It’s an understandable error. Who can resist making two or three times the normal fare? That’s the main reason new drivers chase the surge. I understand. It’s really hard to resist. You’ve just dropped off a passenger, and ten minutes away there’s a 2.4 surge. Perhaps you haven’t had a big surge ride that day. Perhaps you think you can make it to the surge zone in seven minutes and pick up a big fare to the suburbs. However, whatever your reasoning, you should resist the urge to chase the surge.
When I first started driving, surges (Uber) or prime time (Lyft) happened often and would last for ten to twenty minutes. During rush hour, surges could last for an hour or two, or longer. It was nice. Over the years though, both Uber and Lyft have added more drivers, so it doesn’t surge as often. Also, Lyft, and Uber especially, have caught flack for surges during emergencies or big storms. As a consequence, when it does surge, it doesn’t surge as high as it used to.
So, you have a situation where it doesn’t surge that often, and when it does, the surges are lower. This makes the times when it does surge even more attractive, but it’s fools gold. Most of the time, if you head towards that surge, it will either be gone, or much smaller by the time you get there. Instead of a 2.4, you’ll be looking at a 1.2 or a regular fare. Also, you burned unnecessary gas to get to the surge zone. Even worse, there’s no way to guarantee the length of the ride you’re going to get. Is it really worth it to pass up a regular fare ride for a surge ride going 1.2 miles? Of course not.
Now you can still make good money driving Lyft or Uber, but it’s important to drive smart. Don’t waste unnecessary gas chasing surges. Besides the fact that it doesn’t surge that often, and the surge doesn’t go as high as it used to, there’s another not to chase the surge. Believe it or not, most surges last less than five minutes. So, if you see red on the map, don’t rush over there. It’s the biggest rookie mistake you can make.
The Exceptions: When it’s acceptable to chase the surge.
As they say, there’s an exception for every rule, or in this case, three.
- If you are right outside a surge zone, drive into the zone. By right outside, I mean you can get a few blocks into the surge zone in two minutes or less, safely.
- If there is a big concert, festival, sporting, or other large event letting out, and you can get there safely in ten minutes, go for it. Those surges tend to last a bit longer.
- If you live in a city where there’s generally traffic in only one direction during the morning rush, sometimes you can do a dropoff, and then head back to the surge area for another ride. This tends to be worth it only on Mondays or Fridays (surges tend to last longer during morning rush hours on those day), but it’s difficult to predict. Generally, this only works in cities where everyone is going downtown in the morning, and the area that surges is less than fifteen minutes away.
So, unless the situation falls under one of those exceptions, it almost never pays to chase the surge.