Uber vs. Lyft: Which is better for rideshare drivers?

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“To be an Uber driver, or to be a Lyft driver? That is the question…”

Well, maybe this decision isn’t that dramatic for you, but we get a lot of questions about which company gives drivers a better deal and driving experience. While Uber and Lyft are similar in many ways, there are subtle differences that might incite a strong desire to drive for one, and let the other go by the wayside.

In this article, we’ll compare the two biggest rideshare companies and point out what each has to offer. Then, you’ll hopefully have the information you need to decide which one is best for you. Here’s what we’ll cover:

  • Who pays drivers the most, Uber or Lyft?
  • The company image: Which identity fits you better?
  • How easy is signing up?
  • The driving experience: How the companies differ
  • What incentives do the companies offer? 
  • Is it worth it to drive for both companies?
  • Uber, Lyft, or both?

Who pays drivers the most, Uber or Lyft?

Ok let’s start things off with what most drivers want to know the most! Who pays more, Uber or Lyft?

And the answer is… Uber.

But, although Uber drivers earn slightly more than Lyft drivers, if you prefer Lyft for other reasons, the difference probably isn’t enough to be a huge factor. Still, there is a 4 percent difference in trips per hour, and differences of 7 percent and 5 percent (consecutively) in earnings per mile and per trip. 

According to our nationwide data for median earnings, these are the actual figures: 

Earnings per hourEarnings per mileEarnings per trip
Uber$16.77$0.81$10.58
Lyft$16.33$0.75$10.02

As important as earnings are, keep in mind that there are other factors you may want to consider before choosing to drive for Uber, Lyft, or both. 

Both? Yes, that’s an option too. More about that in a bit. First, let’s look at some more basics about both companies. 

The company image: Which identity fits you better?

What do we mean by this? Company image is the general communal feeling, appearance, and branding of the company in question. It might not seem like a huge deal, but company image and culture are factors you have to live with day to day when you work for any company. Looking at each company lets you see some big differences. 

Pink, purple, and playful

When Lyft first came on the scene, many cars were outfitted with huge, fluffy pink mustaches on the grille. This conveyed a fun image to passengers and drivers, and certainly made the cars recognizable.

As Lyft grew, it retained its bold brand identity, but let the kitschy mustache go by the wayside. The company upgraded to a sleek purplish-magenta lighted amp that drivers mount on the dashboard.

The amp persists to this day, easily identifying drivers to their passengers, and keeping the company image foremost in their minds. Newer drivers might use a sticker instead of an amp, but the sticker is fashioned in the same bright-colored branding.

Lyft carries its image onto the app’s driver side. The app screen is designed to show off the company’s pink and purple colors, and when the surges are hot, there are high-earning areas that show up in a pinkish brown. 

Another feature of the app is that passengers’ pictures show up on the screen when they request a ride. Knowing what your customer looks like helps you avoid screaming the person’s name out your window, and it helps you to connect even before you meet.

It’s easy to see that Lyft’s company image comes off as fun, friendly, and colorful.

Low-key and understated

The same cannot be said of Uber. Over the years, the company’s image has been more low-key, and remains so to this day. The logo has gone through several redesigns but has remained simple and straightforward.

The Uber amp-type devices, usually a dark background with blue lights, are reserved for high-volume drivers. Most Uber drivers display stickers on their windshields. Uber sends out new stickers whenever they decide to redesign the logo (which is more often than you might expect).

Uber’s app is plain and simple, and nowhere near as colorful as the Lyft app. While it’s easy to use for the most part, its onboard navigation system is not so great. Rumor has it that Uber bought the skeleton of their nav from a company that routes garbage trucks. 

It’s not uncommon for the Uber app’s nav to guide you to the back alley of the address you’re aiming for. To avoid this, you’ll want to plug in another, more sophisticated navigator, such as WAZE or Google Maps. It’s fairly easy to do that in your app settings.

Now that we’ve covered the image projected by both companies, we’ll dig into who they really are based on how they treat drivers. First, the sign-up experience.

How easy is signing up?

Signing up for Lyft is very simple. Lyft is often looking for new drivers, so there’s no worry about being placed on a waiting list. There are, however, requirements you must meet. These vary from one region to another, as you’ll see on Lyft’s State and city requirements list. Meanwhile, we’ll give you a general idea of what you need:

  • Driver’s license
  • Meet the minimum required age in your city (from 21–25)
  • A 4-door vehicle that:
    • has a minimum of five seatbelts, maximum of eight seatbelts
    • has no body damage
    • is not on the list of disallowed compact vehicles.
    • is no more than 15 years old
    • has no more than 350,000 odometer miles
  • Car registration
  • Insurance
  • Proof of inspection
  • Background check (criminal and DMV)

If you don’t own a vehicle, you can rent one, but only through Lyft’s Express Drive program.

Taxis, stretch limousines, and certain subcompact vehicles aren’t accepted on the Lyft platform. To check for additional vehicle requirements, see the above-linked list.

Uber’s sign-up process is quite similar:

  • Meet the minimum age to drive in your city, and have a valid US driver’s license
  • Have at least one year of licensed driving experience in the US (three years if you are under 23 years old)
  • Have an eligible 4-door vehicle (no older than 15 model years, no body damage, and not salvaged)
  • Proof of residency in your city, state, or province
  • Proof of vehicle insurance if you plan to drive your own car
  • Car registration
  • Proof of inspection

You can rent a car to drive for Uber, but only if it is secured through a designated partnership. Check the Uber website to see what’s available in your area.

You’ll need to provide a profile picture, forward facing, with just your head in the photo.

Now that you know what it takes to sign up, let’s look at what each company is like from behind the steering wheel.

The driving experience: How the companies differ

Driving for Lyft

Lyft’s driving experience tends to reflect its fun and friendly image. One of the most endearing things the company does for drivers is provide the Lyft Driver Guidebook. It contains many of the finer points about signing up and driving with Lyft.

Throughout the guidebook you’ll find a number of tutorials. Some are mandatory for you to view, while others are there just for extra help. Before you drive, be sure to get familiar with the app so you won’t get flustered once you have to use it on the road.

When you get a ping, the passenger’s picture comes up on your screen, along with the person’s star rating. You can choose to accept or decline the ride—but be careful about declining. If you do it too often, Lyft will write to you and complain that you’re not accepting enough rides. That could affect your rating as well as how often rides are sent your way.

Also, make sure to accept the ride within a few seconds; if you miss it, the ride will be counted as though you declined it. Also, be careful to turn off the app if you take a break, because if you fail to respond to calls that come in during that time, it will count against your acceptance rate.

If and when you accept the ride, you’ll be guided instantly to your pickup point by the app. The passenger gets in, and you click or swipe again on the app to verify that you’re on the way to the destination. Then, the navigation system will guide you there, step by step.

When you get to the pickup point, you will (hopefully) find your passenger—which isn’t always as easy as it seems. The app will give you a means to text and/or phone the person to find out his/her exact location. If you wait beyond the allotted period, usually five minutes, you can cancel the ride and get paid a nominal fee. Fortunately, this doesn’t happen often.

Once you drop the passenger off, you’ll need to end the ride on the app. The amount you earned, plus any tip, will show up on the screen. You’ll also get a chance to rate your passenger. 

Lyft’s navigation system is layered over Google maps, so if you’re used to that way of getting around, the nav will be familiar. If you prefer to use WAZE, which also tells you about everything from the fastest route to a police presence or a pothole in the road, you can change your preferred navigation in your settings to WAZE.

General

Driving for Lyft can be pleasant and lucrative, but the app can sometimes make you feel like you’re being micromanaged. You’ll definitely hear from the company if you refuse too many rides.

Money

How much you earn as a Lyft driver will vary based on where you live, what time of day you’re driving, and what’s going on with surges and incentives. In general, drivers say they make decent money. 

Ease of driving

There’s very little to complain about with the Lyft app. It’s state-of-the-art, visually appealing, easy to use, and not the least bit confusing. Also, the map is clear and exceptionally detailed.

Rating system

You can rate your passengers, and they, in turn, can rate you. Lyft uses a star system from 1 to 5, and you will need to keep your ratings up. Tips for doing this are in the Lyft Driver Guidebook. You don’t always have control over your ratings, but remember this: If you do your best, even a really bad rating will be canceled out by an outstanding one. 

Support

Lyft operates Hubs, where you can go to get in-person help. Help through the app comes via email. You’ll get responses within reasonable time frames, but again, this may vary depending on where you live and how busy it might be. You’ll find many answers to your questions in the Lyft Driver Guidebook.

Driving for Uber

When you drive for Uber, you’ll find that the company’s no-frills image carries through to the experience. You won’t find a lot of flashing lights or fancy enhancements on the app; it’s pretty basic, with a decent enough interface. 

There are mandatory tutorials you’ll need to take on driver safety and community standards. There’s a lot of online assistance from the Help sections of the website and app. You can get a hard copy driver’s guide at Uber Greenlight Hubs or through the mail, but there’s nothing in there you can’t get online.

When you get a ping, you’ll see the passenger’s name, the trip (how long it will take you to get to the pickup, and if your Uber Pro status lets you qualify, how long the ride will be), and the passenger’s rating. You can accept or decline the ride.

If you don’t accept soon enough, you’ll lose the ride and it will count as though you declined it. This is something you want to avoid because to get certain incentives, you have to keep a high acceptance rate.

As mentioned earlier, Uber’s navigation system is not the greatest. You can use it if it works for you, but you might find it easier to set up Google Maps or WAZE in your app settings.

As with Lyft, you’ll want to familiarize yourself with Uber’s app before you go out to drive. The website can help with this, but the best way is to go through it yourself, as you would with any new app.

Remember to check your settings to see if you’re open for Uber Eats deliveries. When you’re a rideshare driver for Uber, you automatically qualify to deliver for Uber Eats. It’s up to you whether you want to deliver, drive, or do both on the same shift.

While it’s a bonus to be able to deliver as well as drive, sometimes you’ll only want to do one or the other. Make sure your settings reflect your preference. Usually, the app defaults to leaving you available for both. If you don’t want to deliver, you can turn deliveries off; if you only want to deliver, you can deactivate the driving option. 

The ride portion works the same as with Lyft. You are guided to the pickup point, and once the passenger is in your vehicle, you start the ride. There is a place to tap “Navigate” on the ride screen. You’ll want to do this in order to get Google Maps or WAZE to kick in, if you’ve decided to opt out of using the Uber navigation system.

When you drop off the passenger, you will rate one another based on a 5-star system. 

Here are some observations about driving for Uber.

General

Uber is the most popular service in most areas, so if passengers are out, you’re likely to get rides. Your experience, however, won’t be as colorful and friendly as with Lyft. 

Money

Uber rates vary by location, but for the most part, they are fair. Many drivers dispute that—but if they didn’t make money, they wouldn’t be driving. Surges and incentives add to your income, certainly. Sometimes they’re plentiful, and other times they’re hard to come by. Overall, Uber’s earnings potential tends to satisfy drivers.

Ease of driving

The experience of using the app is utilitarian, meaning it has what you need and not much more. You don’t see pictures of passengers, and the app is functional but not fancy. You’re also not likely to have a light-up amp in your window, so looking for passengers can be somewhat problematic when you’re in crowded areas.

Rating system

The rating system goes both ways, and it pays to do what it takes to keep your rating high. It will affect not only your ability to keep driving for Uber, but also how you’ll be treated by the rewards program, Uber Pro. (More about that in a bit.)

Support

Uber used to have adequate in-person support at their Greenlight Hubs, but much has changed in the last year. Online and phone help is available, but the priority your emails and calls are given depends on your Uber Pro status. 

So we can explain more about that, let’s discuss the rewards systems for both companies.

What incentives do the companies offer? 

Both Lyft and Uber offer three types of incentives: driver rewards, premiums and bonuses, and referrals.

Let’s start with the rewards systems because they’re something all drivers can benefit from. Rewards systems are designed to incentivize drivers to work a lot and also keep their ratings high by delivering good service. Here’s what each company offers for rewards:

Lyft Rewards

The Lyft Rewards program is tied to the dollar amounts drivers earn on basic fares, time and distance, and tips during busy times. Bonuses and surges are not included in this amount, nor are cancellation fees. The dollars add up, and as they do, drivers “unlock” various rewards tiers: Silver, Gold, and Platinum. Points are tallied by the quarter, and they reset at the end of each qualification period.

You can see what each of the tiers has to offer on the Lyft Rewards section of the website. The rewards on each tier range from credits toward Lyft rides, discounts on car maintenance and insurance, and even cash bonuses. Rewards vary from one location to the next, so check with Lyft to see exactly what the program can do for you.

Uber Pro

Uber’s Uber Pro rewards system also works in tiers: Blue, Gold, Platinum, and Diamond. The tiers are based on the number of rides given by drivers in a three-month period, as well as their star ratings, acceptance rate, and cancellation rate. Some rides are worth one point, while others are worth three.

To see how many points you need to reach a certain tier, you can look at your app profile. It will tell you in which tier you are, and what you have to do in order to make it to the next tier. You can find all the details in the Introducing Uber Pro publication.

The rewards given with Uber Pro include higher quest amounts, discounts, special treatment in support, consecutive trip promotions, roadside assistance, and the brass ring for all drivers: preferred status with customer support.

Moving on, let’s review driver incentives behind the wheel; i.e., how Lyft and Uber handle surges and bonuses to add to driver earnings.

Lyft bonuses and rewards

Lyft offers drivers a wide range of bonuses and rewards. Some reward drivers for working during busy periods. The streak bonus, for instance, sets a dollar amount for a certain number of rides given in a busy time period.

There are also personal power zones, which offer incentives for drivers who start rides in certain areas. Ride challenges and bonuses offer guaranteed earnings for a certain number of rides.

Lyft’s program is quite extensive, and like most features of any program, what you get will vary depending on where you live. 

Uber Promotions

Uber promotions are less plentiful, but they’re quite generous. There is surge pricing, which adds dollar amounts on rides drivers take in hot areas on the map. Then there are quests, which allow drivers to collect extra cash for completing a certain number of rides over a period of days, usually Monday to Thursday, and Friday to Sunday. 

There are also special promotions, like consecutive rides that reward drivers with a set bonus amount for taking three consecutive trips. For example, if you start your first ride in the designated zone, and complete two more trips after that without turning off your app or declining a ride, you get a bonus. 

These bonuses range anywhere from $3 to $25, depending on where you live and how much Uber wants to incentivize drivers on a given day.

Lyft referrals

With Lyft’s referral rewards program, you can make a considerable amount of extra money by referring drivers. You’ll get a referral code when you sign up to drive. When you invite someone to sign up for Lyft and the person starts driving, you could get a very large referral fee.

Before you actually receive the fee, the new driver must complete a certain number of drives within 30 days of signing up with Lyft. Then, not only do you get the referral fee, the new driver also gets a bonus for completing the first month with high volume. 

This usually takes the form of a “guaranteed earnings” agreement. If the new driver completes the requirements, Lyft guarantees he/she will make a certain amount of money. If actual earnings are lower, Lyft pays the difference. 

You’ll notice that we’re not giving you definite referral fee amounts, time limits, or levels of guaranteed earnings, and that’s because (here it is again) it varies from time to time as well as from place to place.

Just to give you an idea, as of early April 2021 drivers in Pittsburgh can earn $600 extra for referring a new Lyft driver as long as that person completes 100 rides in 30 days. The referred driver is guaranteed to make $1,600. Look in your app to see the current rates and time limits for your area.

As an added incentive in these times when Lyft is trying to lure drivers back, the company is allowing active drivers to refer drivers who have been inactive for a while. So for now, the person you refer to Lyft doesn’t have to be a total newbie. It could be someone who’s taken time off from driving, as long as the driver wasn’t deactivated.

Lyft’s referral program is pretty solid, as long as you know people who really want to drive. Still, if a person only drives around 20 hours a week, the 100 rides in 30 days isn’t out of reach.

Uber referrals

Uber’s referral program is not as elaborate as Lyft’s, but that doesn’t mean you’ll be left without any opportunity for referral bonuses. As of now, Uber is offering $150 for each person a driver refers, as long as they complete 100 rides. 

You’ll also see that Uber isn’t very specific about its exact terms because they vary from time to time. The best way to find out what’s being offered in your area is through the app. Go to your Earnings tab and scroll down to the referral program information.

Is it worth it to drive for both Uber and Lyft?

Drivers often ask us if it’s possible to drive for both Uber and Lyft at the same time, and the answer is yes,  but … you need to decide if it’s worth it. At one time, before the companies started offering incentives based on the number of rides you did with one app, it made sense.

Now, with the need to have a certain number of rides to get bonuses for both companies, it would be hard to drive for both at the same time. It might be possible to change over in alternate months or quarters, but by not driving for one, you’d be losing your status with the rewards program of the other.

Something else to think about, if you choose to experiment working for both, is keeping up with the rides as they come in. It’s possible to run both apps on your device at the same time, but it gets tricky. 

For instance, if you’re picking up a Lyft ride, and you neglect to turn off your Uber app, an Uber ping could come in that you’ll be unable to pick up. That will take its toll on your acceptance rate and your Uber Pro status. Let’s just say it’s a lot to juggle. Working both apps on the same shift could also mess with your streak and consecutive trip bonuses. 

By the way, it’s all right to display decals and/or amps for Uber and Lyft at the same time. That way you have the flexibility of changing companies if you choose to do so without having to remove the identifying tags you must display as a rideshare driver.

Lyft, or Uber, or both?

When you weigh the pros and cons of both companies and add in the prospect of working for both, you have a lot of options to consider. We hope this article helps you get a clear idea of the differences between the two most popular rideshare companies, and that whatever you decide, you’ll be a very satisfied and successful gig driver.

Track your earnings with Gridwise!

No matter which company you choose, and even if you want to drive for both, let Gridwise track your earnings on every shift. Simply link your Uber or Lyft account to Gridwise, open the app when you begin your shift, and Gridwise takes it from there. The app tracks your earnings and your mileage, and allows you to enter expenses, too. Then, Gridwise takes all that important information and puts it into colorful, easy-to-understand graphs like these.

So, if you want to experiment with driving for both Lyft and Uber, or even a pure delivery app, you can see everything you earned by the hour, the trip, and by the service. 

That’s not all. Gridwise is your guide to driving in your area, with key information about airport traffic, events, and weather at your fingertips. Be sure to hit the Perks tab to get deals and discounts for drivers, plus announcements and news from our blog and YouTube channel.

Join us on Facebook and be part of our great community of Gridwise drivers. Participate in the boisterous banter and get in on the gas card giveaways. With Gridwise, you have everything a driver could need, no matter which company you choose to use for your driving gig. If you haven’t already done so, download the app now!

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