the best vehicles to use:
Both Uber and Lyft offer a ride service that lets passengers save money by sharing their ride with others headed in the same direction. As a driver, this service works much the same way as the regular UberX and Lyft services.
It can be a frustrating service to drive for at times, as you may end up earning less with it than if you just got one passenger on a longer trip. But you can’t opt out of driving for it, so it’s something that you just have to accept as part of being a rideshare driver. In terms of vehicle requirements, they’re also the same as for UberX and the regular Lyft service.
This is the regular service for Uber and Lyft. If you meet the basic driver and vehicle requirements, you can drive for this service. You won’t get rich driving for it, but you can make a solid income if you follow the driving strategies we discuss above.
The best Lyft and UberX cars are going to be practical and fuel-efficient. Think something like a Kia Soul, Hyundai Sonata, or Toyota Prius. These aren’t fancy, but passengers who take UberX or the regular Lyft service don’t expect that; they just want a reliable way to get from A to B.
Up next, we have the service you might choose if you need more space. Whereas UberX or regular Lyft rides can only accommodate up to four passengers, UberXL and Lyft XL can hold up to six. People who call these services either have a big group of people or a lot of bulky stuff that wouldn’t fit in a normal Lyft or UberX vehicle.
Due to the increased capacity requirements, you’ll need to be sure that you have a larger vehicle. Some of our favorite Lyft XL and UberXL cars include the Toyota Sienna, Toyota Highlander, GMC Acadia, and Dodge Journey. Learn about more of our top picks here.
This is where we start to get into the territory of high-end vehicles. Someone who picks this service wants a special ride experience. They can’t or don’t want to splurge for the really luxurious car services (see the next two sections), but they don’t want to ride around in a generic sedan, either.
When driving for UberSELECT or Lyft Lux, your vehicle options will be limited to more luxurious cars. You don’t have to have a Tesla or a Rolls-Royce, but the car should feel high-end. Examples include a Lincoln Town Car, Audi A3, Mercedes-Benz GL-Class, and Infiniti EX.
UberBLACK/Lyft Lux Black
Now we’re officially in the realm of true luxury. If someone takes one of these services, they’re either affluent or want a taste of what affluence feels like. To drive for these services, you not only need a luxury black car with a black leather interior, you also need to be a professional driver (with commercial insurance and licensing in many cities).
The extra requirements can be worth it, however, as the fares for these rides are on average at least double those of UberX or the regular Lyft service.
So what vehicle should you get to drive for these services? As you can imagine, only luxury cars are allowed. Some of our top picks include the BMW 5 Series, GMC Yukon, and Cadillac Escalade. To learn more, check out our guide to driving for UberBLACK and guide to Lyft Lux Black.
UberSUV/Lyft Lux Black XL
In the final category, we have ride types that are both luxurious and large. These cars have all the same requirements as UberBLACK and Lyft Lux Black, with the added requirement of being able to transport six passengers.
There are not many cars that will meet these requirements. We recommend one of the following: Chevrolet Suburban, Lincoln Navigator, or Ford Expedition Platinum. To learn more, consult our guide to UberSUV and this guide to Lyft Lux Black XL.
4. What are the benefits of being a rideshare driver?
Before you give that first Lyft or Uber ride, you should know about the many benefits that come with being a rideshare driver. To start, you get to meet interesting people. You never know whom you might connect with and what sorts of business opportunities or other long-term benefits it might lead to.
Another benefit is the chance to see your city in a whole new way. Even if you’ve lived in your town your whole life, being a rideshare driver will expose you to areas you might never have visited. You get to learn about new restaurants, attractions, and neighborhoods that might never have been on your radar otherwise.
And, of course, there’s the benefit we’ve already discussed at length in this guide: being your own boss. While some times are better than others to drive if you want to maximize your earnings, no one is forcing you to drive when you don’t want to (or can’t). Your income is in your hands, which offers an exciting taste of entrepreneurship.
Drive at the Best Times to Maximize Your Earnings
When driving for Uber and Lyft, the best way to boost your bottom line is to drive at times of highest demand. You do need to consider which times align best with your schedule, but, all other things being equal, you should be out driving when people want to go places.
We hope this guide has helped you find the best times to drive, as well as give you other valuable tips for maximizing your rideshare earnings. For more advice, check out our guide to making more money as an Uber driver (the advice applies equally to Lyft).
Jonathan Cousar began driving for Uber in 2013 when the ride-hail company first began operations in New York City. He has booked more than 7,000 trips. In 2014 he created Uber Driver Diaries, which was the first blog by an Uber driver describing the highs and lows of driving as well as offering tips and tricks and information on the industry as a whole. In 2016 Ridester acquired the site, and Jonathan began writing full-time about the rideshare industry and the gig economy. He has also done extensive research into driver issues related to pay and working conditions.