Driving passengers with Lyft can be a source of decent income. But to make the most of this opportunity, you need to have a strategy – and to follow the smartest tips & tricks. Here we list some of the best ideas for making more money with Lyft in Canada.
This list is a summary of some of the best ideas gathered from Lyft drivers across Canada. We will continue to expand & refine this list as we receive new feedback from GigDrivers.ca participants. These strategies, tips & tricks assume you already understand how much Lyft drivers can earn, and that you know how to use Lyft’s app & algorithm to make money with Lyft.
By the way, the Gig Café (11 Facebook Groups) is a GREAT place to learn how other drivers across Canada make more money driving passengers with Lyft – including a group specifically for Lyft drivers.
Strategies, Tips & Tricks
Keep busy. Drivers maximize their income by transporting passengers – not by sitting waiting for rides (or driving around the city alone in their car). So here is the #1 rule of thumb: “Try to keep busy!” Be willing to drive at the busiest times and in the busiest places. Get yourself into locations where back-to-back rides never stop (with new pings coming in before you have even dropped off your current passenger).
Drive at busy times. Figure out the times of day when there are more passengers coming & going. For example, in the early morning and late afternoon, people are going to/from work. On weekend nights, many go out for entertainment. Holidays & special events (concerts, sports events, New Year’s Eve, etc.) are often golden opportunities to make good money. Concentrate more of your available hours driving at busy times and less hours driving at slower times.
Be willing to wake up early. Some of the busiest (and most profitable) times are early mornings, when many people are going to work or to the airport.
Consider driving at night. During the night, there are way fewer other Lyft drivers to compete with – and there’s no traffic to slow you down. So if your circumstances allow, try driving when others are sleeping. Some drivers make good money doing long night shifts, capturing late evening business, early morning passengers, and everything in between. Others do partial nights – finishing after midnight (or later on weekends), or starting at 4am. Of course, driving the night shift has lifestyle implications – you need to carefully consider all the pros & cons, and experiment for a few weeks, to be sure it’s really for you. (And if you operate in a small town, you probably won’t make much money at night! It’s more of a big city gig.)
Drive in busy places. Early in the day, lots of people need rides from residential areas to public transportation hubs or offices & factories. In the evening, it’s the opposite. So place yourself near where the most rides begin. Be near busy malls on shopping days. Be near entertainment spots on weekend nights. Be near hospitals, vaccination clinics or special events at their busiest times.
Be willing to drive downtown. The centers of big cities are often the busiest and most profitable places to operate. Yes, it’s more stressful; and there’s a lot of traffic (and pedestrians and bicycles and police!) But the more time you spend operating downtown, the easier it gets – and the more money you will make.
Experiment with base locations. Park in one busy place for several days and see how it goes. Then try another place. Then another. Keep records. Eventually, you will identify 3 or 4 base locations where you get the most business. Then throughout your shift, every time you have dropped off a passenger, keep returning to the nearest base location.
Pay attention to the map (on the app – different colours indicate busy zones and bonuses). Study the map throughout the day, every day. Take notes. Identify the times & places where busy/bonus zones repeatedly appear. Then begin spending more time in those zones. Find good spots in the middle of those zones where you can safely park and wait for calls. You will probably get pinged more frequently – and some of the pings will have bonuses.
Don’t chase bonus zones (unless they are just a few minutes away). As soon as they appear on the app, every Lyft driver heads in that direction. So by the time you get there, the bonus will probably be gone and the area will be flooded with drivers. So you wasted time & fuel!
Watch other drivers. Use the Lyft Passenger app to see how many other Lyft drivers (“ants”) are all around you. If you see 8 other drivers just a block away, you may end up waiting a long time for the algorithm to send you a ride! Try to place yourself where there are less Lyft drivers.
Prioritize distance over time. You’ll end up with more net income from a long smooth 30-minute highway ride than from a short 30-minute stuck-in-traffic ride.
Minimize dead driving time. If you want to lose money, spend a lot of time driving around alone in your car! Dead driving time occurs after dropping off passengers, while seeking new rides, while stuck in traffic, when you are heading to your base locations, or driving home at the end of a shift. Develop strategies which minimize costly dead time.
Don’t drive around aimlessly. Fuel is expensive. You’re losing money every minute you drive around alone! Plus, you may be driving where there are no customers. It is normally more profitable to park in a busy place waiting for rides than to drive around hoping to get pinged.
Avoid traffic jams. Unless you’re doing a bonus fare, traffic jams can be your biggest waste of time & fuel. Use multiple maps if you can (Waze is great for this), listen to traffic reports on your radio, know where there is construction, know the shortcuts – or stay away altogether from the most congested times & places.
Go for Gold. Familiarize yourself with Lyft’s “points” system. If you are not Gold status, you will have no choice but to accept rides blindly, and might end up wasting time & fuel. Once you reach Gold, your pings will include crucial information about direction & distance. Whatever it takes, reach Gold as quickly as possible. (Hint: To reach Gold quickly, drive mainly during “extra-point hours,” when Lyft rewards you more points per ride.)
Look before you accept rides. Once you are Gold, look very carefully at the information on each ping, analyzing it quickly before you accept a ride. Note: This can be difficult to do safely, if you are driving when you are pinged. And time is limited. But try. It takes skill, and you’ll get better at this as time goes by. Then before you accept a ride, be sure it is not a long ride in the totally wrong direction (where you’ll make money on the ride, and lose money driving back).
Be selective – but not TOO selective. Sometimes you should decline a ride which you feel will negatively affect your profits (for example, a ride which takes you far in a non-strategic direction or to a place you really don’t want to go). Think carefully about your criteria ahead of time, and plan which kind of rides you do NOT want to accept. Then when the ping comes, you can glance at it and quickly decide whether to accept or decline. However, try not to over-analyze and over-decline. Your goal is to keep busy, not to waste time sitting waiting for the “perfect ride”. Sometimes you just have to accept the bad with the good. And you never know if Lyft may penalize you for declining too many rides!
Use your “Destinations”. Lyft allows you to set one or more Destinations each day. This is useful if you end up far from your home or from your favourite base location (or if you want to strategically capture nice long rides to the airport). Just set a Destination before you start the journey, and Lyft will often send you rides going in the same general direction – converting dead time into profitable time. It really does work – not all the time, but quite often.
Plan your breaks (fuel, food, coffee, washroom). Make these stops when you’re not busy, or when it is most convenient, or at regular intervals so you can stretch. Be sure you don’t have to turn off the app at the busiest time of day and drive 5 kilometers to the nearest facility – just because you waited too long to fill up your tank or empty your bladder!
Know your city. Know the rules. The shortcuts. The rush hours. The construction obstacles. The busy spots. The best ways to navigate the malls, building complexes and condominiums. (Most important: Know where the open washrooms are!) The more you know, the more you will save time & fuel, and the more your passengers will appreciate your service.
Provide tip-worthy service. Most passengers don’t tip. But some do – especially when they receive great service. It’s that simple. (And rumour has it that Lyft passengers tip better than Uber passengers!) So convert your passengers into tippers by offering outstanding service: Drive a clean car. Be polite, respectful, friendly & helpful. Arrive quickly and get them to their destination on time. Make them feel safe. Make them comfortable. Help with their bags. Minimize their walking. Bring out an umbrella if it’s raining. Play quiet background music. Have a phone charger handy. Do a small favour if the passenger requests something. Have a good conversation (if they’re in the mood to talk). Genuinely serve – making the passenger’s priorities YOUR priorities. You may get more tips than you expect.
Subtly promote tipping – without asking for tips. It’s okay to hang a simple information sign facing the back seat – mentioning the phone charger, for example. And at the bottom: “Tips are appreciated, but not required”. Later, when passengers close out their ride on the app, they may be more conscious about tipping (especially if they received great service). Some courageous drivers even have a small tip jar beside the sign!
Drive a good car. Good gas mileage is essential for this gig, because Lyft involves a lot of kilometers. Forget about using an SUV, Mustang or Cadillac! Ideally, use a small car which is just a few years old and in good condition (to minimize repair costs) – one that is comfortable for you and your passengers. And if you invest a bit extra to get a gas/electric hybrid, your weekly profits will be even better.
Buy cheaper gas. Fuel is a major gig expense. You can save about 10 cents a liter by shopping around. Use an app like Gas Buddy to locate the best nearby price (which is often Costco), and plan your fill-ups accordingly. These gas savings really add up over the months.
Minimize fixed overhead expenses. Shop around for the best deals. With data plans and car insurance, for example, the savings can be substantial. Then the following year, shop around again. Constantly research ways to minimize all expenses (but without undermining your safety & efficiency). The more money you save, the more net income you get to keep.
Don’t get tickets. Don’t speed! Don’t park in No Parking zones! Don’t hold your phone while you’re driving! You’ll pay dearly every time you get caught. One ticket can wipe out 1-2 days of hard-earned income.
Don’t have accidents. Slow down! Look carefully all around you! Don’t tailgate! Keep your focus on the road! One accident can wipe out 1-2 weeks (or months) of hard-earned income.
Be smart with taxes. At tax time, don’t pay any more income tax to the government than required. Even if you need to hire an accountant to help you, be sure to deduct every legitimate business expense. If you are smart about this, you can significantly reduce your income tax payable. And paying less tax means you get to keep more of your hard-earned income. (Reminder: You should always track your mileage & expenses, because this information will be needed at tax time. Let the excellent QuickBooks for Self-Employed app help you with this. It tracks mileage & expenses automatically.)
Watch for Lyft promotions. These days, there seem to be less promotions than before. Nevertheless, check the app regularly. There might be a nearby time & place where Lyft will pay you extra money for doing the same amount of work.
Consider doing 2 gigs at the same time. Quite a few drivers do both Lyft & Uber Rideshare simultaneously – accepting whichever ride comes first (and switching off the other app until they have almost reached the destination).
Track & analyze your info. Take time to study your statistics. Look over each ride and each week’s totals. Figure out where you did best, where you wasted time & fuel, and how you got the best tips. Identify how you can do better the following week. Plan new strategies or locations or times to try out. Then analyze again the following week. As the months go by, if you continually experiment and analyze, you will earn more money and have less expenses.
Drive smarter, not harder. In gig work, it may NOT be true that working longer hours or rushing around all over the place automatically leads to more net income. Instead, focus on being SMART. Learn the strategies, tips & tricks. Know your city. Know the app. Analyze. Experiment. Analyze again. Spend time interacting with other drivers in the Gig Café. The more you learn and put into practice, the more money you will make from your diligent Lyft work.
Please remember that Lyft’s features vary slightly from one province to another, and even from one city to another. So it is important that you study the Lyft Website for specific information about the location where you plan to drive.
Ready to Start?
If you have not yet started making money with Lyft, then you might as well go ahead and take the next step: SIGN UP! It only takes a few minutes to set up your Lyft Account, providing basic information to establish your driver profile.
Don’t worry – Lyft does not require fees or deposits, and there are no binding obligations or legal traps. At any point along the way, you can pause to get answers to your questions. But if you’re ready to move forward, the sooner you sign up and launch the registration process, the sooner you’ll be out on the road earning money.
(Note: When you click the link to go to Lyft’s sign-up page, the sign-up address will automatically include a Referral Code DOUG36244. This tells Lyft you were referred by Gig Drivers of Canada. We would be grateful if you will use that sign-up page (or enter the Referral Code in the sign-up box), so Gig Drivers can receive recognition and a small referral reward to help cover our expenses. Thank you very much!)
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