Bringing in extra money as a single mom can be challenging. You need to constantly tweak your schedule and attend to the needs of your little ones, while still somehow maximizing your hourly rate in any job that you do. If you can’t make decent money in short, flexible bursts, there may not be much of a point in wasting the time and stress on odd jobs.
For that reason, ridesharing companies such as Uber and Lyft have been steadily growing in popularity with single moms across the country. No matter when you manage to squirrel away some extra time, you can mold your driving schedule to match, and all you need to get started is a car! Whether you’re finding time while the kids are at school, or just squeezing in an hour or two when you can, there are easy methods you can use to ensure you’re getting a great hourly rate every time you get behind the wheel.
Let’s spell out everything there is to know about driving for Uber or Lyft, so that you can decide if it suits your busy lifestyle, and so you can be completely prepared when you start to drive!
Driving Uber Or Lyft In A Nutshell
As you probably know, Uber and Lyft are the major players in the rideshare arena. Ridesharing is a more personalized form of taxi service, wherein a privately owned vehicle can be called upon to transport anyone with a smartphone and the Uber or Lyft app. It’s quick, convenient, and often times more affordable than traditional taxi services – which is exactly why Uber and Lyft have been steadily replacing traditional taxis for years. There’s no hassle of tracking down the best local company, comparing prices, and waiting upwards of thirty minutes for a ride. Just hit a button on your phone and, depending on your location, you’re on your way in as little as five minutes!
Being a driver for either Uber or Lyft definitely comes with its own set of perks aside from the convenience of making your own schedule. With discounts, promos, and constantly expanding business, driving rideshare can be an extremely promising and rewarding venture for single moms.
Who Should You Drive For?
It’s no secret that both Uber and Lyft have established themselves as ridesharing titans. They have earned a permanent place at the top of the industry, outliving many similar startups that couldn’t match their ease of use and approachable business model. Both of these companies boast a strong presence in nearly any location in the United States, which is great news for moms looking to make some extra cash no matter where they live.
When it comes down to deciding between Uber or Lyft, that’s typically a matter of personal preference. Both offer similar perks and compensation to their drivers, though Uber has suffered more backlash for being a little too impersonal and unforgiving to their drivers. Lyft was the first company to encourage tips for their drivers, and generally seems to be more focused on supporting their workforce, though it’s worth noting that Uber still has more riders than Lyft. On the other hand, Lyft still offers new drivers a sign up bonus and Lyft drivers tend to earn a couple bucks more per hour. Uber phased out their sign up bonuses in early 2017.
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In my personal experience, I prefer driving with Lyft over Uber. I clicked more with the passengers who used Lyft – a younger, more talkative crowd – and felt a bit more cared for than I did with Uber. For example, registering with Uber gets you a letter in the mail with your sticker and a generic note saying you’re ready to hit the road. Lyft, on the other hand, hosted a short orientation, where you got to meet other drivers and go over their handbook to make sure you really understood how you would be compensated as well as what other perks they offered to their drivers. When I was starting out, it always felt a bit more personable to me. So, I was willing to give up the back to back Uber rides in exchange for a company that felt genuine and invested in my success. Over time, Lyft traffic increased to the point where I could earn the same money on either platform.
In the end, it’s completely your choice. I recommend trying both and seeing which one best suits your needs and brings in the sort of income you’re seeking. Also, check out the specific perks detailed below to see if one catches your eye more than the other.
Is Driving Uber Or Lyft Worth It for Single Moms?
With flexible hours, regular cash incentives, and a ton of independence, driving Uber or Lyft seems to be a perfect way for single moms to bring in extra money. Both Uber and Lyft have their own express payment systems (Instant Pay for Uber and Express Pay for Lyft), which allows drivers to access and withdraw their earnings at any time, rather than waiting for payday at the end of the week. Having a little extra money in your hands when you need it can be all the reason necessary to sign up and get driving.
But is driving for Uber or Lyft really that lucrative? If it’s so easy to make money on the side, why isn’t every single mom registering their car while you read this?
According to one Forbes article, a meager 14% of Uber drivers and 30% of Lyft drivers are female. The perception of driving strangers around in unknown places is enough to scare any sane woman away from driving Uber or Lyft. However, research suggests that the reality isn’t nearly as scary and, in my personal experience as a young woman driving for both Uber and Lyft, I never encountered anything or anyone that put me in any real danger. Those scary stories you may have heard seem to be the exception to the rule, and most passengers just want to get in, share some small talk, and then get back out.
The short answer is: Yes, ridesharing can absolutely be a great way for single moms to make money and there’s no reason women can’t take advantage of those extra earnings as much as men!
The Upsides of Working for Uber and Lyft
Make Your Own Schedule
Indisputably, one of the biggest benefits of driving for Uber or Lyft is the ability to make and adjust your own schedule as needed. Not even part-time jobs will allow you the flexibility of working precisely when you want to, nor will they let you cut your day short in case of something unexpected like a little one getting sick at school.
You can put in twenty hours one week, then three the next and you’ll be perfectly fine. If you need a sudden stretch of days at home to take care of your kids or catch up on things around the house, that’s fine too! You decide how often you are able to work, which can be downright crucial for single moms.
Take Advantage of Peak Times
There are a number of things that can create a peak time for drivers, or a time where there’s an unusually high demand for drivers and an insufficient supply. Bad weather, rush hour (usually 6 A.M. – 10 A.M. and 4 P.M. – 8 P.M.), sports games, concerts, festivals, market nights, and even college class schedules can all result in fares being doubled and sometimes tripled as incentive for more drivers to make themselves available in that area. Uber refers to these incentives as “Surge Pricing,” while Lyft refers to it as “Prime Time.”
Both companies will reward you handsomely for showing up at these events, giving you more money in your pocket without doing much extra work! Both companies will typically send out e-mails to keep you in the know about local events and potential hot spots, so keep an eye out and do your best to know what’s going on in your town. Weekends tend to light up the app, especially during the evening and when local bars close up for the night. Use a bit of strategy to determine which hours are going to give you the most payout, and aim to schedule around them.
New Driver Bonuses
When you register as a new driver for either Uber or Lyft, take advantage of one of their promo codes to earn yourself a hefty bonus of up to $1000. Check out Rideshare Central’s list of sign up bonuses to see what the driver bonus is in your city.
These new driver bonuses change often and are usually related to the demand your area has for drivers. Also, remember that they do not work retroactively. If you don’t enter one at the time you sign up, you’ll unfortunately miss out on earning a lot of extra cash.
Continuing Referral Bonuses
Once you’re a driver with either Uber or Lyft, you’ll receive a personalized referral code that you can pass on to new riders. Whenever someone signs up for either Uber or Lyft, you’ll make a little extra cash on the side. In addition to scoring new riders, your code can also be used to sign up new drivers. Getting someone to start driving will earn you an even bigger bonus with both Uber and Lyft, but your new driver will have to register and complete a certain number of rides before you see the bonus reflected in your balance.
Lyft Specific Perks
Lyft offers a unique rewards program to its drivers known as the Accelerate: Premier Driver Rewards program. This program works with a three-tier system that you can advance through based on the number of rides you’ve given each month. As you level up through Silver, Gold, and Platinum, you’ll earn more attractive rewards and premier perks.
Just for signing up as a new driver, you’ll be granted Silver status. This tier gives you access to a savings group for independent contractors known as the Honest Dollar. Other rewards include a discount on Intuit tax software, discounts on phone plans through Verizon, and access to health insurance through the eHealth network.
Advancing to Gold gives you continued access to all of the Silver perks and then adds on discounts for auto maintenance (things like tires, tune-ups, and oil chances), and a load of other discounts on things ranging all the way from phone repairs to gym memberships.
Platinum drivers gain all of these perks with the addition of free roadside assistance from Allstate.
It’s worth noting that your Premier status is reset at the beginning of each month and that accumulated rides will count toward next month’s Accelerate rewards. In most markets, you’ll need twenty rides a month to obtain Gold and two hundred rides to hit Platinum.
Uber Specific Perks
Known as the Partner Program, Uber also offers a load of incentives, rewards, discounts, and services for their drivers. Most of these rewards focus on car maintenance and fuel costs, which you’ll definitely take advantage of if you make driving a part of your regular schedule.
Uber Partners earn a discount on gas prices with their personal Partner Fuel Card, which gives you a massive discount (sometimes as much as fifteen cents a gallon!) and deducts your purchase directly from your current Uber earnings. You also gain a 15% discount at places such as Auto-Zone, Jiffy Lube, Meineke, Firestone, Maaco, Sears Auto Center, and Valvoline.
Driving for Uber will earn you a discount of 15-18% on your phone bill through AT&T or Sprint. These savings can be passed on to your immediate family as well, which makes it an amazing perk just for driving with Uber. You’ll also get a free subscription to Pandora for as long as you remain a driver with Uber.
The Downsides of Driving For Uber Or Lyft As A Single Mom
There can be a lot of factors that affect how much money you’re making, and the biggest detriment will always be downtime. If you take a ride that drags you way outside of town, if you live in a quiet area, or if you tend to drive during low traffic times, there can be a lot of downtime between rides. Try to use this time to your advantage and squeeze in other errands you need to do rather than sitting around, wasting time. Or, if you can manage it, schedule yourself to work during peak times like rush hour in the mornings and the evenings, as well as weekends.
Tips Aren’t Guaranteed
Tipping rideshare drivers isn’t exactly the norm, even if riders are given the option. While I drive for both Uber and Lyft, only Lyft prompts riders to tip their driver. Uber also discouraged tipping for many years. Since then, Uber has changed their opinion of tipping and the app now offers the option to include a tip, but that doesn’t exactly change the mindset that most passengers believe it’s perfectly acceptable not to tip their driver.
Neither Lyft nor Uber will take any portion of the tips you do get (because it’s illegal), but don’t hold out on the hope that every single passenger will be kind enough to tip. The best you can do is be friendly and get your passenger to their destination as flawlessly as possible, and hope they’ll throw a few extra bucks your way.
It’s a shame that this has to be considered, but as a woman carting around strangers, it’s worth taking an extra measure to make sure you’re 100% safe.
There are a few apps that you can download to protect yourself. Two worth considering are Find My Friends (IOS – Android) and SafeTrek (IOS – Android). Find My Friends will allow you to designate a person to track your whereabouts in real time, while SafeTrek allows you to press and hold a button on your phone whenever you feel unsafe. If you don’t enter your pin when you release the button, the app will automatically contact your local police and notify them of your location. Both apps are worth downloading and using even when you’re not driving!
If you ever encounter a passenger who makes you feel unsafe, you are absolutely within your rights to prematurely end the ride, drop them off on the spot, and report them to Uber or Lyft through the app. In most cases, the most either company will do is not match you with a particular rider again. Both companies have a long way to go in the area.
That being said, I’ve been driving with both Uber and Lyft for just over a year and only encountered a few passengers (out of thousands!) that actually made me uneasy. I managed to complete the rides and made sure I kept to populated main roads just in case I needed to remove someone rom my car ASAP. Use your common sense and don’t be afraid to take control of a situation if you need to, but chances are that most of your riders won’t actually threaten you in any way or be any trouble whatsoever. If you’re uneasy about this, stick to driving during the day and, lucrative as they may be, avoid the nightly bar crowds, as they are more likely to become rowdy or unpredictable.