Lyft and Uber like to position their ride-share services as job replacements or a good “side gig.” But recent data shows tech pros shouldn’t quit their day jobs to drive on demand.
Last month, Uber attempted to correct a study on its driver earnings, and said average gross earnings per driver were $19.04 per hour, and as much as $21.07 per hour based on an independent Stanford study. Net earnings – take-home pay after expenses such as gas and maintenance – are between $13.04 and $16.53, Uber added.
The study Uber takes umbrage with comes from MIT’s Center for Energy and Environmental Policy Research (CEEPR), and says the average hourly net wage for ride-share drivers is $3.37. Ouch.
Lyft has also released findings on its drivers. While not going directly after the CEERP study (“Understandably, we’ve seen a few external groups take their own guesses at what Lyft drivers make,” the company writes), Lyft’s findings are similar to Uber’s. It says drivers make an average of $18.83 per hour, which can drift up to $21.08 in the company’s top 25 markets. It further fudges some math for busy drivers to boost those figures to $29.47 and $31.18 per hour, respectively.
It points to the same independent study as Uber to show $3-5 per hour for operating expenses, which hammers home the point: If you drive Uber or Lyft, you can expect to make roughly $13-17 per hour.
So how does that stack up to jobs in tech? The Dice Salary Survey tracks jobs by title and reported earnings. In 20th place is “Help Desk,” often an entry-level tech job. Reported wages are $43,343 annually. Breaking that down to an hourly rate, we see Help Desk staff earn just shy of $21 per hour.
Although Uber and Lyft point to the same survey for out-of-pocket driver expenses, that data actually does them a disservice. It suggests Uber and Lyft drivers earn $16.08 on average (with the unfortunate caveat that African-American drivers say they earn about $13.96 per hour). But that doesn’t factor in expenses such as gas, maintenance, and insurance, which can have a real impact.
If you’ve had that twinge of “I should just quit and go drive for Uber or Lyft” when things get tough at work, don’t… unless you like wonky income levels, doing your own 1099 taxes, driving strangers around, and traffic.