In some cities, you can make serious bank driving for Uber or Lyft.
But with opportunity comes competition. And as rideshare pushed the number of freelance taxis or limousines up 46% in 2016 over the previous year, according to the latest U.S. Census Bureau numbers, it can be hard to stack cash in cities over-saturated with drivers.
There are definitely simple ways to stand out. I always appreciate when a driver has mints, water or other snacks — especially for a long trek to the airport.
But sometimes the rideshare supply in your city is just too overwhelming.
As always, we’re here to help. So we set out to find the best cities to drive for Uber or Lyft by using the most recent available data on the number of drivers and how much they make in all of the U.S. metropolitan areas.
You might be surprised by what we discovered.
Here Are the 12 Best Cities to Drive for Uber or Lyft
It was a long slog to dig through a database with more than 349,000 entries, but we survived to bring you the best cities for rideshare drivers.
First, here’s how we did it: We found the per-driver earnings in 2016 for each metro area using “nonemployer statistics” from the Census Bureau. Nonemployers are basically freelancers or small business owners who don’t have any employees.
Next, we adjusted for the cost-of-living in each region to assure we had the most relevant numbers for earnings. Finally, to avoid including cities with only a few drivers (sorry Cheyenne, Wyoming — but not sorry, since your drivers earn $100,000 a year), we only included the metro areas with the most drivers.
One important note, these figures don’t include cab companies, but if someone owns their own cab and doesn’t have a fleet of drivers, they’ll show up in the data.
Here are the top 12 best cities to drive for Uber or Lyft:
1. Anchorage, Alaska
Annual Earnings: $38,239.47
2. New York City
Annual Earnings: $32,333.40
3. Buffalo, New York
Annual Earnings: $30,252.01
4. Syracuse, New York
Annual Earnings: $28,856.46
5. Albany, New York
Annual Earnings: $27,036.91
6. Eugene, Oregon
Annual Earnings: $26,785.36
7. Rochester, New York
Annual Earnings: $26,169.35
8. East Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania
Annual Earnings: $24,211.13
9. Youngstown, Ohio
Annual Earnings: $23,797.69
10. Seattle, Washington
Annual Earnings: $22,222.02
11. St. Cloud, Minnesota
Annual Earnings: $21,631.93
12. Bridgeport, Connecticut
Annual Earnings: $20,744.72
You’ll notice that cities in the state of New York make up a large portion of the list. That could be because many of these cities rank high on Walk Score and so could have plenty of carless residents.
Also, a lot of these cities can get pretty darn chilly in the winter. There’s nothing like the warmth of a stranger’s car to give you relief during a long stretch of snowfall.
While the cities in our list are great for rideshare, we also found some crummy ones. You might want to find another side gig if you live in Las Vegas, where drivers earn about $10,000 a year. Same goes for San Diego, Miami and Nashville.
Here Are Some Tips to Maximize Your Rideshare Earnings
If you happen to live in one of the 12 best cities to drive for Uber or Lyft — or even if you don’t — there are plenty of ways to boost your earnings.
As I mentioned earlier, you’ll likely increase your tips by providing riders with snacks or water. But don’t forget about yourself — you’ll need sustenance for long hours on the road.
You do know the roads, right? Well, you should also get familiar with the local restroom scene. Finding a Whole Foods or Starbucks with free, unlocked bathrooms around a lucrative pickup area will pay dividends.
Don’t chase surges. Sure, that hot pink map seems tempting, but by the time you get there, it might have already ended.
And if you do find yourself in an area where you anticipate a surge, like a bar scene around 2 a.m., log out of the app and log back in when you expect it’ll hit.
These tips might not make your Las Vegas earnings match that of Anchorage. But they should drive them up — even when your city is flooded with other rideshare drivers.
Alex Mahadevan is a data journalist at The Penny Hoarder.
This was originally published on The Penny Hoarder, which helps millions of readers worldwide earn and save money by sharing unique job opportunities, personal stories, freebies and more. The Inc. 5000 ranked The Penny Hoarder as the fastest-growing private media company in the U.S. in 2017.
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