1,000 Trips Later: Confessions Of A Lyft Driver
I’m exactly five weeks into launching my startup, and my cofounder and I are still very much bootstrapping. My auto lender and landlord don’t accept equity, bitcoin, or high-fives as currency, so I’ve got to bring in cash in creative ways. Lyft driving in San Francisco is my interim solution, and I’ve racked up over 1,000 rides thus far.
I can usually fit in around 15–20 hours of drive time in on the weekends, while still keeping Monday through Friday to work on my startup, Whttl. A typical weekend brings in about $500. It’s enough to support my extraordinarily bare bones lifestyle. My wife and daughter may not be as receptive to Ramen as I am, but we still keep it on the cheap.
I figured I would break down the questions that I get asked most frequently. Here we go, listed in no particular order:
Do you ever pick up any weirdos?
Most of my passengers are relatively normal, at least for San Francisco standards. I can seamlessly carry on conversation with them, and we can usually both find something that is interesting to discuss. The only exceptions that stand out are a drag queen (see below), and a woman who was quite possibly a…ahem…“lady of the night.”
Do taxi drivers really hate you?
Especially in the beginning, it was very evident that there was a level of animosity from the incumbent taxi drivers. I had even heard anecdotes of the pink mustaches being ripped off from Lyft cars. A couple of taxi drivers have flipped me off, and one even played chicken with me by heading into my lane to scare me a bit. This was mostly in the beginning, though. The hostility has vastly subsided. It seems like many cab drivers have taken the “If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em” approach, and have switched sides. Especially with UberX, it seems like many drivers are former cab drivers who have purchased a private vehicle to drive on their own terms.
How much do you make?
I previously posted a detailed write up about my earnings, but I generally figure about $30 — $32 / hour. Weekday afternoons are considerbaly less because of the slow demand. Friday and Saturday nights are usually more. I’ve once made as much as $45 / hour.
Do you drive for Uber or Sidecar, too?
I signed up for UberX in San Diego, but only did one shift on New Year’s Eve 2013. The surge pricing was a welcome addition, I was earning nearly $80 / hour during peak times. But alas, I am very partial to fistbumps, so I haven’t driven UberX since that time. Follow me on Medium if you’d like to read my upcoming post on the cultural differences between Uber & Lyft, from a driver’s perspective.
Do passengers ever hit on you?
It happens every once in a while. I try to make it pretty obvious to any female passengers that I’m taken, though. I display my wedding ring prominently (and proudly), and usually bring up my wife and/and or baby daughter as early and organically as possible. Plus, my wife printed out a picture of her and my daughter that I put in my sun visor to, as my wife puts its, “Let them all know I’m taken!”
Have you ever felt in a dangerous situation?
Never, not once. Granted, I’m a male, and a taller-than-average one at that, but I imagine that even a female would seldom feel unsafe or uncomfortable, beyond the rare awkward silence!
Has anyone hooked up in your car?
No, at least not to my knowledge! Most couples are quite conversational with me, and they leave their intimacy for after the ride. You see, that’s the fundamental difference between the Lyft driver dynamic and the archaic taxi one. Passengers have a reputation to protect (literally, via the 5 star rating system), and they don’t want to tarnish that by being rude. Pretending like I don’t exist, and that my car is just a moving bedroom, would be chalked up as rude in my book.
What’s the weirdest thing that has ever happened to you?
The ride that stands out in my head is a very tall (over 6 feet 6 inches) drag queen and his talent manager. They were headed off to a show in the Castro. Given that I Lyft in San Francisco, I suppose this was kind of inevitable! There was also once a group participating in a scavenger hunt that required the five of them to be in a photo with a Lyft driver. They piled in my car, snapped a photo, and they were off to the next objective. They did give me $20 for my 30 seconds of time, so it was perhaps my most lucrative Lyft ever!
Do you ever give rides to people that you know?
All the time! I’ve even given rides to friends that attended my wedding in 2013. For those that are really close to me, I’ll end the Lyft and exit driver mode. I’m not going to charge my best friends for giving them a ride across town. (Only done this 2 or 3 times.) I also pick up people that are acquaintances, or whom I had met previously at a startup event or conference. On a couple occasions, I’ve picked up fellow alumni from my high school. I even get people who recognize me and say, “Hey, you are that guy that blogs about being a Lyft driver!”
Have any passengers become friends of yours?
I can think of at least a few of my pals that I originally met via Lyft. I have business cards on hand, so if we really connect in the car ride, I say, “Let’s stay in touch!”
Do you have repeat users?
I once dropped off a gentlemen at his house, gave a quick ride to another passenger, and then returned to pick up the same guy from the first ride a few minutes later. On another occasion, I picked up one passenger from his workplace three days in a row at about the same time. We both had a laugh.
Has your car ever been damaged?
Someone once spilled soup in my backseat, but we quickly cleaned it up and the crisis was averted. They were incredibly apologetic and worked tirelessly to clean it up with me. No biggie! On another occasion, I had someone once open the back door and hit a telephone pole, but fortunately there was no damage.
I truly love driving Lyft. I meet great people, earn enough cash to pay the bills, and get to explore a breathtakingly beautiful city. I’ve made such a compelling case to drive for Lyft that I’ve even convinced a couple friends and family members to adorn the pink mustache.
If this post convinced you that driving for Lyft would be super rad, sign up to be a driver here. Depending on your city, you may even score a sweet sign-up bonus. To grab some passenger credits from Lyft, Uber, Sidecar, and even Summon, check out the Whttl rideshare page. (Credits available for any first timers on any platform.)
If you found value in this, it would be tremendous if you scrolled down a little further and hit the “Recommend” button.
Greg Muender is the founder of Whttl, described as the “Kayak.com for the sharing economy.” Use it to compare dozens of different providers and marketplaces at once, including RelayRides, DogVacay, and HomeJoy. Drop Greg a line via greg<at>whttl/dot/com. For further reading, check out the Official Whttl Blog.