Uber Drivers Are Making $25/Hour or More Because of Driver Shortage

A lyft driver picks a woman up from the airport.
Photo courtesy of Lyft

If you’ve ever considered driving for Uber or Lyft, now’s the time. Both rideshare platforms are offering incentives to drivers as vaccinated consumers are out and about increasing demand for rides.

Lyft says drivers in its top 25 markets are earning more than $30 an hour on average, which is 85% more than before COVID-19.

Uber drivers are making $25 to more than $30 an hour in 12 of its busiest cities. And that’s before any tips or incentives.

If you’re ready to cash in on the rideshare driver shortage and sign up with Uber or Lyft, here’s what to expect — and how to maximize your earnings.

Incentives and Pay Increases For Rideshare Drivers

To entice new drivers to start or former drivers to come back, Uber is launching a $250 million driver stimulus.

“The money will take the form of special bonuses and new guarantees. It will be in place for the next several months… Boosted incentives and guarantees will help welcome existing drivers back to Uber and ensure first-time drivers do well as they learn the ropes,” said Kayla Whaling, Uber spokeswoman. She didn’t specify how the money is awarded.

Uber ads have been popping up online to entice drivers: “Earn $1,040 driving, guaranteed. On your first 100 trips with the Uber app.”

“We’re working to meet demand, including providing incentives to drivers, who are busier and earning more than they were even before the pandemic,” said Lyft spokeswoman Allison Goodman. She also didn’t specify how much the incentives are worth or how they are distributed.

Here’s Why Uber and Lyft Drivers are Making More than Ever

Customer Demand is Up

If you’ve requested a rideshare in the past month you’ve probably noticed a longer waiting time and higher charge because of the shortage of Uber and Lyft drivers.

A ride from St. Petersburg, Fla., to the airport 20 miles away in Tampa that usually costs around $30 now can easily run $66 to $85 on a weekend afternoon. A traveler in Raleigh, N.C., recently called an Uber from the airport only to find there were no lower priced UberX cars available, only the higher priced UberXL, which has room for six people.

“We’re seeing big increases in demand for rides, as vaccines roll out and people get ready to start moving again,” said Goodman.

Uber addressed the shortage of drivers in a blog post.

“In 2020, many drivers stopped driving because they couldn’t count on getting enough trips to make it worth their time. In 2021, there are more riders requesting trips than there are drivers available to give them — making it a great time to be a driver,” the company stated.

Driver Supply is Down

Though more than a third of U.S. adults are fully vaccinated, that still leaves drivers exposed to more than two hundred million potential riders who could carry the COVID-19 virus. Uber recently surveyed drivers and found their top two concerns about returning to work were safety and the level of earnings.

People who have kids at home unable to go to school or daycare also cannot return to or start driving.

Some drivers found other jobs when the pandemic prompted them to hang up their car keys. They are opting for online work they can do at home instead of making a full-time or part-time living in their cars.

When customer demand is up and the supply of drivers is down, rates automatically go up.

Rideshare Companies Are Continuing Safety Precautions

For those returning to the rideshare roads or contemplating starting a new side gig with Uber or Lyft, the companies are keeping safety measures in place and adding more.

  • Both platforms require drivers and customers to wear a mask, even if they have been vaccinated.
  • Uber and Lyft continue shipping free masks and cleaning supplies to drivers.
  • Uber is also starting to ask riders to agree to not only wearing a mask, but also sit in the back seat with windows open.
  • Uber is reducing the maximum number of passengers for an UberX ride to 3 from 4.
  • If an Uber driver contracts COVID-19 or has to quarantine because of exposure, the company will reimburse them their average weekly earnings for two weeks based on the three months prior to the illness or quarantine.
  • Lyft mandates the front passenger seat is empty at all times and encourages drivers to keep four or at least two windows open, weather permitting.
  • Lyft drivers in certain cities will have free access to a virtual care platform that includes on-demand digital COVID-19 screenings, on-demand video visits and more virtual health resources 24/7.
  • Lyft sells a clear partition that can be placed between the front and back seats for $38. Other renditions are also sold on Etsy and Amazon.

Katherine Snow Smith is a senior writer for The Penny Hoarder.