If you are retired and having trouble making ends meet you are not alone. For most of us, the employment prospects are not too bright. About the most you can expect is a job as a greeter at Walmart at minimum wage. What’s the worst part about this job? Standing on your feet for hours on end for minimum wage.
There is a relatively new industry that you can do in your spare time. Work as many or as few hours as you like. Work when you want to and don’t work when you don’t want to.
Its called Ride Share.
You have probably heard of Uber. That is the most well-known of ride share companies. A major competitor is Lyft. I have worked for Lyft for the last 6 months and have had great results. Here is my story.
I was laid-off last year after being a sales manager for a mid-sized furniture store for 9 years. I was 60 years old at the time. My boss had promised me that he would never let me go but as with most things, it was an empty promise. As brick and mortar retail declined, so did his profits and he could no longer afford to pay me.
I thought I wouldn’t have any trouble getting a job. I had a stellar resume. Unfortunately, the number of companies looking to hire older employees is small. Personally, I don’t blame them. My first management job was when I was 30. I wasn’t interested in hiring people who were old enough to be my father. The employees I inherited that were already that age were a pain the butt to work with.
How did I discover Lyft?
My transportation was a 20-year-old pickup truck. As a young man, I wasted money on Corvettes, Porsches and Mercedes. As I got older, I realized that fancy cars were expensive. A reliable vehicle that is paid off makes much more sense.
One day it broke down and had to go in the shop for the weekend. I rented a car and needed a ride back home after I returned it. I decided to try Lyft. I asked the driver, as many people do, how he liked working for Lyft. His reply surprised me.
“Im not even from California. I live in Florida and take a train out here to spend the winter with my sister. I call up Lyft. They give me a job and rent me a car. I can make up to $1000 per week driving for Lyft.”
It was shortly after that conversation that I lost my job. I decided to give Lyft a try. I applied about 9pm on Saturday night. I knew my driving record was stellar and wouldn’t be a problem. I have never had a traffic ticket in over 45 years of driving. The problem would be my 20-year-old pickup truck. Lyft requires a 4-door vehicle less than 10 years old. Here is everything you need to get started.
First, you’ll need a smart phone like an iPhone. You apply for the job from their app which you can download in the app store. Its called “Lyft Driver”. After you download the app, you’ll have to fill out some basic information like your name, address, etc. They ask you for your employment ID. You have a choice of using your social security number or an Employer Identification Number (EIN). I have owned several small businesses and have a Limited Liability Corporation for another business I operate. Since this will be a business, I used my EIN. Now all my income will go through the LLC which gets me additional discounts on taxes and liability protection. More about this later.
Lyft will ask you to take a picture of your drivers license with your camera. This is why I recommend using a smart phone. It makes it easier because you can take a picture of your drivers license right from the app. In a couple seconds they will approve you as a driver. If you have a DUI or felony in the last 7 years you will be turned down.
Once you are approved to drive, they will ask you if you want to use your own car or rent one. Since I only had a 20 year old pickup truck, I asked about renting. They asked me for a $250 deposit on a credit card which would be returned when I returned the car. I pushed the button and they said pick up your new car on Tuesday.
I live in San Diego. The rental car is through Hertz. They charge $208/week but that includes all the insurance you need. If you drive 75 jobs in a week they give you a $50 discount. If you drive 100 jobs in a week, they give you a $150 discount. Your cost to rent a brand new car is then only $58/week. Since the car is insured, you can use if for your personal use when you are not driving for Lyft. Let me tell you, 100 drives in a week can be a challenge. I average 10-15 per day. At the same time, if you are driving 100 jobs in a week, you are probably making about $800-$1000/week.
They offered me a Toyota Corolla, a Kia Forte or a Chevy Cruze. I chose a brand new Kia Forte. The other 2 cars had stains on the seat. I’ve always been curious about Kias. Nice car. It got about 23 miles per gallon. Gas is a big expense in this business. The day after I rented the car, someone stole my 20 year old truck. The police told me not to buy anything new for 30-60 days as that’s the time it usually takes to recover a stolen vehicle. Looks like I will be driving for Lyft for a while!
The system is pretty easy to use. You’ll need a dash mount for your iPhone (or Anderoid phone). You turn the app on and wait for it to alert you of a ride. Once you accept the ride, the screen will change to a Google Maps pages and literally speak the directions to you. You’ll be able to see your progress as you go down the street. The map shows you all the streets so its easy to know where you are going.
After a few weeks, I decided that my truck wasn’t coming back and bought a used 2010 Ford Fusion Hybrid on Craigslist for about $5000. It gets 38 miles per gallon. This type of car isn’t preferred by millennials because it looks like an old man’s car. If you search for this model on Craigslist or Autotrader you will probably find one that was owned by older folks and in pristine condition. It’s a very comfortable car to drive and customers make comments about how smooth and comfortable it is for them too. Try to get one with a back up camera. After using a back-up camera, I will never buy a car that doesn’t have one.
I currently drive about 8 hours a day and make $100-$150/day. That works out to $700-$1000/week. I don’t have to drive that much but I like it. Im single and have nothing else to do. Since I was raised with a good work ethic, I have a hard time sitting at home doing nothing when I could be making money.
It works out better than I could have imagined.
I have owned several businesses, so figuring out expenses is fairly straight forward. The IRS allows you to either expense your actual costs like gasoline, tires, etc or you can take 54.5 cents per mile. A big write-off for business is depreciation of the vehicle. The 54 cents per mile standard deduction is not only easier, it gives you a bigger write-off. Record your miles.
The mistake most drivers make is they only write off the miles of an actual trip. The IRS allows you to write off all business miles. If you work for someone else in an office or store, you can’t write off your commute to work but if you are in business, you can write off driving to UPS or driving to meet clients. Real estate agents write off all the miles they drive showing people houses. They also write off all the miles they drive searching for houses to show their customers. With Rideshare you should be able to write off all the miles from when you turn on the app until the end of your last ride. I record my mileage when I get in the car at home and usually sit in my driveway until I get a ride request. I record my ending mileage when I get home at night. You don’t need anything fancy, a pocket notebook works fine.
Some people park, some drive around. If you have just finished a ride that took you to a remote area of town, you may have to drive to an area where people request rides more frequently. Check with your tax advisor but all driving to find rides should be tax deductible. Due to the fact that you are writing off a lot of miles, its going to look like you aren’t very profitable. This is a good thing because it means you won’t have to pay much, if anything in taxes. Here’s what I mean.
So lets say you drive 200 miles in a day and make $150 in fares and tips. If you write off 200 miles x.545 cents/mile, your tax write off is $109. That leaves $41 in profit. At $41/day, you are making declaring only $205/week in profits if you are working 5 days a week. That works out to about $900/mo in profits or about $11,000/yr. That looks like poverty level income. If this is your only source of income, you won’t have to pay any income tax on it. I am not an accountant so please don’t accept this as tax advice. Check with your taxman before declaring this deduction.
Now lets look at it from a different angle, cash flow.
If you are making $48,000/yr at a regular job, you are getting about $4000/mo gross pay. After taxes are taken out, you get about $3000/mo in take-home pay. This is estimating your taxes at 25% of your income.
If you are making $150/night with Lyft, you are taking home $3000/mo.
All in all, Ride Share provides me with pretty good cash flow. I work when I want. If I don’t feel like starting to work until 1pm or quitting at 8pm, I can. Nobody tells me what to do or when. I recommend that you start with your family car or rent a car through Lyft to see how you like it. Once you decide to drive on a regular basis, try to find a hybrid car, so your actual expenses are lower. I also recommend you don’t drive around looking for rides. Once you figure out where the best areas are, drive there, park and wait.
Some drivers give water, mints, gum etc to try to get tips. Personally, I don’t go to those lengths. I make sure my car is very clean and fresh smelling. I try to make conversation with the passengers if they seem in a talking mood. My car has Sirius XM satellite radio so I can easily find the music they may prefer. I average about 10% tips overall. Not every customer tips but at the end of the week, if I made $750, I probably made $75 in tips.
Drivers come and go so Ride Share companies are constantly looking for drivers. They pay signup bonuses as high as $750 depending on how many drivers they need. There is a special code for seniors to get the highest signup bonus – RETIRE2020. This assures you of getting the highest bonus available at the time you apply. It works in every city but it only works for Lyft.
I highly recommend looking at Ride Share if you are looking to make a little extra money. Its easy and fun. Its very safe because you don’t carry cash or ask the customers for money. Its all done on credit cards through the app. I think customers are better behaved because the Ride Share company knows their identity and their credit card numbers.
The worst thing that has happened to me is a drunk customer got sick in the car. If this happens to you, make sure you take pictures of the accident. Upload them to LYFT from your phone and LYFT charges the customer up to $200. You get $150 of that to clean your car. Im not sure if $150 is an equitable amount to clean up someone’s vomit but it is a lot of money. I spent about $20 to buy air freshners and paper towels. Within a couple of days the odor was gone and people were commenting on how nice my car smelled.
So that’s my review of Lyft. My Lyft job gives me cash flow like a $48,000 yr job and I can set my own hours and don’t have a boss telling me what to do. If I want to take off a couple weeks to go on vacation I can. I don’t even have to ask permission. What could be better than that?