If you're looking to make some money, the thought of being a driver for Uber or Lyft can be quite enticing. It can seem like work that's simple and painless enough -- picking people up and delivering them here and there -- but the amount you're likely to earn might surprise you.

The job itself might not be quite what you expected, either. Here's a look at how much money you can make as a driver for Lyft or Uber, along with some things to know about the gigs.

Man at the wheel of a car, looking back over his shoulder, presumably at a passenger

Image source: Getty Images.

How much can you really make driving for Uber or Lyft?

So...how much moola is there in driving for hire, as a part-time or full-time job? Well, one way to find out is via the horse's mouth: Take some rides as a customer and chat up the drivers. They may or may not tell you how much they make, but they'll likely offer insights into what the work is like and they may offer some tips, too. Like the most lucrative areas to target or the best time of day to pick up passengers.

The question of how much these drivers make has been in the news a bit recently, after MIT researchers published a shocking research report suggesting that drivers took in a median income of $3.37 per hour. They added that about three quarters are earning less than minimum wage, while almost a third are losing money. Yikes, right?

Well, it turned out they got some math wrong. There are various ways to measure the pay more accurately, the researchers conceded. One way yielded a median profit of $8.55 per hour, with 54% earning less than minimum wage in their states (as of 2016) and 8% losing money. Another way resulted in a median profit of $10 per hour, with 41% earning less than minimum wage and 4% losing money.

Here's what those two rates amount to by week, month, and year:

Hours Driven Per Week, at $8.55 Per Hour

Earned Per Week

Earned Per Month

Earned Per Year

10

$86

$371

$4,446

20

$171

$741

$8,892

30

$257

$1,112

$13,338

40

$342

$1,482

$17,784

50

$428

$1,853

$22,230

Data source: Author calculations.

Hours Driven Per Week, at $10 Per Hour

Earned Per Week

Earned Per Month

Earned Per Year

10

$100

$433

$5,200

20

$200

$867

$10,400

30

$300

$1,300

$15,600

40

$400

$1,733

$20,800

50

$500

$2,167

$26,000

Data source: Author calculations.

The horse's mouth

They're not the most objective sources, but it can still be worth seeing what the Uber and Lyft companies themselves say about how much you might earn driving for them.

Lyft offers a handy calculator where you can enter a city and how many hours you expect to drive there, and be informed how much you might make. Here are some sample results for someone estimating that they'd drive 20 hours per week in various large and small cities:

City

Estimated Weekly Income

Annual Equivalent

Albuquerque, New Mexico

Up to $400/week

Up to $20,800

Boston

Up to $480/week

Up to $24,960

Chicago

Up to $420/week

Up to $21,840

Davenport, Iowa

Up to $400/week

Up to $20,800

Denver

Up to $400/week

Up to $20,800

Honolulu

Up to $480/week

Up to $24,960

Houston

Up to $400/week

Up to $20,800

Jacksonville, Florida

Up to $400/week

Up to $20,800

Los Angeles

Up to $400/week

Up to $20,800

New York City

Up to $560/week

Up to $29,120

Portland, Maine

Up to $400/week

Up to $20,800

Providence, Rhode Island

Up to $400/week

Up to $20,800

San Francisco

Up to $540/week

Up to $28,080

Seattle

Up to $460/week

Up to $23,920

Data source: Lyft.com.

Uber, meanwhile, tells drivers or would-be drivers: "You can drive and earn as much as you want. And, the more you drive, the more you'll make." Its website doesn't seem to offer estimates of earnings, but its chief economist has pointed to two studies of earnings conducted in recent years that found average hourly earnings of $19.04 per hour and $21.07 per hour.

Another study, by the folks at NerdWallet, found that if you're looking to earn $50,000 per year driving, you would have to drive an average of about 60 trips weekly with Uber and about 84 with Lyft.

Other things to know

Before you invest much time or money signing up to drive for either of these services, do some digging into what the work is really like. If you're running numbers in your head, know that Uber takes 25% of each fare, while Lyft takes 20% to 25%. Remember that you'll be buying your own gasoline and insuring your own car -- though both companies offer insurance coverage during each ride. Your car will likely incur more maintenance costs, too, or won't last as long, if you're putting on a lot of miles driving for income. Also be sure to keep good records of your income and expenses, for tax purposes.

Despite the negative points, driving for Uber or Lyft or some other driving service can still be a good thing to do -- especially if it's just a side gig for some extra income (perhaps to help pay off debt), or if you're retired and looking for some income to augment your Social Security checks.

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