Here’s What You Need to Know Before Signing up to Drive With Uber or Lyft

lyft vs. uber
Lyft driver Paul Pruce stands with his car in Philadelphia, PA on January 13, 2017. Photo by Jessica Kourkounis
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By now, you probably know the gist of driving with ride-sharing services: You use an app to connect with people who need rides. You drive them somewhere in your own car, and they pay automatically through the app.

The two biggest players in the space — Uber and Lyft — continue an intense rivalry, despite neither riders nor drivers really knowing why they choose one or the other.

If you’re thinking about earning extra money from ride sharing, you might be choosing blindly.

Could you lose money with the wrong choice?

To help you figure out what’s best for you, here’s a comparison between the basics for drivers with Lyft versus Uber.

Lyft vs. Uber: What Both Apps Offer Drivers

lyft vs. uber
James and Nancy Rottger of Buffalo, NY take an Uber ride with Edwin Patrick Young on Friday Nov. 18, 2016 in St. Petersburg, Fla. Sharon Steinmann / The Penny Hoarder

How each app works for drivers is fundamentally the same: You log in when you want to work, wait for a notification that means someone’s hailed a ride, then pick them up and drop them off at their destination.

You earn money based on how many rides you take, and you automatically get paid each week (or more often, if you choose) through direct deposit. Same for each.

The driver requirements for Uber and the driver requirements for Lyft are nearly identical.

Uber Driver Partner Requirements Lyft Driver Requirements
21 years old or older 21 years old or older
At least one year of driving experience (or three years if you’re under 23) At least one year of driving experience
Valid U.S. driver’s license U.S. driver’s license
Pass criminal background check Pass free DMV and background checks
Proof of insurance
Use an iPhone or Android smartphone

Vehicle requirements vary based on state or local regulations. They’re similar for both services, with a couple notable differences.

Uber Vehicle Requirements Lyft Vehicle Requirements
2002 or newer 2006 or newer (newer in some states)
Four doors Four doors
Room for four passengers, not including the driver Five to eight seats, including the driver’s
Good condition Pass a safety inspection
Proof of registration Current registration
Proof of insurance Proof of insurance
No commercial branding

If you don’t have a car that meets the requirements, each company offers rental options or discounts to buy in certain cities.

Uber’s Vehicle Solutions lets you rent a vehicle by the week, apply for a flexible lease with unlimited mileage and payments deducted from your Uber earnings or buy a new vehicle at a discount.

With Lyft’s Express Drive rental option, you can rent a car with a flexible lease and no long-term commitment.

How Much Can You Earn With Lyft vs. Uber?

Like any other sharing-economy gig or freelance work, you’re a contractor with either company.

So, your earnings are largely based on how much you want to work and how you manage your time.

For example, this guy earns $750 a week driving 45 to 50 hours a week with Lyft in Philadelphia.

Driver earnings for the apps are similar: Riders pay a base rate plus extra cost per minute and per mile.

As a driver, you earn based on how many rides you take, and how far you drive for each. You’ll get an earnings boost when you drive during high-demand times — like rush hour or during a local special event — called “surge pricing” with Uber and “peak hours” with Lyft.

Both apps offer tips, which drivers get to keep 100% of.

What Lyft Offers That Uber Doesn’t

lyft vs. uber
Lyft driver Paul Pruce drives a shift in in Philadelphia, PA. Photo by Jessica Kourkounis

Last year, Lyft expanded to 40 “full” states, meaning it lets drivers pick up anywhere in those states, not restricted to a metro area. According to Lyft, this means the platform covers more than 94% of the U.S.

Lyft also offers Amp, a nifty device that makes it easier for drivers to connect with riders at busy spots — and for drivers who are deaf or hard of hearing to stay on top of new rides.

What Uber Offers That Lyft Doesn’t

lyft vs. uber
Uber driver Edwin Patrick Young checks his app to respond to another request during a nighttime shift in St. Petersburg, Fla. Sharon Steinmann / The Penny Hoarder

For years, Uber has had one huge advantage over Lyft: It was in more places.

Now that Lyft has expanded around the country, Uber’s main advantage is more riders likely know about it. Many people outside of coastal cities may only recently have heard of the company because it’s newer to their area than Uber.

Delivery With Uber Eats

Uber’s latest expansion into package and food delivery gives it a boost over Lyft for some drivers, too.

If it’s available in your city, Uber Eats gives you a way to earn money when you don’t have (or don’t want) passengers. It also has less strict requirements: You only have to be 19 years old, and your car only needs two doors.

In some cities, you can even make deliveries on your bike or scooter if you don’t have a car.

Lyft vs. Uber… So, Who Wins?

The bottom line is there’s probably no clear winner. It’s a bit of a Mac versus PC debate. You have to pick what works for your lifestyle and finances.

Because each company offers some clear advantages, many drivers work with both in cities where both are available.

This strategy lets you maximize the riders you can connect with and earn money with less downtime. The companies don’t love competing for drivers, though, so keep an eye out for restrictions or policies that limit how easily you can switch between apps while you’re working.

Dana Sitar ([email protected]) is a writer and editor at The Penny Hoarder. Say hi and tell her a good joke on Twitter @danasitar.