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What Uber, Lyft Drivers Earn per Trip


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2015 Rideshare Trends: Fares per trip for UberX and Lyft drivers.

Released July 15, 2015 by SherpaShare Inc. This article is now available to read on our brand-new blog.


Uber Lyft Earnings Fares per Trip 2015

Introduction

As the ridesharing industry continues to expand at a rapid pace, industry-wide trends have been hard to come by. PR departments at Uber, Lyft and their contemporaries have very little incentive to openly publish data that might lead to speculation harmful to their chosen narratives -- especially about how well their drivers are doing financially as ridesharing supply and demand evolve together. In the brave new world of ridesharing, there has long been a gap between what the TNC companies say happens, what the drivers feel or think happens, and what actually happens -- what drivers actually net after all expenses.

Since we started helping drivers understand their financial and driving data, we’ve consistently heard from members of our community that they’re thirsty for better insights into their earnings as circumstances evolve. Drivers want to feel confident that their value of time is increasing, or at least steady at an “acceptable” level.

While each independent driver has their own definition of “acceptable” earnings, it’s always been difficult for any individual to benchmark their efforts versus other drivers. TNCs set fare rates per city, and both Uber and Lyft change them relatively often. When rates change, in a vacuum of publicly available data, speculation runs rampant about the downstream effect on driver pay.

In January 2015, hundreds of drivers in the SherpaShare community expressed concern over Uber’s decision to lower per mile rates almost across the board. The company’s stated reason for rate cuts is always to increase passenger demand, increasing the average number of trips per hour to offset rate decreases, ideally resulting in a net fare-per-hour gain for drivers.

At the time, Uber provided a couple of data points to support its contention that trips are getting more frequent faster than fares are going down, which should theoretically lead to increased driver take-home pay. But, without much context that would come with more aggregate data, it’s difficult to take Uber at its word that it always -- or even generally -- works out that way.

This brief provides aggregate fare per trip trends that have not been previously released, based on millions of UberX and Lyft trips tracked by drivers on the SherpaShare platform between January and May 2015. Average fare price per trip is one indicator of the effect of fare changes and of course, what a driver can expect to make per trip, irrespective of time.

Uber Lyft Gross Fares per Trip 2015

Highlights:

  • At the national level, per trip fares on UberX and Lyft combined for SherpaShare drivers increased $1.08 from January through May, an increase of 8%
  • NYC is an obvious outlier, but otherwise, San Francisco and Austin are the only cities with either rideshare service averaging over $14/fare for the period.

Popular Ridesharing Cities Fare per Trip, Percent +/- National Average, Jan-May 2015

Uber Lyft Fare Increases by City

Highlights

  • Anomalies: Boston in Feb: record snow = more surge, meaning 30%+ higher fares overall.
    • The same might apply for other East Coast cities’ increases in per-trip fare in Feb
    • Other spikes in a given city/month are generally the result of a TNC providing hourly guarantees or other incentives to reach internal supply-per-demand goals.
  • In January 2015, the average Uber trip was $12.33, the average Lyft trip was $11.39
  • In May 2015, the average Uber trip was $13.36, the average Lyft trip was $12.53
  • Baltimore drivers had the highest average fare increases for UberX, at over $4, followed by Pittsburgh and Nashville at close to $3.

Interpretation

It’s important not to make too many conclusive statements about the trends we see, because there are so many variables, all interacting dynamically. Many drivers think lower rates automatically means lower pay, and Uber et. al. understandably claim the opposite.

Of course, what we really see in the data is mixed. Rate fluctuations are compounded by surge/PrimeTime pricing, hourly guarantees, and other temporary incentives that TNCs use to balance driver supply against rider demand, as well as natural factors like severe winter weather (always surging!) and differences in geography and population density among cities. And of course, per-trip fares don’t consider driver downtime between trips -- one of the primary variables in calculating true take-home pay.

Understanding these caveats, gross fares per trip shows a clear (if small) upward trend since the round of 48-city fare cuts that made news at the beginning of 2015.

Whether fares went and stayed back up in some cities since the January cuts because of driver dissatisfaction, or reacting to changes in supply and demand algorithmically (like very slow surge pricing: at a city level, across months), it’s impossible to say exactly what data drives all TNC pricing decisions. What we can say with certainty from this data is that Uber and Lyft haven’t driven per-trip earnings off a cliff as they’ve adjusted base rates over time.


About the Report

This report looks at gross fares per trip for over one million rideshare trips on Uber and Lyft from January through May 2015. National Averages are calculated from all SherpaShare data. In addition to national averages and trends, the report chose 20 cities with a high concentration of Uber and Lyft drivers using SherpaShare to show in detail.

Not reflected in this report are: average trips per hour, average trip duration, or the percent of each hour utilized -- all of which we will be analyzing in future reports.


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