Now that I’ve been a Lyft driver for a year, it’s time for me to seriously reflect on my experiences — both good and bad. What made me decide to drive for Lyft in the first place (hint: money), and why do I still stick around (hint: money, and it’s fun)? I’ll admit…there have been a few bumps in the road, but I’ve weighed all the pluses and minuses and found that I’ll continue to drive for Lyft in spite of the drawbacks.
Late nights: Best pay, most tiring, but you’ve gotta do it
There’s no way around it: If you want to make real money as a Lyft driver ($30+/hour), you need to drive late nights on the weekend. Pick your weekend night — Friday or Saturday — and drive until 2am or so. You simply have to do that if you want to make a living or substantially pad your income.
Sometimes the late nights wear me out, but when I see how much money I made the next day, it all becomes worth it. And I don’t know about you, but before I starting driving for Lyft I spent most of my weekend nights watching movies, going to bars or restaurants, etc. Not nearly as productive as making money.
Drunk people? They’re happy drunks. Puke? Rare, and not so bad if you’re prepared.
“What about drunk people? Has anyone vomited in your car?” Actually…yes. One girl did vomit in my car, but because I’m a super-prepared Boy Scout of a driver, I had bags on the ready. All of the puke made it into the bag and that was that. No big deal.
And the drunk people — yes, most Friday and Saturday night passengers have been drinking. 99% of them are out to have fun, and they want to have fun with you. What about the 1% who are a bit rude and surly? Stay firm about your rules and stay polite and they won’t be a problem.
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There have been one or two passengers who got on my nerves, but I gritted my teeth and got through it.
Gas and maintenance — Can you still make money?
If you drive a modern fuel-efficient car, your gas costs should only eat up about 10-15% of your nightly income. And the biggest plus: You can write off most of your mileage at the end of the year for earn huge tax savings.
And maintenance? You’ll have to get more frequent oil changes ($30 each time) and perhaps you’ll shred through your tires more quickly, but you’ll be earning enough to easily cover those costs. So far I’ve only had to deal with an extra oil change or two.
Taxes – I pay at least 15% of my Lyft income
Your taxes will become a bit more complicated once you start driving for Lyft. I know mine did. In most of my other jobs, I received a W-2 tax form at the end of the year that allowed me to fill out the super simple 1040EZ form. The income you make from Lyft is reported as 1099 independent contractor income, so you’ll have to prepare your taxes differently than you would with a “normal” job.
You’ll have to navigate the weird and wonderful world of self employment income: The Schedule SE Form, the Schedule C Form, and the 1040. Most drivers I talked to use TurboTax with good result.
Here’s what I discovered, and it’s a huge plus:
- You can write off mileage
- You can write off other expenses like your cellphone bill
Be careful! Your results will vary and you should always consult a tax expert before you fiddle with your deductions. Use this tax spreadsheet tool to estimate your expenses.
Auto Insurance — Still a bit of a gray area but Lyft has your back
I haven’t had any issues with my auto insurance provider, but from what I’ve read online, some providers will not cover you if they know that you drive for Lyft. Here’s the big reassurance that keeps me feeling safe when I drive: If your policy doesn’t cover you in an accident while you’re driving for Lyft, Lyft has a $1million policy.
The media watches Lyft with a microscope (Just read the LA Times) and I haven’t heard oone news story about insurance problems for Lyft drivers. If a Lyft driver got in an accident and was refused coverage by both Lyft and their own insurance, you would hear about it on the news for a week.
The law — Where to drive and where not to drive?
You may have heard the horror story — Lyft driver gets ticketed on the job. A ticked from an airport or a traffic cop can set you back hundreds, and the stories are true. Here in Los Angeles, some Lyft drivers have been ticketed for picking up passengers at LAX airport (Forbes Source). The same goes for other cities.
What’s a driver to do? I stay away from the controversial areas, like airports. I also hover over the Lyft driver’s Facebook groups and search for posts about ticketing. It rarely comes up, and when it does, it’s easy to avoid trouble.
“I ain’t worried ’bout nothing” — I’m making money and having fun, so I’ll continue to drive for Lyft.
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