How much do Uber drivers really make? Three drivers share the math

How Uber Calculates Payments

You may be wondering “How much does Uber pay?”but in order to find the answer to that question, you need to know the way Uber calculates payments.

Depending on the service, payments are calculated a little differently. More specifically, the amount you will end up earning depends on where you drive, how often you do it, and when you drive.

For Rides

For a ride, Uber will calculate depending on the booking fee, aka the fee paid by the rider to cover regulatory, safety, and operational costs, and the service fee, which funds payment processing, app development, and customer support. But there are other things taken into consideration when calculating the payments for rides.

For example, the surge is also taken into account. Surge basically allows you to look on the heat map, which shows you, as a driver, where people have the highest demand for Uber. This allows you to earn more cash apart from your standard fare. And the standard trip fare is taken into consideration as well, which amounts to how far you drive, as well as the amount of time that you drive. Another thing added to the calculations is the earn on long-distance pickups, on minimums for short trips and while waiting for riders. Also, if a rider will cancel a request, there will be a cancellation fee that you are going to receive.  

For Delivery

When it comes to delivery, you would earn money depending on your pickup and dropoff. How far you travel will also be something that influences the amount of cash you are going to receive. In addition to that, if there are traffic and time delays, they are going to be factored into your fare.

If you happen to work in areas where people order food, and at busy times too, then you are going to earn way more cash. Also, besides getting the standard amount of cash for pickup and distance, you are also going to earn money for every dropoff.

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Car Insurance

  • Uber offers supplementary liability insurance that takes effect while you are accepting rides, driving to pick riders up, and taking them to your destination.
  • You will need your own car insurance as well, and you are not covered by the insurance provided by Uber or Lyft while offline. When you rent with HyreCar, though, they take care of your insurance policy for you, an added bonus of renting versus using your own vehicle for ridesharing.

What Taxes Do Uber Drivers Need to Pay?

Most Uber drivers need to make quarterly estimated tax payments and pay self-employment taxes. Consult a tax professional in your area for more specific tax advice about becoming an Uber driver.

Quarterly Estimated Tax Payments

When you drive for Uber, you don’t have income taxes taken out of your pay like you would with a traditional job. Instead, you, the independent contractor, may need to make your federal, state, and local income tax payments throughout the year. These are called quarterly tax payments or estimated tax payments. Whether you need to do this depends on how much you expect to earn during the year.

Fortunately, Uber drivers can claim all of their business expenses to reduce their overall taxable income. Drivers can take the standard mileage deduction or claim the actual amount spent. The standard mileage deduction in 2020 is 57.5 cents per mile driven for business use. If you claim the actual amount spent, you can deduct the cost of gas, repairs, depreciation, lease expenses, and other car-related expenses. Regardless of whether you claim the standard deduction, Uber drivers can also claim in-car amenities made available to riders.

Self-Employment Taxes

When you’re an employee, your employer pays half of your Social Security and Medicare tax liability. The other half comes out of your pay. When you’re an independent contractor, you have to pay your half plus the half an employer typically pays. The combined tax rate for both equals 15.3%. You can deduct the employer portion (7.65%) from your taxes.

5 tips to make more driving for Uber (or similar apps)

If you want to make more money as a driver, here are 5 simple things you can do to save you money, or earn more while driving:

1. Use a gas price app to save while driving

There are apps out there that will tell you what the price of gas is in your local area at various stations, track prices over time, and even tell you the best time to make a purchase. Apps like GasBuddy or Waze can save you a lot of money on gas, which is a large (but necessary) expense for Uber drivers.

To see a complete list, check out the best apps fo

To see a complete list, check out the best apps for comparing gas prices.

2. Drive during Surge Pricing periods and turn on Surge notifications

Uber’s Surge Pricing means, quite simply, drivers make more money just for being out on the road. If the demand for drivers is high, Uber is willing to compensate you with more money per ride. You can make 2x, 3x, or even 4x+ your regular rate on rides, so make sure you get out there when the Surge Pricing is on.

If you don’t already, make sure to turn on Surge P

If you don’t already, make sure to turn on Surge Pricing notifications in your Uber app by tapping the menu button, and then tapping Settings. Tap Surge Pricing and then tap the grey toggle to make sure it is on (turns green). You can even custom set the minimum surge amount to alert you, so if you’d rather only go out for a minimum 2x surge, you can do that as well!

3. Improve your customer service and go the extra mile

This one is simple – be a better driver! Improve your conversation and talk to your customers more. Help them carry their groceries. Ask them exactly where they want to be dropped off a few seconds before you get to their destination. Little things like this can help you get more tips, and helps improve your overall driver rating.

4. Stock your car with goodies and make it more comfortable

Fill up your car with bottles of water, and small snacks like candy or gum. These little things are really appreciated by customers, and more often than not lead to tips. You can also make the car ride a more comfortable experience for your customers by adding things like seat cushions!

5. Make use of Uber’s exclusive offers and discounts for drivers

Uber offers its drivers discounts on useful things such as cell phone plans, car inspections, tax software and more. Check out some of the offers below to start saving money while driving!

Uber Driver Percentile Pay by Location

The following data shows the percentile distributions of Uber driver earnings in several different locations. Note that median earnings appear in the 50% column.

Location 10% 25% 50% 75% 90%
Connecticut $27,211 $33,402 $40,202 $49,102 $57,205
New York City $30,183 $37,102 $44,702 $54,602 $63,615
Kentucky $23,730 $29,102 $35,002 $42,702 $49,712
San Francisco $31,409 $38,602 $46,502 $56,702 $65,989
Wyoming $22,403 $27,502 $33,102 $40,402 $47,048

Ways Uber Drivers Make Money

Now, let’s take a look at the different ways Uber drivers make money.

Fares

Uber drivers receive a base fare plus compensation for how long and far they’re driving. According to the Uber website, how much you make per mile or per hour varies by city. Fares can change over time, too. For example, in 2019, Uber dropped rates in Southern California from $0.80 per mile to $0.60 per mile. This led to protests and strikes in California.

Tips

Riders can tip their driver during or after their ride. Tips vary greatly, and most riders don’t tip. A 2019 study from the National Bureau of Economic Research found that only 1 percent of customers always tip and around 60 percent never tip. The average tip (of those who do tip) is $3. Female drivers are more likely to get tips than male drivers.

Ridester’s 2020 driver survey also found that tips added just $1.31 per hour to a driver’s earnings in 2020.

Bonuses & Promotions

Uber offers different bonuses throughout the year that enable drivers to earn extra money. An example bonus on the Uber website states, “earn $30 extra for completing 20 trips this week.”

Sometimes Uber runs driver sign-up promotions that give new drivers a $500 to $1000 bonus for signing up and completing 50 to 100 rides in their first month. Sign-up bonus availability depends on the time of year and where you plan to drive.

Cancellation Fees

Uber drivers must wait a certain amount of time for the rider to show up. If the time limit passes, an Uber driver can mark the rider as a no-show. In most cases, the driver gets a cancellation fee of around $5.

Tolls

  • Depending on your location, you’ll want to factor tolls into your incidental costs. For example, a driver in Orlando, FL could end up encurring up to $5.00 in toll costs simply by driving from one end of the city to the other. Tolls are NOT covered by Uber or Lyft.

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are a few questions people ask about driving for Uber.

Is Uber meant to replace a full time job, or supplement income as a side hustle? It’s fair to say that, for most Uber drivers, a job with Uber has to be a supplement to a salary they earn elsewhere. There simply isn’t enough consistency for the typical Uber driver to make enough money to sustain themselves with Uber alone. So, many Uber drivers are only part-time drivers.

But, drivers who operate full-time in a dense urban area, and optimize their trips by supplementing their time behind the wheel by providing other Uber services can certainly earn a respectable income.

At that point, they are working a full-time job but don’t receive the benefits that other full-time workers enjoy.

For instance, you will not receive any paid time-off or sick leave working for Uber.

How much Uber drivers make by using the platform is up to them, but the ancillary benefits of full-time employment are not attainable as an Uber driver, as you are not an employee of Uber.

How long does it take to make 100 Uber trips? That depends on how buys your operating area is and how much you are working. If you are operating in a densely populated urban area, it’s quite possible you could complete 100 trips in a week to ten days, depending on the number of hours you work. But, if you are in a more rural setting, with longer rides for each trip, or you don’t work many hours consistently, it will take much longer to complete 100 trips.

Can you make $1,000 in a week with Uber? You can. But, you might be the exception to the rule. Most Uber drivers do not make that kind of money. But, by keeping in mind Uber’s payment structure, targeting times where your trips are eligible for surge pricing, and providing quality service that earns tips from your passengers, you can drive your earnings higher.

There are a great many factors that can make it easier (or harder) for full-time drivers to earn money with Uber.

It’s up to you to tailor your efforts to maximize your wages.

What About Uber Eats?

Uber rideshare drivers also have the option to deliver orders through Uber Eats. This entails opting in, accepting delivery orders and then transporting food and beverages to customers.

Choosing to deliver food can boost an Uber driver’s pay, especially on days when rides are slow. Uber encourages its drivers to diversify their payment options, depending on demand.

Uber Eats pays drivers a delivery fare based on pick-up, drop-off and distance. There is also a similar surge pricing for food delivery known as “Boost” that will increase pay at certain times of the day.

How Much Can You Actually Make on Uber?

You can make a median salary of $56,066 as a full-time driver for Uber in the United States, according to ZipRecruiter. Annual income could go as high as $130,000 or as low as $14,500, depending on several factors. Factors that affect median earnings include hourly wages, the type of Uber driving, and location. For example, Uber Eats drivers currently earn an average annual salary of about $40,176

The top three highest paying cities for Uber rideshare drivers at the time of writing are San Mateo, CA, Berkeley, CA, and Daly City, CA. Full-time Uber driver earnings in these cities include an average of $69,121, $66,778, and $66,592 yearly respectively. 

How Uber driver pay is calculated

Uber fares are set with a base amount, and that amount increases with time and distance. All three factors (base, time, and distance) depend on which city the driver is in. Once the fare is complete, the rider has the option to add a tip to the fare as well. The driver keeps 80% of the total fare.

These amounts vary by city, so check out this list of available Uber cities to get more information about the city you want to drive in. There are also a few other factors that affect how much money Uber drivers bring in.

Job openings matching Driver in Uber

  1. Strategic Operations Manager, Courier San Francisco, CA 7 days ago

  2. Head of Global Delivery Partnerships San Francisco, CA 30+ days ago

  3. Strategic Operations Manager, Courier San Francisco, CA 7 days ago

Making Money on Uber FAQ

Can you make good money with Uber?

Yes, you can earn good money with Uber. However, it is not a fixed income stream, so it varies based on your location, hours, trip lengths, and a host of other factors. For example, driving during busy times will earn you more money than slow periods. You must also consider the cost of doing business because all these factors will impact the total amount of money you earn per year. Insurance costs and income taxes will affect your net earnings.

How much does Uber charge per mile in 2021?

Uber does not have a fixed rate per mile, so earnings estimates vary. The amount riders pay, and the amount a rideshare driver receives is affected by various factors. For example, during surge times, the price per mile skyrockets. The pickup location, drop-off location, time spent, and booking fee also influence the total charge per ride. 

Why are Uber prices so high in 2021?

Uber’s price increase in 2021 is primarily due to a driver shortage. Riders in certain parts of the United States have been complaining about the ever-increasing cost of Uber rides since the beginning of 2021. This is because when there are fewer drivers than customers, demand rises.

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Is Uber cheaper than a taxi? No, the base fare for most Uber rides is traditionally higher than the base fare for taxis. However, some frequent commuters have reported that Uber is cheaper for fast, smooth, and long rides with minimal congestion. Traditional taxis are less expensive for rides in congested areas with heavy traffic.

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