How Uber and Lyft Drivers Prepare for New Years Eve
New Years Eve is relatively profitable compared to one of the slowest weeks in rideshare between Christmas and New Years Eve since many people have taken off work, kids are out of school, and many people are traveling with family over the holiday. There have been fewer and fewer drivers reporting back that New Years Eve was a very lucrative time to drive due to the number of incentives from Lyft and Uber and the number of drivers on the road. While I don’t think it will be a huge money maker for everyone, I think it will still be a good night to drive on Lyft and Uber. Last year, I earned about $40 an hour driving on Lyft on New Years Eve, compared to my average earnings of about $20-25 an hour in Seattle. Most of these earnings were on the Hourly Guarantee last year while there are no hourly guarantees on either Lyft or Uber this year so it may change my earnings.
The most important thing for drivers to do is plan ahead of time and come up with a strategy. It is also a good idea to be informed about various promotions and also be familiar with your city so that when the time comes, you know where to be and how to drive around the city. Just a little preparation can boost your earnings by at least $10-$20 an hour, especially on a busy night like this one.
What Should I Plan For?
There will be many factors that you should consider before you decide when to drive, who to drive for, and if you want to drive on New Years Eve. The first one is that there will be a lot of people drinking that night. Because it is a major holiday (in terms of rideshare), there will be a lot of other drivers out there so you need to know how to navigate it. Below are a few factors to consider:
Low Earnings / Few Rides
There may be a lot of drivers out on the road that evening, so be prepared to not earn as much as you expect it to. Depending on the incentives Uber and Lyft offers in your city, there may be a lot more drivers than passengers, reducing your income. Note that many people may still be out of town over New Years Day and that New Years Eve won’t magically bring them back to your city. This past week in Boston has been fairly quiet and I don’t expect it to get much busier all of a sudden for New Years Eve.
Uber and Lyft drivers will need to monitor their earnings for the night. The most lucrative times to drive will be after midnight but there may be some good rides between 9-11pm. If you see that it is not very busy at around 10pm, you’ll need to make the choice of whether to stick it out or quit for the night. This will be a very hard decision to make since the number of rides you get and the Surge/Prime Time pricing will heavily depend on where you are, so other drivers could be earning much more than you but they just happen to be in the right place at the right time.
The entire United States is under an arctic blast so there will be more demand than usual. It is only expected to be in the teens in New York and Boston and it is predicted to be one of the coldest New Years Eve on record, so there will be a lot of people looking for rides after midnight. In Boston, public transportation will be free, but no one wants to stumble home at 1am when it is 10F outside.
Drunk Passengers and Vomit
This is probably your top concern for the night. Passengers may be more drunk than usual because of the holiday, especially late into the evening (1-3am) when the earnings are at its highest. Last year, many drivers reported surge well above 6x on Uber and I would expect more of the same during brief parts of the evening. Vomiting passengers are quite rare during Uber and Lyft rides, but it should be something to consider and plan for. The first thing would be to get Emesis Bags to give a place for passengers to vomit.
For more information about how to deal with vomit when driving Lyft and Uber, read the below posts:
How to Deal with Vomit on Lyft and Uber
How to Clean your Car’s Interior
New Years Day
Something that most drivers don’t realize is that New Year’s Day can be plenty busy as well, with party goers heading home after spending the night somewhere. There will be request throughout the day, from people going back home to people flying back into town to start the work week. Last year, I earned a little bit more New Years Day than I did driving about 5 hours before midnight New Years Eve due to lack of drivers and increased demand for rides throughout the day. New Years Day has a huge advantage in that your passengers will not vomit in your car, less traffic and better visibility on the road with the sun up. If I wanted to reduce the vomit risk, I would drive from 3-11pm New Years Eve and then about 7am-3pm New Years Day. With this schedule, you can still ring in the New Year with your partner and still make some money during the two days.
Driver incentives will be your next consideration. It may drastically alter your plans, depending on when the driver incentives happen, how much the incentives are, and what the requirements are. These are the things to consider because the incentives may be higher for one service but the requirements may be easier for another and it’ll be up to you to decide which one best suits you. The various driver incentives and requirements vary widely from city to city.
Boost Pricing (Uber)
This has been Uber’s driver incentive of choice lately. Boost pricing is on the driver side and not on the passenger side. If Uber guarantees boost pricing during a certain time and place, all rides you accept during that time and zone will at a minimum have that surge pricing. Customers will not pay for it and Uber will cover the cost of the boost pricing.
For example, if Boost pricing is 1.3x, you will see every trip at 1.3x at a specified time. If there is no surge pricing on the passenger side, they will pay the normal price. Uber will pay the 0.3x extra to drivers. This incentive is also subjected to the Uber commission.
Power Zones (Lyft)
Lyft’s version of Boost is called Power Zones, where you get a bonus (typically a percentage of the ride) in certain areas of the city. It works the same way as Boost on Lyft. This promotion is also on the driver side where Lyft will pay the bonus directly to the driver. This is one of the main ways Lyft controls Prime Time Pricing by enticing more drivers to be online in certain areas of the city at a specific time.
Consecutive Trip Bonus (Lyft and Uber)
Lyft and Uber have offered consecutive trip bonuses in the past. Lyft and Uber will pay drivers a small bonus if they complete a number of trips in a row to keep drivers on their platform. On Lyft, it is typically called a Streak. On Uber, I was offered $17 for each group of 3 consecutive trips between 11pm and 2am tonight. I expect Lyft to give drivers a similar offer later in the day.
Hourly Guarantees and Requirements
Lyft and Uber have mostly did away with hourly requirements since they can be easy to manipulate by drivers and it may not have the intended effect. Lyft and Uber are looking for drivers to do as many trips as possible in a given time period so paying a bonus per hour may not achieve that. Paying a bonus on every trip ensures that drivers are going out to get as many trips as possible. Lyft continued hourly guarantees for a few months this year before switching to Power Zones sometime in the middle of this year depending on the city.
Rideshare drivers need to be aware of various promotions for passengers. In years past, Lyft and Uber were giving out large discounts for New Years Eve to attract more passengers and it could happen again this year. I haven’t heard of anything so far this year, but check your Lyft and Uber passenger apps to see what promotions are being offered to riders.
Uber vs Lyft
This is the determination you will need to make. Which one do you drive on? Which one do you like better? Which one do you think you’ll earn the most money with? You don’t need to drive all night for one company. Two years ago, I drove on Lyft before midnight and then Uber after midnight since I knew Surge pricing will be higher on Uber than Prime Time on Lyft. This is something you will need to figure out once you know which driver incentive you qualify for.
In addition, sometimes Lyft is better for some drivers in some markets and Uber is better in other markets. It is a personal choice. Some will ignore the various guarantees and incentives and drive for the company of their choice due to where they are located.
How Should I Drive on New Years Eve?
There are often two ways to position and drive on any major holiday. One is to go to all the hotspots, but you know that there will be many other drivers there. The opposite way is to go away from the hotspots and hope that due to the lack of drivers, you will get a ride. Drivers in my city (Boston) seem to do better driving away from downtown and get longer rides.
The next consideration is to see if you would earn more on your current strategy or if you should change strategies. If your strategy is for the Lyft Power Zone, you will need to make a judgement of if you can earn more by changing to Uber with Boost Pricing. For example, Lyft Power Zone is at 60% compared to Uber Boost at 1.3x. You know that you get more rides on Uber so you may earn more with Uber, even though the Power Zone as higher on Lyft. In my personal experience, I am much more likely to get surge pricing than Prime time. The key will be to monitor your earnings throughout the night and see if you need to change something you are doing to get higher earnings.
What If You’re Not a Driver and Want to Drive on Uber and Lyft?
If you are reading this on New Years Eve, you won’t be able to signup in time and get approved to drive on New Years Eve. The background check process often takes up to a week, so you won’t be approved right away. State and local laws have also extended the time needed to get fully approved to drive on Uber and Lyft, so while you wouldn’t be able to drive on New Years Eve, you can drive sometime next year. It is only about another 6 weeks until Valentines day, which will be extremely busy so consider signing up now and ensure you can get approved before February. Below are some of the links you can use to sign up for Lyft and Uber and they both have a bonus for signing up and completing the requisite number of trips:
Prime Time vs Surge Pricing
Note that Prime Time is an additional fare on top of the base fare. If there is 100% Prime Time, it is the same as 2x on surge pricing. In my experience, I get surge pricing more often than Prime Time due to the Prime Time zones being so small and localized. Also, even if you get a trip within the colored box, it is often lower than the stated pricing for both Uber and Lyft. I have been seeing more tips on Lyft lately, so I earn about the same on Uber or Lyft.
What am I doing?
In Boston, here is a brief summary of the promotions I have:
- Boost 1.3-1.4 in much of the city between 12-7pm
- Consecutive Trip Bonus $17 for every three trips between 11pm-2am
- Boost: up to 3.5x between 12am to 3am
- Power Zones 30-50% 5pm to 11pm
- Power Zones up to 200% (3x total) between 12-3am
So between 12-7pm, I’ll be driving on Uber. Between 7pm and 11pm, I’ll be driving on Lyft. Depending on where I am, I’ll be driving mostly on Uber after midnight since while Boost isn’t as high as the Power Zones for Lyft, there are only a few zones of the city with the Power Zone pricing, so I’ll be more likely to get a Boost ride on Uber than I do on Lyft. That will be the general strategy for me that night but I may change it if I don’t get any requests on Uber.
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