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Why Driving For Uber Is Superior To Lyft In 2019

For the second time in my life I’m using ride-hail driving as my primary source of income. It’s a questionable life choice.

In the time that I have been back on the road I’ve come to learn that from a profit standpoint, Lyft offers no competitive edge compared to driving for Uber in 2019. Lyft is often credited and marketed as being the “driver friendly” ridehail company. However, things are much different in 2019 and right now Uber is clearly ahead of Lyft in every way that matters to me as a driver.

That’s saying a lot since driving for Uber isn’t exactly a fabulous job.

Uber’s Surge Pay Crushes Lyft’s Personal Power Zones (PPZ)

From a drivers perspective, Uber’s Surge is superior in every way to Lyft’s Personal Power Zones (Lyft’s version of surge). Both companies offer a few extra dollars per ride when it’s busy. However, Uber does this with large Surge “clouds” while Lyft uses comparatively tiny and rare “Personal Power Zones” that appear as tiny squares.

Here’s a screenshot taken from both apps at the same time on a Saturday:

Uber Surge Compared To Lyft’s Personal Power Zones: Uber’s surge (pictured right) offers more money for drivers spread through a large part of the city while Lyft’s Personal Power Zone (pictured left) offers a lesser amount in a tiny box.

How Uber’s Surge Beats Lyft’s Personal Power Zones

  1. Uber’s Surge occurs as a large “cloud” vs Lyft’s tiny Personal Power Zones.
  2. Uber will adjust compensation for some long distance Surge fares so drivers get a larger portion of the fare. Lyft doesn’t do this.
  3. I don’t have to drive nearly as far to get into Uber’s Surgecloud versus Lyft’s tiny-box Personal Power Zones.
  4. Uber’s Surge usually pays more than Lyft’s Personal Power Zones.
  5. Uber’s Surge arrives earlier, becomes more intense, and lasts far longer than Lyft’s Personal Power Zones. Assuming they occur at all.
  6. Uber’s Surge more accurately reflects a demand reality that manages to incentivize drivers in a way that makes their system more reliable.
  7. I will usually get a ride much faster, and much closer to where I am when driving for Uber; minimizing wasted time and distance.

Lyft’s Personal Power Zones Are Rare

Lyft’s Personal Power Zones are almost mythical compared to Uber’s Surge. Appearing as tiny “boxes” in a certain section of the city for only a few minutes at a time. Lyft’s “tiny box” Personal Power Zones generally do not show up until long after Uber begins to pay surge in a thick cloud blanketing most of The City. Meanwhile, Lyft’s Personal Power Zones come and go within only a few minutes and disappears faster than Uber’s, and that’s if they even show up in the first place.

If I wanted to get into Lyft’s Personal Power Zone, I would need to pass up on what Uber is already offering me by driving through Uber’s Surge-clouds just to get inside of Lyft’s tiny little boxes. Sacrificing precious time when Uber is usually offering more money in the first place. The result is that I rarely now give a Lyft ride when it’s busy.

Instead, Lyft Displays Yellow “Demand” Clouds

If I am driving for Lyft and I see a lot of dark yellow clouds it means it’s time for me to open the Uber app and start cashing in on Surge.

Uber (Pictured left) usually offers surge pay while Lyft (pictured right) displays demand clouds offering no extra pay. Photos courtesy Ezekiel O’Brien.

Instead of paying drivers more, Lyft displays yellow clouds showing where drivers are most likely to get requests. These clouds are also where Lyft is more likely to be charging extra for rides to passengers. Unlike Uber’s red clouds, these yellow clouds only indicate where it is busy; Driver’s do not earn any extra money from giving rides within them. Uber’s red clouds of Surge offer extra money for each ride.

Updated version of Lyft’s yellow clouds showing demand.

As for Lyft’s yellow demand clouds, they’re about as useful to me as the yellow clouds I make after chugging an energy drink and then holding my bladder to drive for Uber.

Lyft’s Experimental Pay Scheme Is A Nightmare

Lyft is currently testing a new pay model on drivers in 15 cities. The new pay model kicks in from the time a driver accepts a ride request, cuts the rate of pay per-mile in half, and increases the rate of pay for time slightly.

Lyft says drivers should still earn about the same because now they get paid from when they accept a ride. However, most drivers who have experienced this beg to differ and have protested this change in places like Phoenix AZ.

“My three Uber trips earned me $46.46. Using the Lyft rates of 35 cents a mile and 15 cents a minute now my earnings were only $30.21. That’s a 35% loss.” said R3drang3r on an thread.

Longtime Lyft driver and Youtuber MSPDriver gives a breakdown on why Lyft’s rate cuts are hurting his bottom line.

As both companies have lowered pricing and pay for drivers to less than a dollar per mile, the resulting increase in demand means that drivers do indeed have a much shorter ride from the time they accept a ride until the time they pickup their passenger. So getting paid at half the rate for this portion of the fare is insulting.

For veteran drivers, we know that Lyft is likely to expand this program, and that means Uber might copy them too.

Uber Won’t “Pre-Match” My Trips Without My Permission

When I am giving a ride to a passenger and approaching their drop-off point there’s a good chance I’ll get my next request before completing my present ride.

Uber does this better because they will show me the request, the passenger rating, ride type, estimated pickup time, and surge information. From here, I can either choose to accept or deny the request.

Lyft doesn’t provide this information. They just add the ride to my que without my permission, forcing me to accept the next ride regardless of any information. This is when I feel most like a Lyft employee-driver. According to Lyft, drivers can cancel these trips without effecting their acceptance rates.

Both Uber and Lyft allow drivers to turn off the ability to stack rides. However, the driver must manually turn this option off from within the driver app during every ride they give. There is no way to permanently disable pre-matching for all ride requests. This leads to a lot of unnecessary phone fumbling while driving.

Uber Doesn’t Hide Fare Details From Drivers

Uber still shows me the full detailed breakdown of each fare. Including what I made as the driver, what the passenger paid, what Uber made, and what fees, tolls, or taxes were paid. Uber makes this information relatively available in the Uber Driver App for any driver that selects a large blue “Fare Details” button at the bottom of the ride.

Lyft meanwhile has decided to begin hiding information about what passengers pay and what Lyft earns from each ride. Instead, drivers must now locate and download a weekly summary of this information buried deep within a web portal found from within the Lyft Driver App.

Getting The Full Picture Of Fares Is A Pain

Presently, Lyft only displays their take rate on my rides from deep within their Driver app. Buried behind several layers of screens, a PDF download, and on the last page of the PDF. It’s only a summary for the week of driving.

Lyft previously displayed full fare details to drivers within their driver app until they eliminated it on October 2nd 2019. Uber still displays this information in their driver app.

According to a Lyft spokeshuman, the new weekly summaries have all the info there and they now provide more context. The spokeshuman however did not immediately respond when I asked if drivers could still see an individualized breakdown on rides like they could before Lyft made the change.

Uber Won’t Send Me Creepy Messages For Declining Trips

Lyft likes to send a lot of intimidating texts, emails, and other in-app notifications to make drivers feel guilty about declining trips. Meanwhile the Uber Driver app will let me decline requests that don’t make sense.

A guilt-trip message from Lyft about declining requests posted to r/Lyft on Reddit.

Uber’s Incentives Are Far Better Than Lyft’s

Uber’s promotions are more consistent and usually pay more than Lyft’s. Their are more flexible to plan around and generally easier to attain. Uber also does an excellent job of displaying our progress towards different promotions in the driver app.

In the photo below, Uber is offering me $20 for completing 50 trips between Monday and Thursday as well as Consecutive Trip promotions of $4 for everytime I complete a series of 3 trips that start at certain hours in certain locations. These promotions are currently in play all week in the Bay Area while Lyft is offering nothing whatsoever.

Uber Promotions screen showing Quest and Consecutive Trip bonuses occurring the entire week of 10/10/19 in the Bay Area

Uber’s Quest promotion won’t offer a ton of extra money each week, but they do add up and Uber makes them fairly obtainable by allowing you to select a smaller bonus amount for completing less rides. They are also fairly consistent in the Bay Area.

Lyft’s Express Drive Pays Drivers Around $0.18 Less Per Mile

Drivers who use Lyft’s Express Drive program receive a lower rate of pay than all of the other drivers for Lyft. Lyft doesn’t mention this at all on their overview page, signup page, or in the terms of service located on the signup page. Most of the drivers I’ve spoken to using Express Drive were unaware that they are actually getting paid less than me. Several of them were not aware of what a rate card is; Which I suspect Lyft is very happy about.

The only place I could find this mentioned was within the official rate cards for Lyft cities that offer Express Drive when Lyft announced the change. However, Lyft no longer displays this difference to drivers.

No Reason To Be Locked In To Lyft

Renting a car for ridehail locks the driver into the platform that they rent from. If you rent with Fair, you are locking yourself into Uber. Those who use Express Drive lock themselves into Lyft.

Locking yourself into only using Lyft doesn’t make sense to me since renters must do a lot of driving to get their rental fees reduced or waived. Doing that on a slower platform for less pay just makes zero sense since it means I will spend more hours in my car trying to meet my goals when I would rather be at home.

Uber’s Insurance Deductible Is Only $1000 vs Lyft’s $2500

This has been consistent since the beginning of ridehail. Uber has always had a much lower deductible of $1000 in the event of an accident. In comparison, Lyft still has an insane $2500 deductible!

A difference of $1500 after an accident can be the difference between someone having the ability to get their car repaired to get back on the road and someone giving up ridehail altogether. Most drivers will have trouble gathering $1000 for an emergency expense after an accident. $2500 almost seems like a complete joke in comparison.

Uber Gives Drivers More Choice In The Types Of Rides They Give

Uber currently allows drivers to opt out of certain ride modes. This is really important for those who do UberXL, Comfort, Select, Black, etc because giving a bunch of UberX or UberPOOL rides can cause those drivers to lose money.

Lyft doesn’t let drivers do this. Instead, it gives all cars all types of rides. Opting to only filter more profitable requests when it’s busy.

Uber allows drivers to turn off certain rides that are less profitable.

Uber Has Lower Pickup Times Than Lyft

Uber always has had more rides than Lyft. This holds true today even after Lyft has grown in size next to Uber. More rides means I am going to spend less unpaid time travelling to pickup passengers and that I’ll be far less likely to get stuck in traffic on the way there.

With rates as low as they are, I am far more mindful of keeping a high utilization rate. This game depends on razor thin operating margins now and that means keeping butts in my backseat as often as possible while minimizing downtime between rides. The cost of getting caught in traffic or having a passenger cancel on me are much higher as a result. Lyft’s network density just doesn’t support this.

At Best: Lyft Is A Backup For When It’s Slow

Lyft was once a better option for drivers. When I last drove full time, I gave around 6000 rides for Lyft and only around 550 for Uber. However today that has reversed and I give most of my rides while driving for Uber.

I didn’t write this article as a love letter to Uber. Uber continues to pay drivers at rates that are far too low, incentivizing long driving hours, poor working conditions, opaque pay structures, and silly psychological tricks to manipulate drivers. I also believe that Uber will be tempted to copy most of Lyft’s recent tactics against drivers as they seek profitability. Although I truly hope that I am proven wrong.

Uber still deserves credit for being the most driver friendly company in 2019. In spite of all of their problems, the company has clearly taken an approach that is aware of the fact that drivers are not happy with the status quo. Unfortunately, Lyft seems to have gone rogue towards its drivers. Opting instead to sloppily imitate the style of Travis Kalanick from the days of Old Uber under the cover of their previous goodwill.

In the meantime I’ll continue driving for Uber over Lyft. As a driver paying rent with my fares, Lyft is pretty much dead to me in 2019.

This Post Has One Comment

  1. Mike

    Overall great article.

    I have issue with #2 as lyft will increase the power zone payout if the rider paid significant more in their primetime fare just like Uber does with surge.

    #4 is also weird because Lyft likes to lowball power zone offers but when you decline the first ride request the power zone often jumps to a very large bonus during peak ride times.

    Anyways great as always. But you broke the color scheme.

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