What It's Really Like to Drive for a Ridesharing Service

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Have you thought about driving passengers around to earn extra money? Here's one person's account.

I've known a lot of people with side hustles in my day. One friend did medical billing from home to earn extra cash, while another sold high-end beauty products. But some of the best side hustle stories I've heard are from my friend we'll call Kyle who used to drive for a ride-hailing service.

If you're thinking of driving for a company like Uber or Lyft, it's important to know what you're getting into. Here's what Kyle had to say.

The money can be good

Kyle worked full-time at a tech job when he started driving on the side. Even though he earned a decent salary, he had just bought a house, and was overwhelmed between his mortgage payment and other costs. He wanted to buy himself some breathing room with an income boost.

There were some weeks when he came away several hundred dollars richer. But to be clear, he put in a lot of time to make that happen -- sometimes up to 20 hours a week.

One thing that surprised Kyle was how inconsistent tips were. At times, he said, someone would tip $5 on a quick $12 ride. Other times, he'd do a $40 trip to the airport and get nothing.

Passengers can be really chatty

Kyle's a friendly guy, and he has no problem making small talk at parties or social gatherings. But he was shocked that his passengers always seemed to want to talk.

Once Kyle was stuck in airport traffic (he did a lot of airport runs because they offer consistent business) and his passenger would not quiet down. It reached the point where he had to politely ask for silence so he could concentrate on navigating a major bottleneck. (That passenger did tip him quite well.)

Another time, a passenger shared that she was thinking of leaving her partner. And while she didn't go so far as to ask Kyle for his opinion, he came away from that ride feeling overwhelmingly uncomfortable.

The taxes can be complicated

No matter your side hustle, you're required to report that income to the IRS and pay taxes on it. But that can get complicated when you drive for a ridesharing service, because there are also certain deductions you're allowed to take to offset your income, like the cost of gas and maintaining your vehicle.

For Kyle, that became a headache. He had to keep meticulous records, and for the first time, he used an accountant to file his tax returns because he was scared he'd claim the wrong thing or somehow mess up.

Ultimately, what Kyle liked the most about his side gig was the flexibility. If there was a night when he didn't feel up to driving people around, he didn't claim any fares. At the same time, he liked having the option to sacrifice a Saturday night and boost his income in a meaningful way.

Kyle doesn't drive for a ridesharing service anymore -- not because it was a bad experience, but because he's since become a father and doesn't have the time. But he says he might go back to doing it if the need for money arises, because at the end of the day, it was a pretty good gig.

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