Al Castillo, 33, drives full-time for Uber, Lyft and Juno in New York City.
He typically works six days a week, Monday through Saturday, for nine to 11 hours a day. And, as I saw when I spent a day shadowing him, he rarely takes breaks. After all, the more rides he completes, the more he gets paid, so "you want to be busy all the time," he told me. "Our time is money."
On this particular day, a Wednesday, Castillo worked about nine hours, 7 a.m. to 4 p.m., and earned $233 from 15 rides. Nine rides and $140 came from Lyft, while six rides and $93 came from Uber.
"That's a good day," he told me, especially considering he took more breaks than usual to accommodate my filming. On a normal day, he'll bring home about $250 after 9-11 hours of work, he said.
Castillo gets paid per ride and his earnings depend on how long the trip is, how much distance he covers and whether or not there's "surge pricing," when demand for rides is high and prices for passengers go up. Surge pricing, or "prime time," as Lyft calls it, tends to happen during rush hour, bad weather or if there's a big event going on in the area.
He can also earn tips. While just 20 percent of passengers leave tips, he estimated, "it helps. Every money helps."
The app doesn't show how much the customer paid, Castillo told me — it just breaks down his take per ride. A mid-morning, 22-minute UberX trip earned him nearly $10: He earned a base rate (what you're paid to start the ride) of $1.83, a time rate (what you earn per minute in your region) of $5.49 and a distance rate (what you earn per mile in your region) of $2. Total: $9.32.
Uber and Lyft both collect about 30 percent of all passenger fares, Castillo told me. Juno takes just 16 percent, but as an app it's not as popular yet, he added. Sure enough, we didn't get one call from Juno over the course of the day and, instead, flipped back and forth between Uber and Lyft.
Still, he has all three because, depending on what neighborhood he's driving in, one app may be busier than the others. "People in Bed Stuy [Brooklyn] like to use Lyft," he said. "If you're in Queens, people like Juno."
If Castillo earns $250 a day and works Monday to Saturday, that's $1,500 per week, which comes out to about $6,000 a month. He earns an additional $100 to $300 per month by using Cargo, which pays him a monthly rate for selling products like snacks and headphones to passengers, and Play Octopus, which pays him to mount a tablet that offers trivia games and plays ads.
That means he could be earning about $72,000 a year from rides and between $1,200 and $3,600 a year from Cargo and Play Octopus, for a total of about $75,000. That's before taxes, though, and doesn't factor in expenses like gas, insurance and maintenance, which can add up to nearly $20,000 a year.
Besides expenses, a driver's take home pay will also depend on where they're located, as mileage and per-minute rates vary by city.
And some days, you're going to get luckier than others, Castillo told me. On his best day, he took home $540 after nine hours of driving, thanks to surge pricing. One-fifth of that came from a single, lucrative trip to the airport: "It was snowing and it was ugly outside. It was like 5:30 or 6 p.m., peak hours. They paid me like $110."
Another time, after completing a $20 ride, Castillo recalled, the passenger gave him "a $100 tip, because it was Christmas."
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