Tips for Driving with Uber, Lyft, DoorDash, Postmates, Instacart, etc. in Smaller Cities


(Bick Bhangoo) #1

A lot of articles discuss the rideshare driving experience in large cities such as NYC, LA, and Phoenix, but there are more drivers in middle sized and smaller cities than there are in the large ones. So, this article is all about the tips for driving in middle sized markets, where the driving is just as intense but without the same saturation of drivers and demand.

Juts to understand what we mean by middle size cities, we are talking about cities that have less than a million residents, in most cases, they range between 300,000 to 800,000. These include such places as Columbus, OH which it has a population of 860,000 in the metro area, and only around 780,000 in the city limits. This is the 14th most populated city in the US, so this just goes to show you how few really large cities there are. (10 cities with populations over 1 million to be exact)

Here is the list of cities we won't be covering: (Expedia)

2016 rank City State[5] 2016 estimate
1 New York [6] New York 8,537,673
2 Los Angeles California 3,976,322
3 Chicago Illinois 2,704,958
4 Houston [7] Texas 2,303,482
5 Phoenix Arizona 1,615,017
6 Philadelphia [8] Pennsylvania 1,567,872
7 San Antonio Texas 1,492,510
8 San Diego California 1,406,630
9 Dallas Texas 1,317,929
10 San Jose California 1,025,350

As you can see, most of the Uber and Lyft drivers work in smaller environments than the ones we usually write about.

Today we will discuss the case of an Uber driver in Columbus, OH.

Our driver is Dave, a father to a new born baby, and also works as a public speaker and corporate trainer. Driving for Uber helps finance his education as well as supplement their income. Driving for Uber was also a great way for Dave to meet new people and gain experience talking with them and learning new things from daily random meetings.

Dave has been driving since 2016 and earns above average income as defined by the State's minimum income. Since he has been driving for Uber for the past 2 years, this makes him part of an elite club, only 8% of all Uber drivers survive more than 12 months. This also means that he knows the industry inside and out and is worth listening to for good insights.

Uber is popular in Columbus, and that is why he drives there more than in Cleveland, there is plenty of work for him there, and there are a quite a number of conferences and fairs that can provide Dave with a daily income of $800. One of the main features of Columbus is its University of 50,000 students. This has a big impact on work, especially since Dave lives very close to the University campus. Add to this the 500 or so companies that work within the city limits and you have a very busy city and don't forget that there are quite a lot of hi-tech ventures too, which attracts young (millennial) engineers.

What Dave has found is that knowing where you live, what is close by, what are your hot-spots and high saturation areas' is the major contributing factor to success. You also add to this the time frames when there are surges in demand, and you end up earning good money daily, and on an average Saturday that can reach around $150.

The dynamics of driving is similar to large cities, and since there only 10 large cities, the only real difference is in the traffic and knowledge of where to be and at what time. While large cities have a lot of action going down all the time, the smaller ones, provide action at specific times and seasons. These patterns enable Dave to work out where he will be working and when. By setting schedules, he can manage to maintain a steady daily income based on the knowledge of conventions, sports events, and University time schedules.

What is universally accepted in any sized city is to stay away from major sports events. The traffic during pre-game and post-game can be horrendous. Even in Columbus, when a major sporting event happens, Dave steers clear, it isn't worth wasting so much time for one ride.

The biggest difference that Dave found was in the early morning rush hours while driving in LA or NYC might be lucrative at such an hour, in Columbus it is not. The best hours for driving are the evenings and during events.

Traffic is a major issue in mid-size markets, especially when the distance is not an issue as it might be in large cities. Here you have smaller distances and longer time frames with traffic. So much so, is the difference in ratio compared to large cities that driving in traffic can kill your income in a middle-sized market?

This lead Dave to learn the city inside and out, much like "the knowledge" of UK taxi drivers that need to learn all about their cities history as well as all the routes including back alleyways. Knowing your way around a town like Columbus is the difference between a 20-minute ride and a 9 minute one. The knowledge of traffic in Columbus is what saved Dave's income factors a number of times, and he prefers taking x25 surge prices to x4 only due to the traffic issue. You can end up taking 2-3 x2.5 surge rides for one x4 ride, which proves how lucrative it is to know your city and drive strategically.

Another issue with driving in a city like Columbia is the necessity to work for more than one company. This means that Dave will drive for Uber and Lyft as well as for delivery services. He used this as an addition to slow times. By supplementing his Uber driving with Lyft as well as for deliveries, he maximizes his income during every shift. The trick is to be constantly moving for pay. The less "downtime" you have, the more income you make.

Dave found that he was earning on average $15.40 per hour with Uber and worked out that around 29% of his income went to expenses, so effectively, Dave was only earning around $10 an hour. This is why he decided to supplement the time he was driving with a seamless approach. Dave works for Grubhub, Postmates, Doordash, Shipt, UberEATS, and Instacart. This means that he adds 2-3 deliveries in between requests, and this would double his hourly income. That means that Dave earns on average $20 per hour net, which is a good income for a gig economy driver.

Some of Dave's tips include the following:

  • Drive for more than one company, don't limit yourself.
  • Drive for deliveries as well as for passengers.
  • Check out the weather, really foul weather creates a higher demand.
  • Watch out for public transport issues; whenever there is a strike or an issue with public transport accessibility, there is a surge in demand.
  • Be flexible, don't stick to a rigid approach, flow with the demand that the market creates and follow that demand.
  • Make sure you research daily about concerts, sporting events, and festivals, or basically any event that will attract crowds of tens of thousands. Then research the map of the event, so you can avoid traffic while maximizing income from demand.
  • Learn the city patterns, once you know the patterns in a surge in your city you can then assure a fuller work schedule as well as plan your daily routine more effectively.
  • Maximize your income, if you are already on the road and driving then don't settle back in the seat and relax. Drive intensely for the scheduled time you set and maximize your income.

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(Ian) #2

Most of the cities in the US are populated under a million, in fact most are under 250,000. Essentially, most drivers are found in such sized cities, with the larger one, the 12-14 largest ones being saturated by a lot of drivers but in comparison to the whole country, they are small. For instance, NYC only has 61,000 Uber drivers! In a city with 8.5 million residents, that accounts for only 0.71% of the population. I think that most articles find similarities in inner city driving, as well as in early morning traffic around and between cities. The only big differences are contained within 6-7 cities that stand apart from the rest due to the tourism ratio, and they include NYC, SF, LA, Chicago, Las Vegas and Orlando. That’s just my opinion.


(Steve Mann) #3

I agree, most cities are smaller. I honestly don’t see the difference however. Sure, driving in NYC might seem different to driving in Smallville, but only with traffic issues. Other then that the process is the same. You get a request, you pick up, you drop off and you drive off to the next. Maybe in NYC you can work for one or at most two companies to have a seamless shift, and maybe there is a difference in traffic, but that’s about it. You still need to learn how to navigate with or without traffic and you still need to know all about your city, your customers and how and when to drive.