2014 Rideshare Dashboard Year in Review
This year was definitely my busiest year ever. I started the year working over 20 hours a week on Uber and Lyft in addition to my 40hrs/week full time job, while also training to run a few international marathons and of course building this blog from scratch.
I’ve been working hard on a free training course (see link in the menu above) but have also released a video Uber and Lyft training course. I’ll be blogging more about this online video course in the coming weeks. There is quite a bit of content there that I haven’t blogged about. There is a special deal if you want to find out more by clicking the link below:
It is hard to believe that my first blog post about rideshare was just a year ago. It seemed like yesterday that I was applying to Lyft, washing my car after a snowstorm to get it ready for my mentoring session and applying to Uber over the weekend so that I can drive on New Years Eve. I have been writing about everything Uber and Lyft related for the past year so read below about the timeline of changes on both Uber and Lyft in 2014. I am a bit shocked at how many changes happened in 2014 alone as I was writing this post.
It is actually quite surprising that my first post was just a year ago and funny enough I wrote about my experience from last New Years Eve:
Uber had been testing Surge Pricing towards the end of 2013 in New York and other markets. They made the news the first time when New Yorkers were charged outrageous prices during a small snow storm back in 2012. Eventually, Uber launched Surge Pricing nationwide by early January:
Around the same time, Lyft “graduated” a few cities from Beta to Full cities, which meant that many cities are now 24 hours, and they don’t have any hourly guarantees to keep drivers on the road. In the past, Lyft had hourly guarantees, ranging from $15 to $25 an hour. If you didn’t have enough fares to exceed those amounts per hour, Lyft will kick in the rest, and these rates are after Lyft commissions, which essentially meant $18 to $30 an hour. I took advantage of this in a big way over Christmas last year as no one was in town and I only picked up a passenger every hour or so, even though I sat in a lot of hotspots. Some avoided the hotspots and collected their guarantee but I didn’t want to get offboarded. Note that when PTT first launched, the entire coverage area would be under Prime Time at the same rate.
Shortly after Uber released Surge Pricing, they changed to the zone-based surge pricing we now know of. Before, the entire city would surge at the same rate, which didn’t boost supply in areas of the city that needed it the most.
Once Lyft removed the “floor” (minimum earnings per hour) when they switched to the same model Uber runs on where drivers only earn the fares they bring in, Uber’s first of many ways to attract Lyft Drivers was to offer a minimum earnings per hour of their own. This was in addition to a signup bonus from Uber for Lyft Drivers to sign up for Uber. They started with $20 an hour and varied the offer over the next few months:
To make it easier for new drivers to sign up, I blogged about how to signup for Lyft and Uber and explained how the pay statements and surge pricing worked:
On Valentines Day, Uber was Guaranteeing $40/hr, first of many hourly guarantees Uber would be giving out in 2014:
In Early April, Lyft Implemented Passenger Destinations into the app, along with reducing prices in many cities by 20%, but also not take any commission on any rides. This maintained driver earnings while reducing prices for customers.
In April, Uber made a few changes. They added the weekly driver summaries (your rating, hours, income/hour) and also added the $1 Safe Ride Fee that Lyft had charged this entire time.
Uber also implemented the weekly $10 Uber iPhone fee in April. I spoke to a few drivers and people who knew employees of Uber in my city and they said how Uber was losing a lot of drivers over the iPhone fee. By the April timeframe, the city was saturated with Uber Drivers and I did much better on Lyft with constant Prime Time. I even hit $50/hr for two hours on some nights.
I also became a mentor back in February, but the first time I blogged about it was in April when Lyft was testing out a new incentive where if mentors can get their mentees to 30 Lyfts, they get a $15 bonus:
Lyft was one of the first ones to dabble in the Lyft Plus or Uber XL type market with their limited release of Lyft Plus in San Francisco with Ford Explorers with a custom leather interior. They wouldn’t release Lyft Plus nationwide until the middle of the summer.
In the same week, Uber launched their XL segment in a few cities, and keeps expanding XL markets almost every week:
Then Uber and Lyft started their generous signup bonuses to poach each other’s drivers. Uber started first with their $1000 signup bonus for Lyft Mentors and Lyft responded with a $500 guarantee for Uber Drivers. These two services ran these promotions from May until August (now expired).
Lyft also changed over to Regional Facebook Lounges in May, which they then stopped back in November.
In May, both Uber and Lyft updated their insurance coverage to cover the driver’s car (only if the driver has collision coverage for their own car and their personal insurance rejects the claim)
Shortly after I blogged about how Sidecar was the only rideshare service that allowed drivers under 23 years of age in May (read the post here), Lyft changed their age requirements to 21 and also allowed for commercial plates. Before, Lyft did not accept commercial plates. Uber changed their age requirements sometime after Lyft. It is unclear when that was as the age requirement was never posted on Uber’s website, which is very odd. It was only after I emailed Uber to check their age requirement that I got the confirmation that it was 21.
In June, Lyft released their drivers perks program, which gives discounts to drivers who drive more than 30 Lyfts a month.
Once I had a few months of mentoring under my belt and mentoring over 50 mentees, I blogged about my experiences as a Mentor by creating a short training series on it:
In July, Both Uber and Lyft updated their insurance coverages to Primary, but for collision they still required you to submit your claims to your personal insurance first.
In August, Lyft changed their driver app to include Tap To Arrive. This also changed the way the Lyft Driver app worked. Now drivers tap to arrive, and then only tap to end the ride. Everything else is automatically handled by the Lyft app, which was more convenient. Also, Lyft implemented a no-show-fee, which was sorely needed for the no-shows and wasted time.
Uber also added an in-app navigation. The navigation system was horrible and it seemed as if they designed their own. Eventually they backed away from that and gave the option to use another navigation service on both Uber’s own Iphone and other services on your own personal phone such as Maps, Waze or any other navigation app.
Lyft implemented the Power Drivers bonus, which gives a bonus to drivers who drive over 20 hours a week. Eventually this was revised to 30 hours a week, with no commissions at over 50 hours a week. They also changed wording from PTT to Prime Time and they now take the 20% commission now from Prime Time as well, just like Uber.
Uber saw the increase in ridership from Lyft’s lowered fares so Uber decides to lower their prices as well. There were also temporarily taking a lower commission to match what Lyft was doing, but eventually the price reductions were permanent come September.
One of the great features of the Uber app that was not in the Lyft driver app was heatmaps. Lyft implemented heatmaps but also took away the ability to see other drivers on the app.
Then Uber finally released the Uber Driver app so that you can install it on your own personal iPhone. At this time, the Android app was not released yet but it would be in another month. Only 10% of all smartphones is Apple, so this only helped a small number of Uber drivers who had their own personal iPhones.
After a few months asking other drivers about scams they have seen, I posted a long list of both passenger related scams and also driver related scams to warn both passengers and drivers.
After about six month of using Sherpa, I finally had the time to review and post some how-to’s on how to use the service. I wrote this piece after waiting for a few features to be implemented, such as breaking down Lyft and Uber income separately and a few other things. The only thing missing is the deep integration with Uber that is now required in order to have Sherpa process your income as Uber has removed date/time from the CSV exports again.
Also in September, both Lyft and Uber made their price reductions final. Lyft started charging commission again, which reduce driver earnings by 20%. Uber reduced prices and restored their commission, so effectively it was a 20% cut for drivers.
During the same week, Lyft Plus was being released nationwide while Uber responded by creating an UberXL only mode for drivers so they can only accept XL requests. I would recommend doing XL only mode during peak hours on Friday and Saturday nights.
After a few months as part of the Lyft Recruiting Program, I wrote a blog post about the exclusive program and also about how Uber may be messing with it. Lyft Recruiting Program is staffed by Lyft Mentors who help new applicants into the mentor session.
With Recruiting and mentoring, I blogged about how Lyft drivers can make more than Uber. Most of the money is in recruiting but mentors can make some good money by mentoring, assuming they have a string of good mentees, and not the ones who waste a lot of time.
With Lyft Plus and XL, drivers has more options than ever. Lyft updated their app to support Lyft Plus only requests, but this mode could only be turned on during Peak Times. I also did a quick piece comparing Uber XL and Lyft Plus
After about a month, Uber finally released their driver app for the Android OS so now any driver can use the Uber Driver app on their own phones. The first two versions were a bit buggy but it got better very quickly. Now I use it with minimal issues, other than overheating my cell phone.
To reduce driver cancellations to keep a certain acceptance rate to maintain their Power Bonus, Lyft includes driver cancellations into the acceptance rate. They also implemented a new no-show option and a new pay screen to help drivers and also get more tips from passengers.
As a pre-Halloween post, I talked about vomit, including what to do in case of vomit and how to get the most compensation for vomit. There was a recent story about how a driver didn’t take adequate pictures of the vomit and he didn’t get reimbursed at all from Uber. Make sure to read this post if you want to make sure you get paid for vomit.
This caused a lot of anger among Lyft drivers. They were cutting passenger referral programs in many of the smallest Lyft markets and also cutting the driver and college ambassador program where drivers and non-drivers hand out referral cards for compensation.
Uber has this feature when they started, but Lyft is playing catch-up in this area. Normally, you would have to submit your receipts manually and have Lyft reimburse you but now Lyft can reimburse you automatically. The system still has a few bugs so Lyft’s automatic tolls doesn’t work 100% so you will need to check your statements to make sure that the tolls are being paid out properly. If they are not, then you will need to submit your toll statements on Lyft like you have been before. With this change though, now tolls are added onto the Lyft trip so drivers now need to be more careful about which route they take and make sure their passengers know about the toll.
On the Facebook groups, some drivers noticed that the Safety Fee was raised to $1.50 (and higher in some cities where part of the fee goes to the city for licensing) and they also reduced the minimum fares in a few cities.
Halloween 2014: Rideshare Promotions and Outage
- Lyft matched Uber’s Hourly Guarantee in many markets on Thursday and it usually started a day early on Thursday. You can read more about Lyft’s Halloween Hourly Guarantee. The huge crux that many drivers found was that it required 2 Lyfts per whole hour, such as 6pm-7pm, or 8pm-9pm, etc with a 90% acceptance rate. Read more in the link above
- Uber then responded to Lyft’s Halloween Guarantee by extending the hours in some markets on both Friday and Saturday.
- Around 8:30pm EST Friday night, Uber had a worldwide outage, primarily caused by excessive demand on the East Coast (8:30pm) and in Europe (2:30am) for Halloween. Read more at the link
- Then later in the night around Midnight EST, Lyft had their own outage, but it lasted for two hours!
- Uber noted that they had record demand over this Halloween and this lead to record surge pricing. Many Uber Twitter users posted their large Uber bills Saturday night. When you searched for Uber on Twitter, all you would see were negative comments about surge pricing.
After some deep analysis of both Lyft and Uber’s insurance coverage, I noticed that either insurance does not cover the driver’s medical bills in the case of an accident, whether or not the driver is at fault. After some digging with a few insurance agencies, medical coverage actually lies with Worker’s Compensation, which cannot be offered by Lyft or Uber without drivers being employees instead of independent contractors.
Over Halloween, I noticed that the Uber surge pricing had changed from quarters to tenths. This can have an adverse effect on driver earnings by being a lower surge multiple than before the change.
Sidecar implemented a $50 driver referral bonus for new drivers back in May, but they doubled it to $100 in November to try to get more drivers. This may have been after their last round of funding back in late September.
After Lyft launched their driver’s perks back in June, Uber came back in October and started their own formal driver discount program, such as routine maintenance and other services. Uber did have a few random discounts at certain local retail places as part of their normal emails but now they have a formal program.
Sidecar then implements their own Safety fee, just like Uber’s and Lyft:
It was a quiet month in December leading up to New Years Eve. I quickly compared the various promotions during NYE, but none of this mattered as it was a quiet night for many rideshare drivers.
Here was my post summarizing why NYE was a bust for many rideshare drivers.
Also, here is a quick infographic summarizing the history of rideshare, with a focus on 2014: