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Side Hustle: Driving for a rideshare service for extra cash

As part of our "Side Hustle" week we're looking at ways you can make some extra cash outside of your main job. First up, is driving for a ridesharing service like Lyft or Uber.

SEATTLE — Living paycheck to paycheck is a life most people would prefer to avoid. Unfortunately, that is all too common for most Americans.

So, what do we do about that? Well, we hustle. More Americans are taking on extra work - commonly referred to as a "side hustle" - to make some extra cash.

Lynn Reed drives part-time for Uber. She says driving for them is a perfect fit for her lifestyle, offering her more flexibility to supplement her income.

“I use it as bonus money so I can spoil my grandchildren a little more,” Reed said.

Reed says the expenses associated with driving are outweighed by the benefits.

“Little bit more gas, change my oil a little more frequently, it’s minimal,” she said.

In a 2017 blog post, Uber said expenses for drivers in Seattle ranged between $3.00 and $7.00 per hour. That same blog post said drivers make on average between $19-$21 an hour before expenses.

The King County Government Accountability and Oversight Committee reports there were 32,000 registered rideshare drivers in 2018. So to really take advantage in a sea full of drivers, Reed says you need to have a strategy.

“If you’re really determined and really methodical about it, you can make a lot of money,” she said.

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What about working full-time? That is what James Lockhart does for Uber. A former contracter, he has been driving for Uber for nearly three years and said the money he makes from it makes the expenses worth it.

“My daughter is getting ready to graduate college down there in Southern California, so yes, it’s very worth it,” he said.

Lockhart added that in order to be a successful driver you need two things – you have to like people, and you have to like traffic.

“No matter what, those are the two things that you deal with,” Lockhart said.

Lockhart said he is able to drive full-time for Uber and handle the expenses because of budgeting.

“It’s all about budgeting,” he said, “a lot of people don’t understand you have to budget.”

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Not all drivers feel the same, however.

Just last week, many Uber and Lyft drivers across the county held a one-day strike in protest of what they call “unfair wages.”

In Seattle, the local Teamsters union held a rally at Sea-Tac International Airport stating drivers wanted a bigger cut of the wages, arguing Uber and Lyft keep too much.

Using a unionized driver’s tax return from 2017 shows that driver made 3,687 trips in 2017 while working 40 to 50 hours a week. His tax return showed he earned $31,910 before expenses. At 40 hours a week, that works out to $15 an hour, but after expenses that number drops to $9 an hour.

Both Uber and Lyft have said in statements they value their drivers’ contributions to their service and are working hard to help them make as much money as they can via incentives and other perks within their apps.