Long rides used to be some of the most profitable trips for Uber and Lyft drivers back when fare rates were higher.
But the overall payouts for long rides has become low after Uber & Lyft rolled out the upfront pricing model. The pay for long rides is so low that drivers can’t stop sharing screenshots of the bad offers they’re getting.
Check out this low-paying ride: $140 to go 351 miles. That’s not even 40 cents per mile before factoring in unpaid deadhead miles to return to the driver’s original location.
Below, this driver skipped this 258-mile ride for only 54 cents per mile, but not before screenshotting it and sharing it online.
So why are Uber and Lyft sending out such bad offers? The answer is the upfront pricing update.
Upfront pricing decreased pay for long rides and increased pay for short trips
The upfront pricing update of 2022 came with a mix of good news and bad news.
The good news was that drivers could finally see the passenger’s destination before accepting a ride, along with an upfront payout estimate.
The bad news was that each company tweaked the payout model for rides, and overall, it was a rate cut.
Both Uber and Lyft slightly increased pay for short rides and decreased pay for longer rides.
The other bad news: Rides are no longer calculated according to a rate card! A private algorithm determines the price, so you’ll never know exactly how Uber and Lyft decide to set the price of a ride.
With Upfront pricing, you can quickly calculate how much a ride will pay per mile and per minute, but it will be different for every ride.
How much lower is long ride pay? Without a rate card, there’s no way to know for sure
With past rate cuts, drivers knew exactly how much lower the pay per mile would be. Ride payouts are still connected loosely to per-mile and per-minute rates, but there are enough other magical/unknown algorithmic elements to leave us in the dark.
With upfront pricing, we can only guess—and try to collect as much data as possible.
Ride auctions and Trip Radar: Other drivers may be seeing these rides for higher prices
When a ride request is rejected, it goes out to other drivers at a different price. It’s like an auction, each ride slowly making its way through drivers one at a time until someone accepts it.
So it’s likely that other drivers see some of these low-paying long rides with a higher payout.
But Trip Radar—another innovation of the upfront pricing era—is disrupting the auction process by taking rejected rides and making them publicly available for many drivers to see at the same time.
Some rejected rides go onto the Trip Radar, where anyone nearby can accept them. Before trip radar, the request had to travel through drivers one at a time, with the price slowly increasing each time it was rejected.
But now, a rejected ride will go on the radar with a slightly higher payout, and dozens of drivers can see it and one of them might be willing to take the ride without any further price increases.
Long trips have too many deadhead miles
You always have to factor in deadhead miles when calculating whether a ride is worth it. Unpaid miles returning to your zone seriously eat into your profits.
In some ways, the whole point of Uber and Lyft is to eliminate deadhead miles by using the power of smartphone tech to always match you with a ride wherever you are.
But for super long rides out of your zone, it’s unlikely that you’ll get a ride back, even with destination filters.
A $70 ride for 100 miles is actually $70 for 200 miles if you can’t get a paid ride back. Your pay drops from 70 cents per mile to an abysmal 35 cents per mile.
So anything less than $1/mile is particularly bad when deadhead miles are involved. Choose your rides carefully!
See the lowest-paying long rides on Uber & Lyft
Let’s start with this $69 ride to cross the entire state of Florida. It works out to only 53 cents per mile, with no guaranteed return trip. If you drive back empty, it works out to only 26 cents per mile.
Below, a Lyft driver was offered only $52 to drive 88 miles. 58 cents a mile and potentially 3+ hours of driving is bad!
The Uber driver below saw an offer to go 180 miles for nearly 3 hours, all for only ~$107. That’s just 59 cents per mile, which is way lower than previous rate card mileage rates.
This Lyft driver got offered a ride from DC to Connecticut—a ~6-hour ride over 278 miles—for only $174. Can you imagine the drive back? You might need a hotel!
The Colorado Uber driver below kept getting offers to drive a passenger through the mountains in the middle of the night for only $71.
It works out to 71 cents per mile—which may seem ok at first glance—but this long, rugged drive leads to poor MPG and lots of brake & transmission wear.
An LA Uber driver got this ride across counties for only $29, or 80 cents per mile. That doesn’t sound terrible, but LA drivers are used to much higher pay for rides in heavy traffic.
At least upfront pay makes these easy to reject!
Pay for long rides might be in the dumps for now, but at least you can see the pay and mileage upfront.
Before, you would have to arrive at the passenger, find out they were doing a long ride, then do your own rate card math to see if it was worth it.
Having enough info to reject these terrible long rides is a perk, but wouldn’t it be nice if long rides could pay better too?
More reading for Uber & Lyft drivers