Genesis, 33, made $103,000 in gross earnings in 2022 driving for Uber and Lyft driving nearly every day. She took home under a fifth of that.
Genesis, who asked just to use her first name for fear of professional repercussions, started driving in 2018, which she said was quite profitable. She moved from Orlando to Atlanta in 2019 for a cheaper cost of living, better access to jobs in the entertainment industry, and more consistent rides. She also thought it would be a better city to raise her kids as a single mother.
She was able to collect unemployment benefits at the start of the pandemic while waiting for rides to pick up, though she said driving became harder for her as she made less per ride and competition grew. Her truck amassed 452,000 miles, and she decided to try Uber’s rental program, which was even less profitable for her.
After taking home just $19,000 in 2022 after Uber’s and Lyft’s commissions, taxes, car maintenance expenses, and gas, she called it quits. She’s now in the entertainment industry working in staffing solutions.
“I feel like as Uber drivers, they take more than 35% of our earnings on our own personal vehicle, and we have nothing to show for it — no savings, no nothing, let alone the maintenance that goes with it,” Genesis told Business Insider.
With childcare costs skyrocketing, many single parents are looking to gig driving to pull in money and craft their schedules so that they can take care of their kids. Genesis and other single parents said they’re not pulling in enough from driving and are being forced to look to other industries.
Moving for better opportunities
Genesis was fed up working a 9-to-5 job as a digital lead merchandiser. The job didn’t match her schedule, as she started to build up her career in the entertainment industry, nor did it pay enough for her to live comfortably.
In 2018, she picked up gig driving, purchasing a 2016 Ford Expedition that cost her $800 a month. In her first year, she said she made $200 a day and had the flexibility to pursue production work in her free time. She said she had rough encounters with a few passengers at first, but after the first few months, she got more perks on the Uber and Lyft apps including better rides.
Orlando wasn’t the right city for her, as she said there wasn’t a large entertainment scene. She was paying $1,500 in rent for a small two-bedroom apartment, and prices were going up quickly.
Atlanta would allow her to pursue her passion for working in the entertainment industry while driving part-time, and she found a four-bedroom, two-story home on the city’s outskirts for $1,600 a month. She said the cost of living for nearly everything is lower in Atlanta, and it was easier to get rides year-round as Orlando driving relied more on tourism.
As a single mother, the move was necessary. Her mom would help take care of her kids in Atlanta, and it was less expensive when she first moved to raise them. Still, it was challenging to drive for the number of hours she needed to while making sure her kids were fed and safe.
“It’s hard for a single mom. You’re supposed to work, take care of the kids, cook for them, do all these things like being active in their school,” Genesis said.
When the pandemic hit, Atlanta’s streets resembled “an episode of ‘The Walking Dead,'” she said, though rides eventually picked up. By June 2020, she said some days she made $400 a day. There still weren’t too many drivers on the road, and she could pocket most of what the customer paid per ride.
She made a good amount of money from Uber Comfort, which connects riders with newer and more spacious vehicles, though she noticed it was harder to get these higher-paying rides and said the airport was more saturated with drivers than ever. She also participated in the trial phase of a feature that paid drivers hourly which allowed her to “make a fortune” some days.
Even with price surges, she said it’s difficult to find higher-paying rides. Before she stopped driving, she only pulled in about $100 a day for longer days, screenshots shared with BI show. She had to work nearly every day to make over $103,000 in 2022, though expenses added up fast. She only took home around $19,000 in 2022, tax documents show, after Uber and Lyft took their commission, taxes, and expenses such as new tires, oil changes, gas, and car part replacements.
“I was making a killing, and then once they added Uber Comfort onto the queue, it’s been $100 for 12 hours,” Genesis said. “Are you going to sit here and just ride around and get another dollar trip, then you have to drive 15 minutes to pick somebody else up for that price?”
A broken car and kids to feed
Last year, after over 452,000 miles, her truck’s engine gave out, and she didn’t have the money to afford a new car. She bought a new Chevy Tahoe, but she said she doesn’t want to put that many miles on it.
“It’s been hard trying to make ends meet with the Uber platform, so now it’s just like, do I need to go back to working a regular job?” Genesis said.
At Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, the world’s busiest airport, queues used to be between 25 and 30 drivers, she said, while last year it was 150 drivers — meaning it could take five hours before a driver gets a ride. She said driving for concerts has also gotten less profitable.
After her car broke down, her mom got sick and had to move to central Florida with her sister, and she slowly stopped driving. She had to spend more time caring for her kids as well. Some months, she was only driving 40 hours total so she could take her mom to doctor’s appointments. Eventually, she put her efforts toward finding more stable work.
What’s keeping her afloat now is entertainment work as a staffing solutions person, helping clients find bartenders, waitresses, and other staff for parties and events. She said money is still tight, but the work is more stable and less stressful. She couldn’t secure a job in entertainment during the SAG-AFTRA strike, but she’s searching for work as a film production assistant.
She said she’s being forced to move as her rent skyrocketed to nearly $3,000 a month, though she hasn’t gotten approved anywhere yet.
She also has her eyes peeled on some new rideshare platforms in their early stages that pay their drivers 80% or more of what the passenger pays. But she said it’s still a long way to go until she and her family get to a comfortable spot.
“I feel like the whole system is just messed up,” Genesis said. You can work jobs paying a minimum wage and can’t even pay your rent. You often need to have roommates to make a living out of the whole situation.”