It looks like the honeymoon phase might be over for Spark drivers.
Drivers are starting to notice that base pay is dropping, overall pay is down, and orders are becoming more scarce.
Here’s an example of the low-paying orders that are everywhere on Spark: Just $9 to do 6 stops on a 34-mile route.
That’s easily an hour—or more—of work. You’re looking at $9/hour at best and only $0.26 per mile. Most drivers try to target at least $1/mile to cover vehicle expenses and earn a profit.
So, what’s going on with low pay on Spark? Why aren’t orders paying like they used to? Read on to see examples of low pay and why we think pay is dropping.
(Want to see examples of the highest pay on Spark? The pay isn’t always bad!)
See some of the lowest-paying orders on Spark
Below, this Spark driver got an $8 offer to do 4 stops over 19 miles. That’s only $0.42 per mile and around $8 per hour. And don’t forget the return miles!
Here are 3 bad orders in a row. Each pays around $18, which might seem good at first glance. But all 3 have 7 stops and 24–31 miles of driving!
7 stops will take more than an hour, and 30 miles of driving should pay at least $30.
In the order below, $8 for 4 stops is not a strong offer. Each stop brings new complications, and don’t forget about wait time! Many orders can take 15–30 minutes to pick up.
Here’s a 3-stop order with over 100 items for only $8. 100 items likely means heavy lifting, back and forth trips, and extra time organizing your car.
Below, this bad order has 4 stops for $9 over 4 miles. This one isn’t quite as bad as the ones above, but an order like this would have paid twice as much in the past. Base pay is dropping.
Long wait times to pick up orders can make overall pay even worse
If you drive for another delivery app like DoorDash or Uber Eats, you might not think that $9 for a stop or two is low pay. Base pay on those apps can be as low as $2.50!
But you have to keep in mind that wait times are much higher on Spark. Spark drivers regularly have to wait 15 to 30 minutes at Walmart to pick up an order. You can be paid to wait, but it’s only around $2 for every 15 minutes of waiting.
So a $9, 2-stop order can easily take an hour if there is a long wait to get your car loaded by Walmart staff.
What is base pay on Spark?
Base pay on Spark—the minimum pay for any order—ranges from $6.50 to $8. It varies from city to city.
Curbside pickups and shopping & delivery orders generally have a different base pay amount. Shopping and delivery began with higher base pay, but shoppers have started to notice that base pay is dropping.
Why is pay so low on Spark? Some theories
For those of us who have been in the gig economy for a long time, the decline in Spark pay isn’t a surprise. Total pay trending down is something we’ve seen on Uber, Uber Eats, Lyft, Instacart, and many other apps.
It’s a predictable cycle. New delivery apps offer generous pay to attract delivery drivers, kickstart the service, and then reduce pay once the customer base is stable.
In the early days, the priority is to make sure that there are always enough drivers to quickly deliver customer orders, even if it means bleeding money on high driver pay.
But as time passes, the generous pay returns to earth. Driver pay gets lowered to help boost profits.
Lowering driver pay is also a test to see if the app can retain drivers even as overall pay drops. Spark will experiment with lower pay, and if they can keep enough drivers, pay may dip even lower.
Some basic facts about the Spark earnings system
The payout for a Spark order includes earnings from Spark and any tip left by the customer. Spark also occasionally offers earnings incentives.
But Spark doesn’t say exactly how those earnings are calculated. All Spark says is, “Earnings are calculated based on a variety of factors, such as distance traveled, order size, order weight, traffic conditions, and other factors.”
So shoppers are left to guess exactly how pay is calculated. That is similar to other gig economy apps that use a private algorithm to calculate driver pay.
Although the payment calculation is a mystery, one nice feature on Spark is that you can see an earnings breakdown before you accept a trip.
Tap on an order to see earnings from Spark and estimated tips. It’s a good way to eliminate orders that don’t have tips.
Customers have 24 hours to add or remove tips. Unfortunately, tip removal—aka tip baiting—is a problem on Spark. You do an order expecting a tip, but the customer can remove it.
It’s a frustrating practice and there’s not much you can do to prevent it.
Diversify your earnings by trying other apps!
Just like many other gig economy apps, earnings on Spark are rarely reliable and consistent. The best way to stabilize your earnings is to sign up for multiple apps.
Most delivery apps have easy requirements, so it’s easy to sign up for another gig and put it in your rotation. When Spark is slow, hop onto another app and see if you can pick up better orders.