I’m a fan of the sharing economy. After a week of riding Lyft, however, I’m not so sure about it — at least for those doing the sharing.
The service was great and I was happy with the cost and speed of the trips I took. But from the standpoint of the drivers and the money they make to push driving for Lyft into a viable job — even part-time work — I don’t see it as a long-term solution to helping people improve their incomes much.
I used Lyft regularly for a week because my car was hit by a hit-and-run driver and it needed to be in the repair shop for a week. My insurance company offered me a rental car or up to $200 in free Lyft rides, with more money for Lyft rides available if I needed it. I work from home so I only needed it to run a few errands, and I only used about $100.
Here are some of the surprising things I learned about Lyft and the sharing economy from drivers, and from a ridesharing expert I interviewed:
Fulltime driving isn’t enough
My first driver was a DJ, about college age, who told me he drives 60 to 80 hours a week for Lyft. He didn’t earn much money, he said, and the driving takes away from his passion of making music.
This led to a college-age discussion about how much money you need, and if working in a job that doesn’t fulfill your passion is worthwhile. His goal was to find ways to turn his musical interests into earning money, and to drive less.
The value of a driver’s time didn’t seem to be computed on many levels by Lyft, though I got differing opinions on the value of driving for Lyft when working 40 hours or more per week.
Bonuses are key
Another driver, a former fulltime taxi driver in San Francisco, told me that working 40+ hours per week only allows him to earn money to live on if he meets Lyft’s bonus goals. The more trips a driver makes, the closer they can get to earning a Lyft bonus. That makes short trips more profitable, he said.
Lyft explains its Power Driver Bonus in detail on its website. It has various requirements, including giving rides at peak times, having a 2011 or later model car, a high acceptance rate and bonus tiers.
For people who driver 40 to 50 hours per week for Lyft, the bonuses are accessible and equate to providing 60 rides per week, says Harry Campbell, owner of The Rideshare Guy, a blog and podcast about ridesharing and a driver for Lyft and Uber. Continue reading