Two years ago, the answer to this question would be easy – Uber. At the time, Uber was the busier platform. However, a lot has changed in the last two years. In San Diego, Lyft has grown exponentially since 2015, and is on track to give more than 400 million rides in 2017. In fact, in most large cities, a driver can now make as much, if not more, driving for Lyft than they can driving for Uber. Lyft tends to be especially strong near city centers, Uber, however, still has an edge in many suburbs.
On the other hand, Uber’s overall growth has slowed. Uber is still larger, but Lyft has been consistently gaining market share throughout 2017. This is partly due to Uber’s continuing PR troubles and driver retention problems. However, there has been another factor underlying the Lyft growth trend.
Lyft’s San Diego Rider Recruitment
Lyft has spent much of the last two years recruiting tons of riders to its platform. When it comes to San Diego, Lyft’s rider recruitment has been especially strong and has paid off. Certain neighborhoods, such as Hillcrest, Mission Hills, University Heights, and Pacific Beach, favor Lyft these days. These areas are affluent and riders in the area tend to tip well. Other areas in Greater San Diego where Lyft is particularly busy include Seaport Village, Balboa Park, the Midway Museum and Encinitas.
Lyft has also forged partnerships with UCSD and San Diego State University to offer students discounted Lyft rides. This has helped make the areas around both schools very popular Lyft spots. Additionally, areas that were once dominated by Uber, such as downtown, Torrey Pines, Chula Vista, Solano Beach, and Del Mar, are now just as busy on Lyft. Even areas that used to be Lyft ghost towns, like La Jolla, have seen a substantial increase in Lyft traffic.
Uber vs. Lyft in San Diego in 2017
The San Diego driver playing field has been mostly leveled in the Lyft vs. Uber battle. There are plenty of riders of both platforms and you can stay busy and make money on either platform. So, we have to turn to other areas to make a judgement on who you should sign up to drive for?
Driver Pay – Uber vs. Lyft
In the past year, with the introduction of Upfront Pricing, Uber has changed how it pays drivers. Instead of taking 25% of a fare and leaving the driver with 75%, Uber now pays drivers based on time and distance only, not a percentage of the fare. Sometimes, an Uber driver may still wind up with 75-80% of a fare, but on some rides, Uber now keeps 30%, 50%, or even 65% of a fare, plus the $2.25 booking fee! Uber accomplishes this by charging customers more in certain areas. It’s not a coincidence that in many of these areas, a lot of riders have switched to Lyft.
Unlike Uber, Lyft has kept it’s original driver pay structure. Lyft also takes a booking fee of $2.25, but only takes 25% of the fare. For drivers that signed up a while back, Lyft still only takes 20% of the fare.
Another area where Lyft has gained an advantage on driver pay is with Lyft Line, Lyft’s carpool service. Basically, Lyft line allows multiple parties to share a Lyft ride and pay a lower rate. However, even though the passengers are paying less because it’s a shared ride, the driver is paid the same rate they are paid on a regular Lyft ride. Uber, on the other hand, pays drivers a lower rate for UberPool rides. Because of this, many Uber drivers refuse to accept UberPool rides.
Uber’s pay structure changes, refusal to pay drivers more for Pool rides, as well as the increase in San Diego Lyft ridership, means that a driver can now earn the same amount driving for Lyft, and often more, as they would driving for Uber. If you drive full time for either Lyft or Uber in San Diego, you can expect to earn around $15-$20/hr when you start, and probably a bit more as you get better at driving. Part-time drivers can often earn more ($25-$28) by concentrating on peak hours, which include morning and evening rush hours, and weekends.
A final area that affects driver pay is tipping. Not every rider tips, but Lyft riders tend to tip at a higher rate than Uber drivers. The reason for this is that Lyft has had in-app tipping since the beginning. Uber just added it a couple of months ago, after years of drivers asking for it. They added it as part of their 180 Day of Change program to repair their relationships with drivers. Unfortunately, at this point, Uber’s user base has become so used to not tipping, that most of them still don’t.
Although you can earn a similar amount driving for Uber, Lyft’s per ride average will be higher, and Lyft lets drivers keep more of the fare that the rider pays. You’re also more likely to receive a tip on a Lyft ride, and these tips can add an additional 5% to 15% your paycheck. These factors give Lyft an edge when it comes to driver pay.
Driver Experience – Lyft vs. Uber
Overall, Lyft has a far better reputation with drivers. Approximately two-thirds of drivers prefer driving for Lyft. Why is this? Basically, Lyft is easier to deal with as a company. They are less likely than Uber to automatically take the rider’s side if there’s a dispute of some sort. In terms of support, both Lyft’s email and phone support tends to yield better results than Uber’s. While the support response time from both Uber and Lyft have gotten much better in recent months, you’re less likely to receive a canned response from the Lyft representative.
The San Diego Sign Up Bonus – Uber vs. Lyft
Not only does Lyft have the advantage when it comes to driver experience, and when you count tips, a slight advantage in driver pay, they also have a big advantage in the form of a sign up bonus.
All the new Lyft riders in San Diego has created a problem for Lyft – they need more drivers. As a result, Lyft is currently offering sign up bonuses in San Diego of several hundred dollars. The actual amounts change frequently, but recent San Diego Lyft sign up bonuses have ranged from $150-$750. Even better, the Lyft sign up bonus is paid out per ride, so you start getting your bonus as soon as you start completing rides. For example, your Lyft sign up bonus may be $350 for 100 rides given with 60 days. On each of your first hundred rides, you would get an extra $3.50 on top of your pay for that ride.
Uber, on the other hand, has stopped offering new drivers a sign up bonus. Instead, they now offer new drivers a guarantee instead of a cash bonus. For example, Uber may offer a new driver guaranteed earnings of $600 if the driver completes 85 rides. If a driver completes 85 rides, but only earned $550, Uber will pay the driver $50. What Uber leaves out is that most drivers who complete 85 rides will earn $600 anyways. In other words, there really isn’t an Uber sign up bonus anymore.
Luckily, Lyft still has one.
Should I Drive For Uber Or Lyft In San Diego – Final Take
Overall, Uber is still the bigger company. Although Lyft is quickly catching up, Uber still has more riders and drivers. That being said, if you’re thinking of becoming a rideshare driver, you’re probably better off signing up for Lyft first. In addition to having a better overall driver experience, and similar and sometimes higher pay, since Lyft offers a lucrative San Diego sign up bonus, you’re likely to make more money driving with them in your first month or two, than you would on Uber.
Photo by nan palmero
Photo by ericmay