Should You Drive in Traffic?

So, after watching the video above, what do you think? Should you drive your rideshare vehicle in traffic?

Sam says no!  And we agree!  Driving in traffic is really a nightmare.  And it can send your earnings plummeting through the floor.

Here’s why driving in rush hour traffic is not usually good.  You get a call from a passenger.  The passenger is three blocks behind you.  So, you have to make several turns to get back to them.  It ends up taking you 12 minutes to get to them.

Once you pick them up and they’re in the car, the passenger happily informs you that he’s only going a short way!  As if he really believes you’ll be grateful that it’s not a long trip!  You start the trip in the driver app and sure enough – he was right.  He’s not going far!  Just 2.3 miles.  And at the $0.75 you make per mile – that’s all good with you… right?

No!  Of course it’s not good.  It’s not good at all!  You are going to make the minimum fare – which in a lot of markets around the country will earn you about $3.60.  Oh and to make the insult worse – the trip took 20 minutes.  When you include wait time for the passenger to come out – you’re looking at almost 40 minutes of your last hour consumed with this one $3.60 trip.

It’s just not worth it – at all!  You can literally make as little as $3 an hour in heavy rush hour traffic.

Is it Ever Worth It?

A few drivers claim that passengers understand and feel sorry for them when they take them on super short trips in really bad traffic and leave great tips.

However, Uber and Lyft both have limits on tips.  On a minimum distance trip, a passenger is going to be limited to around $20.  Some drivers have said passengers have left them a 100% tip – or double the fare.  But in a typical rush hour traffic trip, that still means you’re only going to make around $8-$10 for those hours.  And don’t forget all your car expenses.  $8-$10 means you’re actually losing money.

The only way driving in serious traffic is ever worth it is if you wait for the surge.  If there’s no surge – don’t even think about it.

Surprise Traffic

What is surprise traffic?  Surprise traffic is traffic which catches everyone by surprise.  Maybe it’s caused by an unexpected thunder storm or snow storm.  When surprise weather causes traffic, there’s a good chance things will begin to surge and it could be worth it to drive in heavy traffic during those times.

When bad weather arrives that has been long predicted, there’s less chance of there being any benefit to drivers.  When bad weather is accurately predicted several days in advance, it gives people time to prepare for it and they’ll be less likely to need an “emergency” Uber or Lyft.  But things could still get busy simply because more people will need an Uber or Lyft in bad weather – whether it was predicted or not.

Why it’s So Hard to Make Money During Rush Hour

The main drawback to rush hour driving is the fact that although both Uber and Lyft do now pay for time while you’re with a passenger, they literally pay only pennies per minute.  Drivers make most of their money on distance, not on time.  So, when they’re going a very short distance, but it takes them a long time to get there, they’re not going to make anything.  After car expenses, their earnings can be in the negative numbers.

Here’s a good example.  In medium size cities, drivers may not mind so much driving during rush hour.  Because the traffic isn’t going to be as terrible as it is in the largest cities.  So, let’s look at what Uber pays drivers in Minneapolis – to get a good idea why it’s so hard to make anything when your car is barely moving.

Uber pays drivers just $0.12 per minute (net to the driver).  This comes out to just $7.2 an hour – so it’s not much.  Drivers in Minneapolis also get paid $0.78 per mile (net to the driver).  So, on a 3-mile, 20-minute trip the drive would get about $6.71 (including their 75% share of the $2.60 booking fee).

If it took the driver, say, 15 minutes from the time he got the ping until the time the passenger was in the car (and during times of high traffic, that’s a pretty reasonable estimate), this means he made $6.71 in 35 minutes which would be equivalent to $11.50 an hour – if he could get another passenger immediately.  However, if it takes another 15 to 20 minutes for him to get another passenger in the car – his hour will be mostly used up.  And he would have made about $7.50 that hour.

That’s why drivers don’t like driving during rush hour driving.  Always remember, you make your real money on distance.  The farther you can drive in an hour with a paying passenger in the car, the better you’ll do.  If you’re sitting stuck in traffic though – taking 25 minutes to go 3 miles – you’re not going to do very well.

Top Earning Drivers Do Rush Hour

Top earning drivers work full-time.  They don’t usually let a busy time like rush hour pass them by.

If you’re going to be a top earning driver, you’ll figure out a way to find something to do during the rush hour periods.  You could possibly do deliveries during this time.  Instead of heading downtown to the central business district to take office workers home, why not head out to the suburbs where they live and do early dinner deliveries during that time.  That way you can avoid the worst part of the traffic while still turning in some earnings during those hours.

If you take our first example above – our driver who made $3.60 in 40 minutes, driving during rush hour and multiply that by three hours of rush hour – you come up with $10.80 total.  But his chances of making the bare minimum for the three straight hours of rush hour are pretty slim.  There’s a pretty good chance he’ll get a better trip sometime during those hours.  He could get a $20 trip the next hour.  So, in the end, it’s probably better to be out doing something – than just sitting at home waiting for it all to blow over!

Rideshare Resources

Video Transcription:

A really common question I get is, “Should you drive during traffic time?” Maybe, okay? That’s what I would say.

This is me controversial. So if you’re a veteran driver, you can disagree with me, that’s fine. And Berenice is going to disagree with me a little bit but that’s okay.

Everyone’s going to do things a little different. Here’s why I’m not a big fan of traffic. So, here’s a scenario. Let’s say you’re waiting around and you get a ride during rush hour and it takes about 10 minutes.

You turn on your app, it takes about, let’s say, 10 minutes to pick up somebody because there’s a lot of different drivers going out. [It] takes you 10 minutes, you go to your passenger, and it takes then [five] minutes to get out, they’re really slow.

You pick them up and you take them and hey, oh, there’s all [that] constructions, there’s all [that] traffic and it’s only a three-mile ride. How much do we get paid? Well, usually around a dollar a mile for most markets.

So, $3 and you go three miles, and maybe that three miles because all those traffic takes about 20, 30 minutes. And then you drop them off and then maybe it takes you to another five or 10 minutes before you get your next passenger. And so, what just happened? Almost an hour has gone by and you have made $4 or $5.

Now, if you are really, really good with your customer service, shameless plug, Six-Star Service, of course, please get it, maybe you’re going to blow them out of the way and they’re going to give you a huge tip.

Often times, I can get a 100% tips, 50% tips and that makes up for that. But usually, it’s a hard gamble. However, what if they wanted to go, you know, 10 miles, 20 miles, maybe that’s worth it.

But again, we don’t know where people are [going]. When I like to drive rush hour is when there’s something like a snowstorm or there’s rain and there’s a lot…and often when it’s something that’s surprising, where people aren’t expecting.

You know there are certain weeks where everyone knows it’s going to be raining all week or some sort of weather issue that’s going to be there. But there are other times where it’s going to be a flash and it comes and a lot of people are caught off guard and immediately, they turn on their apps and [the] SURGE goes up.

Remember, we get paid seven times more per mile versus our time. Okay? So sitting around is not profitable. If you’re a taxi driver you can be paid 65 cents, 85 cents a minute, that’s great. You can sit in traffic, they don’t mind.

But for us, for many of us at St. Paul, 15 cents, that’s usually the case for many cities. Fifteen cents is not a lot and so I don’t want to sit around in traffic, and that’s also really bad for gas mileage. I have a Prius, I can throw in electric mode, no problem for me, but for most of us, that’s not good.

However, if there is a lot of SURGE going on, a lot of prime time and let’s say now it’s three times SURGE, 200% prime time, you know what, that’s not that bad. Now, I’m getting paid a lot more for my minute per mile and then it can be worth it.

So, you have to take…evaluate the risk. Sometimes you’re going to do it and it’s not going to work out well, and other times you’re going to do it and you’re going to make a good $50 an hour.

So you have to weigh the risk, and depending on what kind of driver you are, part-time or full-time, it’s something you have to consider.

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