Do you remember your reaction the first time you learned about Uber or Lyft? There’s excitement (or perhaps fear) over needing just a couple of taps on your phone to find a ride, albeit in a random stranger’s car, but overall it seemed like a good thing.
That was just for us riders — then we thought about the drivers, who looked to be very busy and making good money, all with the freedom to work on their own schedules. In a lot of ways, it seemed like the perfect job.
Of course there were always some underlying concerns, some of which involved potentially dangerous situations. But overall, it seemed like if you needed to make some extra cash or were in search of some solid, steady income, driving for a ride-share company was a good option.
Maybe it was in the past, but these days it’s less lucrative
Did driving for Uber or Lyft ever make anyone rich? Probably not, but according to a study by the JPMorgan Chase Institute, their income has actually dropped over the last five years.
The study focuses on gig economy payments that are made to Chase banking accounts, and it found that after earning about $1,469 per month in 2013, 2017 saw the number drop to just $783.
Interestingly, those who do work for leasing apps such as Airbnb saw their income rise 69 percent over the same time period, now reaching $1,736 per month on average.
Fun Fact: While Uber was founded in March 2009, Lyft first hit the scene a few years later in June 2012.
Why the drop for drivers?
Something like this has many factors, but a big one is the sheer number of people who are looking to drive. As more people have picked up that role, there are less rides to go around.
Therefore, someone who may have spent an entire day driving, going from passenger to passenger and ride to ride, may now find it tougher to land consistent customers. Also, there are certainly more ride-sharing options available now than there used to be, which only further dilutes the pool of drivers.
Another factor could be drivers working fewer hours, with more logging into the app looking for work on a part-time basis. Other reasons could include companies paying their drivers less than before or even the price of trips themselves dropping.
What does it mean?
It’s worth noting the study does not show what people are making on an hourly rate, instead just focusing on what they earn in a given month. But what the numbers are showing is that people who are driving for Uber or Lyft are likely using the jobs more as supplemental income than full-time employment.
So, it is likely that if one turns to driving for full-time work they will earn more than the current average, though it’s not certain how many hours will need to be worked in order to make a higher wage.
That said, there is an understanding that measuring income from the gig economy can be difficult simply because there are myriad factors at play.
Bonus: Listen to Kim’s Consumer Tech Update podcast about Uber and Lyft below.