By on January 23, 2017

Uber ride, Image: Jason Tester Guerrilla Futures/Flickr

Is your boss really grinding your ass today? Did Karen book your top choice for vacation week? Is Kyle playing fast and loose with his lunchtime hours? Consider yourself lucky.

There’s an altogether different alternative to the white- and blue-collar jobs out there today. Uber. Yes, the ride-hailing service that allows people to pocket a little extra cash in their off hours can be just that, or a grueling, never-ending career.

Economy-class syndrome isn’t just for airline travelers.

In a lengthy exposé that will leave you wondering about your driver’s lifestyle, Bloomberg took a look at the nation’s most hardcore Uber drivers, revealing the extreme length of some workdays, their original hopes and dreams, and the location of the best parking lots for sleep.

The story reveals that half of all Uber trips in the U.S. are made by drivers who work 35 hours or more a week. To keep the money rolling, some drivers without nearby lodging resort to camping out for several nights at a time. There’s no bonfire or marshmallows in sight.

Many were drawn in by the hopes of high weekly earnings, only to find themselves without an alternative when the company lowered its rates. Not surprisingly, Uber has faced lawsuits over misleading advertising. Take a read, sit back, and — assuming you’re not an Uber driver yourself — be thankful for your lot in life.

[Image: Jason Tester Guerrilla Futures/Flickr (CC BY-ND 2.0)]

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82 Comments on “If You Want to Feel Good About Your Job, Read This...”


  • avatar
    Malforus

    And don’t forget that Uber recorded a 1.2 Billion dollar loss in 2016 excluding their exit from China.

    That means they lost 1.2 billion + whatever they lost in the failed China endeavor.

  • avatar
    bikegoesbaa

    If I ran the numbers right the first guy is making $16-23 an hour after expenses. That doesn’t seem especially horrible or exploitative.

    His commute sucks, but so does everybody else’s commute in the Bay Area.

    Genuine question, would this guy’s life be better if Uber had never been invented? What would he be doing instead?

    • 0 avatar
      bikegoesbaa

      He doesn’t sound especially unhappy with the situation:

      ““I signed up for this because I am my boss. I kind of own the business. I have the freedom and that’s a beautiful thing,” he said, while laying out his sleeping bag in the back seat of his Toyota Prius, which he parked just before 1 a.m. at the McDonald’s. Six other drivers were also sleeping in the lot, which becomes quiet and dark when the franchise takes its last customer at midnight. “This job is not for everyone. Don’t get it twisted,” he said. “These labor advocates, they don’t know what it’s like to be a driver. They think we’re not being treated right, but I’m happy. If I didn’t like it, I would do something else.””

      • 0 avatar
        JimZ

        sounds like someone rationalizing their decision to stay in an abusive relationship. 70+ hours a week, wear and tear on my personal vehicle, and sleeping in it? F that S.

        oh, and $16-23/ hr in the Bay Area is peanuts.

    • 0 avatar
      John-95_Taurus_3.0_AX4N

      That last point is the most important one.

      Like my situation. I have been physically unable to work for eight years (other than inconsistent side jobs). I do not wish this on anyone.

      Uber is something I believe I will be good at. And, its flexible where if I’m in too much pain, I simply turn off the app and go home (or not go to start with). I don’t know of any entry-level job that allows that.

      My last job, I commuted 1.5 hours each way. I would be driving to a similar area to get a lot of fares (Casinos, hotels, adult establishments, airport, etc). The difference is, if I have a flat tire on the way there, I don’t have a boss breathing down my neck telling me what a screw-up I am because the brand new tire I bought last week found a nail and attempted to ingest it.

      I live in a rual area. A long commute would be a factor in any job I could get.

      I don’t have any misconceptions about how much I will make as an Uber driver. I just know that SOME income is better than NONE.

      • 0 avatar
        gtemnykh

        John you’re 100% right, the flexibility in hours is a very big draw for many who dip their feet into ride-share driving.

        Gas is cheap right now, another good bonus for those looking to do some driving, although even with that, a fuel efficient vehicle is definitely the way to go (but not to say anyone should actually buy a car specifically for the job unless they were already car shopping for other reasons).

        Locally, the vehicle age restriction is relatively lax, 03+ MY, decent mechanical and cosmetic condition and you’re good to go. I’d love to do some more casual driving on the side and my ES300 would be a perfect car for the job if not the age restriction. Unfair in my case IMO, I’ve ridden in 03+ Lyft cars that were in undoubtedly worse shape than my ’96 ES. I currently live in an area that’s within walking distance of bars and such frequented by college students, I could just sit and run the app while I watch TV on my couch, whereas before I had to drive to get into an area where rides would be requested.

        • 0 avatar
          JimZ

          it’s not “ride sharing” and it never was.

          • 0 avatar
            gtemnykh

            I was simply referring to these apps by their generic term, not gonna argue semantics.

          • 0 avatar
            WallMeerkat

            Absolutely, when it launched “ride sharing” sounded like the app allowed you to plot your drive in and out of work, and allow others to “ride share” who were headed in the same direction, for a bit of money towards the journey.

            Why are they not called Taxi apps?

          • 0 avatar
            madman2k

            From what I’ve heard, it all revolves around the fact that Uber refuses to call itself a transportation company and they claim they are a technology company.

            Apparently that’s how they are able to bypass all the regulations in place regarding transportation companies.

            eg, a customer can pay a ‘technology company’ some money, and the ‘technology company’ pays a portion of that money to an ‘independent contractor’, who then transports that customer in a vehicle owned or leased by that ‘independent contractor’.

            Since the money doesn’t go directly from the customer to the driver, somehow that doesn’t violate the regulations.

            Of course, the ‘technology company’ really treats the ‘independent contractor’ much more like an employee in many respects, hence the numerous lawsuits.

      • 0 avatar
        FreedMike

        @John:
        “I don’t have any misconceptions about how much I will make as an Uber driver. I just know that SOME income is better than NONE.”

        Very true. And if I may ask…you say you have a disability. Do you get compensation for that?

  • avatar
    DeadWeight

    Get your side-hustle on!

    The new unicorns & rainbows, caviar for everyone, GIG* economy!

    *Sponsored by Silicon Valley startups & “venture” capital.

    **Uber loses 60 cents, as a company, on every dollar of ride-passenger traffic it provides.

    • 0 avatar
      carguy

      +1 However, it’s one hell of a trick: hiding a pyramid scheme in plain sight and very few call them on it.

    • 0 avatar

      Yes, I don’t get that either. Startups burning cash is traditional risk, but between the “just ignore any laws you don’t like” and the massive media buys they had in the NYC DMA, this is just amazing. What is the end game ?

    • 0 avatar
      DeadWeight

      Naked Capitalism had a fantastic 2 part series on the business model of Uber, and it was compelling in providing facts (novel!) to show what an awful business model and little hopes for ever becoming profitable Uber really has.

      • 0 avatar
        dantes_inferno

        >Naked Capitalism had a fantastic 2 part series on the business model of Uber, and it was compelling in providing facts (novel!) to show what an awful business model and little hopes for ever becoming profitable Uber really has.

        In other words, a Millennial pipe dream.

      • 0 avatar
        dwford

        Uber could’ve easily been profitable, but they’ve destroyed their own business model and wasted tons of money overreaching in China and on autonomous car tech.

        They should never have gone for market share so aggressively. They cut rates too dramatically, which scared away good drivers with nice cars, and devalued the service in the eyes of the customers. So instead of the happy drivers in new cars carrying happy middle/upper class passengers around, you have tired, bitter drivers in jalopies driving hood rats around.

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      S*it, DW, people have been doing part time gigs since the invention of gigs.

      I just started one. I don’t necessarily *need* a second job, but it’s nice to have the extra cash.

      • 0 avatar
        DeadWeight

        I’m really trashing Uber’s business model (literal inability to ever achieve profitability – scaling up will only increase losses – cash burn rate), and not the people who have gigs with Uber (or any other company).

  • avatar
    indi500fan

    This makes it sound like Uber has crews that go around and “press gang” folks into a life driving Uber cars. If being a cab driver sucks, go do something else, right?

    • 0 avatar
      Drzhivago138

      But that’s the thing–because of some circumstance or another, there may not be anything else feasible. (I don’t think this is necessarily the case, but it could happen.)

      • 0 avatar
        orenwolf

        Sure, but that’s hardly Uber’s fault.

        • 0 avatar
          John-95_Taurus_3.0_AX4N

          Exactly. McDonald’s isn’t the most prestigious place to work, but people do it. It isn’t McDonald’s fault that it attracts young, inexperienced people who see it as a stepping stone to get them on to something better. If, as was said, it didn’t exist, would the employees be better off at home on moms couch watching MTV? No income, no getting used to a schedule, no experience gained, no social skills developed.

          Wait, is MTV even a thing anymore? Lol.

          • 0 avatar
            dwford

            No, MTV is not a thing anymore. They have been reduced to showing Friends reruns every night. The only people who think MTV is a thing are MSNBC hosts who keep bringing “MTV News” correspondents on the air to spew some Trump hate.

          • 0 avatar
            WallMeerkat

            If I’m looking through CVs to interview someone for a position, McDonalds on there is actually a good sign.

            It shows that they got up and did something, even working fast food.

            They likely learnt skills on the job – teamwork, personal responsibility, working to regulations (be it health and safety working with fryers, or data protection in my industry), working under stress, dealing with the public, organizational skills, timekeeping etc.

    • 0 avatar
      bunkie

      They did the modern equivalent:

      Entice people to make the commitment and then drastically and arbitrarily cut rates. Plus, they stick the driver with all the risk and take a big cut of the gross. It’s a business model that is perfectly aligned with modern commercial principles.

      It’s both ironic and, somehow, inevitable that the so-called “frictionless economy” really only greases the wheels of the middlemen.

  • avatar
    bikegoesbaa

    “It was great. I made $40 an hour, no problem. Of course, I left my job to become a full-time driver”

    What’s that saying about things that seem too good to be true?

  • avatar
    FormerFF

    I’ve always wondered how much Lyft and Uber drivers make after all expenses. Are they actually doing reasonably well, or are they thinking they are because they’re not fully realizing the depreciation and maintenance of their cars?

    • 0 avatar
      pdieten

      The IRS vehicle mileage reimbursement rate isn’t just picked out of thin air every year. There’s a reason it’s as high as it is. I suspect if these folks actually sat down and calculated how much it cost them to operate their cars for Uber, and then actually considered the real expenses that ought to be associated with commercial driving *cough*liability insurance*cough* they’d realize it’s probably more profitable to work for McDonalds.

      Yes, there is slack in the cost of taking a cab, and in some cities that industry needed a disruption, but there’s a reason cab rides are as expensive as they are.

      • 0 avatar
        bikegoesbaa

        “there’s a reason cab rides are as expensive as they are”

        How much of that reason is established interest-holders using their influence to restrict competition?

        Things like arbitrarily limiting the number of cab licenses or blocking mass transit alternatives.

        Uber isn’t a saint, but I give them credit for successfully blowing up the cab monopoly all over the country.

        • 0 avatar
          orenwolf

          Exactly. It’s one thing to say a full-time cab driver should be paid a living wage. It’s another thing entirely to do that through shittier service and indentured servitude that the existing system supports in most large cities.

      • 0 avatar
        golden2husky

        ….and then actually considered the real expenses that ought to be associated with commercial driving *cough*liability insurance*cough*….

        Well, my Geico policy specifically excludes such usage as an Uber driver, so if you do sign up, your policy may well be void during such use. Talk about expensive should you get into an accident and get sued. Your insurance company won’t pay out…

        • 0 avatar
          John-95_Taurus_3.0_AX4N

          Uber has insurance that covers you while you are enroute to a pick up, and once the rider is in your car. All you have to carry is liability insurance for the rest of the time.

    • 0 avatar
      gtemnykh

      My fiance’s sister’s bf wanted to start Uber-driving as a side thing while he’s in grad school, bought a pretty sketchy ’09 Altima for $3300 for the task at hand (and he wanted a roomier 4 door car in general I think). He made $90 on a Friday night ferrying the bar goers on the in-bound leg downtown (important distinction vs out bound in terms of dealing with drunk vomit-prone passengers). $15 of that went to gas. Assuming the beat up 180k mile Altima’s CVT lasts with the prolonged city driving, it sounds like a reasonable side gig. If a serious malady happens to the car, all that math goes right out the window.

      I did it briefly with my ’12 Civic, strictly for fun. I actually really enjoyed it just because I like driving and meeting new people, but I never took it seriously as an income source.

    • 0 avatar
      TwoBelugas

      Looking at Uberpeople, most don’t make much after expenses and taxes, the very few who are advocates for the company tend to cherrypick their earnings data.

      • 0 avatar

        Yeah unless you game the rate surge and work hard to time you movements just right, I think you likely end up around minimum wage. Most people I know who tried it stopped after a few months when they realized what they were actually making.

        • 0 avatar
          gtemnykh

          You’re right the key to making money with Uber/Lyft is definitely being willing to work the Friday night/Saturday night bar crowd, and various concerts and such. The best rides are definitely the long ones, people catching a ride to the downtown bars from the suburbs or going back home, just mind the pukers. Learning when mot people head out, and when many leave bars is a matter of experience I guess. I know the short rides where people are just hopping around downtown can be really frustrating: all the hassle of locating and picking someone up from a busy corner, just to drop them off a few minutes later and only make like $3. Those longer rides are sweet $30-40 type deals.

  • avatar
    Master Baiter

    Driving is an entry level job that requires almost no skills whatsoever. What do people think such a job should pay?
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    • 0 avatar
      SCE to AUX

      Such a job should pay a ‘living wage’, which is always indeterminately more than the present amount.

      • 0 avatar
        Master Baiter

        People can “live” on the worst paying jobs in the United States. That’s why people crawl across the desert and risk their lives to get here.

        Artificially inflating the wages of entry level jobs merely drives up the cost of local goods and services, leaving the entry level worker no better off in terms of material wealth than where they started. And other people are punished with higher costs, so overall economic activity declines.
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        • 0 avatar
          dal20402

          Not true, although congrats for regurgitating what you heard in Econ 101.

          Read this (and, more importantly, click on the links) before Andrew Puzder takes it down:

          https://www.dol.gov/featured/minimum-wage/mythbuster

          Increases in wages at the bottom are redistributive. In an economy with as much inequality as ours, top-bottom redistribution is a net positive for the economy overall, because more of what goes into poor people’s pockets gets spent immediately. Yes, there’s a point where it gets counterproductive. No jurisdiction in the US has yet reached it (although I suspect that $15 would get there outside big cities).

          • 0 avatar
            Master Baiter

            “Not true, although congrats for regurgitating what you heard in Econ 101.”

            Where do you suppose the information in Econ 101 came from? Dentists?

            For every economist trumpeting a higher minimum wage, I can find others who agree with my assertion. Economists are all over the map on what’s best for the economy, so you’re link is not convincing.
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            .

          • 0 avatar
            VoGo

            MasterBaiter,
            The thing about economists is that they actually value facts and studies over the opinions of an internet guy named MasterBaiter with an avatar of Hillary Clinton.

            And those studies have shown that raising the minimum wage is actually a net positive for the economy.

            All that said, I’m really happy to hear you took a course in economics. Does that school also offer one in English grammar?

          • 0 avatar
            DeadWeight

            This is proven in the real world, every day.

            If someone who makes $350,000 annually, and already has most of their needs/wants (material ones, at least, such as housing, transportation, food, utilities, medical care, tuition, etc.) satisfied, especially if they have a low debt load or nor debt, they may spend 15% of each additional dollar they receive, and simply bank or invest the other 75 cents (someone making $1,000,000 annually would spend even less of that additional dollar).

            Someone making less than $40,000 will spend 90%+ of that additional dollar on basics (furniture, appliances, vehicles, clothing, etc.) with that money quickly circulating into the economy.

            The utility curve demonstrates that the less one has/makes, the more immediate utility each additional dollar of income has, and thus, they’ll be more likely to spend far more of it far sooner.

            The extra dollar of income has increasingly marginal utility the further up the income ladder one travels.

        • 0 avatar
          dal20402

          “Where do you suppose the information in Econ 101 came from? Dentists?”

          Mostly from old classical economics principles, which, if you took any advanced econ classes in the last 20 years, you would find have become useful mainly as a framework upon which exceptions and special rules can be hung.

          I also agree that it wouldn’t be convincing if I said I was a link.

    • 0 avatar
      Willyam

      Therein, I think, lies the eventual “rub”. I believe that their overall plan is to work out the infrastructure and get users used to the service and the app, and then automate the whole shebang. Now, who knows how long that might take, but I believe it’s their long-term goal.

      Tin-foil hat off now.

      • 0 avatar
        dal20402

        No tinfoil hat needed. They’ve been very forthright about saying automation is their future. And they have to be; they are losing massive amounts even after paying just enough to attract just barely enough drivers to operate the service.

    • 0 avatar

      Well in this case the driver is providing machinery capital and incurring expenses risk and labor. So this would seem to be a bit underpaid.

  • avatar
    Master Baiter

    What’s with the avatar app on this site? Thing seems buggy as heck…
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  • avatar
    jberger

    Freedom means being able to make stupid decisions.

    Most of these folks just get by on cash flows and never take depreciation or other indirect expenses into the calculation.

    Would it be any different if they were installing satellite dishes and being paid by the box or going door to door selling steak knives?

    I have yet to meet an unhappy UBER driver, they all seem to like what they do and think it’s great. I’ve met plenty of disgruntled cab drivers who were driving clunker cabs and charging top rates.

    Taxi Drivers aren’t guaranteed income either. If they take their daily rate cab, which is usually rented from the medallion owner, and can’t recoup the costs they are in the same boat as the Uber driver.

    I’d rather UBER than take a cab in most cases because the UBER is cleaner, the driver is nice and I know about what I’m going to pay up front.

    • 0 avatar
      John-95_Taurus_3.0_AX4N

      ^this

      Maybe people buy a pretty worthless car to do Uber with (I’m only looking at cars under $2500), so depreciation and such isn’t a concern on a 2006 Taurus or Kia [insert model here] like it would be on a car that holds its value longer. So when it has 250k on it and barely starts, I get $500 for it. If I haven’t made money in that time, then I’m doing it wrong. Using a car as a tool to make money seems like a no-brainer.

      People put miles on their car going to/from work. Some, outside of ridsharing, use their personal vehicle for work. Its a machine. That’s why we have them. If you’re scared of depreciation, go lease a new Toyota every three years and rejoice in the fact that you spent a lot of money and have nothing to show for it. But at least you didn’t have take $15000 when KBB says its worth $16000! Oh the horror!

      If you’re going to cry and complain because your car is only worth $1500, when it COULD be worth $2k, then why even have a car? Why drive one at all? You bought it to drive. So drive it!

      Oh, grandma, I’d love to take you to the doctor, but that’s 11 miles on my car’s odometer! I can’t risk devaluing the car like that! That’s why its parked behind plate glass in a climate controlled room. Got to preserve the value of my Corolla! Its like precious art, to be seen and admired only.

  • avatar
    ciscokidinsf

    Source: my own ass working full time for 10 months (did it between jobs)

    UBER is a serious numbers gig… people fail to realize this, just like in any business, you can LOSE money too and its fairly easy, but the learning curve takes time. You have to understand your: operating cost per mile, what taxes allow to deduct per mile and your earnings per mile AFTER uber takes their share. This is trickier than you think, and if any driver is driving UberX with a luxury cars that depreciates faster than average, you are losing money (I see people who bought 3 or 2 year old M3s & are doing UBER and I’m always SMDH) The rational is they could ‘work a weekend a month to make the monthly payment’ but the miles pile up really fast.

    Hours driven is the key ‘missing’ statistic – When UBER says I drove ‘8 hours’ a day, it is misleading, it counts only the time you are active in app, driving time is closer to 10 hrs + add 1 hr break = 11 hours in real time each day to cover an 8 hour shift

    Yes, its true, in SF bay area, we have drivers coming as far as Sacramento, LA, Fresno, Tahoe, Modesto etc…, and yes, some do 1 week here (sleeping in cars, cheap airBnBs, whatever) and go back the next week, or a few hardcores go and drive near sleepless for 3 days a week to make their weekly goal and go back home.

    Income is UNPREDICTABLE as hell, even with a system, you still are at the mercy of luck, weather, etc… The Super Bowl was a total bust in making money

    Income only goes one direction: DOWN! UBER hasn’t increased rates in 3 years, they have cut rates each year except this one (not yet) and they have reduced bonuses. You can’t build on knowing that your rates will always be lower every year.

    I can totally see how at the beginning of 2015 people thought UBER made a decent gig, and money was easier to make. Now most people have to work 50+ hrs a week to make what they used to do in 35 hrs + UBER is taking wayyy more than they did before.

    UBER/Lyft over-recruit, and the goal is to LOWER prices and wait times and prepare for the inevitable arrival of self-driving cars. the fantasy of ‘charging less will make more riders appear’ is BS, at least in SF, we are way oversubscribed in drivers, rates have gone down but demand has a limit…soon we will be giving rides to the homeless so they can sleep for a while, that’s how low rates are going forward

    • 0 avatar
      Master Baiter

      “soon we will be giving rides to the homeless so they can sleep for a while, that’s how low rates are going forward”

      Rates will bottom out when they can’t find enough drivers. That’s how the free market works, and I don’t see anything wrong with it.
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      • 0 avatar
        John-95_Taurus_3.0_AX4N

        But master! Everybody should get paid $50/hour. And a Big Mac (no onions please) should cost $130.00. And a Ford Focus should be $140,000. Then everyone will be equal!

        Equally poor despite garbage sacks full of C notes.

  • avatar
    Toad

    “They think we’re not being treated right, but I’m happy. If I didn’t like it, I would do something else.”

    I think this Uber driver’s statement pretty well sums up the situation. Not everybody wants to work 8-5 in a cubicle, a factory, or writing on the internet.

  • avatar
    JMII

    I know someone who Ubers – he seems to make decent money for three reasons: 1) paid off mini-van 2) South Florida airports and 3) single guy with a cheap apartment. Uber pays more for vans rides and if you’ve got a whole family to shuttle to a beach hotel or cruise ship port the money flow can be decent. Groups of party goers bar hopping down at the beach also need the mini-van option. So to me it sounds like a part time college gig. If you want to be paid for driving I can only assume an 18 wheeler with a sleeper cab is the way to go. Another advantage there: cargo normally doesn’t complain nor puke in your ride, where as passengers tend to do both.

    • 0 avatar
      John-95_Taurus_3.0_AX4N

      I considered a minivan as an Uber car. But, they’re all so terrible. The Toyota Sienna is shunned by Uber drivers due to constant issues. Honda bad transmission. FCA bad everything. Nissan overpriced and CVT failure “when” not “if”.

      If I did XL, it would have to be in a Ford Flex.

      At least GM and Ford knew when to call it quits, and it only took a couple decades of terrible FWD minivans to convince them.

      • 0 avatar
        gtemnykh

        “The Toyota Sienna is shunned by Uber drivers due to constant issues.”

        I’d say out of all minivans ever made (Previa and maybe gen 1 Odyssey excepted), the 2nd gen Sienna (03-10) is probably the safest bet as far as a reliable used van that you could put into cab service goes.

  • avatar
    mason

    You think making money Ubering in a little econobox is tough, try hotshotting for a living. Where you have triple or more the overhead, are often faced with a long bobtail (no income), have to register with DOT and be bonded/insured/properly permitted, all while having a log book to cheat.

    Uberers got it easy.

  • avatar
    NickS

    I work in tech in the SF bay area, and I have friends working in most of the iconic cos based here. Another parent at my kids school works at Uber. We get to chat a couple of times a year.

    Most of these co’s can operate with a reasonably lean top structure and engineering (plus the usual HR, mktg, etc), but I hadn’t seen more lawyers drawing down that last round of funding until I went to airbnb and uber. These are by no means tech firms in terms of where the money is spent. (and one more data point: the cost of living in this area is huge, so many in tech typically draw over 100K salaries. Housing is insane here, and in shortage, so if you don’t pay your talent well, guess what, … facebook, google, apple, salesforce, … a very long list, because you still have to make rent ($4000/ month for condo), or the mortgage (a 2000sqf contractor’s dream for over $1 mil).

    The real issue underlying all these cos is that there is a ton of venture capital sitting out there, and for those who can stomach the risk, that’s the most attractive option, i.e., kiss 50 frogs before you find a princess and get 100x. That’s why VCs want their start ups to fail fast. Make that kiss as short as possible.

    I have very serious doubts that any Uber or Lyft driver is able to make ANY money at the end of the day. I am pretty sure it would be well under 10% of the drivers who can do that, and their take home would be a less than min wage. A few who study the rules and find the Achilles heel will make some money. Eventually the rules will be changed to close those loopholes. The drivers have no recourse and no claim against these co’s.

    Their long-term strategy is to move to all autonomous but that’s a complex business proposition to move to, and another army of lawyers to deploy.

    If the end goal is an affordable large scale transportation system, you can’t do much better than a public transit system. The notion that they will provide a passenger car (autonomous or not) for every person to meet their transportation needs is insane. If they were to build out a private transit system by using the treasure trove of their sensor data it might be a workable idea.

    If it requires advanced financial modelling to make the numbers work for you instead of your pimp, you shouldn’t be working the streets. You could get a job on wall street as a quant.

    • 0 avatar
      John-95_Taurus_3.0_AX4N

      “I have very serious doubts that any Uber or Lyft driver is able to make ANY money at the end of the day. ”

      That explains why they all quit, and with no drivers, Uber and Lyft had to shut down. Sad.

      • 0 avatar
        turbo_awd

        Just because people think they’re making money in the short term, doesn’t mean it’s long-term sustainable, when all costs are factored in. Lots of people buy lottery tickets too, even though for most, they just fall further and further behind in their “lifetime winnings/losings”.

        All we need is a gas spike like we had a few years ago, where it’s $4.50-5.00 a gallon (Bay Area was > $4.50 at one point) – hey, didn’t OPEC just announce cuts? – and any semblance of a living wage will disappear fast.

    • 0 avatar
      RHD

      How would Uber deal with a passenger who vomits in the car? There is no one there to clean it up, or even know that it happened. (Pity the customer whose ride to the airport shows up in such an awful condition!)
      What about a passenger with vandalous intentions who decides that Uber vehicles should be tagged like subway cars? Or whose screwdriver in the back pocket accidently pokes a hole in the seat?

      • 0 avatar
        Drzhivago138

        The type of people who keep screwdrivers in their back pockets (you should never keep anything more than a Shop Towel in your back pocket anyway) probably aren’t the type who use Uber.

        “How would Uber deal with a passenger who vomits in the car? There is no one there to clean it up, or even know that it happened.”

        Well, there is this thing that most people keep on their person at all times that can record video…

      • 0 avatar
        gtemnykh

        There is a well established procedure for documenting someone getting sick in a car. You take photos, the passenger is charged $250 for a clean-up fee IIRC. Car vandalism is a different story, many drivers check the back seats of their cars after each ride to make sure everything is okay and that the previous passenger did not forget anything inside. I’m sure you could likewise report damage to the vehicle then. On the whole though, most passengers are very reasonable and decent people, in the same way that drivers on the whole seem to be a cut above many peoples’ average experience with cabbies and their beat up cars.

  • avatar
    mcs

    Do regular cab drivers have it better? Here’s a Boston Globe article from 2013 about what it’s like to be a cab driver: https://goo.gl/3DkcSj

  • avatar
    manu06

    Most of the drivers would be better off delivering pizza .

  • avatar
    SoCalMikester

    for the people that bought or even more stupidly leased a car just to do this as a job? good luck! for the others, that can also do their own maintenance and know how to legit take stuff off on taxes? good for you.

    i couldnt do it. but then again, my employer pays me 23/hr with full benefits, pension, 401k. if i tried it with my paid off car, itd only be for the fun of it.

    i see these people every day where i work. mostly just ubers, but a few with both stickers in their windows. i probably should talk to em some time. kinda funny, since some are always cleaning their car, tossing trash, cleaning windows. good for them.

  • avatar
    APaGttH

    I withdrew from a middle management role I was interviewing for at Uber last week when the story broke they were f**king over people on their so called affordable lease deals, and quietly settled for $20 million.

    This is an evil company.

  • avatar
    carguy67

    If Uber/Lyft ever manage to approach profitability Amazon.com will install their drone software in Moller Skycars and put them both out of business.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    I think what this article really illustrates is two things:

    1) How incredibly hard it is to make it without a six-figure, white-collar job in a place like San Francisco. Uber didn’t cause that problem.

    2) When you hear stories about how someone’s used to making $40 an hour, and now makes only $12.50, that *is* on Uber.

    I know some folks who Uber. None use it as a primary income. On that level, I think it makes sense. But it sounds like it’s damned hard to make a full time wage doing this.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      I agree. Although I have not been in well over a decade, conversations with people who have been to SF more recently indicate a 100K salary is almost the “minimum” adult living wage there.

      • 0 avatar
        Master Baiter

        “conversations with people who have been to SF more recently indicate a 100K salary is almost the “minimum” adult living wage there.”

        Absolutely true. It’s deep blue politically, meaning it’s almost impossible to build anything around here, so housing prices are through the roof; every other cost scales with that.

        Add a 10% sales tax, and real estate taxes that are proportional to home value and you have a situation where it’s difficult to live on even $75K/year.

        The solution is not to double down on leftism by raising the minimum wage, but rather to open up areas of undeveloped land and build more housing units.
        .
        .

        • 0 avatar
          FreedMike

          “The solution is not to double down on leftism by raising the minimum wage, but rather to open up areas of undeveloped land and build more housing units.”

          I don’t seem to recall a lot of land in San Francisco waiting for the contractor’s shovel…

          Leftism or right-ism has nothing to do with why San Francisco, New York or other places are expensive. It has to do with per capita income. The more people make, the more they can pay for housing. And since the primary economic activities in San Francisco are particularly lucrative (tech, banking, trade), lots of rich folks will want to live there. Add in high densities and a shortage of available land (unless, of course, you’d like to do a landfill job on San Francisco Bay), and you have high demand for a limited amount of housing, and the people who are after that housing have high incomes. I’ll let you fill in the Econ 101 blanks from there.

          San Francisco is a victim of its’ own success, not a particular brand of politics. But if you want to make it about liberal versus conservative, then you just killed your own argument.

          • 0 avatar
            dal20402

            Master Baiter has a point that the housing situation in SF is at least partly because it’s near-impossible to build more housing. There’s little undeveloped land, but plenty of underdeveloped land.

            In any growing city, there is a huge tension between existing homeowners, who want to extract maximum rents, and developers who want to build housing to satisfy demand. All five of the major West Coast metro areas are among the fastest-growing and most economically successful in the nation. Unfortunately, in all of them, the existing homeowners have the upper hand politically, and development is near-impossible. (And I say this as a Seattle single-family homeowner who stands to benefit financially from it.)

            It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see what will happen when a stable or slowly growing housing supply is combined with tremendous growth and housing demand.

          • 0 avatar
            Master Baiter

            “I don’t seem to recall a lot of land in San Francisco waiting for the contractor’s shovel…”

            The whole corridor along I280 between SFO and Stanford is undeveloped. Yes, parts are very hilly, but no so much so that housing can’t be built there.

            Not that I should care. I own a home, and its value has gone from $1.35M to $1.8M in the three years I’ve owned it.
            .
            .

  • avatar
    madman2k

    I drove for them for a few months when I still had my Prius.

    It was pretty frustrating and I quit when they cut the rates for the second time in less than four months.

    I always did the late-night friday/saturday times because it was usually hard to make much money outside those hours.

    My wife hated having me gone at night and it’s a pretty dangerous time to be out on the road, making pennies and hoping nothing bad happens.

    Then I started delivering food with Postmates – less money, but more palatable working hours and the wife and boys can ride along and my oldest son can even help.

    Still, I enjoy spending the evening at home more than I enjoy making between 30 and 60 bucks for driving around in traffic for 4 or 5 hours, so I haven’t been doing it much lately.

    The good thing about Postmates is that customers can tip, so sometimes you get a really generous customer. If you take the tips out of the equation, it’s worse than minimum wage for sure.

  • avatar
    NeilM

    turbo_awd writes: “Just because people think they’re making money in the short term, doesn’t mean it’s long-term sustainable, when all costs are factored in.”

    Yes, it’s easy to confuse positive cash flow with profitability. Then the Uber driver gets hit with a big car repair bill, or has to replace the vehicle altogether and it all hits the fan.

    As FreedMike said, Uber driving may work for making extra income, but it could be tough to make your living doing only that.

    I’ve only taken an Uber just three times, twice locally here in Indiana and once on a trip to Cleveland. The first time was in the evening in a Chrysler minivan in good condition, but certainly fully depreciated. The next was a new seeming Kia sedan driven by an older retired guy making extra money. In Cleveland I had a newish GM SUV — a Traverse, maybe? — driven by a nice lady in her mid-thirties.

    In all cases I was surprised by how cheap the fare was, a reaction I can’t ever recall having with a metered taxi anywhere. My longest ride was about 25 minutes/8 miles and still only cost $12. When I’m paying only $5 or $6 for a couple of miles city ride I have to wonder how much the driver is making after expenses and Uber taking its cut.

    On the other hand the worst Uber vehicle, the minivan, was better in every way than almost any metered taxi I’ve used in at least a couple of decades, and they all came quicker and got me where I needed to go. The main problem with Uber seems to be the company, not its drivers or the underlying business model.

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