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Uber Peak Hours: When to Drive for Maximum Earnings

Last updated: May 25, 2021
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Uber Peak Hours: When to Drive for Maximum Earnings

If you use the right tactics, driving for Uber can be a solid source of income. Depending on your needs, you can use it as a way to make some extra money to pay for fun things like a vacation or a nice date night. Or, if you’re dedicated, you can even use it as your main source of income.

Getting to that level of income, however, requires that you know the right tactics. There are lots of things you can do to earn more as an Uber driver, but one of the most important is understanding when the peak hours are (and how they lead to higher fares). Here’s a guide to exactly when the busiest times are for Uber, as well as how you can use them to earn more money.

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Maximizing Earnings: It’s All About Supply and Demand

Why does it benefit you to drive during Uber’s busiest hours? After all, aren’t these the times it would make more sense to stay off the road? That’s exactly right, and it’s for that reason that these hours are so profitable to drive.

As complex as the technologies are that enable it, Uber is still subject to the fundamental economic principle of supply and demand. The more people there are requesting rides, the more you can earn as a driver. That is, provided that the supply of drivers isn’t also just as large.

This is the balance that you have to strike. You want to be where demand is high and supply low enough to lead to increased fares. If you go somewhere that has just as many drivers as riders requesting them, you won’t see rates that are any higher.

That doesn’t mean busy areas with lots of drivers are a waste of your time, of course. A high demand for Uber rides is always a good thing for you as a driver. It means that you’ll spend more of your on-the-job time giving rides (instead of waiting around hoping to get pickups). But if you want to increase your income beyond the standard rates, you need to get strategic about where and when you drive.

The 7 Best Times (and Locations) to Drive for Uber

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We’ve identified several times and places that are almost guaranteed to lead to higher fares for you as a driver. Of course, it’s impossible to generalize for all cities and market conditions, so you should always talk to other drivers in your city to get advice on the best driving times and places. The following list, however, is a great place to start.

1. Sporting Events

Sporting events will tend to trigger surge pricing, especially when they end. A large number of people has to leave the area, and whether that means they’re heading home or to a bar to continue the celebration of victory (or drown the sorrows of defeat), you can earn some serious money if you’re the driver waiting to pick them up.

Of course, you should be smart about which sporting events you choose. A minor league baseball game on a weeknight isn’t going to be as profitable as a Sunday NFL game, for instance. In certain markets, college football games can also be fruitful to hang around (especially in the Southern U.S.).

And, of course, you should be aware of any special sporting events happening in your city. Whether you’re a sports fan or not, it’s worth being aware of the events going on to boost your earnings.

2. Holidays

Driving on holidays can mean lots of extra earnings…or a huge waste of time. It all depends on the holiday you choose. Christmas Day, for instance, is unlikely to bring lots of demand. People are generally at home, and the few that do venture out will likely just drive themselves. The same is true of Thanksgiving.

New Year’s Eve, on the other hand, can be one of the most profitable nights to drive. Fares have surged in the past to infamous levels. While Uber passengers complained, many did pay the higher fares, leading to some drivers earning more in one trip than they would in an average week.

The key when deciding if a holiday is worth driving to earn extra money is to think about how people tend to celebrate that holiday. If it’s one where people go out to bars or parties (such as New Year’s Eve, Independence Day, and Halloween), then it’s probably a good time to drive. Otherwise, you might be better off staying home and enjoying a day off.

3. Other Special Events

You don’t have to limit yourself to holidays and sporting events. Depending on your city, there are lots of other events that could make for higher than average fares. Does your city have some sort of special parade to mark a local holiday? That could be a good chance to pick up some surge fares.

Is there a big conference at the local convention center? Being around when that conference lets out for the day could help you get lots of rides from people who are ready to go out to dinner or back to their hotel.

It pays to follow the news. Any kind of special event that concentrates large numbers of people into one area and ends at a defined time is going to mean there’s a chance of a surge occurring.

4. Weekend Nights

While holidays and special events can mean higher fares, you don’t have to wait around for those few times a year in order to maximize your earnings. Driving on Friday and Saturday nights can help you boost your earnings on a more regular basis. The main thing is to decide what kind of rides you want to capture during this time.

If you hang out downtown earlier in the evening, you’ll likely get lots of UberPOOL rides as people hop from one bar to the next. There’s nothing wrong with these trips, but they won’t earn as much as larger fares that come when people are getting from the suburbs into downtown.

You’ll have to experiment with where is best to hang out to get the higher fare weekend rides, but it can often be worth it to move a bit further out of the city to start the evening. You’ll not only get higher fares overall, but you’ll likely have less competition from other drivers (since the supply of drivers tends to highest in dense, downtown areas).

5. When the Bars Close

People will take Uber out to the bars and clubs earlier in the evening, and they’ll almost certainly get one going back home after the bars close. This is a case where you need to be aware of your city’s local laws surrounding drinking establishments.

In some cities, the bars close as early as 2:00 a.m., while in others the party continues to 3:00 or 4:00 a.m. In cities like New Orleans or Las Vegas, some bars never close, which means you’ll need to be more strategic about where you operate.

In general, however, being around popular nightlife districts when the bars stop serving for the night will help you get higher fares. All those people have to get home somehow, and they’re usually not in a state to be picky about the price for doing so.

6. Morning and Evening Rush Hours

These are times that some new drivers overlook, but they can be worth your time for a couple of reasons. The first is that demand is higher during these times as people commute into or out of the city. This means a chance of higher fares.

The other reason is one of practicality for many drivers. If you drive for Uber as a side gig, then driving during the evening or morning rush hours can make lots of sense for you. You can get a few rides in on your way to or home from work. Of course, you need to carefully plan this so that you’re not late getting to work or coming home to feed your pets.

7. Bad Weather

When bad weather strikes, it pushes people who might otherwise have walked or biked to take an Uber. It doesn’t have to be extreme weather, either. Something as harmless as an afternoon rain shower in the summer or an early morning drizzle in the fall can be enough to increase the demand for Uber rides (and raise the fares accordingly). Bad weather is especially powerful at creating surges since it often strikes suddenly and without warning.

For these same reasons, however, it can be a bit tricky to plan when to drive based on the weather. Sure, you can consult weather forecasts, but those aren’t always reliable. Basing when you drive on a 20 percent chance of rain probably isn’t the best move.

If there’s a high chance of thunderstorms, however, then it’s likely a good chance to get higher fares. Just use common sense and never drive in conditions that would endanger you or your passengers. It’s not worth the risk.

How to Stay Aware of Surge Pricing

While all of the above are good general pieces of advice for how to find Uber’s peak hours, it’s worth discussing how you can monitor demand in real time. The Uber driver app includes features that will show you areas where surge pricing is occurring.

How exactly does this work? The app displays surge pricing using color coding. The colors range from light orange to dark red, with darker colors indicating a higher surge multiplier. In addition to seeing the color coding, you can also zoom into the map and see the specific multipliers you’ll get in a given area.*

Check out the below image from Uber’s site to see what this looks like:

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Note that the rider’s location determines whether or not surge pricing will apply to the ride. Your location as a driver does not matter. Therefore, you need to be careful about chasing surges. If you’re on the other side of town and see lots of surges in an area, it’s tempting to drive all the way there in order to take advantage of the higher pricing.

However, it’s very possible that the surge will have dissipated by the time you arrive. Bear in mind that passengers receive surge notifications when they go to book a ride. This is a key reason that surge pricing exists: to decrease demand for rides by getting some passengers to wait (or move to other areas) in the hopes that the price will drop.

If you’re near a surge area, that’s great. It could be worth moving a couple blocks to capture the higher fares. But if the surge is on the other side of town, it’s not worth driving all the way there just to hope that you’ll get the surge rate.

Overall, it’s best to operate in areas that tend to have high demand or that will logically have surges (such as sporting events or bars in crowded areas late at night). Being reactive to the surge indicators on the map is a good way to waste gas and time if you’re not careful.

*This does not apply to Austin, Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., Charlotte, Cincinnati, Oklahoma, Phoenix, Rhode Island, and San Antonio. In these markets, drivers will see dollar amounts on the map instead of multipliers.

Drive During Peak Times for Higher Uber Earnings

We hope you now have a better understanding of the best times to drive for Uber. Capturing surge prices is a big part of the equation, but you can’t rely on the Uber app to chase increased fares around the map. Instead, it’s best to understand the best times and places for higher fares. This will come with experience (and experimentation), but the advice in this article will give you a strong start.

Curious what the best times are to be on the road as a Lyft driver? Check out our other guide.

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