Uber Drivers Severely Impacted by Coronavirus Restrictions

Uber Drivers

A recent survey by Ridester reveals that Uber and Lyft drivers earn less than $5 an hour. The findings indicate the high impact pandemic has had on rideshare services.

Of those surveyed in late July, 90% report losing 80% or more of their income because of the pandemic. The losses in income are attributed to declines in work commutes as well as restaurants, bars and airports closing as shutdowns were rolled out. However, the survey conducted in late July indicates slight improvements for driver share workers.

The grim financial situation faced by the drivers is taking a far-reaching toll as well. A third (31.6%) of drivers admit they cannot make their next car payment if the situation does not improve. Some 79.3% of drivers today are earning 50% or less than they earned in the pre-pandemic period. This is an improvement by 11% according to a survey in March where 89.5% said they were earning half or less.

Ride Share Drivers Making Less Than Before Pandemic

Three-quarters of Uber and Lyft drivers admit to making less than before. Of those interviewed, 62% say they were making ‘a lot less’ and 11.4% say they were making ‘somewhat less’.

Half of these drive share workers say they are driving less than they were in March. While 26.3% say they are driving the same amount. Only 18.2% of drivers say they are driving more than before.

The Fear of COVID-19

The number one reason drivers are driving less often is for fear of getting the virus (75.7%). This is followed by a decline in demand for their services and drivers making more from unemployment checks.

Surprisingly, almost a fifth (19.2%) of drivers don’t wear masks even though they are required by both Uber and Lyft. A further 5.5% say they wear masks ‘sometimes’ while 1.4% admit to never wearing masks. Passengers are also not taking precautions. With 30% of drivers saying that only half or less than half of them do not wear masks.

Slight Improvements in July

Only 10.1% of drivers have said that they are making more than they did before the pandemic started. This is a slight improvement, a survey in March indicated that 0.6% of drivers say they were making more. Also, in March, only 1.2% of drivers have said they were earning about the same amount. According to the late July survey, that number has improved to 16.5%.

Some 41.4% of drivers have said that they are basically not working anymore, which is down from 58% in March. However, the July survey indicates about 10% of drivers are making more now than before the pandemic began. Out of the 10% of drivers in the black 12.5% say that they are making twice as much. A quarter of them say they make between 40-60% more and another quarter claim earning between 10-20 % more.

The slight windfall according to these drivers comes from luck. They say they earn the extra cash by simply being around areas where businesses are starting to come back.

As to why they are driving, the majority or 86% say the reason was that they needed the money and driving more hours was the only way to get it. A quarter is because they lost another job. As a result, they are putting more time into rideshare in a bid to make up for some of the lost income from their other job.

The Pandemic Takes a Big Bite Out of Rideshare Earnings

The optimism brought about by gig working seems to have lost its appeal in the wake of the pandemic. In January, a comparison of earnings of Uber drivers and states’ minimum wages revealed driving for Uber had promising returns. In the report, states that looked the least appealing in terms of earnings were far above the now $5/hour threshold.

At the time the average minimum wage in Pittsburgh was $7.25/hour compared to the $13.20 /hour earnings of an Uber driver. In Philadelphia, Uber drivers earned $12.52 in hourly earnings compared to the $7.25 minimum wage.

Even among the worst cities for Uber drivers Washington, DC’s minimum wage of $14/hour had competed with Uber’s $12.17/ hour wags. The same applied to Los Angeles where Uber drivers made on average $13.54/ hour against the $14.25 minimum wage.

Another survey by Ridester before the outbreak had also shown optimism. It found Uber X drivers across the nation had experienced a 38.46% increase in earnings.

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Samson Haileyesus Samson Haileyesus is a staff writer for Small Business Trends and has several years of progressive experience in media, communication and PR working with government, NGOs and private sector. He is passionate about public outreach, branding, media relations and marketing.

2 Reactions
  1. The more deadly thing than COVID-19 is its impact on the economy. Though COVID may seem like a medical problem it has severely hit the people and economy and Uber’s drivers aren’t an exception. It is times like this that government and company must provide proper measures to safeguard their livelihood.

  2. I drive for both Uber and Lyft (about 5 years) and have refused to take any riders out of fear of contracting the virus. I have not picked up a passenger since February when I first heard of the virus. Both companies do provide masks and hand sanitizer but will only mail the masks to your house. You have to drive to one of their hubs to get the complete PPE they offer which for myself is an hour to two hour drive. I just don’t feel it’s worth the risk to pick up drivers and both companies aren’t exactly reassuring about avoiding the virus as well as any real financial security. We can’t apply for unemployment the way everyone else could. I decided to strictly do Uber Eats, DoorDash and Instacart to make up for the monetary loss because it was contactless for the most part and I can monitor who is in my car and the distance between myself and another person. I find it hilarious they’re telling us to roll the windows down. What are we going to do during the Fall and winter months? You can get sick from just cold air. COVID-19 isn’t the only thing we have to worry about. Remember people, that’s flu season. Not only do they take advantage of our pay but our lives too? No thank you Uber/Lyft. My life is not worth risking to make your company a couple millions.