It was May of 2016 when our dream of living abroad turned into a serious choice. We were ready to take action! We sat down in our apartment in the quaint city of Alameda, CA in front of an excel sheet and began crunching the numbers. How long did we want to live abroad? What would our budget look like then? What expenses would we be shedding off? What expenses would we be taking on? These and countless more questions were coming to mind – all to discover how in the world we could make this happen. When all the numbers came together, we determined how much money we needed to make abroad and how much money we needed to save prior. We had to rack up at least 15k in savings as our cushion and beyond 5k for the transition. There were definitely gaps so we had to get creative and aggressive about making more money. That’s where Lyft came in.
Initially, I (Jose) wasn’t too optimistic about Lyft. I had to drive my own car, pay for my own gas, and cover upkeep costs that Lyft wouldn’t cover. So it really came down to how much money I could keep in the end. Was it worth it in the end? I’d say so, while I respect those who would disagree for valid reasons.
So how did I get to earn $1,295 with Lyft towards our year abroad?
I had to break things up. I was working a full-time job at the time, putting anywhere between 45-55 hours a week, so I had to work with what I had – the evenings. This approach worked pretty well since evenings are the peak time for driving Lyft. So are weekends. In fact, you could get $40/hour guaranteed during select weekend hours if you drive Lyft in San Francisco. But our weekends were important to us, and we weren’t willing to give that up. Weekend adventures and chill kept us sane per se.
With that in mind, I made a commitment to earn $80 per week driving Lyft (before taxes), which would add up to $320, not bad! My goal was to earn $20 per hour, but that wasn’t always realistic, especially since I would often finish work outside of San Francisco and would drive in areas that weren’t as lucrative as SF. Some hours I made $10, other hours I made $30 hours – all before taxes. All in all, I averaged about 4-5 hours of driving time per week. I drove Tuesdays and Thursdays, 2-3 hours after work each day.
Some people find it stressful to be driving in the middle of traffic. It was different for me. My workday consisted of intense sales and management work, so it was nice to get in a car, put on some good music, meet new people – all while getting paid some extra cash. I did, however, run into instances where people would cancel their ride request while I was on my way to pick them up. Or they would have me wait for a long time outside before they came out. Every minute mattered to me so that ended up being frustrating. Thankfully, Lyft compensates you at least some money when these instances come up. That way you’re not completely left in the dry.
As mentioned, I did have to cover my own gas and vehicle upkeep related to it.
The most common upkeep cost was car washes. Very important! A dirty car could make or break your passengers’ experience. I took my car to the car wash twice a month for a total of $50 per month. The lily scent was nice :]
Gas turned out to cost me about another $50 more per month, on average. Remember, I only drove 4-5 hours per week. Thankfully, my car is very fuel efficient. Go Honda Fits! I could fill up my tank with $25 dollars and it would last me a week on average. So driving Lyft didn’t really break the bank.
There were other expenses such as taking my car in for an oil change more frequently than usual, but that didn’t make much of a difference for me since I only drove for 7 months. I’m sure other Lyft drivers have accrued more expenses, especially if they offer free water bottles to passenger or run into mechanical issues with their car. I got by without offering freebies and thankfully didn’ run into expensive car issues, but that doesn’t mean everyone is exempt from them.
The additional expenses added up to $100 per month for driving 4-5 hours per week and earning $320 per month- give or take. That left me with 220 per month before taxes. Since I was able to write things off as an independent contractor, I ended up netting about $185 in gross earnings per month after taxes (approximately $10.20 an hour). I was fine with that given the convenience and flexibility of driving Lyft.
I drove a total of 7 months, from May to September, adding up to a net gain of $1,295 dollars.
If I were to do this again, I would totally take advantage of the discounts/perks Lyft offers and bump up my net gain. For instance, if you do anywhere between 0-19 rides per month, you can get a 3 cent discount per gallon at participating Shell stations. If I do 20-199 rides, I get a 5 cent discount per gallon as well as 20% off online orders from Advance Auto Parts. If I do more than 200 rides per month, I save 7 cents per gallon and get free roadside assistance from Allstate. These are just some examples of the perks one can get depending on the number of rides you do per month. The list goes on.
Get up to an $800 dollar bonus when signing up for Lyft
through my referral link or code: JOSE737437
If driving Lyft on the side is of interest to you, you’re welcome to use my referral link to sign up and enjoy a bonus depending on the city you’ll drive in. Some places like Orange County may offer a lower bonus versus areas like Berkeley that could earn you the full $800 amount.
For driving in Berkeley, you can earn an extra $1.87 per ride you give your first 60 days. The bonus is capped at $800 throughout that 2 month period.
Feel free to reach out with any additional questions. Happy to share more insights on the experience and help you make the most of it!