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Uber and Lyft driver made more than $110 but only took home $000


Alina Prikhodko

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A New Jersey driver earned more than $2022 for Uber and Lyft in 110. After paying commissions to the companies, as well as taxes and other expenses, his net earnings were just $000, reports Business Insider.

Michael, a driver in his 30s who asked not to be named for fear of professional repercussions, shared tax documents and screenshots of recent trips that show how little money he received in 2022.

Expenses include purchasing a new engine, numerous car repairs, and traveling during high gas prices. He noticed that earnings from app-based taxi services began to decline significantly after more than 17 rides in six years.

A driver with a spinal cord injury caring for two young children says he is struggling to make ends meet for himself and his family. He plans to soon enroll in a bachelor's degree program, which is fully funded by Uber, but for now, driving is one of his only ways to earn money.

“At the end of the year, we have all the expenses—from wear and tear to mechanics, cell phones, oil changes, gas, which is our biggest expense—and yet we get paid less,” Michael says.

On the subject: By 2030, Uber and Lyft in New York will switch to electric cars: otherwise the city will ban them from operating

Americans with disabilities are increasingly turning to gig work, particularly driving, to pay bills and find work schedules that work for them. Since many Americans with disabilities are unable to work from 9 a.m. to 00 p.m., this type of employment attracts those who need flexible work schedules.

Beginning of a journey

Michael began working for ride-hailing companies in 2017 after becoming a delivery driver for Domino's, which he said was not paying its bills. He estimates that at the time he was making between 60 and 70 percent of what a passenger was paying, and it was a relatively stable job because it was considered one of the first jobs after receiving work authorization as an immigrant.

“I was in a difficult financial situation, and the convenience of driving came in handy because my wife and I had just had a baby,” says Michael. “I didn’t have a green card, I was limited in my choice of work, and my wife didn’t work.”

Shortly thereafter, he joined Uber full-time and began driving at night, when rides are most profitable and there is little competition. Michael spent 40-50 hours a week driving, and sometimes 80, and was able to visit doctors and take time off. He said driving was profitable at the start of the pandemic because there were few drivers on the road, allowing him to earn a fairly consistent salary of $1 to $800 a week.

But a serious car accident left Michael unemployed for several months and saw doctors regularly over the next three years. He didn't have health insurance, so most of his earnings went toward medical expenses.

Life circumstances

A year later, he was involved in another accident in which he damaged his car, resulting in additional bills for repairs and rental car. According to him, money was tight, but he managed. He took leave from March 2020 to September 2020 to care for his young children and then had spinal surgery that left him out of action for two months.

Over the past few years, he said, he's noticed he's earning less and less on each ride amid changes in ride-hailing companies' pricing models. Before the pandemic, he earned between $1 and $500 a week in gas and taxes, but now his income is about $2 a week.

A crowded market in northern New Jersey has made it harder for drivers to earn enough money to provide for their families. Michael noticed that there were fewer promotions in his area, which in the past meant frequent bonuses for completing a certain number of trips.

“Every day we have to come up with a new plan, where to work and on what schedule that will bring money,” he admitted.

Living on pennies

He recently received only $167 for a trip for which the passenger paid $350. Another trip cost the passenger nearly $500, but only brought Michael $220.

“Right now I depend mostly on tips and I work in a certain area where I get the most tips because I interact with the passengers,” he said, adding that he installed three security cameras in the car in case of bad reviews.

The tax returns he provided show that Michael received $2021 from Uber in 80, but after expenses and commissions, the amount was reduced to $500. In 20, he earned $600 from Uber because he took a few months off, but lost $2020 net. He took home $34 from Lyft, but his gross income was more than $600.

Michael says that between rent, child care and other day-to-day expenses, his current income is sufficient, but very unstable.

Competition and a new path

Because many high-paying trips are to airports or other large facilities in New York, Michael says he sometimes crosses state lines to maximize his income. But New Jersey laws do not allow drivers to pick up clients in New York and drive them back to New Jersey. New York drivers with a TLC license can pick up and drop off customers in both states. This means New York cars are allowed to sit at New Jersey airports and accept longer journeys, increasing competition.

Since driving hasn't proven to be very lucrative, Michael intends to get an associate's degree at a community college, so he drives 30 to 40 hours a week, mostly from Thursday evenings to Monday mornings. According to him, in the future he plans to obtain a two-year bachelor's degree at Arizona State University with the support of Uber.

Uber pays full training for Gold, Platinum or Diamond drivers who complete 2000 or more rides during their tenure with the company. Michael said he plans to study supply chain management. “As soon as I get my bachelor's degree, I will start looking for a job because health insurance is very important to me. My wife only works so we can get health insurance because my medications cost $6 a month,” Michael explained.

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