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Driving with companies like Lyft and Uber is quickly becoming a flexible employment option for many gig-workers in today’s economy. The possibility of flexible hours, good money, and meeting interesting people while serving their communities all make ridesharing and delivery an attractive option to many.
The key to success in the gig-economy world is knowing when to offer rides and deliveries to make the most money. Here’s a crash course on the best times to drive with Uber—and maximize the freedom that comes from being your own boss with your own hours. Before we dive into it, if you haven’t already downloaded theGridwise app, we suggest you do it.
It’s a free app for iOS and Android that helps rideshare and food delivery drivers increase their earnings by up to 39% and save thousands on their tax bills.
It’s not just a cliché — “the best time to drive with Uber” really does depend on where you’re driving. The Uber Driver app does a great job of highlighting busy areas where you can earn more money!
This is a factor in what Uber calls “surge pricing” — times of heavy request where fare prices are doubled, tripled, or even more. Make sure you remember that a surge is determined by where the rider is requesting from, not where you are — so you will only get the higher fees if you respond to a request from a surge location. These will be marked in your app and with some experience you will quickly learn your area and when the best time to drive is.
So When Are Surge Times?
These vary by city, but generally, watch for Friday and Saturday evenings from about 8 PM to 3 AM. This, of course, is when lots of the bar crowd is either going to, coming from, or otherwise continuing an alcohol-fueled adventure.
Be very certain that you can tolerate the antics and nonexistent inhibitions of inebriated individuals. – the community of Uber drivers is sharply divided over the value and worth of spending hours carting people around.
Surge prices are calculated by a multiplied factor — say 1.5, 2.5, 3.6, etc. The higher the multiplier, the greater the demand and the greater potential fare. This is added atop the total trip fare (base + distance + time), plus any tolls that might be involved. Any cancellation fees, tolls, and surcharges are not affected by surge prices. The surge amount will be listed separately on your ride statement.
Some mornings are peak surge times as well, as are some early evenings (i.e., rush hour) or when people are headed to school and to work. More on these later.
Watch Your Preference
This is an important point that follows from the bar scene mentioned above. Besides location, “best times” are also determined by the preference of the driver.
Do you want to get up at 4 am? Then airport runs for business people might be perfect.
Are you a night owl who isn’t easily offended? Then do more bar runs.
Are you really good at maneuvering rush hour traffic? Then take rides during the early evening when everyone is getting off work.
It’s important to remember that your tolerance level, stamina, and willingness to work in odd situations or hours will affect what qualifies as “best times” for you.
Take People to the Airport
Rather than give their friends the opportunity to navigate the harried environment of a major international airport, many people — especially very frequent fliers – are relying on Uber for being whisked there and back.
This would be another example of potential surge pricing, as who isn’t eager to get to the airport with enough time to get checked by the TSA?
This is an area where a lot of money can be made, especially if you’re willing to get up early. Drivers can be scarce in the wee hours, so riders are usually willing to pay more for a ride if it means getting to the airport in time. Some drivers even do this regularly with the same customers.
Picking people up from the airport and driving them to whatever their destination is can also be lucrative, especially for those visiting your city. (People from out of town are less likely to have the network and resources set up to easily get around, especially on their first day there.)
A word of caution is in order here: Make sure you know the rules and requirements of your airport if you’re going to pick people up!
Helping People Start and End the Workday
Uber’s official statement about peak driving times indicates that peak times for driving are during the morning hours from 7-9am and in the evening from 4-7pm. There is truth to this, but multiple on-the-ground drivers report that these supposed peaks are based more on data than actual experience.
It is true, however, that more drivers tend to be requested at the beginning and end of the traditional workday, especially in larger cities (think Boston, Chicago, LA, NYC, and others). If you’re lucky, some of these can even be surge times, particularly in the evenings. This presents another challenge, however: Rush hour.
Rush hour, of course, is affected by when people get out of work and the distance of commute between work and home. And, of course, it’s worse in larger cities. If you’re smart about when you accept rides, you can maximize surge prices and rake in a fair amount of cash.
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As mentioned above in the general section on surge times, late evening to early morning (approximately 8pm-3am) can be peak times, specifically in larger cities when everyone is going to or from various bars, nightclubs, and other weekend venues. You may have to possess a strong constitution to deal with people who are almost certainly drunk beyond definition, but here are a few reasons why you might want to put up with it.
First, the sheer number of people wanting rides will mean surge prices are going through the roof, and you’ll want to take advantage of that (even just giving people rides to various places, instead of back home afterwards, can be an option).
Second, the later hours tend to mean there’s less traffic on the road, which enables you to get moving and get to your destination faster (most drivers say the majority of their money is made while moving, not while sitting and waiting), and this means there is more time to accept more fares.
Even Sunday nights can be a surge time, as lots of people are eager to get home from the clubs and bars for work the next morning. And in some college towns, Thursday night is known as “practice night” for the weekend, so you might be able to garner a lot of fares then.
For the Adventurous: Holidays
Nobody likes working on holidays, and admittedly surges here can be inconsistent. Still, many drivers will swear by the explosion of requests they get on New Year’s Eve, both before and especially after midnight. The reasons for this are obvious: everyone is either going to or coming from a celebration, likely one with lots of free-flowing booze. So if you don’t have anything going on that night…or even if you do…you just might be able to double, triple, or quadruple your fares.
Uber, like most things in our constantly-in-flux culture, is unpredictable. Locations vary. Living costs vary. Interest varies. So the best time to drive for you may be wildly different from another driver, even in your city.
But as our culture continues to become more technologically complex, more smartphone-driven, more creative and flexible in earning potential and employment and possibilities, it’s inherently possible, even likely that if you’re smart and you hustle, you can make a nice living by being a rideshare driver. Willingness, hard work, and a knowledge of the system and your city can all work in your favor. Find what works for you, stick with it, and see just how far you can go.