ValuePenguin's researchers created a model to analyze expenses and profits for ridesharing drivers as gas and car insurance costs change. On average for these drivers, expenses increase by 25% and profits dip by 12% for every four gas fill-ups in a month.
According to more than 1.5 million transactions of anonymized LendingTree users, rideshare drivers collect $17.89 per ride. At this rate, each additional fill-up per week necessitates two more fares to keep pace with expenses — assuming the driver collects enough in tips to make up for the share their company takes out. These figures give context to the shortage of rideshare drivers for Uber and Lyft in recent months, especially considering the reduction in travel that occurred during the height of the coronavirus pandemic.
- Rideshare drivers spend an average of $3,295 annually on insurance and gas if they fill their gas tanks only four times a month. This eats into their reported annual average earnings of $20,845, especially when more fill-ups are required.
- On average, a rideshare driver's annual expenses increase by 25% and income decreases by 12% for every four fill-ups. At this rate, a typical driver can fill their tank no more than 24 times a month before their expenses are greater than their profits.
- The best state for rideshare drivers is New York. Here, incomes remain higher than the average for rideshare drivers across the 50 states, even for those who fill up nearly every day of the month.
- The worst state for rideshare drivers is Michigan. After filling up just four times per month, expenses here are 267% higher than the average across all 50 states.
- Based on proprietary LendingTree data from more than 1.5 million transactions, customers spend an average of $17.89 on a single ride. As these values don't reflect the amount of the payments that drivers get to keep or the portion counted as tips, earnings at this rate can be uncertain.
Rideshare drivers across the 50 states take home an average of $20,845 annually, with expenses dependent on the cost of car insurance and the monthly number of times they get gas
According to data from the U.S. Census Bureau's Nonemployer Statistics (NES) series, self-employed rideshare drivers who are legally organized as sole proprietors earn an average weight-adjusted annual income of $20,845 across the 50 states. However, considering the money spent on gas and car insurance, a typical driver takes in less than this annually.
The average cost of full coverage car insurance across the 50 states is $1,632 a year. Because this expense is fixed, it's easier to account for than one that changes, like the cost of gas. Over the past five years, the average cost of a gallon of gas is $2.61, or $31.34 to fill up a 12-gallon tank. At this price, an Uber, Lyft or other rideshare driver who fills up four times a month (or once a week) spends $3,295 of their reported annual earnings of $20,845 on insurance and gas over a year.
Fill-ups per month
After adjusting for population weight, researchers found that annual expenses increase by an average of 25% for every four times a month a driver fills their gas tank.
At the same time, profits decrease by an average of 12% for every four per-month fill-ups. This means that drivers depend on a steady stream of fares to offset a small but gradual increase in gas expenditures and the initial cost of car insurance — which might be quite a sizable opportunity cost depending on the location.
Rideshare drivers have to carry a separate form of car insurance to receive coverage while searching for fares. These policies can vary significantly in price and availability, but it may be easy to find a cheap option depending on the provider.
The best and worst states for rideshare drivers: New York and Michigan
The cost of gas and insurance varies by state. This means that participating in rideshare programs as a driver can be more or less profitable depending on one's location. Self-employed rideshare drivers take in the most money in New York, where the NES data shows average earnings of $37,528 a year. South Dakotans make the least at an average of $8,611 a year.
Due to high per-driver earnings, New York could be considered the best place to be a rideshare driver. Researchers' income and expense models show that with an average decline of 5% per every four fill-ups, New Yorkers' high pay means that their income doesn't dip beneath the national average even at a cadence of 28 fill-ups per month.
The most expensive place to be a rideshare driver is Michigan, primarily due to the state's high average cost of car insurance. In a month where a driver fills up four times, profits equal only $5,557 a year — the lowest of any state. At the same time, expenses total $8,814 during this period, which is 267% greater than the average across the U.S.
States on table sorted by profit after expenses for four fill ups and cost of insurance — additional profit levels measured in intervals of four fill-ups per month.
Customers spend an average of $108 monthly on rideshares, or more than $26.8 million collectively over 31 months, according to ValuePenguin's unique sample
ValuePenguin calculated the amount a typical rideshare passenger might spend on these services. Based on the anonymized spending data of LendingTree users, researchers determined that customers spend $107.86 a month, or $17.89 a transaction. This data represents more than 1.5 million separate transactions.
At this rate, the average expenses required for a tank of gas equate to two more fares. But since rideshare drivers only take home a portion of what a single passenger pays, the amount could vary. Without a steady intake of fares and tips, necessary expenses can pile up and make the incomes of rideshare drivers precarious.
Average per transaction
Data reveals that the cost of rideshares rose by 179% from January 2019 (the beginning of our data) through June 2021, from $13.01 a transaction to $23.29. Over the same period, transactions per month went up by 896%, with a high point in March 2021, when vaccines became more readily available. The largest drop — unsurprisingly — occurred at the start of the coronavirus pandemic in the U.S. From March to April 2020, when transactions fell 43%.
ValuePenguin analyzed how the income and expenses for rideshare drivers change by location. Using the average cost of gas and full coverage car insurance by state, researchers estimated the yearly expenses for rideshare drivers by the number of times they filled their gas tanks each month.
The U.S. Census Bureau's Nonemployer Statistics (NES) series provides income and personnel figures for the country's self-employed taxi and limousine service drivers, including rideshare drivers.
Researchers calculated the historical cost of gas across in each state using the U.S. Department of Energy's State Energy Data System (SEDS). Researchers based cost projections on the five-year (2015-19) average price of filling up a 12-gallon tank.
ValuePenguin calculated the expenses that went toward car services, including ridesharing, using the transactions of 1,500,045 anonymized LendingTree users who use the app to connect bank accounts and review and track spending in real time.
Finally, ValuePenguin's analysis used insurance rate data from Quadrant Information Services. These rates were publicly sourced from insurer filings and should be used for comparative purposes only, as your quotes may be different.