Uber Driver Proves Once Again That Uber Model Sucks

Dear Clarke Bowman,

I think you’re awesome. Seriously. I love that you were willing to share exactly how much money you make in a week of driving for Uber and Lyft.

I love your approach to it. You seem super-laid back, and it sounds like you treat your passengers well. I also appreciate that you try to do the right thing. Kudos for standing up to a customer who wanted to bring a toddler into your car without a child seat!

This letter is not meant in any way to criticize you. You’re not the one I have a beef with. It’s your employer.

Yes, I know Uber isn’t your “employer.” You’re a partner-driver, a contractor, self-employed. It’s your car. You work when you want.

It doesn’t matter. You do work that is central to Uber and Lyft’s business. They should not get to pretend that they don’t have a responsibility towards you.



Last month, California passed AB5, a bill that will reclassify you as an employee.

This landmark bill comes on the heels of a lawsuit settled back in May, in which Uber agreed to pay $20 million to 13,600 Uber drivers after those drivers spent more than six years arguing in court that they had been intentionally misclassified.

But I’m not writing to argue the semantics of your employment status. I’m writing because I want to help you understand the math a bit better.

In your article, you detail all your rides for a week. You drove 291.1 miles, made $257.34 and worked 13.75 hours, so 18.72/hour gross. Sounds great!

Then you subtract the $13.22 you spent in gas money -- again, important to do.

Unfortunately, you didn’t work out all the other expenses: depreciation, insurance, maintenance, sales tax and repairs. In 2013, Consumer Reports calculated that the cost-per-mile to drive a Prius, including fuel, was $0.47.

So let’s work that out: you made $257.34 minus (291.1 miles at $0.47/mile) = $120.52, or $8.77/hour before taxes. With no vacation. No sick pay. No health insurance. Just you and your rapidly depreciating car.

BTW, on this cost-per-mile thing, Consumer Reportsdoesn’t have to be your only data point. There’s a pretty good thread on the Uber drivers forum where drivers like you detail their running costs and their earnings. One comment of note: “The taxi-like use puts extra wear and tear on a vehicle. A 10 year old research report assessed taxi cost at about 85 cents a mile while Consumer Reportsthe same year assessed full-size car use to be about 60 cents per mile.”

If your actual cost-per-mile is $0.85 instead of $0.47, you made $257.34 minus (291.1 miles at $0.85/mile) = $9.91, or $0.72/hour before taxes.

Clarke, you know this to be true. I’m really sorry you got a flat tire on Sunday and had to spend $430.22 to fix it, and I understand why you didn’t count it against how much money you made. It wouldn’t be fair to say that your week of driving for Lyft and Uber actually cost you $172.88 -- after all, it’s not like you get a flat tire every week, right? But you will get one periodically, along with a million other little things that cost money. This is where the $0.47-$0.85 comes from.

Uber and Lyft fought against AB5 because they know their business model depends on being able to pass those costs onto you. But that only works if you, the driver, are making enough money to bear those costs. And, sadly, it doesn’t look like you are.

Don’t feel bad about being taken in. Uber has a robust history of spinning lies and exploitation into positive PR coverage. They’ve done many more terrible things than this.

So, yeah, underpaying their drivers is actually one of the less bad things they’ve done.

But that doesn’t mean they should get away with doing it to you.

A concerned citizen

1 comment about "Uber Driver Proves Once Again That Uber Model Sucks".
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  1. Pat Dunbar from DiMAS Group, October 11, 2019 at 2:22 p.m.

    A sad state of affairs. Would be interesting to do the same analysis for Amazon part time workers who just lost their benefits while the company continues to rake in the money and pay no taxes.

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