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How Much Do Lyft Drivers Make, Really? Factors That Eat Into Lyft Driver Salary

Last updated: October 5, 2021
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vector graphic showing a lyft vehicle with money coming out of it to indicate how much do Lyft drivers make

Over the last few years, there has been an ever-increasing interest in driving for Lyft.

It’s a quick way to earn extra money and drive on your own schedule, that’s for sure.

This is also combination of easy money, minimal startup costs, and easy accessibility has driven many to drive for the Lyft platform.

But how much can drivers really make?

I’m pretty excited about what we’ve discovered, so let’s jump right in.

A Primer to How Much Lyft Drivers Make

The answer to “how much do Lyft drivers make” depends on a lot of factors.

Someone who drives for Lyft as their main gig can make more than someone who does it as a side hustle.

Drivers in certain areas may also earn more, while the type of service can also affect the pay.

And if you get a generous passenger, you may earn more in one day.

Before we talk specific numbers, there are a few points that we must cover first.

1. Lyft Driver Salary vs Per Hour

Because Lyft drivers are independent contractors, they don’t receive a salary.

However, they can make money per hour based on their city’s per minute rate for rides.

So the more you drive, the more your driver earnings will increase.

But you can drive part-time and still make decent money, depending on other factors.

2. Income Varies by Location

A Lyft driver in Tampa, FL, can make about $12.71 per hour.

Charlotte, NC tops the $15 mark, with rideshare drivers earning an average hourly wage of $15.53.

Throughout the state of New Jersey, independent contractors can earn about $20.58 per hour.

Meanwhile, the San Francisco Bay Area has the highest average hourly wage at $23.28.

Other cities fall between those examples, with Seattle, San Jose, New York City, and Boston rounding out the top five.

In those cities, Lyft drivers make at least $21 per hour on average.

3. Income Varies by Service Level

Lyft offers multiple service levels to meet the needs of different passengers.

The types of rides available include:

  • Lyft (standard)
  • Lyft shared
  • Lyft XL
  • Lux
  • Lux Black
  • Lux Black XL
  • Preferred

Driving a Lux route, for example, can pay you more than a standard ride.

The Lux Black and Lux Black XL rides can also pay more.

Not only are these bigger rides, but you may get bigger passenger tips.

4. You Get Out of Lyft What You Put Into Lyft

Another factor that can affect earnings is the amount you drive.

Of course, the more you can get on the Lyft app and take passengers, the more you’ll be able to earn.

It doesn’t matter if you add one extra hour or a whole extra day to your driving schedule.

If you want to make a good living in the gig economy, consider driving as much as you can.

Then, you’ll be able to increase your earnings.

How Does Lyft Calculate Driver Pay?

Lyft adds a few things together to calculate driver pay for a particular route.

Understanding the different elements is important for part-time and full-time drivers.

Then, you can set yourself up to make more each day or week.

Here’s how Lyft calculates drivers’ pay rates.

Factors That Go Into a Ride Fare

When determining how much a ride will pay, Lyft starts with the time.

Each city, from Detroit to Denver, has a per-minute rate for rideshare drivers.

Lyft then adds the distance of the ride.

If the passenger gives a tip, that will also go to the driver.

Finally, Lyft can award bonuses

Ride Fare & Pricing

The base pay for each ride comes from the ride fare that Lyft pays.

Once you sign up as a Lyft driver, you’ll be able to view your rate card.

That card includes information for your base rate and minimum rate based on where you live.

Your rate card can tell you the minimum amount you can expect to make per ride.

That can help you predict your earnings for a given day or week.

Bonuses & Promotions

Lyft offers multiple types of bonuses to drivers.

For example, you may earn a bonus if you drive during a prime time when more passengers are waiting for rides.

If you accept multiple rides to form a streak, you may earn extra money for that.

And Lyft sometimes has driver challenges.

As long as you complete a certain number of rides in a certain period, they’ll pay you a bit more.

Tips From Lyft Passengers

One of the best ways to increase your wages when driving for Lyft is to get tips.

If a passenger enjoyed riding with you, they may be more likely to tip you.

You can keep an auxiliary cord or some snacks in your car.

That way, passengers can play music or grab a quick bite to eat before they get to their destination. And you might get more tips.

MINUS Lyft Commission

Unfortunately, you won’t receive the entire amount of the ride.

Lyft charges 20% for each ride, regardless of the type or distance.

The company can also charge you 2.5% for the Black Car Fund.

And your city may charge you a tax; the exact percentage may vary.

How Much Do Lyft Drivers Make Before Expenses?

Lyft drivers can make a decent income before expenses.

The numbers can vary between cities, and other factors are also at play.

However, you can make more than employees working in retail or food service.

You also have more flexibility as a Lyft driver, which can make the work even more worth it.

How Much Do Lyft Drivers Make per Hour?

According to over 3,700 salaries on Glassdoor, Lyft drivers make about $17 per hour on average.

Indeed states that independent contractors can make around $15.20 in one hour.

While these averages are useful, they aren’t the case for everyone.

For example, if you live in a city with a high cost of living, you might make more than average.

Your pay can also increase if you take advantage of surge pricing and other fees.

How Much Do Lyft Drivers Make per Week?

The amount of money you make per week can depend on how much you drive.

If you have a full-time schedule of 40 hours a week, you could make about $680 per week.

However, you’d need to have a passenger every minute of those 40 hours.

You may experience downtime, especially if you drive when there aren’t many rides available.

Income can fluctuate, even if your schedule stays the same.

How Much Do Lyft Drivers Make per Year?

Using the $17 per hour figure and a full-time schedule, you can make about $35,360 a year.

But that doesn’t account for any days off or downtime during your work.

Salary.com reports that drivers make $36,603 per year on average.

Drivers in the bottom 10% make about $24,758 in a year.

In the top 10%, they can make $52,078 annually.

If you want to make more per year, you may want to work more in a day or take fewer days off.

Consider if that extra income is worth it before you spend more time away from your home.

How Much Do Lyft Drivers Make per Trip?

Lyft drivers don’t all make the same amount per trip.

Factors that affect the pay include your location and the ride mode.

One example of a driver’s pay per trip is $7.98.

This driver picked up two passengers and drove them for about two miles.

Longer rides will pay more in the same city.

But you can also earn more if you drive in a more expensive city.

And driving at peak times may allow you to earn more with each trip.

How Much Do Lyft Drivers Make in Tips?

Tips are an excellent way to increase your earnings as a Lyft driver.

The amount you make in tips can depend on how often you drive, but it can also depend on your passengers.

Sometimes, you may get a lot of generous passengers who tip you well.

But you might also get passengers who don’t leave a tip or who leave a small tip.

The more you drive, though, the more you can make in tips overall.

If you want to increase your earnings from tips, aim to provide excellent service.

Consider having snacks or accessories on hand.

Don’t hesitate to ask your riders how you can make their experience better.

What Can Drivers Expect to Make (Numbers according to Lyft)

Lyft breaks down driver work stages into these 3 periods:

  • Period 1 — Driver signs into the app
  • Period 2 — Accepts a ride request
  • Period 3 — Drives passengers to their destination

During Period 2 and 3, Lyft reports median earnings to be $29.47 an hour nationally and $31.18 an hour in their top 25 city markets.

In Period 1, the driver might be online but not driving customers.

This waiting will drive down average wages, as it is time spent working with no clientele.

The amount that it affects wages is highly variable — some days can be slow, others extremely busy with almost no downtime.

Lyft reports that the hourly earning estimate that includes all 3 periods is $18.83 an hour nationally and $21.08 an hour in their top 25 markets.

Lyft driver salary: Lyft chart

But expenses should be taken into account, too.

Rideshare drivers incur many while driving, but typically these come out to be $3–$5 an hour.

However, this can vary based on your market.

In more expensive cities such as Washington, D.C., Boston, or Seattle, for instance, your expenses could be higher (especially if gas is expensive).

However, more expensive cities tend to come with higher base pay, which generally offsets the higher operating cost

Top-Paying Cities for Lyft Drivers

The top-paying cities for Lyft drivers may not surprise you because the cities have higher costs of living.

Drivers in the Bay Area make the most on average, at just over $23 an hour.

Seattle comes in at second place, and drivers can make $22.67 an hour there.

San Jose drivers can make about $22.27 per hour they drive.

New York City comes in at fourth place, with an average hourly wage of $21.68.

At $21.39 per hour, Boston rounds out the top five.

Don’t Forget About Lyft Driver Expenses

Unfortunately, the average wages for Lyft drivers don’t tell the whole story.

As an independent contractor, you’re responsible for your expenses.

Here are some bills you can expect to pay when you start driving for Lyft.

Common Operating Expenses for Lyft Drivers

To make sure you can drive when you want, you should budget for a few things.

While the exact pricing can vary, you want to prepare for the costs.

1. Vehicle Maintenance & Repairs

If your car isn’t in good condition, you won’t be able to work at all.

Make sure you take your car in for regular maintenance, such as an oil change.

But you might also need to take it in for repairs outside of regular maintenance.

That way, you will be able to drive safely.

2. Insurance

Lyft requires all drivers to have car insurance, and your insurance must meet your state’s requirements.

While not necessary, you may want to pay for rideshare insurance to protect you while you work.

Rideshare insurance can protect you and your passengers more than a personal plan.

But a personal plan is enough to get started.

3. Tolls & Fees

Perhaps you live in an area with a lot of toll roads.

You’ll need to cover the cost of any tolls and other fees for driving in your city.

Now, you can decline routes that take you on a toll road.

However, that can lower your potential earnings.

4. Phone Bill

To make sure you can accept rides anywhere, you should have a good phone plan with plenty of data.

Sure, you may be able to rely on WiFi, but that can cut down where you can find rides.

Make sure your carrier also has good coverage in your area so that you can access the app.

That way, you’ll be able to work consistently.

Unfortunately, Lyft won’t reimburse you for this expense.

5. Others

You might want to offer an auxiliary cord or a few chargers for your passengers.

Or perhaps you want to offer small snacks.

Getting your car washed and detailed can help make riders comfortable.

Those things are up to you, and you’ll be responsible for the cost.

This infographic helps illustrate the most common Lyft driver expenses:

Lyft driver salary: Expenses infographic

Often Overlooked: Tax Liability

You also need to consider that you have to pay taxes on your Lyft earnings.

Since you’re an independent contractor, Lyft gives you your entire paycheck, and you have to pay taxes yourself.

How Much Do Lyft Drivers Pay in Taxes?

Some Lyft drivers pay more in taxes than others, and it depends on your earnings.

If you drive full-time, you’ll need to pay more than someone who drives part-time.

You’ll need to pay the self-employment tax rate of 15.3%.

This goes to the federal government, and it applies to any income from Lyft or other sources of self-employment.

Most states also charge a state income tax, which you also have to pay.

However, some states, like Texas, Florida, and Nevada, don’t charge a state income tax.

Impact Being a 1099 Contractor Has on Earnings

Being a 1099 independent contractor can affect the amount of money you take home.

Not only do you have to cover your expenses, but you also have to pay taxes.

However, you may be able to write off the cost of your expenses on your tax return.

Be sure to talk to an accountant to see how you can lower your tax bill.

Responsible for Quarterly Payments

Once you start making a decent amount from driving for Lyft, you’ll need to pay your taxes each quarter.

You can send the IRS a check, or you can pay your taxes online.

Either way, you’ll need to pay taxes on January 15, April 15, June 15, and September 15.

That way, you won’t have to pay as much at the end of the year when you file your annual taxes.

How Do Lyft Drivers Payments Work?

Lyft driver payments are another critical aspect of making money from the app.

While you can drive a lot, it won’t be worth it if you can’t collect your earnings.

Before you start driving for Lyft, consider how and when the company will pay you.

That way, you can budget for your personal and work expenses accordingly.

When Does Lyft Pay Drivers?

Lyft initiates weekly payments early in the mornings on Tuesdays.

Depending on your bank and its processing time, you may get your money within one, two, or three business days.

On a normal week, that means you can receive your payment on Wednesday, Thursday, or Friday.

However, holidays, such as Independence Day or Thanksgiving, can delay that by a day.

If you don’t want to wait to receive your money, you can request your earnings through Express Pay.

That will pay your earnings instantly, but you still need to wait for your bank to process the transaction.

How Do Lyft Payments Work?

Lyft pays drivers per ride, which can incentivize you to work more and accept more rides from the app.

The pay per ride depends on the number of passengers and the cost per minute or mile in your area.

You’ll start earning money once you tell the app that you’ve arrived to pick up your passenger.

Then, you can continue to earn for the duration of the trip.

And you can receive those payments in a few ways.

That gives you even more flexibility and control over how you make money.

Types of Payments

Lyft offers multiple payment options for drivers.

That way, you won’t have to set up a new account or wait super long to receive your money.

Consider the following methods you can choose from for Lyft to pay you.

1. Bank Transfer

If you have a bank account, a bank transfer is the easiest way to receive your money from Lyft.

You can give Lyft your bank account information, and the money will hit your account each week without you having to do anything.

You do have to consider how long your bank takes to process payments.

That way, you’ll know what day each week you can expect your money.

Still, it’s a convenient option, and you can use the money as normal.

You don’t have to visit the bank to cash a check, and you can put the money in your check or savings account.

2. Instant Pay

Perhaps you have some upcoming bills and can’t afford to wait until your normal payday.

Lyft lets you request payment at any time within the app.

You may need to wait for it to clear and hit your bank account.

However, maybe you made a lot of money on Tuesday and can’t wait a week.

You can request the payment on Wednesday, and it will arrive in your account early.

3. Lyft Debit Card

Another great payment option to consider is the Lyft debit card.

You can receive your money instantly and not worry about bank processing times.

Plus, it offers cash back rewards on gas, groceries, and dining out.

You don’t have to pay any fees to maintain the account, and you can get cash from the card for free at thousands of ATMs.

The card is available through an application in the Lyft driver app.

Once you hit your weekly rental payment for an Express Driver, you can get paid after each trip.

Lyft Pay Reviews [Driver Video Testimonial]

Let’s look at a real-world example of what an active Lyft driver is actually earning.

The creator of this video runs a well-known YouTube channel called RideShare Tips.

A few things to note about the driver before watching the video:

  • He is a part-time driver only
  • He works in Los Angeles, which is one of the higher-paying cities for rideshare driving

Take a look:

A Google quick search on “How much do Lyft drivers make?” will display results of people dissatisfied with driving with Lyft.

Some claim that it is an unreliable source of income and that driving with Lyft incurs high vehicle maintenance costs.

This is true.

On the other hand, working for Lyft offer drivers flexibility as to when to drive and offers weekly guarantees on earnings.

Taking part in power driver bonuses and driving while surge pricing applies can boost driver earnings.

From this video, we learn that Lyft earnings are affected by the following:

  • Lyft cost tends to be higher than Uber’s
  • Lyft takes a smaller commission than Uber
  • Hidden costs like vehicle maintenance, insurance costs, vehicle depreciation, and fuel also eat up part of the earnings, and these costs are particularly higher for Uber drivers

Is Driving for Lyft Worth It?

Driving for Lyft may or may not be worth it, so consider your situation.

If you can drive full-time, then it will probably be worth it.

This is especially true if you drive during busier times.

On the other hand, if you only drive once per week, you may not make a lot of money.

Most of your earnings might go toward taxes and driving expenses.

Before you join, be sure to consider maintenance costs and other expenses.

Think about how much time you have to drive each week and if you’ll make good money in that time.

Frequently Asked Questions

If you still have questions about how much Lyft drivers make, you aren’t alone.

vector graphic showing a hand holding a clipboard and a man standing against a lyft vehicle in the background getting evaluated for lyft driver requirements

Can you make a living off Lyft driving?

Some Lyft drivers can make a good living.

If you’re willing to drive full-time and during peak hours, you can earn enough to support yourself.

But that may involve working weekends, evenings, and holidays.

That way, you can earn from surge pricing and make plenty of bonuses.

What are some ways to earn more with Lyft?

You can earn more with Lyft in a few ways:

  • Look for hot spots with more rides
  • Use a good GPS
  • Drive during busy times
  • Find the cheapest gas stations
  • Participate in challenges and other bonuses

Making money with Lyft is a great option for your side hustle or main gig.

However, you may need to get creative to increase your earnings without working more.

Luckily, you can try multiple things to see what works best for you.

It’s All About Putting In the Time

At the end of the day, Lyft driver earnings boil down to how drivers manage their time.

Full-time earnings (driving from 45 to 50 hours a week) can reach around $800 per week with Lyft, after expenses.

But consider everything from the average hourly rate to expenses and taxes.

However, you have to be willing to put in the hours to reach those numbers.

If you’re just driving with Lyft part-time, then you shouldn’t expect your earnings to be quite so high, especially if you’re not driving during times of high demand when surge pricing can kick in and help you boost your income further.

How much do you make as a Lyft driver?

Can you offer any advice to potential drivers, or other existing drivers on the road to increase Lyft driver income?

Let us know by leaving a comment below!

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